33 historical fiction books avid readers can’t get enough of

33 historical fiction books avid readers can’t get enough of

On average, Americans read about twelve books per year. But according to the research, avid readers far surpass that number. My own research and anecdotal experience bears this out: reading blog comments, poring over reader surveys, and interviewing guests on my podcast What Should I Read Next. A dozen books on average, you say? Our surveys show some of you read one hundred and twelve books in a year, or three times that many!

Voracious readers tend to read heaps of fiction, especially historical fiction, mystery, romance, and book series of all genres. Our community is comprised largely of these avid readers, and I was curious to find out which titles you have read, loved, and recommended the most over the past five or so years.

And so we dug into our data to discover the answer.

Today we’re focusing on historical fiction; our new book list is packed with favorite historical novels from our community of readers. These are the titles that you say you read and talk about the most—the ones you share on the blog, rave about in the MMD Book Club forums, purchase for your own bookshelves, and check out from the library.

If you’re looking for a well-told story to transport you to a different time, I hope you find your next great read (or a whole pile for your TBR) on this list.

33 well-loved historical fiction books

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

Author:
The titular hotel is a real place: it's Seattle's Panama Hotel. In this fictional story, an old man looks back to his 1940s childhood and remembers with fondness his friendship—and maybe something more—with his young Japanese friend Keiko. They lose touch when Keiko and her family are evacuated during the Japanese internment. (I learned so little about this in my U.S. history classes that when I first read the book I kept googling Ford's historical references to see if they really happened. They did.) More info →
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Silver Sparrow

Silver Sparrow

Author:
Opening line: "My father, James Witherspoon, is a bigamist." In this backlist novel set in the 1980s, Jones writes about the link between two African-American half sisters, one legitimate and one secret, only one of whom knows the other exists. That is, until the secret of their father's second marriage starts to force its way into the open. Rather than writing back-and-forth between two perspectives, the reader encounters almost all of one sister's point of view in the first half, followed by the other's. The result is an absorbing coming-of-age narrative wrapped in a complicated family novel. More info →
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Code Name Verity

Code Name Verity

Author:
When a British plane crashes in Nazi-occupied territory, one passenger is captured and interrogated. The young girl known as "Verity" faces a spy's worst fear: she must reveal her mission or face certain death. As she carefully writes her confession on scraps of paper, we learn about the escaped pilot, her best friend and mission partner Maddie. In her telling, Verity shares more than just their mission; she tells the story of their very different backgrounds and how they came to serve together. This gripping, action-packed novel about bravery, friendship, and loyalty is completely absorbing on audio, as narrated by Morven Christie and Lucy Gaskell. More info →
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Everyone Brave is Forgiven

Everyone Brave is Forgiven

Author:
Among shelves full of WWII historical novels, this tale of four young, warm, wise-cracking friends in wartime England still gets a lot of backlist love from our readers. Through his characters, Cleave throws issues of wartime morality, race, and class into sharp relief. Cleave's writing perfectly matches the story, and it all feels so real—maybe because Cleave based his novel on his own grandparents' experiences, or because he put himself on war rations while writing to better experience London during the Blitz? This is for you if you love a great story and admire a beautifully-rendered, wry turn of phrase. More info →
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A Gentleman in Moscow

A Gentleman in Moscow

Author:
In this well-loved historical novel, Towles tells the story of Count Alexander Roskov, an aristocrat who the Bolsheviks sentence convict in 1922 for crimes of state (involving poetry). His punishment is house arrest, confining him to a small room inside the elegant Metropol Hotel. Towles show us how, over many decades, the Count makes a life for himself after his walls literally close in. With a rich, transportive (if claustrophobic) setting and endearing characters, this novel lingers in readers' minds long after the final page. More info →
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Homegoing

Homegoing

Author:
By exploring the stories of two sisters, who met different fates in Ghana more than 200 years ago, Gyasi traces subtle lines of cause and effect through the centuries, illuminating how deeds of ages past still haunt all of us today. Her popular debut novel traces the generations of one family over a period of 250 years, showing the devastating effects of racism from multiple perspectives, in multiple settings. For the first hundred pages I didn't quite grasp what Gyasi was up to, but when it hit me it was powerful (and the family tree in the front of the book helped me track the characters). A brilliant concept, beautifully executed. More info →
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The Stars Are Fire

The Stars Are Fire

Author:
Many readers were delighted to discover this grim and gripping novel from a past Summer Reading Guide. After a scorching summer and months of no rain, the largest fires in Maine's history swept over its coast, from Bar Harbor to Kittery. In Shreve's claustrophobic historical suspense we experience this real event through the eyes of Grace Holland, whose marriage is its own sort of natural disaster. Her husband came back from the war a little broken. So did her friends' husbands, yet they don't seem as cruel. When wildfires break out, her husband leaves to help dig a fire break, and Grace and her children flee to the ocean to escape the flames. When her husband doesn't return, Grace thinks she's lost him forever—and she's far from devastated. But then he returns, and the real trouble begins. Dark and a little melodramatic, but oh-so-discussable. More info →
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Pachinko

Pachinko

Author:
"We cannot help but be interested in the stories of people that history pushes aside so thoughtlessly," writes Min Jin Lee in her unputdownable novel tracing four generations of a 20th-century Korean family back to the time when Japan annexed the country in 1910, affecting the fates of all. Lee portrays the family's struggles against the backdrop of cultural and political unrest, as they endure fierce discrimination at the hands of the Japanese. Operatic and sprawling, every decision has a reverberating consequence in this intricate portrait of a little-explored period of history. More info →
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We Were the Lucky Ones

We Were the Lucky Ones

Author:
When Georgia Hunter started getting curious about her family history, a few questions put to the right relatives uncovered something she didn’t expect: a sweeping multi-generational drama just begging to be written down—and so she did. Told over the span of six years, the story follows the Jewish Kurc family as they face exile, escape death, and struggle to survive during WWII. While the war scatters the siblings across the globe, they never give up the hope of one day being reunited. To hear more about Hunter's writing experience, listen to WSIRN Episode 157: The stories behind the stories we love to read. More info →
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Dreamland Burning

Dreamland Burning

Author:
This well-crafted YA release smoothly bridges the divide between present-day Tulsa, Oklahoma and the little-known race riots that occurred there during two terrifying days in 1921. During renovations of seventeen-year-old Rowan Chase's historic family home, a skeleton is unearthed in the backyard. The police don't care who the bones belong to, but Rowan sure does. Unbeknownst to her, this skeleton links Rowan with another teen, Will Tillman, who lived in Tulsa nearly a hundred years ago. Latham flips back and forth in time, between two teens facing their own kinds of crossroads, to give her readers a page-turning history/mystery mash-up, as her young protagonists wrestle through issues of family, friendship, identity, and belonging. More info →
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The Masterpiece

The Masterpiece

Author:
Few remember it now, but a thriving art school (the Grand Central School of Art) was housed for twenty years in the upper eaves of the east win of Grand Central Terminal, beginning with its founding in 1924. The story alternates between the art school years and 1974, when the terminal was very nearly razed by developers in order to build a skyscraper. Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis (who briefly appears in the novel) led the fight to save the terminal by granting it landmark status. Davis said this novel "touches upon issues dear to me: how women's voices and agency have changed over time, the importance of the arts in our lives, and the hidden stories within New York’s historic skyline." More info →
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The Great Alone

The Great Alone

Author:
This riveting coming-of-age story and past Minimalist Summer Reading Guide pick features a fabulous setting, amazing female leads, and ultimate redemption. It’s 1974, and Leni Allbright’s father Ernt, a former Vietnam POW, suffers from terrifying PTSD. The family moves to Alaska in search of a fresh start, but they're utterly unprepared for the harsh reality that greets them. As winter draws near and darkness closes in, Ernt’s mental health deteriorates, with disastrous consequences for the family and community. Yet Leni will find a way to survive—and maybe even thrive. More info →
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The Huntress

The Huntress

Author:
Inspired by a true story she stumbled upon in the historical archives (which would totally spoil the big reveal—you’re going to have to read the author’s note to learn all!), Quinn weaves together three perspectives to tell a gripping story: Jordan is a Boston teenager who works in her father’s Boston antiques store, Ian is a British journalist determined to bring his brother’s killer— known as “the Huntress”—to justice, and Nina is a Russian fighter pilot and the only woman alive who can identify the Huntress. There’s no weak link in the story; each thread is fascinating—and when they began to come together I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough. A mesmerizing tale of war crimes, coming of age, love and fidelity, and the pursuit of justice, with stirring implications for today. Note: the audio version is fantastic. More info →
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The Gown: A Novel of the Royal Wedding

The Gown: A Novel of the Royal Wedding

Author:
Historian-turned-novelist Robson set this beloved novel in 1947, when times are grim: so many have lost so much, war rationing continues, Britain is in ruins. But in a bleak year, there’s a bright spot: Princess Elizabeth’s royal wedding captured the hearts of a nation, and was a beacon of hope to a country on its knees. The people insisted on a real celebration, including a beautiful gown. Robson’s story shifts among three protagonists and spans 70 years, but the common thread is Elizabeth’s gown—and specifically, the women who make it. While Robson has a fine eye for detail, and her behind-the-scenes descriptions of the fine atelier’s workroom are riveting, the heartbeat of the story comes from female friendship, secret pasts, and life after loss. More info →
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The Nickel Boys

The Nickel Boys

Colson Whitehead brings Jim Crow-era Florida to life through the real story of a reform school in Tallahassee that claimed to rehabilitate delinquent boys and instead abused and terrorized them for over one hundred years. Elwood Curtis is bound for a local black college when an innocent mistake lands him at The Nickel Academy instead. Elwood finds comfort in Dr. Martin Luther King's words and holds to his ideals, whereas his friend Turner believes the world is crooked so you have to scheme to survive. All this leads to a decision with harrowing repercussions for their respective fates. More info →
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Resistance Women

Resistance Women

Chiaverini's novel is inspired by the life of Mildred Harnack, a real historical figure whose story was previously untold because the U.S. government deliberately buried it after the war. Harnack was one of dozens of members of the network of American and German resistance fighters the Gestapo called die Rote Kapelle (Red Orchestra). The bulk of the action takes place between the wars, beginning in 1929; I was initially surprised that a novel about Nazi Germany before and during WWII began SO early, but Chiaverini’s chosen timeline serves her story well: as a reader, you see events escalate over time through these women’s eyes. The setup feels leisurely but the payoff is worth it. More info →
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The Island of Sea Women

The Island of Sea Women

Author:
On the South Korean island of Jeju, women are the breadwinners, making their families’ livings by free-diving into the chilly waters of the Pacific Ocean, harvesting seafood to sell, while the husbands stay home with the children. This tradition has gone on for thousands of years, and we see it lived out in the lives of Young-sook Mi-ja. The two girls become fast friends as seven-year-olds in 1938, but their respective marriages take them down different paths, and bring unforeseen tensions into their relationship. A second storyline, set in 2008, gives readers hints of what may have caused the rift between the girls, but it’s only in the final pages that all is revealed. A rewarding story of strong women, little-known history, and human resilience. More info →
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The Stationery Shop

The Stationery Shop

Author:
We read Kamali's poignant novel together in the MMD Book Club in 2019, and it remains one of our group's favorites to this day. In 1953 Tehran, a young man failed to meet his betrothed in a Tehran square. Sixty years later and half a world away, the woman, now grown old, is about to discover why. This sweeping love story spans 60 years and two continents, taking the reader between contemporary New England and 1953 Tehran, thoroughly immersing the reader in the volatile political climate of 1950s Iran. More info →
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This Tender Land

This Tender Land

Part Grapes of Wrath, part Huckleberry Finn: this tough and tender coming-of-age story focuses on four Minnesota kids during the Great Depression, whose respective situations become ever more impossible due to human cruelty and circumstance. After a tornado demolishes the last of life as they know it, they realize no one is going to save them—and so they make a plan to save themselves that starts with escaping down the river. A great story, beautifully told. Audiophile alert: I loved listening to Scott Brick's wistful, urgent narration. More info →
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Lovely War

Lovely War

Author:
Berry's surprising mix of World War I, a love story, and Greek mythology has delighted legions of readers aged 12 to 102. The story begins with Aphrodite and Ares walking into a swanky Manhattan hotel during WWII, and soon enough Aphrodite's husband Hephaestus challenges her to show him what love really looks like. She obliges, and takes the reader back in time to meet four young lovers in 1917 Britain, showing her fellow gods how each couple fell in love, and what they mean to each other. It sounds unlikely but the interesting narrative structure totally works. Readers tell me the full-cast audiobook is excellent. More info →
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The Dearly Beloved: A Novel

The Dearly Beloved: A Novel

Author:
Fans of sweeping stories and quiet family dramas should consider adding this graceful novel to their TBRs. Charles and Lily meet James and Nan in 1963 Greenwich Village when Charles and James are both called to serve Third Presbyterian Church. The two men steward the church through upheaval and change, despite their personal differences. I couldn't stop reading as the couples and their families struggle with faith and friendship over decades of change: change within themselves, among their congregation, and in the city around them. While calling it a read-a-like is going too far, the novel has been much compared to Crossing to Safety for its portrayal of two linked couples across decades. More info →
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Code Name Hélène

Code Name Hélène

Author:
This WWII novel tells the story of Nancy Wake, the unsung French Resistance leader who was #1 on the Gestapo’s most-wanted list by the end of the war. The real Nancy was larger than life; bold, bawdy, and brazen—a woman who, as the only female among thousands of French men, was not only respected as an equal, but revered as a leader. Lawhon's vividly imagined and impeccably researched novel bring Nancy to life: she practically leaps off the page with her Victory Red lipstick, snappy one-liners, and incredible bravery. More than "just" a war story; at its heart this is a tale of friendship, and of love. More info →
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The Last Train to Key West

The Last Train to Key West

Author:
In this captivating novel about a little-known historical event, three women's lives become entangled over the course of Labor Day weekend, 1935, when the storm of the century slams into Key West. The story is told from each woman's perspective, and though they seem to share little in common, their lives are about to intersect in ways no one could foresee. Helen is a Key West native, poor and pregnant, fleeing her abusive husband. Mirta is Cuban, newly married to a man she barely knows, and just beginning her honeymoon. And Elizabeth, who’s come south on a dangerous search for a long-lost loved one. More info →
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The Jane Austen Society

The Jane Austen Society

Author:
Jane Austen lived out her last days in the sleepy village of Chawton, and in the days just after World War II, her legacy still looms large. Times are hard, and in this charming 1940s village, we meet several villagers burdened with their own private sorrows, who are doing what they’ve always done: turning to the works of Austen for solace. When a local business attempts to buy the Austen property and raze her cottage, the villagers band together to preserve her legacy. At one point, a character muses that Austen’s works present “a world so a part of our own, yet so separate, that entering it is like some kind of tonic.” The same can be said of Jenner’s wonderful book. Heads up: Richard Armitage reads the audiobook, and his narration is predictably outstanding. More info →
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The Vanishing Half

The Vanishing Half

Author:
Bennett's talented contemporary debut made her an author to watch; her historical sophomore novel cemented her place on many readers' favorites shelf. Identical twins Desiree and Stella grew up in a town so small it doesn't appear on maps. They're closer than close, so Desiree is shocked when Stella vanishes one night after deciding to sacrifice her past—and her relationship with her family—in order to marry a white man, who doesn't know she's black. Desiree never expects to see her sister again. The twins grow up, make lives for themselves, and raise daughters—and it's those daughters who bring the sisters together, years later. It's a reunion Stella both longs for and fears, because she can't reveal the truth without admitting her whole life is a lie. Bennett expertly weaves themes of family, race, identity, and belonging into one juicy, unputdownable novel spanning five turbulent decades. More info →
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Simon the Fiddler

Simon the Fiddler

Author:
Jiles’s latest novel sweeps readers away to post-Civil War Texas, populated by frontiersman, outlaws, soldiers, and those eager to seize opportunity wherever they can find it. Among them is a poor fiddler named Simon Boudlin, who, though just twenty-three, knows exactly what he wants from life: his own parcel of land and a wife to share it. While playing an officer's dinner one fated evening, Simon spies the beautiful Doris Dillon across the room and falls in love at first sight. But how can Simon free the indentured Doris from her dangerous master? And how can a lowly fiddler save enough gold to buy the homestead his future wife deserves? With a group of ragtag musicians for companions, Simon sets out on a quest to secure the future he's dreamed of. This story will make your heart sing as sweetly as the tunes from Simon's fiddle, and that's saying something. More info →
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Deacon King Kong

Deacon King Kong

Author:
In this story's jolting opening, a beloved drunk deacon named Sportcoat wanders into the courtyard of his Brooklyn housing project and shoots the drug dealer he'd once treated like a son point-blank, in front of everyone. McBride then zooms out to show the reader how this violent act came to take place, exploring the lives of the shooter and the victim, the victim's bumbling friends, the residents who witnessed it, the neighbors who heard about it, the cops assigned to investigate, the members of the church where Sportcoat was a deacon, and the neighborhood's mobsters (and their families). The story itself is compelling, but it's McBride's warmth and humor that really captures readers as he gently teases out these characters and their unlikely connections. More info →
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Jubilee

Jubilee

Author:
Many readers don't know of prolific Harlem Renaissance poet Margaret Walker; Jubilee is her only novel. Published in 1966, this lesser known work is both historical fiction and a classic. The sweeping story follows an enslaved woman named Vyry through the antebellum era, the Civil War, and Reconstruction, focusing on her struggles and suffering, the men she loved, the children she bore, and her constant yearning for freedom. Walker modeled her protagonist after her own great-grandmother. I highly recommend the 50th anniversary edition and loved poet Nikki Giovanni’s foreword. More info →
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Hamnet

Hamnet

In this award-winning novel, Maggie O’Farrell takes a few historically known facts about Shakespeare’s wife and family and, from this spare skeleton, builds out a lush, vivid world. This book is devastating (I know I'm not alone in consuming the better part of a box of Kleenex while reading it). Yet with O'Farrell's sympathetic central character and evocative storytelling, you won't want to leave Shakespeare’s world. The story centers on Agnes, Shakespeare’s wife, who is torn apart by grief when their son Hamnet dies at age 11. Soon after, Shakespeare writes Hamlet—and O’Farrell convincingly posits that the two events are closely tied. In her distinctive style, O’Farrell takes you to the heart of what really matters in life, making you feel such a deep sense of loss for Hamnet that you won’t look at your own life the same way. More info →
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The Downstairs Girl

The Downstairs Girl

Author:
In Gilded Age Atlanta, a strong, sassy heroine gets herself into hot water when her anonymous advice column gains popularity among society ladies. Seventeen-year old Jo works as a lady’s maid for the grumpy, privileged daughter of one of the city's wealthiest families, where she overhears the choicest bits of society gossip. In her scarce free time, she writes a column called Dear Miss Sweetie, anonymously, answering questions and addressing contemporary topics affecting both women and people of color in her community. Pretty soon Jo's snarky and smart column is the talk of the town as the fussy society ladies wonder "who is this brilliant young writer?" But some readers are out to expose the real "Miss Sweetie," and Jo encounters unexpected dangers in her secret escapades. I loved this on audio as narrated by Emily Woo Zeller. More info →
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Sparks Like Stars

Sparks Like Stars

Author:
A chance encounter prompts a renowned surgeon to reexamine the past she left behind in this sweeping historical novel. Daughter to the president’s most trusted advisor, Sitara’s family is murdered before her eyes in a 1978 coup in the Afghan palace. She miraculously survives with the help of a palace guard who whisks her away to safety. Sitara is eventually adopted and grows up in the United States. Flash forward 30 years. Sitara has buried that long-ago trauma and built a life for herself in NYC. But when that same guard shows up in her hospital, his presence awakens her desire for the answers she never got about what happened back then. With references to Anastasia Romanov and nods to the main character’s love of literature, this story has captured our Modern Mrs Darcy Book Club members and Summer Reading Guide fans. More info →
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All the Light We Cannot See

All the Light We Cannot See

Author:
The characters in this captivating war novel are fascinating and altogether unexpected, and the book’s setting couldn’t be lovelier: much of the action takes place in Saint-Malo, France, a unique walled port city on the English Channel. Though it is a heavy hardcover, it doesn't feel overlong: its 500+ pages give Doerr plenty of room to build a believable world, and give his characters depth and feeling. An intelligent, detailed, literary novel that will stays with readers long after turning the final page. More info →
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The Secret Keeper

The Secret Keeper

Author:
Nearly all of Morton’s novels are beloved, but in my opinion, The Secret Keeper is her finest. When she was 16, Laurel witnessed a violent crime involving her mother, Dorothy. The family hushed it up, and Laurel hasn’t spoken of it since. Now, fifty years later, Dorothy is dying, and Laurel is determined to unravel the secret while there’s still time. As Laurel pursues her clues, the story flips back and forth in time between today and the years before and during World War II, including the London Blitz, which Morton recreates so vividly you can almost hear the bombs dropping. Filled with twists and turns that will keep you guessing to the end. More info →
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What are your go-to historical fiction recommendations? Let us know in the comments.

P.S. Check out these 15 immersive historical fiction books about overlooked events and 13 excellent young adult historical novels for readers of any age.

33 historical fiction books avid readers can't get enough of

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125 comments | Comment

125 comments

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  1. Adrienne says:

    Reading through this list was like catching up with old friends! Happily I’ve read many of the books on the fabulous list, and I have a couple waiting for me on my TBR shelves. I L-O-V-E historical fiction, and this is the genre of the books I choose to send to my mother.

    A couple I would add to this already-bursting-with-greatness list:

    * A Soldier of the Great War – by Mark Helprin. I loved this tale of Alessandro, a hero of WWI who recounts his story during a long walk (due to a missed bus, I think) with a new friend. Simply fabulous.

    * Dancing at the Rascal Fair – by Ivan Doig. This is actually book #2 in Doig’s Montana trilogy, although chronologically, it is the first. Beautiful story of friendship, love, and family, set against the backdrop of Montana in the late 1800’s.

    * Miss Benson’s Beetle – by Rachel Joyce. I just finished this in audio, and I loved it so much. Less historical fiction, and more about a very unusual adventure and an unlikely friendship. So so good!

    • Debra V says:

      I would add The Bronze Horseman trilogy by Paullina Simons, The Tatooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris, and Time After Time by Lisa Grunwald.

    • Suzy says:

      I second the Montana trilogy by Ivan Doeg! All the more so as my grandfather’s family homesteaded in Montana, now it comes alive!

      • Debra says:

        I just read his The Whistling Season. I had never heard of him but a bookstore in MT suggested him for my Montana book (reading one book for every state we are in). Lovely! He is a beautiful writer and storyteller.

    • Susan says:

      Any of the Ivan Doig books would be well loved on this list! Also any Janice Holt Giles. I love her historical fiction set in my beloved Kentucky.

  2. Eva Toews says:

    Hello! I’ve read quite a number if these and I was pleased to see some if my favorites made your list. I plan to take this post with me on my next trip to the library. Im looking forward to it!

  3. Cassondra says:

    I almost never read Historical Fiction but finished The Nightingale last night and couldn’t put it down! The paperback is 560 pages and last night I read 300 in one sitting till 1 am because it was irresistible.

  4. Deborah Turnbull says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!!! I have read several of these already, and I am sure I will enjoy the others.

  5. Liz says:

    I just finished “The Other Bennet Sister” by Janice Hadlow and found it to be a sweet, satisfying story of the “forgotten” Mary Bennet from Pride and Prejudice.
    Thankfully not cringe-worthy like so many other Austen spin-offs.

    • Gaylene says:

      I really enjoyed The Other Bennet Sister. I enjoyed how the book “redeemed” Mary’s role from how she’s cast in P&P.

      • Sandra says:

        Completely agree The Other Bennett Sister is wonderful and so unexpected in developing Mary as a fascinating character on her own.

  6. Lisa Granat says:

    Great list idea, so many of these are on my TBR! Interesting though that most are from the last century. I loved Sandra Gulland’s series about Josephine Bonaparte, “The Many Lives and Secret Sorrows of Josephine B”.

  7. Kim Mullin says:

    One of my favorites is Circling the Sun by Paula McLain (she also wrote The Paris Wife). It takes place in 1920s colonial Kenya & tells the story of a white farmer’s daughter who breaks the bounds of expected female behavior.

  8. Tracey says:

    I love lots of these!! A few I would add:
    The Book of Negroes by Hill
    Kindred by Butler
    Middlesex by Eugenides
    Lincoln in the Bardo by Saunders
    Roots by Haley

      • Rachel O'Dwyer says:

        I absolutely loved Deacon King Kong on audio, which led me to another James McBride novel The Good Lord Bird. Narrated by Michael Boatman, this story amazed me. Also a wonderful Showtime mini-series.

  9. Kelly J Haven says:

    I love to read about The French Resistance during WWII. When I read Flame of Resistance by Tracy Groot, I didn’t want it to end.

  10. Andi Guinn says:

    I just added more to my TBR! I am a huge HF fan. HF gives us an opportunity to learn something about our past – but also FEEL what it was like. I’ve tried non fiction books, but HF brings it to life.

    My current favories:
    Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly – Heart wrenching. I love how it follows 3 women from different walks of life during WW2.

    The Kitchen Front by Jennifer Ryan – A bit of a lighter WW2 read. Think The Great British Baking Show during a time of food rations. This book makes me smile.

    Painting The Light by Sally Cabot Gunning – 1898 Martha’s Vineyard. Filled with amazing charaters. Men you love / Men you hate. A tad women’s suffrage, strong themes, and one really crabby old woman. Throw in sheep farming and riding bicycles and paiting… I couldn’t put it down. I ‘felt’ this book and its beauty.

    My Current Read:
    Surving Savannah by Patti Callahan – I’m learing about a lesser known sunken ship called the Pulaski. 1838 in Savannah. Such a sad true story of this historical event and how it changed the faces of Savannah. I’m half way in and LOVING it!

  11. Shana Brown says:

    I just finished The Hour of the Witch by Chris Bohjalian and enjoyed being in colonial Boston. I also enjoyed Emma Donoghue’s The Pull of the Stars.

  12. Karen Smith says:

    I have read most of these and like several of them very much. My favorites are relatively old ones. The magnificent Winds of War -War and Remembrance by Herman Wouk and Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry

  13. I want to add books by Ann Tatlock who is an under-the-radar author. All The Way Home is about the relationship between friends, one of whom is Japanese in the South in the 1930s-40s. That one is my favorite!

    • Sharron Cathcart says:

      “I’ll Watch the Moon” by Ann Tatlock, set in Minnesota in 1948 during the polio epidemic is also a really good read.

  14. Donna Hampton says:

    There are so many on this list that I have read and loved. There are also a few that have been on my TBR list for a long time and I now feel should be more of a priority. Isn’t it great when you can trust a book recommendation.

  15. Christa says:

    Wonderful list! I would add an out of print favorite of mine. Desiree by Annemarie Selinko is a translated beautiful story about Napoleon Bonaparte‘s first fiancée. I’d also add Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden.

  16. Vive says:

    Great list! I’d also add The Last Painting of Sara de Vos by Dominic Smith. A story woven across three timelines and centered on a single piece of art by a Dutch master who happened to be a woman. Gripping and beautifully written.

  17. Teresa says:

    If you want Hf but not WWII (which I love but sometimes get burned out on), I would recommend Surviving Savannah by Patti Callahan, The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson, and The Book of Lost Friends by Lisa Wingate. As far as WWII, I loved The Book of Lost Names by Kristen Harmel..

    • Susan says:

      I agree that Kristin Harmel’s novels are excellent historical fiction. I am currently 75% through The Book of Lost Names.

    • Andi Guinn says:

      A agree with Kristen Harmel. I read the Book of Lost Names too and loved it. Currently reading Surviving Savannah. It is beautifully detailed. One I’m taking a bit slower so I can soak it all in (no pun intended).

  18. Karen Brancato says:

    I Was Anastasia by Ariel Lawhon. I still think about it from time to time, even though I read it a few years ago. Even when you know the historical outcome – the Romanovs – you find yourself rooting for the protagonist to be the missing (?) Anastasia. The story is told in 2 parts, and when they intersect, it’s BAM!

  19. Suzanne Vitale says:

    The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah is fantastic. I’m shocked it wasn’t on the list. Historical fiction is my favorite genre (history minor 😊).

  20. DBurke says:

    In addition to yours..
    Lilian BoxFish Takes a Walk
    A Fine Balance
    Burial Rites
    People of the Book
    Someone Knows My Name

  21. Lee says:

    One of my favorites is A Fall of Marigolds by Susan Meissner, which is set during the time of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, the Ellis Island infirmary, and then September 11.
    I also loved The Pull of the Stars, which was mentioned in a comment above, about a Dublin maternity ward during the pandemic of 1918.

  22. Allie Smith says:

    One of my favorite historical fiction authors is Beatriz Williams. Most of her books revolve around the Schulyers, an entertaining and complicated high society New York family. Their stories cover multiple generations and many branches of the family tree. The books typically have two inter-related plots, with 20-50 years separating the time periods. Some of the historical elements involve both World Wars, US politics, Russian espionage, and bootlegging during prohibition. Her female characters are strong and independent, and her storylines are engrossing! I often read with a print out of the Schulyer family tree (which I got from the author’s website). I recommend starting with A Hundred Summers.

  23. Ann says:

    First off, I sorely miss Anita Shreve. I just picked up a copy of The Pilot’s Wife from my local library. I’ve read The Stars Were Fire. My favorite of hers is Fortune’s Rocks, which I have read more than once.

    Hamnet was beautifully written and surprising in that, we know it is about Shakespeare’s son, but learn about his mother, who is the central character.

    We Were The Lucky ones was very good. My daughter is living in Rio and stayed at an Airbnb off the coast on Ilha Grande with relatives of the author. They mentioned the book to her. I’ll let everyone read the book, to figure out the Brazil connection!

    I have a copy of The Personal Librarian now, so that will be my next historical fiction.

    Can we count Outlander as historical fiction??? I know it is Fantasy as well, but Diana Gabaldon does such a fantastic job with all her research that I think the series can almost fall into the genre as well!

    This is a great list and I look forward to checking out all of the ones I haven’t gotten to.

    • Janelle Carlson says:

      Anne, I agree with you about Anita Shreve 😥 I’ve loved all of her books. Stars was even better than I had expected, and Fortune’s Rocks is also my favorite! Although it’s not as well known, it’s such a moving story and has stayed with me for years. I’m ready for a reread!! I’m also curious about that Brazil connection 🤗

  24. Barb Blom says:

    HF is my go to after a tough read. I have read about 1/3 of the books here and loved them all. Another third are on my TBR. Of course I will likely add all the others now! I dug back into my archives to suggest some of my previous favorites. Good for back list reads.
    Geraldine Brooks Caleb’s Crossing has remained my favorite of hers, but there are a number of worthy others
    The Wild Girl by Jim Fergus 1932 Great American Apache Expedition
    Duaghters of the River Huong by Uyen Nicole Duong Family saga in Vietnam.
    The Tenth Gift by Jane Johnson 17th c./21st c timelines. Pirates, Feminism, Embroidery, oh my!
    Pink Chimneys Ardeana Hamlin 19th c. Maine, midwifery. This book was originally published in 1987, re-published in 2007 and then again in 2017. Says something about its appeal!
    Other authors I recommend for refreshing historical fiction are Lara Prescott (The Secrets We Kept), Greer Macallister (Girl in Disguise), Fiona Davis who uses historic NYC buildings as her settings.

  25. Pat says:

    The Book Thief! When I finished it I immediately started re-reading it. Such greater insight gained about history the second time through it. Zusak’s amazing creative writing style adds such intrigue to this memorable time in history.

  26. Jocelyn says:

    A great list. Many I have read, many still on my TBR list. I would add Beneath a Marble Sky by John Shors. A love story set around the construction of the Taj Mahal. It is the book that I judge all other historical fiction against. I can’t wait for my daughters to read it.

  27. Ami Blackwell says:

    My favorite genre! Thank you for this amazing list. I can’t wait to start reading so many of these! One of my favorites recently is “The Book of Lost Names” by Kristin Harmel. It’s engaging and well researched.

  28. Great list! I have read many of them and will add the others to be my “to be read” list. I love love loved The Showgirl by Nicola Harrison and City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert.

  29. Julie Weaver says:

    Lonesome Dove! My favorite book ever. The character development is masterful, and what a great story!

    Beach Music by Pat Conroy. Fabulous story, brilliant writer.

  30. Carol Hansen says:

    Must reads are “The Garden of the Evening Mists” and “The Gift of Rain,” both booker nominated novels by Tan Twan Eng about the history of Malaysia and the Japanese occupation. They both have so much heart, history, rich cultural details, amazing characters, stories and settings. My favorite books ever and I am an avid reader.

  31. Michelle says:

    I’m enjoying author Stacey Lee: The Downstairs Girl, Under A Painted Sky, The Secret of a Heart Note, Outrun the Moon. I’m currently reading Luck of the Titanic. I’ve learned amazing historical facts from these books.

  32. patricia says:

    I’ve just picked up a few great recommendations. I’ve read many of the suggested books and loved them. I’m compiling a list of e-books for an upcoming trip. I love being able to pack my kindle instead of a suitcase full of books.
    I’ll also be reading “The Artist’s Way” with my sister and working the tools on our trip.

  33. The Air You Breathe by Frances de Pontes Peebles is hands-down my favorite historical fiction novel. Both characters and setting are fleshed out well. This story about a friendship between women who had totally different starts in life takes place in Brazil, which was a joy to read about after having visited Brazil myself.

  34. Jackie says:

    What a fabulous list! So many I have read and loved! I would add an oldy, A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute. An English woman, an Australian, and the Japanese Death March. Fabulous!

  35. Sherry S says:

    I HIGHLY recommend “Lilac Girls” and its follow-up “Lost Roses;” I preferred “Lilac Girls,” but both are good.
    I also recommend “A Fall of Marigolds.”
    Historical fiction is my favorite fiction genre, so pretty much all of your recommendations are either already on my TBR; read; or NOW on my TBR!

  36. Carolyn says:

    Great list—many titles I’ve enjoyed and several still on my TBR. I would add The Nightingale and remove The Great Alone (I may be in the minority, but I did not enjoy this book). Other favorite HF titles are The Book Thief, Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (perhaps my all-time favorite book), Water for Elephants (loved all the details about a traveling circus during the Depression), The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd, the Maisie Dobbs mystery series by Jacqueline Winspear, and the middle grade book The War That Saved My Life (I read this aloud to my daughters last summer while I also read The Splendid and the Vile—such a great book “flight”).

    • Robin says:

      I could crawl inside Guernsey and have reread it multiple times. LOVED The War books (both wonderful) and when I finished The Splendid and the Vile I immediately wanted to read about the next year! Have you read the Lusitania? I mean – you know what’s going to happen and still can’t put it down! Love his writing. You and I should have tea!

    • Jackie says:

      I like the later Maisie books better. I struggled with the mysticism at the beginning. If you like those, you might like the Her Royal Spyness, Molly Murphy, Lady Emily or Amory Ames series.

  37. Jen says:

    Edward Rutherfurd deserves a place on this list. Sarum, London and The Forest are fantastic. Another couple of authors who deserve recognition in this category are Linda Holmen(need to check spelling), Lucinda Riley, Lawrence Hill, Rohinton Mistry( I see both were mentioned so adding my second).

  38. Kristen Leach says:

    Anything by Geraldine Brooks! She is a master of historical fiction.
    Book of Wonders is about the Bubonic plague and all the religious/social tensions of the time.

    Caleb’s Crossing details the relationship between a New England colonial family with a Native American tribe-one boy in particular-and the effects they have on each other.

  39. Janna Steele says:

    My mom introduced me to Gwen Bristow when I was a teenager. Her “Deep Summer” trilogy is my favorite; I also love Calico Palace and reread it recently. I believe her books were out of print for a time but are now back in limited print as part of a project to revive interest in female authors of HF.
    Looking back at this year’s reading journal, I see that I need to read more HF during the second half of the year! Good to have this list!

    • Ruth says:

      I’m so happy to see Gwen Bristow mentioned! I have the two books mentioned and always look for more of hers whenever I’m in a used book store.

      • Lynne Alliett says:

        I too am happy to see the mention of Gwen Bristow. She was my first favorite HF author. a “golden oldie” for sure – but most beloved!

  40. Eileen says:

    Martha Hall Kelly is a new favorite author of mine. I read The Lilac Girls when first published: then she wrote The Post Rose, and most recent, Sunflower Sisters. It is a little over 500 pgs. I could not put it down.So interesting it was a fast read for me. Set in the Civil War era in Maryland.As you can imagine, some horrible descriptions of treatment of slaves. All the bks. are based on real female ancestors of the Farradays. You won’t EVER forget any of these bks. Excellent writing and research. Highly recommend.

  41. Kelsey says:

    I would add Secrets of a Charmed Life by Susan Meissner. It is a story of 2 young sisters living in London in the 1940s who are tragically separated by wartime chaos that changes their lives forever. It had me hooked til the very end! And I love that Susan Meissner’s writing is free of vulgar language and explicit content.

  42. Eileen says:

    P.S. A long time ago favorite to be read again, The Guernsey Literary Potato Peel Pie Society. Sooooo many others! Second bk. by Martha Hall Kelly was a typo. Was to be Lost Roses sorry.

  43. Sandra says:

    I’d highly recommend The Last Thing You Surrender by Leonard Pitts Jnr. it is set in WWII but is very different from anything else I’ve read set in that era. It follows a small cast of characters through their different war experiences and a common theme linking them all is the impact of those experiences on their understanding of race and on race relations. His other books are also worth a read especially Freeman set in the immediate aftermath of the Civil War.

  44. Debra says:

    Love HF so yiu are all adding a lot of new titles to my list. I would also add The Rose Code. Another WWII but a much different and feminist angle. So proud to know that women played such a huge role in code breaking.

  45. Mary Lou DeVriendt says:

    I recently finished The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah. I waited for it a long time. It had a long waiting list at the library. It was so worth the wait. It’s set in Texas and California during the dust bowl/depression. It’s heartbreaking and absolutely beautiful.

  46. Monica Walters says:

    I second the comment about Year of Wonders by Brooks. There really was a village like the one she used as the setting for this novel.
    Emma Donaghue also wrote Slammerkin. It is about a young girl who has to make her way in early England…maybe the 1700s? Or 1800s?At any rate, it’s a very good story.

  47. Brenda Labelle says:

    The Muse by Jessie Burton. Uncover the secrets behind a painting created on the brink of the Spanish Civil War and that reappears in 1960s London. Strong female characters, highly enjoyable.

  48. Janelle Carlson says:

    Oh how I love this list, Anne! HF is my favorite genre and I’ve read 30 of these books. Other readers have mentioned some titles I was going to add, but here are a few more:
    Molokai, and also Daughter of Molokai
    Cane River
    Snowflower & the Secret Fan (everything by Lisa See)
    Forgotten Letters of Esther Durrant
    Paper Daughters of Chinatown
    The Eighth Life
    A Single Thread
    Call Your Daughter Home
    The Winter Guest
    Davita’s Harp
    Ballad of the Whiskey Robber
    Apeirogon
    Cher Ami and Major Whittlesey
    Salt Houses
    The Night Watch
    Sweet Français
    Transcription
    The Street
    I’d better stop here.

  49. Kristy Ensunsa says:

    I am an avid fiction of all types, reader. Currently enjoying an extraordinary book, The Moor’s Account by Laila Lalami, which is a tale of first encounters between conquistadors and native inhabitants of, as told by a slave of the officers. If we are going back, any one of Dorothy Dunnett’s historical fiction series.

  50. Mary Spencer says:

    I love this list, and here are a few more:

    The Girl Who Came Home (Set on on Titanic), A Memory of Violets (1838 London, 1938 USA)- Hazel Gaynor
    The Summer Country- Lauren Willig- Set in 1854 and 1816 Barbados on a Sugar plantation
    Hannah’s War- Jan Eliasberg- About a scientist in WWII
    Anything by Willa Cather, Kristin Hannah
    Love and Ruin- Paula McLain- Set in 1937 about the wife of Hemingway
    Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy- Karen Abbott- 4 women undercover in the civil war
    People of the Book- Geraldine Brooks
    Somewhere in France- Jennifer Robson- Open door romance set in WWI
    An Extraordinary Union- Alyssa Cole- Open door romance set in civil war
    Sarah- Marek Halter- novel about Sarah from the Old Testament
    My Dear Hamilton- Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie- a novel about Eliza Hamilton
    Girl Waits with Gun- Amy Stewart- Set in WWI about the Kopp Sisters

  51. Maryanne Trengove says:

    The Book Thief set the bar for 5 star reads of all genres for me but is by far the best historical fiction I’ve ever read. So powerfully moving I sat in my bed for hours after reading it trying to process it. One if the most moving books I’ve ever experienced.

  52. Shona Gibson says:

    If you haven’t read Cantoras by Carolina DeRobertis …go read it. It takes place during Uruguayan dictatorship in the 70s. It follows five wildly different, strong women who find each other and build not just a community but a family. We sit with them for over 30 years. A beautiful story of found family, strong women, love, community, and forgotten history.

  53. Caroline says:

    This might be my favorite book list of yours to date! Historical fiction is my favorite genre, and you’ve listed some great ones (several I’ve read and many are on my TBR list). Code Name Helene is one of my favorites that I’ve read this year so far, and both All The Light and We Were The Lucky Ones will forever stick with me.

    I’d add:
    Moloka’i
    The Invention of Wings
    The Guernsey Literary Potato Peel Pie Society
    The Nightingale
    The Giver of Stars
    Ordinary Grace (same author as This Tender Land; both were so good!)
    The Help

  54. Erica says:

    I love this list and the comments!

    Here’s what I would add:

    The Night Tiger. Set in 1930’s Malaysia. Full of romance, mystery, and featuring a plucky young woman protagonist! So fun!

    Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse. A middle grade novel in verse set during the Dust Bowl that was so moving, I wept!

    Tidelands by Phillipa Gregory. Her non-royal historical fiction series. I didn’t know how intriguing the life of a common woman on the fringes of society during King Charles’s reign could be until I read this book!

  55. Dee says:

    Although I wouldn’t call myself a big historical fiction reader, I’ve read 4 titles here and many, many more are on my TBR. So maybe that *is* my genre!

  56. Susan says:

    Please consider changing the description of Dreamland Burning. What happened wasn’t a race riot – it was a race massacre.

  57. Joan says:

    Love this list of mostly contemporary titles.. have read a few and cannot wait to try the others! Plus the many good titles from reader comments. Here’s my 2 cents on other favorites I did not see mentioned:

    Katherine by Anya Seton
    Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset (Nunally translation).. won the Nobel prize for literature
    Here be Dragons (series by Sharon Kay penman)
    Tales of Passion (series by Sandra Gulland)
    The Hundred Secret Senses by Amy Tan
    The Red Tent by Anita Diamant
    Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follet
    Cane River by Lalita Tademy
    The Color Purple (audiobook read by Alice Walker is fantastic)
    Stones from the River by Ursula Hegi
    Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky
    The Help
    Corelli’s Mandolin
    Madame Tussaud by Michelle Moran
    Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See
    The Robe by Lloyd Douglas
    Night by Ellie Weisel
    The Other Boleyn Girl by Phillipa Gregory
    Anna Karenina (great with Maggie Gylenhall audiobook)

    • Claudia says:

      Oh how I loved Kristin Lavransdatter !! So pleased to see someone else loved it also. Would you believe this book was recommended by my world literature teacher my sophomore year in high school in 1969 !

  58. Leslie Tamucci says:

    Currently reading Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand. New author to me, I find her writing in this book to be meticulous on detail and a beautifully written biography of a WWII hero.

  59. Patricia B Leonhardt says:

    Before The Crown is my nomination. The front cover says it all:. The future Queen, A Prince in Exile, The Royal Wedding of the Century. It’s not a silly, over wrought pill of a book. Personalities are explored thoughtfully.Previous descriptions in other books made impotent.

  60. Jillian Lare says:

    Wonderful list! I’ve read several and added several more to my list. Commenting mostly to agree that The Secret Keeper is Morton’s best work. I keep waiting for her to top it.

  61. Kristen Prepolec says:

    My favourite historical series is The Mistress of the Art of Death series by Ariana Franklin. King Henry II sends a request to the King of Sicily to send a Master of the art of death to investigate some murders in England. Not realizing why it may be an issue, they send a mistress, Adelia, instead. She is backed up by her friends- Simon, a Jewish investigator, and a Moor named Mansur, who pretends to be the physician, and Adelia his translator. The medieval Cambridge setting is captivating.
    These are wonderful. I was crushed when I learned of the untimely death of the author.

  62. Lynn Riddle says:

    Great list. I also love historical fiction and some of my past favorites are Mary by Janis Cooke Newman, Loving Frank (about Frank Lloyd Wright – fascinating) by Nancy Horan & Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate.

  63. Kelly V says:

    Let me add a few more recommendations from African roots…

    Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (an all time FAV of mine!)

    Americanah (by the same author)

    How Beautiful We Were by Imbolo Mbue

  64. Janice Hoaglin says:

    Historical Fiction is one of my favorite genres. The best I’ve read this year, and there have been many good ones, is The Book of Lost Friends by Lisa Wingate. The story is interspersed with letters written by real people who were newly freed slaves. After the Civil War they are seeking to find members of their family, parents, spouses, children, and others who were sold off all over the south during slavery. Those letters really grabbed me, and I loved the story of two women, one a newly freed slave just after the war, and the other a young teacher in the 1980’s. I loved the way Wingate tied the two women together.

  65. Shelley says:

    Winds of War and War and Remembrance by Herman Wouk are both excellent historical fiction. He was actually in the Navy in WWII.
    Any books by Sharon Kay Penman or Dorothy Dunnett are also excellent historic reads. Absolutely great writers of HF! They do their research.

  66. Anna says:

    HI Anne,
    Thank you for recommending this list and posting great content daily. What a treat to check out your updates and recommendations; you have turned me on to so many writers and genres that I would have missed in my regular channels. I just finished “Resistance Women” today. Wow- what an amazing chapter in world history and a testament to how ordinary citizens (albeit very bold) can defy evil and fight for justice and human rights. This book will stick with me for a very long time. Anyone who denies what happened in Germany in the 30s and 40s would benefit from this account of horrors, racism, antisemitism and brutality. While Chiaverini doesnt provide graphic details of torture, the inhumanity and complicity of the populus echoes some of what is going on now in the US and elsewhere. Tragic.

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