Of all the multi-culture mythology books I’ve looked at over the years, this is the best. I love the organization as well as the myths. The author, J.F. Bierlein, offers up useful information in part 1 before diving fully into the myths, then follows up the myths with some interesting hypotheses ideas for interpreting myths in part 3.
Most of the myths are complete, and those that aren’t don’t misrepresent the cultures and stories. The translations are straightforward and accessible to readers not familiar with mythology, but don’t dumb anything down, preserving complexity without sacrificing common understanding.
What I like best about the book is the organization. Instead of a cultural or geographic approach, the book favors a thematic structure, grouping myths by specific themes such as creation, apocalypse, flood, underworld, etc. These groupings make it easy to see how cultures connect to one another through common myths. Though the stories are not exactly the same, the stories demonstrate common thoughts across cultures.
I think this is the best book for someone new to studying mythology. The sampling of myths is brought enough for people to get an idea of different cultures, and is accessible to everyone. The thematic organization is ideal to a greater understanding of mythology across the entire world instead of zooming in on a specific culture. After reading this book, feel free to go for books about a specific culture.