The Icelandic sagas bear repeated readings--these texts are a heritage of ancient European culture that belong on the "canon lists" with Homer and Shakespeare. Their influences and histories are that important, anyone who speaks English should certainly read these stories, they are distantly related to us and are at once familiar and very strange. This massive volume is the best single-source for the sagas, and the translations are all new and take into account the most recent scholarship on the sagas. Five stars for the work and the translations, and a sixth star for the best reason to own this book, the reference section, a book in its own right: illlustrations and diagrams, historical charts, glossary (Icelandic-English), up-to-the-minute and large bibliography, maps, family ties and trees, ages of icelandic history, and essays on the social and political structure that is so important to really understading the sagas and the culture that produced them.
However, I have to subtract a few of my stars, with the proviso that I do recommend this book as a must-own for anyone interested. This may raise a few hackles, but I really think that the "Tales" could have been omitted, and included should have been two sagas that inexplicably were left out: Njal's Saga and the Eyrbyggja Saga. How a book on the poetry of the North Atlantic could have left out these two sagas I do not know, but it is almost reason enough not to buy the book. It cannot claim to be a book on "The Sagas" because it leaves out these two fundamental sagas. The inclusion of these sagas would mean something had to go, and I think that the sagas can stand without the Tales to augment them. This was a sad mistake, and makes this book at best a "Selection of the Sagas of the Icelanders." I really hate that the editors didn't see fit to include them, I just cannot imagine missing Njal or Eyrbyggja and then claiming to have "read" the sagas (Hrolf Kraki is also missing). The reader misses so much with the absence of these materpieces.
All that said, the book is still a treasure, and I am very glad to see Penguin coming out with such fine volumes. After all, Njal and Ergyggja are also published in very nice translation by Penguin. It would have been nice to really have them ALL here, but that is only almost reason not to buy it--but not reason enough. If you love Nordic poetry and literature, even if you own editions of these sagas, you should still have this one.
It might be useful to end with what IS here, saga-wise:
Laxdaela Saga (w/Bolli Bollison's Tale)
Bandamanna Saga (Saga of the Confederates)
Gisli Sursson's Saga
Gunnlaug Serpent-tongue's Saga
The Vinland Sagas