Great Books of The Western World – The Ancient Greeks

Do Something Awesome. Tell a Friend:

Great Books of the Westen World – 
The Ancient Greeks

Here at, we are on a quest to read the Great Books of the Western World. We have already started our journey, but we thought “how can we make this easier?” Because the Great Books of the Western World are books that come from history, it’s good to look at history and see why these books were written and in what context they were written. Let’s start with the Ancient Greeks!

The point is this: we read the Great Books of the Western World in order to learn about history and to understand our current world. But we can also study history in order to learn about these Great Books too.

So, for our first list (Year 1 – The Great Books of the Ancient Greeks), we can study some history in order to understand the context in which these books were written.

Great Books of the Western World - Ancient Greeks 2 (
Ancient Greek ruins… What can we learn from them?

To learn about the historical context of the Ancient Greeks, and the books that were written in that time we can look at many good video courses. For example Kahn Academy’s newly minted “World History – 2nd Wave civilizations” videos.

Kahn Academy’s World History –
2nd Wave Civilizations:

1. Ancient Persia

  • Ancient Persia
  • Cyrus the Great and the Achaemenid Empire
  • The Rise of Persia
  • Zoroastrianism

2. Classical Greece

  • Classical Greece
  • The Greek Polis
  • Greco Persian Wars
  • Second Persian Invasion
  • Classical Greek Society and Culture
  • Philosophy: Socrates, Plato, Aristotle
  • Prelude to the Peloponnesian War
  • The Peloponnesian War

3. The Rise and Fall of Empires

  • Comparison: the Rise of Empires
  • Comparison: the Fall of Empires
  • Comparing the rise and fall of empires

4. Empire of Alexander the Great

  • Phillip of Macedon unifies Greece
  • Alexander the Great takes power
  • Alexander the Great conquers Persia
  • Diadochi and the Hellenistic Period
  • Alexander the Great

Takeaways from History for the Great Books of the Western World

Looking at the videos above, we can see the context in which the Ancient Greeks wrote their books. The same books we are reading in the Great Books of the Western World come from this historical context.

Great Books of the Western World - Ancient Greeks 1 (
Probably not Herodotus…… but what a beard!

For example, the book Histories written by Herodotus (which is on our list of Great Books of the Western World to read) is about the origins of the Greco-Persian Wars. As seen in the Kahn Academy videos above, we see that the Greco-Persian Wars occurred because the Hellensitic (i.e. Greek) regions of the Ionian Penisula had revolted against the Achaemenid Empire of Persia.

But wait… What are the Hellensitic regions of the Ionian Penisula?
And what was the Achaemined Empire of Persia?

That’s the point.

If you watch the Kahn Academy videos on that subject, then you will gain the background knowledge to understand the book Historiesby Herodotus. Reading comprehension doesn’t merely come from reading the words on the page, but in fact also comes from our background knowledge of the subject. Researchers have also thought that activating and improving a reader’s background knowledge before reading a book is a more effective way of improving reading comprehension. More so than improving a reader’s ability to decode the words on the page.

But what about all the other guy’s on the list? (yeah… they are mostly guys. But you can also read some great books by women authors too!)

It’s true that not all the books written by Ancient Greeks on the Great Books of the Western World list are history books. In fact there are also tragedies, philosophy, and even maths books too on the list.

So, we need a more useful categorisation of the books on the list in order to improve our background knowledge of the subjects we are about the delve into.

The Great Books of the Western World –
a more useful list for the Ancient Greeks

So, let’s break down the list of Ancient Greek authors into more useful categories. If we read about and watch videos about those categories and the authors within them, then we can have a more enjoyable time reading the Great Books of the Western World. I mean is gonna take over 4 years to finish all the books, so we need to enjoy the process!

Great Books of the Western World - Ancient Greeks 3 (
Even Hermes thinks slow and steady is great!

We can divide the list of Anicent Greek authors into 7 different categories: 1) Homeric Epics, 2) Greek Tradegies, 3) Histories, 4) Biographies, 5) Philosophy, 6) Medicine, 7) Maths.

Here’s a few pointers on each of them:

1. Homeric Epics:

Author: Homer
Books: The Illiad, the Odyssey

Here we have Homer and his two epics of The Illiad and The Odyssey.
These two texts are the centre of Ancient Greek Literature, and have such a strong prescence in later Western Civilization (read: Virgil’s Aenied, and Jame Joyce’s Ulysses).

2. Ancient Greek Tragedies:

a. Aeschylus:

– Prometheus Bound,
The Oresteia (Agamemnon, Libation Bearers, Eumenides)

– The Theban plays (Oedipus Rex, Oedipus at Colonus, Antigone)

– High tradegy: Medea, and Hippolytus
– Disillusionment at the senselessness of war: Trojan Women
– Tragic despiar: The Bacchae

Here, we have the masters of the ancient greek tragedies. Aeschylus codified and established the rules of tragedy. Sophocles reformed the rules of tragedy by introducing a third actor, scenary and the use of scenes (among others). Euripedes further experimented with the conventions of tradegy and focused more on the internal conflict and feelings of the characters.

3. Histories:

a. HerodotusHistories
b. ThucydidesThe Peloponnesian War

Here we have the master historians of the Ancient Greeks. As described above, Herodotus’ Histories talks about the beginnings and causes of the Greco-Persian Wars (499 – 449BC). In contrast, Thucydides’ The Peloponnesian War talks about the Peloponnesian War (431 – 404BC) between Athens and Sparta which Athens lost.

4. Biographies:

Authors: Plutarch
Lives: Lycurgus, Solon, Pericles, Alcibiades, Aristides, Alexander

Here we have Plutarch’s Lives of the Noble Greeks and Romans – a series of biographies (not really neutral though) of ancient Greeks and Romans. In the book, Plutarch compares and contrasts one person from Greek culture and one person from Roman culture. However, in our Great Books of the Western World list, we have only a couple of the Greek lives in order to understand the Ancient Greeks. However, it might also be worthwhile to read the Greek and Roman lives together to see how Plutarch compared the two.

5. Philosophy:

a. Plato: Ion, Meno, Gorgias, Republic, Symposium, Apology, Euthyphro, Citro, Phaedo
b. Aristotle: Poetics, On the Heavens, On the Soul, Ethics, Metaphysics

Here we have the masters of Ancient Greek philosophy. Of course, you’ve heard of them before but probably have no idea what they wrote in their original books. They seem complicated and boring, but just wait till we get them and start to gradually build up our knowledge of Plato and Aristotle and each of their books. Some of their books actually talk about the Tradegies, the Histories, and other periods we will study in advance too so it’ll help as we gradually build up our background knowledge.

Slow and steady wins the race!

6. Medicine:

Authors: Hippocrates
Books: The Oath; On Ancient Medicine; On Airs, Waters, Places.

Here we have the father of medicine in the Western tradition. There are still lots of ideas that started with Hippocrates and have come down until our time today. For example, Hippocrates’ The Oath talks of the Hippocratic Oath which modern doctors still need to take before they start practising medicine (albeit changed a bit).

7. Maths:

Authors: Euclid
Book: Elements

Euclid’s Elements is a mathematical treatise consisting of 13 books that deals with geometry and number theory as well as their proofs. It is such a remarkable book because when the quadrivium was included in the curriculum of all unviersity students, Euclid’s Elements or part of it was required reading. It is also the oldest, large-scale deductive treatment of mathematics, and was key in the development of logic and modern science.

These kind of mathematical/science books are also probably a little dad boring, because it’s just full of math. But it would be useful to have a skim through it to understand what the Ancient Greeks knew so long ago and how much of our own mathematics curriculum is derived from their knowledge.

So, Now What?
Let’s Read the Great Books of the Western World!

So, how did we do? Did we give you new energy in how to read the Great Books of the Western World?

We hope that our new framework is a way for you to delve deeper into not just reading the words of the Great Books of the Western World, but also attempting to understand the culture, background and reasons why they are so important to our world today.

Like we said before, reading is not just about reading the words on the page. It’s about improving our knowledge and learning more about our world – not just our present-day world, but the reasons why it has become the way it has.

By reading and learning more about the Great Books of the Western World, we can attempt to understand why they are considered the Greak Books. We can also try to see how they impacted and influenced history to bring us into the current world.

Whew… all done!

What should we write about next?
Let us know in the comment box below!

Or Contact Me here.


A.J. McMahon


Let’s Connect!
– Twitter: @AndyReadsKorea1
Instagram: AndyReadsKorea
Pinterest: FlyIntoBooks
GoodReads: A.J. McMahon

Do Something Awesome. Tell a Friend:

My Reading WishList

Do Something Awesome. Tell a Friend:

My Reading Wishlist!

Hello, folks!
Because we have started the’s “100 Books in 2019 Challenge” we thought that you might need to get an idea of what books to delve into! Here’s where “My Reading Wishlist” comes into play!

What’s a Reading Wishlist?

It’s all the books that I want to read for the “100 Books in 2019 Challenge”!

I’m focusing on good old classics and novels rather than non-fiction books.
The “Great Books of the Western World List” has kept me occupied for a long time in the historical, non-fiction genre. But I just wanted an easy read and delve into a good story. In other words, I want a list of great classic novels that I want to read and get motivated!

So, without further delay, here’s my list!

My Reading Wishlist for the “100 Books in 2019 Challenge”!

  1. Dracula – by Bram Stoker
  2. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn – by Mark Twain
  3. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button – by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  4. Frankenstein – by Mary Shelley
  5. Gulliver’s Travels – by Jonathan Swift
  6. I, Claudius – by Robert Graves
  7. Catch-22 – by Joseph Heller
  8. For Whom the Bell Tolls – by Ernest Hemmingway
  9. The War of the Worlds – by H.G. Wells
  10. The Catcher in the Rye – by J.D. Salinger
  11. Pride and Prejudice – by Jane Austen
  12. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe – by C.S. Lewis
  13. Jane Eyre – by Charlotte Bronte
  14. Saughterhouse-five – by Kurt Vonnegut
  15. Tropic of Cancer – by Henry Miller
  16. Women in Love – by D.H. Lawrence
  17. Treasure Island – by Robert Louis Stevenson
  18. Shogun – by James Clavell
  19. A Town Like Alice – by Nevil Shute
  20. Persuasion – by Jane Austen
  21. Dune – by Frank Herbert
  22. Emma – by Jane Austen
  23. The Count of Monte Cristo – by Alexander Dumas
  24. The Secret Garden – by Frances Hodgson Burnett
  25. The Stand – by Stephen King
  26. Memoirs of a Geisha – by Arthur Golden
  27. The Magus – by John Fowles
  28. Good Omens – by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
  29. Lord of the Flies – by William Golding
  30. Perfume – by Patrick Suskind
  31. The God of Small Things – by Arundhati Roy
  32. The Beach – by Alex Garland
  33. Point Blanc – by Anthony Horowitz

Was there any books that I missed? Any great novels and awesome stories to delve into? Please let me know in the comment section below!


A.J. McMahon

Do Something Awesome. Tell a Friend:

100 Books in 2019 Challenge!

Do Something Awesome. Tell a Friend:

100 Books in 2019 Challenge!

Hello, everyone! We’re back again with a new challenge in 2019 to spruce up your life! With all the rain and bad weather we have been having in Australia recently it’s time to get under the bed covers and read some lovely books!

So, we have a new challenge which is very ORIGINAL! haha

In 2019 the challenge is to read at least 100 books!
It’s our “100 books in 2019 challenge”!

I’ve been reading about the NSW Premier reading challenge and the Victoria Premier Reading challenge for primary school and high school children. But why not for adults? Why have we lost the interest in reading as we grow older?

So why not join our “100 Books in 2019 Challenge” and start reading a book today?!

As you can see, we have a lot of book reviews on our site already! Have a look and see if any are of interest, grab them, and start reading!

Here’s a list of the book reviews we’ve already written:

Take a look and see if there’s any books you fancy!

  1. Eden Chip by Scott Cramer (Sci-fi) 
  2. The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin (Sci-fi)
  3. The Gapcai Effect by W.S. Jenkins (Sci-fi)
  4. The Good Son by You Jeong Jeong (Horror/Korean)
  5. The Vegetarian by Han Kang (Literary/Korean)
  6. The Hole by Hye-Young Pyun (Psychological Horror/Korean)
  7. Oslo Spies by S.J. Slagle (Thriller)
  8. The Impossible Fairytale by Han Yujoo (Psychological Horror/Korean)

Here’s the Books we’ve already read for the “100 Books in 2019 Challenge”:

  1. The Keys of Egypt: The Race to Read the Hieroglyphs by Lesley and Roy Adkins (Historical Narrative) – 309 pages; finished on 4 April 2019
  2. What is History by E.H. Carr (Non-Fiction) – 183 pages; started 5 April 2019

More and more books will be added to these list as we move forward!
Let’s see how much we can read together!
Any books are welcome!


A.J. McMahon

Do Something Awesome. Tell a Friend:

Great Books Reviewed

Do Something Awesome. Tell a Friend:

Here is my plan for reading and reviewing all the “Great Books of the Western World”. Most of this list comes from but I’ve changed it a little bit.

These great books of the western world are the foundation for most of the ideas in our modern-day world in which we live in today.

Of course you need to read more widely than just these great books written by ‘old, dead, white men’. But you can always supplement this list with other great books from people of colour, women, and writers from other cultures as well.

This plan does not go through entirely all the great books, however it does go through most of the main ones. I would rather get through the most important books and then go back through the whole list to catch the others that are of interest to me.

Step by step like the tortoise is the best way.

So, let’s get started.

Year 1: Great Books of the Ancient Greeks

  1. Aeschylus – Prometheus Bound
  2. Homer – The Iliad
  3. Homer – The Odyssey
  4. Aeschylus – Agamemnon
  5. Aeschylus – Libation Bearers
  6. Aeschylus – Eumenides
  7. Euripedes – Trojan Women
  8. Euripedes – Alcestis
  9. Aesop – Aesop’s Fables
  10. Sophocles – Oedipus Rex
  11. Sophocles – Oedipus at Colonus
  12. Sophocles – Antigone
  13. Euripides – Hippolytus
  14. Herodotus – Histories
  15. Plutarch – Lycurgus
  16. Plutarch – Solon
  17. Plutarch – Pericles
  18. Plutarch – Alcibiades
  19. Euripedes – Medea
  20. Euripedes – Bacchae
  21. Thucydides – Peloponnesian War
  22. Plato – Ion
  23. Plato – Meno
  24. Plato – Gorgias
  25. Plato – Republic
  26. Plato – Symposium
  27. Plato – Apology
  28. Plato – Euthyphro
  29. Plato – Citro
  30. Plato – Phaedo
  31. Aristotle – Poetics
  32. Aristotle – On the Heavens
  33. Aristotle – On the Soul
  34. Aristotle – Ethics
  35. Aristotle – Metaphysics
  36. Plutarch – Aristides, Alexander
  37. Hippocrates – The Oath
  38. Hippocrates – On Ancient Medicine
  39. Hippocrates – On Airs, Waters, Places
  40. Euclid – Elements

Year 2: Great Books of the Ancient Romans

  1. Virgil – Aeneid
  2. Livy
  3. Plutarch – Romulus
  4. Plutarch – Numa Pomulus
  5. Plutarch – Coriolanus
  6. Plutarch – Caesar
  7. Caesar – Conquest of Gaul
  8. Plutarch – Cato the Younger
  9. Plutarch – Antony
  10. Plutarch – Brutus
  11. Plutarch – Cicero
  12. Cicero – On Friendship
  13. Cicero – On Duties
  14. Tacitus – Annals
  15. Lucretius – On the Nature of Things
  16. Epictitus – Discourses
  17. Marcus Aurelius – Meditations
  18. Ptolemy – Almagest
  19. Galen – On the Natural Faculties
  20. Plotinus – Enneads
  21. Old Testament – Genesis
  22. New Testament
  23. St John – Book of Revelation
  24. St. Augustine – Confessions
  25. Boethius – Consolation of Philosophy
  26. St. Augustine – City of God
  27. Muhammed – Qu’ran
  28. Bede – History of the English People
  29. Tennyson – Sir Galahad
  30. Tennyson – Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
  31. Al-Makrisi – Memoirs of the Crusades
  32. Al-Makrisi – Crusade of St. Louis
  33. Kempis – Imitation of Christ
  34. Dante – The Divine Comedy

Year 3: Great Books of the High Middle Ages to the Renaissance

  1. Chaucer – Canterbury Tales
  2. Aquinas
  3. Machiavelli – The Prince
  4. Sir Thomas More – Utopia
  5. Erasmus – Praise of Folly
  6. Copernicus – On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres
  7. Calvin – Institutes of the Christian Religion
  8. Montaigne – Essays
  9. Cervantes – Don Quixote
  10. Shakespeare – Comedy of Errors
  11. Shakespeare – A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream
  12. Shakespeare – The Taming of the Shrew
  13. Shakespeare – Coriolanus
  14. Shakespeare – Julius Caesar
  15. Galileo – Dialogues Concerning Two New Sciences
  16. Shakespeare – The Merchant of Venice
  17. Shakespeare – Henry V
  18. Descartes – Rules for the Direction of the Mind
  19. Descartes – Discourse on Method
  20. Descartes – Meditations
  21. Bacon – The New Atlantis
  22. Bacon – Novum Organum
  23. Hobbes – Leviathan
  24. Milton – Paradise Lost
  25. Pascal – Pensees
  26. Shakespeare – Romeo & Juliet

Year 4: Great Books of the Modern Era

  1. Shakespeare – Hamlet
  2. Shakespeare – Othello
  3. Shakespeare – King Lear
  4. Shakespeare – The Tempest
  5. Moliere – Tartuffe
  6. Racine – Phaedra
  7. Jonathan Swift – Gulliver’s Travels
  8. John Locke – Essay Concerning Human Knowledge
  9. John Locke – Second Essay on Civil Governmnet
  10. John Locke – Letter on Toleration
  11. David Hume – An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding
  12. David Hume – Treatise of Human Nature
  13. David Hume – Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion
  14. Jacques Rousseau – The Social Contract
  15. Jacques Rousseau – On the Origin of Inequality
  16. The Federalist Papers
  17. Aquinas – Q 105, Art.1
  18. US Declaration of Independence
  19. Articles of Confederation
  20. The Constitution of the United States of America
  21. De Tocqueville – Democracy in America
  22. J.S. Mill – Representative Government
  23. Jane Austen – Emma
  24. Immanuel Kant – Critique of Pure Reason
  25. Immanuel Kant – Fundamnetal Principles of the Metaphysics of Morals
  26. Goethe – Faust
  27. Georg Hegel – Philosophy of Right
  28. Georg Hegel – The Philosophy of History
  29. Tolstoy – War and Peace
  30. Fyodor Mikailovich Dostoevsky – The Brother Karamazov
  31. Adam Smith – Wealth of Nations
  32. Communist Manifesto
  33. Abraham Lincoln – 1st & 2nd Inaugural Addresses
  34. Abraham Lincoln – Gettysburg Address
  35. Abraham Lincoln – Emancipation Proclamation
  36. Henry David Thoreau – Walden
  37. Henry David Thoreau – Disobedience
  38. Mark Twain – The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
  39. Charles Darwin – The Origin of Species
  40. George Orwell – Nineteen Eighteen Four
  41. Einstein – Relativity: The Special and General Theory
  42. Willa Cather – My Antonia

Did I miss any Great Books of the Western World?
If so, then please let me know in the comment section below!

Do Something Awesome. Tell a Friend:

Oslo Spies by S.J. Slagle – #BookReview #Spy #Thriller

Do Something Awesome. Tell a Friend:

Oslo Spies by S.J. Slagle
Published by SJ Slagle on September 1st 2018
Genres: Spy Thriller Books, Thriller Books
Pages: 350
Format: ARC
Source: Net Galley
Buy on Amazon

(This post contains affiliate links you can use to purchase the book. If you purchase from Amazon using these links, I will receive a small commission from the sale. This doesn't affect the ratings or my opinion in my reviews. If a book is not worth reading, I will tell you truthfully and openly.)

Oslo Spies (Phyllis Bowden series Book 2) by S.J. Slagle

Buy Oslo Spies by S.J. Slagle from Amazon now!

Synopsis of Oslo Spies (by S.J. Slagle):

In S.J. Slagle’s Oslo Spies, Norway is a destroyed country at the end of World War II. Norway lost hundreds of teachers and religious leaders who died resisting Vidkun Quisling, the head of the Norwegian Nazi Party. Quisling’s demands for Nazi indoctrination to be taught in schools and churches forced teachers and pastors to quit their posts and work underground. Perhaps worst of all, Norwegian children were deprived of their childhoods, a most precious commodity.

It seems a horrendous assignment for Phyllis Bowden, a young woman in military intelligence assigned to the Office of the Military Attache in the American Embassy in Oslo. One night Phyllis finds a runaway child in a café bathroom one night, a little girl labeled a quisling because her Norwegian mother married a German officer.

Meanwhile the love of her life, Joe Schneider, an Mi5 agent, has disappeared in Romania while on assignment and it’s a race to find out what’s happened to him. Between nerve-wracking tasks in her job, trying to decide the fate of the little girl and being heartbroken over Joe’s disappearance, Phyllis is in for the struggle of her young life and intelligence career.

Oslo Spies by S.J. Slagle ( 5

“Beautiful Norway in all its glory!” – Me wanting to go to Norway


First Sentence of Oslo Spies:

Here is the first sentences of Oslo Spies by S.J. Slagle:

“‘Don’t be frightened.’

The little girl looked from her terrified mother to her father, his face reddened from strain with purple veins bulging at the temple.”
(Oslo Spies, p.1)

This is from the prologue that sets up the beginning of the mysteries.

We don’t know who any of these three people are. All we know is that the Russians are coming in from the north, the Americans from the South, with artillery shells exploding all around the family.

The father needs to run away. He needs to leave his wife and kid before the troops come to the house.

But first, he goes to retrieve a doll and gives it to the little girl.
We don’t know the significance of this event, but later in the novel this mystery will unravel and we will be awed. So what did I think of S.J. Slagle’s Oslo Spies?


My Opinion of S.J. Slagle’s Oslo Spies:

I was impressed by the setting and premise of S.J. Slagle’s Oslo Spies. However, the execution of the plot and characters left me wanting.

(Read my book review of R.O. Kwon’s The Incendiaries here!)

The genre of Oslo Spies was described as a spy thriller. However, it felt more like a romance novel with a spy setting. There was little action and no action of the sort which we would expect in a spy novel. There is a kidnapping and a rendezvous in a strange bar but the action is very light and not very intense.

The location and premise is great:
Anybody would love to read a novel about Russian and American/British spies doing spy things in Norway at the end of World War II. Attempting to recover some kind of secret item that has valuable data before other secret intelligence groups helps to build in a type of suspense and goal for the characters.

Oslo Spies by S.J. Slagle ( 2

“What is the secret of the doll?” – Me at the start of the book

There were also many historical issues brought up that caught my attention:

  • The differences of life in Norway and Sweden after World War II
  • Vidkun Quisling and his role before and during the Nazi takeover of Norway in WWII
  • Children and others called ‘Quislings’ due to their connections with the Nazi Party

These parts were actually interesting and made me want to keep reading.

However, despite my expectations this book was not a thriller nor a spy book. The main character (Phyllis Bowden) and her lover (Joe Schneider) are both secret agents and they do some spy things, but poorly…

  • Phyllis Bowden needs to buy something from the black market
  • Joe Schneider needs to go to another country and infiltrate the communist party

Yes, there is some spy things. But not what spy thriller lovers want to see.
There are…

  • no fast cars
  • no hot women
  • no high-risk casino games
  • no cool gadgets
  • no brutal fights involving guns or fists
  • no big explosions

There is no glamour and no high stakes.

There are no morally iffy things, no blackmail and no brush-pasts.

Although the above are spy thriller tropes, they are also the things that people who think they will read spy thriller want to see (albeit in interesting and new ways).

There is a kidnapping scene where a man (I’m not gonna spoiler it for you! haha) is captured and tortured. However, there seems to be no real danger because we know that he is going to live. The book also doesn’t show how he escaped from this torture situation. All we get is a scene change, and then an explanation that he escaped somehow?

What would have been great is if he died – completely opposite to our expectations and that would have woken us up from our slumber. Then there would have been a revenge plot with cool gadgets and brutal fights to kill the perpetrators.

Oslo Spies by S.J. Slagle ( 3

“I am a spy, but not a very good spy.”- Joe Schneider

Also, what would have been great was if we were given a first or third person perspective on that man and how he attempted to escape. There might have been cool gadgets and some fights with some misdirection or conspiracies that blind-sided the readers. Maybe the man becomes a double agent or was always part of the villain camp. Some kind of interesting thriller conspiracy might have pushed the intensity to another level?

But those scenes leaves us as readers merely wanting…

Still want to give Oslo Spies a read? Then click the link below.
You will be sent directly to the Amazon page to buy the book (kindle and paperback version are both available):

If you want to hear more (about the themes and characters of Oslo Spies by S.J. Slagle), then read on! =)


S.J. Slagle writes about Justice:

So, instead of a Spy Thriller we get a kind of romance novel where the main character (Phyllis Bowden) continues to pursue justice in her own kind of way. This is the main theme written in the novel: Justice for the children and women of Norway labelled Quislings.

These quislings were just normal people who tried to survive through the war. People who cut the hair of Germans are treated as criminals and moved to jails or worse.

(Love historical fiction? Then read my book review of The Kinship of Secrets by Eugenia Kim here now!)

Also, through no fault of their own the children of these Quislings are treated harshly and persecuted by mobs in Norway even after the war finished.

This theme is a good theme to focus on especially in the context of Norway in the aftermath of the Nazi occupation.

But, the way it was handled seemed to force it down your throat:

“The beauty we see contrasts sharply with the terror we know was here for five years.”
“I know what you mean. The reports I read of bombings, people shipped off to slave labor camps and other terrors make this moment incredibly poignant.”
(Oslo Spies by S.J. Slagle)

In the beginning, the main character for some reason decides to walk around the streets of Oslo. I was thinking why is she doing that? After a long winding journey through the city with no purpose, we finally get the scene where it clicks what this novel is really about.

Oslo Spies by S.J. Slagle ( 4

“Look how beautiful it is. I hate this.” – Phyllis Bowden

Phyllis sees a truck parked on the street:

“The bed of a large truck parked by the side of the street was filled with eight frightened women with shaved headS. Two women had black swastikas drawn on their foreheads and a paper sign with writing in Norwegian fluttered on a window.” (Oslo spies)

Here we get the first glimpse of Quislings and the historical significance of the nickname Quislings:

  • Quislings are women and their children who collaborated with the Germans, like Vidkun Quisling.
  • Vidkun Quisling was a Norwegian official who tried to take over the government when the king was deposed.

And there is the foundation of the theme for the novel.

I won’t spoil the rest of the novel, but this theme ties into the beginning of the novel as well as the end.

There are some elements of a spy-like nature but truthfully the main theme is justice to the kids of quislings.



The Characters in S.J. Slagle’s Oslo Spies:

There are a few interesting characters in S.J. Slagle’s Oslo Spies.

The characters run along the lines of a romance novel, but because we know that the two main characters will have a ‘happy ending’ at the end of the novel there is no real tension or suspense.

Oslo Spies by S.J. Slagle (

“Love Stories are not about love, but about desire and the desired.” –

1. The heroine of the novel is Phyllis Bowden:

“We’ll never be free of this war and all the horrors that were committed. Never. We probably haven’t learned a tenth of what happened.” (Oslo spies)

Phyllis Bowden is an American spy working for military intelligence. Her job in Norway at the end of World War II is to help rebuild the war-damaged Norway. She fights for justice for the Quislings in Norway and doesn’t do much spy stuff.

2. The second main character of Oslo Spies is
Joe Schneider:

Joe Schneider is Phyllis Bowden’s main love interest. He is a British spy and works for England’s Mi5. He visits Phyllis in Norway for a short time and then heads to Romania on an assignment. Joe also doesn’t do many interesting spy things.

“In his mind, joe envisioned pretty Phyllis Bowden, all five feet, five inches of her, with curly brown hair and twinkling brown eyes.'” (Oslo spies)

Joe Schneider is Phyllis’s boyfriend which sets up the love line in the novel. But from the very start he seems to be merely a copy of Phyllis who does exactly what she wants to do:

“don’t cry sweetie, i’ll be seeing you soon. Lt. Col. Lawrence will notify  you of the transport plane bringing me in. I Can’t wait to see you.
love, joe.” (Oslo spies)

As John Truby shows in his book, The Anatomy of a Story, the main protagonist (Phyllis Bowden) has the desire for their love interest (Joe Schneider). This makes Phyllis Bowden the more powerful character.

But this also means:
“in terms of story function, this means that the lover, the desired one, is actually the main opponent, not the second hero.”

So unfortunately for Oslo Spies, Phyllis and Joe’s double-hero love story is not very interesting.

Not to say that John Truby is always right. But he has been a consultant on over 1,000 film scripts over the past three decades, so he would know a lot about screenwriting and storytelling in novels.

3. The third main character in S.J. Slagle’s Oslo Spies is John Edelland.

John Edelland is a rich Norwegian businessman who has a lot of connections within Norway’s government and political world. He meets Phyllis at a function at the American Embassy and is depicted as a rival love interest for Phyllis:

“John Edelland at your service.”
He softly pressed his lips to her hand. The officer closest to Phyllis arched an eyebrow at the cavalier gesture. (Oslo spies)

The inclusion of John Edelland creates a sort of love triangle between himself, Phyllis Bowden and Joe Schneider. However, this too isn’t executed very well.

As John Truby states in his book, The Anatomy of a Story:

“You may also have other suitors for the hero or the lover so that you can compare different versions of a desirable man or woman.”

In Oslo Spies, John Edelland isn’t shown as another suitor for Phyllis Bowden. Instead John is merely a tool used by Phyllis to achieve her goal of justice for the quislings.

Phyllis has no interest in John Edelland except for what his connections and power can do for her.

John Edelland does in fact attempt to outwardly show his interest in Phyllis Bowden, but if we read between the lines we know they never have a chance together:

“John Edelland. She’d nearly forgotten about him. So much had happened in such a short time that she hadn’t thought about him much at all. And she had a feeling he wouldn’t like that.” (Oslo spies)

It would have been so much more interesting if John Edelland and Joe Schneider really were love rivals. A rich businessman with so much power versus an English spy working for Mi5! There could have been so many nice plots running this love rival storyline. There could have been so many nice reveals to build up the suspense and wow the audience. Alas, we must find another novel to satisfy our appetite…


Buy Oslo Spies by S.J. Slagle from Amazon now!


Oslo Spies by S.J. Slagle is an okay book.

If you want to learn more about the historical circumstances of Norway after World War II, you can read it. But in terms of spy or thriller novels there are better books out there.

I liked the interesting historical tidbits I learnt by reading Oslo Spies. For example, Quislings and Norway’s relationship with Germany during the war.

But it would have better to have just read a history book about the subject.

The book is portrayed as a spy thriller but is really a poor attempt of a romance novel with a need for justice. There are many good elements that could have been used more successfully. The concept and time period of Oslo Spies is really interesting, but the execution of the novel is not very good.

I would recommend you to search other spy thriller books if you love action and adventure.


My Rating for Oslo Spies: 2/5

I give Oslo Spies by S.J. Slagle a total of two stars out of five stars!
Find all details about Oslo Spies (written by S.J. Slagle) on Goodreads and Amazon.

A.J. McMahon

(P.S. Got any other books you want me to review? Then…)

Let’s Connect!
Twitter: @AndyReadsKorea1
Instagram: AndyReadsKorea
Pinterest: FlyIntoBooks
GoodReads: A.J. McMahon
Google+: A.J. McMahon

Do Something Awesome. Tell a Friend: