The Atlantic

The Books Briefing: Ancient Tales Make an Epic Comeback

Your weekly guide to the best in books
Source: Culture Club / Getty

The oldest stories known to humanity are also some of the most powerful. Over thousands of years, they’ve worked their way into the fabric of culture, with numerous retellings that reflect the values of the present or reveal the biases of the past. The scholar Martin Puchner shows how works such as , the very first novel in history, mark major technological and cultural milestones. A popular, an ancient Hindu epic poem about the divine prince Rama, has helped many kids understand their Indian identity—but also contains portrayals that reinforce certain prejudiced ideals.

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

Related Interests

More from The Atlantic

The Atlantic7 min readPolitics
Why Steve Bullock Refuses to Drop Out
Members of the Clinton diaspora are pleading with the Montana governor to stay in the race, even if the rest of the country doesn’t know who he is.
The Atlantic13 min readPsychology
Teachers Can’t Survive Without Other Teachers
After 38 years in education, Judith Harper thinks what teachers are missing is more time to learn from each other.
The Atlantic6 min readPsychology
Why Some People Become Lifelong Readers
They can be identified by their independent-bookstore tote bags, their “Book Lover” mugs, or—most reliably—by the bound, printed stacks of paper they flip through on their lap. They are, for lack of a more specific term, readers. Joining their tribe