Book Club Mom’s top 20 historical fiction books

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Historical fiction is one of my favorite reading genres, and I know I’m not alone! Here’s a list of my top 20 historical fiction books:

A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson
A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín
Burial Rites by Hannah Kent

Days Without End by Sebastian Barry
Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson
Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier

The Hours Count by Jillian Cantor
Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
The Light Between Oceans by M. L. Stedman
Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan

Mary Coin by Marisa Silver
Refugee by Alan Gratz
The Swans of Fifth Avenue by Melanie Benjamin

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

Some definitions of historical fiction state that the book needs to be set 25-50 years prior to when it is published and that most of the novel’s concept and background should be based on the author’s research of the time period. There is some debate over certain books, like To Kill a Mockingbird, which was published 24 years after the time period and The Grapes of Wrath, in which the characters represent “nameless thousands.” I have always considered both historical fiction. What do you think? Are there any books on my list that don’t fit the definition? Check out the links below for further discussion. on To Kill a Mockingbird on The Grapes of Wrath
What is historical fiction and does it have to be totally accurate?

What are your favorite historical fiction books?

Thanks for visiting – come back soon!

46 thoughts on “Book Club Mom’s top 20 historical fiction books

    1. Hi Hayley! Yes I know what you mean about commiting to a big book – GWTW would take me a long time to re-read. I read Vanity Fair over the summer and it took a long time to read. I hope you enjoy Burial Rights – I thought it was very original. And I loved Life After Life so A God in Ruins was a natural! Thanks for reading and commenting 🙂

  1. I have read about half of the titles you mentioned. If I had the time, I would now read the other half too. Yes, the Thornbirds are a fantastic read, I LOVED it. And several others this author wrote. The Grass Crown etc.

    1. I’m not sure I read The Thornbirds – I remember the TV miniseries way back when. Glad to hear how much you liked it! If I could read all day, I would be happy 🙂 Thanks for stopping by!

    1. Hi Jennifer! I agree. I think I’ve learned more about history from historical fiction than from the old history books in school! I had a history professor in college whose lectures were always stories about historical figures. That was the best class – he was on to something! Thanks for stopping by 🙂

      1. I don’t know why I haven’t gotten to the Book Thief yet. Oh yes I do — too many other books on my list! Just finishing Stephen King’s The institute and have Atwood’s The Testaments waiting. And then there’s celebrated local author Michael Crummey’s The Innocents, a historical fiction i can’t wait to dig into. 🙂

      2. Hi Jennifer. Yes, we all have the same problem. I just checked out Where the Crawdads Sing – it’s a rental so I only have a week, but I’ve been wanting to read it for a long time. Happy reading – I’ll have to look into The Innocents. I don’t know that one!

      3. I’ve been on a buying spree at work (end of year) and I’ll have to look but I think I bought it for our ebook collection. That reminds me – if you could get your publisher to supply ebooks on OverDrive, libraries could add them to their collections!

      4. I will look into that, thanks! By the way, if you read it, have Google handy or the Dictionary of Newfoundland English because he’s got it full of old English terms even I had to look up. I know some but not all. 😊

    1. I know – they are all top notch. I wish I had the time to read War and Peace again. I read it during college. We spent nearly an entire semester on it. Thanks for the visit, Derrick!

  2. Terrific list! I do love historical fiction. Took me years to finally realize what you point out — historical fiction is set in a time period significantly prior to when it was written, as opposed to fiction written during a time we’d consider history, but which was contemporary for the time it was written in. 🙂

    1. Hi Lisa, yes I’m not sure I understood that until I wrote this post! But it makes sense. If you lived through that time, it still makes a good story, but it’s not the same. I actually never really thought of To Kill a Mockingbird as historical fiction, because the story itself is what makes the book. The references to time and place are true to the time period, but I think they are secondary. Just my opinion though! Thanks for visiting. Just getting back to my blog after the holiday 🙂

  3. I have read many, many of these titles, including The Thornbirds and The Book Thief, which several have mentioned. The Girl with the Pearl Earring remains upright on my coffee table. Great both in book and movie format.

    I wish I had known about when I was in college, so I’d have assembled a more complete list of books I’ve read. Many of the titles escape me now. Thanks for organizing this list here, Barbara!

    1. Hi Marian, thanks for stopping by! I’ll have to check out Rifflebooks. I don’t know that website. I know what you’re saying. Sometimes I’ve forgotten that I’ve already read a book. And other times I have said I read something years ago, but discover later that I hadn’t! That’s what lists are for 😉

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