Edith Hamilton’s Mythology.
A few years ago I realized I knew nothing about classical mythology. I started off with Bulfinch’s Age of Fable, a Victorian view of the whole thing with lots of thee’ing and thou’ing, and heavily biased towards the might of the Roman Empire (and didn’t the Victorians love to compare themselves to that bunch of proto-fascists). I can’t remember the exact section, but at one point he's blundering about trying to understand how one particular character can be described as both beautiful and dark skinned. Not recommended.
After that I read Greek Myths by Robert Graves. I’d earlier said I’d never again read anything by Graves after trying to wade through White Goddess, his turgid make-it-up-as-you-go-along neo-pagan fantasy, but I found his Myths entertaining. It’s all sex and violence, basically, with each story getting a few paragraphs of idiosyncratic notes. These observations are particularly eccentric, with Graves hammering his obsession about the myths being a retelling of earlier struggles between beautiful matriarchal moon priestesses and ugly guys that wanted to be god kings and build empires. Like Bulfinch, he’d looked into the myths and seen what he wanted to. The fact that it’s mostly sexual fantasies mixed with extreme violence, however, means Graves is never dull, although not quite to be trusted.
I picked up the Hamilton because hers is supposed to be a more prim and scholarly reading of it all. So far I’m only around 40 pages in, but I like her early observations. She seems to be saying that starting with the Greeks, we have happily been creating gods in our own likeness, and that myths change over time to serve the government of the day. (God of war Ares, or Mars to the Romans, in particular received a lot of spin, with the afterlife becoming more welcoming to warriors.) Writing in the early 1940s, she dances around some of these ideas rather than stating them outright, but that makes reading her so much more involving. Modern authors like to beat you over the head with their ideas, but books of this era presume you have the intelligence to peer between the lines.
So far, I’ve only read the first book in Joseph Campbell’s Masks of God series, and I need to return here. But later. It didn’t really move me, to be honest.