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Best Historical Fiction Books

Travel back in time with these highly-praised works of historical fiction. Each book on this list brings history to life with rich storytelling, and has been repeatedly recognized by notable literature enthusiasts and publications.

Recommendations from 56 articles, Barack Obama, Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey and 111 others.
100 books on the list
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Wolf Hall book cover
Wolf Hall
A Novel
Hilary Mantel - 2010-01-01 (first published in 2009)
Goodreads Rating
Delve into 16th century England, teetering on the brink of disaster. King Henry VIII's pursuit of a male heir and desire to annul his marriage to marry Anne Boleyn rattles the country, opposed by the Pope and Europe. The resulting power vacuum creates the perfect opportunity for Thomas Cromwell, an astute politician and charmer, to step in. With a cast of memorable characters and rich detail, this novel explores the personal and political in a time when the price of ambition could mean death.
All the Light We Cannot See book cover
All the Light We Cannot See
A Novel
Anthony Doerr - 2014-01-01
Goodreads Rating
Set against the backdrop of World War II, this beautiful and moving novel follows the intertwined lives of a blind French girl and a German boy. When Marie-Laure and her father must flee Paris for the walled citadel of Saint-Malo, they carry with them a valuable and dangerous jewel from the Museum of Natural History. Meanwhile, Werner Pfennig grows up enchanted by a radio he finds in a mining town in Germany, and becomes enlisted to track down the resistance. As their paths converge, they must try to be good to each other in the midst of the devastation of war. With stunning detail and captivating prose, this National Book Award finalist is a must-read for lovers of historical fiction.
Pachinko book cover
Min Jin Lee - 2017-02-07
Goodreads Rating
Experience a breathtaking journey of love, sacrifice, ambition, and loyalty in this novel. Set in the early 1900s, follow Sunja, a young girl who falls for a wealthy stranger and becomes pregnant. Deciding to marry a gentle sickly minister instead, Sunja's decision sets off a dramatic saga that spans generations. With complex and passionate characters, this novel takes you on a journey through bustling markets, the halls of prestigious universities, and the criminal underworld. Richly told and profoundly moving, this is a tale of strong women, devoted siblings, and fathers struggling with moral crisis against the backdrop of history.
Homegoing book cover
Yaa Gyasi - 2016-06-07
Goodreads Rating
Discover the sweeping and emotionally powerful story of two half-sisters born in 18th-century Ghana, whose destinies diverge as one is married to an Englishman and lives in luxury while the other is sold into slavery and shipped off to America. Homegoing follows the families of both sisters through generations, capturing with stunning immediacy the impact of historical forces on their lives. From the slave trade and British colonization to the Civil War and Great Migration, this exquisite novel by a major new voice in contemporary fiction is not to be missed.
Beloved book cover
Toni Morrison - 2004-06-08 (first published in 1987)
Goodreads Rating
Explore the haunting and innovative world of a former slave in this Pulitzer Prize-winning novel. Sethe may have escaped to Ohio, but memories of the beautiful yet tragic Sweet Home still hold her captive. A destructive ghost and a mysterious teenage girl, both named Beloved, only add to the weight of her past. Discover how Sethe navigates the horrors of slavery and the consequences it has on her family in this unforgettable classic.
Recommended by
Shonda RhimesAmy Cuddy
The Pillars of the Earth book cover
The Pillars of the Earth
Ken Follett - 2002-02-04 (first published in 1989)
Goodreads Rating
Embark on a journey through twelfth-century England with this spellbinding epic tale of ambition, anarchy, and absolute power. The Pillars of the Earth is a departure from Ken Follett's usual thrillers and a monumental masterpiece that stunned readers and critics with its gripping humanity and ambitious scope. Follow Philip, a devout and resourceful monk driven to build the greatest Gothic cathedral the world has known, Tom, the divided architect of his vision, and the beautiful Lady Aliena, haunted by a secret shame. This unforgettable story of good versus evil will leave you breathless.
Recommended by
Joe HillChris Fralic
The Underground Railroad book cover
The Underground Railroad
A Novel
Colson Whitehead - 2016-08-02
Goodreads Rating
Follow Cora's journey through the Underground Railroad, a secret network of actual tracks and tunnels beneath Southern soil. As she flees from state to state, she encounters iterations of her own world at each stop. Colson Whitehead's book is a harrowing tale of one woman’s escape from the horrors of bondage while weaving in the saga of our nation from the brutal abduction of Africans to the unfulfilled promises of the present day. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award, this powerful meditation on history is not to be missed.
Alias Grace book cover
Alias Grace
A Novel
Margaret Atwood - 1996-12-01
Goodreads Rating
In Alias Grace, Margaret Atwood delves into the mind of Grace Marks, a convicted murderer with a disputed past. Is she a manipulative killer or a victim of circumstance? As an expert in mental illness tries to unlock her memories, the reader is taken on a captivating and disturbing journey into Grace's world. Atwood's writing shines in this Booker Prize-winning book.
A Gentleman in Moscow book cover
A Gentleman in Moscow
A Novel
Amor Towles - 2019-03-26 (first published in 2016)
Goodreads Rating
A tale from the New York Times bestselling author of Rules of Civility, follows Count Alexander Rostov's house arrest in a luxury hotel in 1922. Though confined, his wits and erudition allow him entry into a much larger world of emotional and intellectual discovery. Brimming with humor, historical depth, and a cast of engaging characters, the novel invites readers to join Rostov's endeavor to gain a deeper understanding of what it means to have a purpose in life.
The Book Thief book cover
The Book Thief
Markus Zusak - 2006-03-14 (first published in 2005)
Goodreads Rating
In Nazi Germany, a young girl falls in love with books and words. From stealing books from book burnings to the mayor's wife's library, Liesel's love affair with literature blooms with the help of her foster father. But when her family hides a Jew in their basement, the danger intensifies. Markus Zusak's superbly crafted writing tells a timeless story of love and loss in a tumultuous era.
The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
Atonement by Ian McEwan
The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco
The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje
War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
The Red Tent by Anita Diamant
The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
The Book of Lost Names by Kristin Harmel
The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes
The Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd
Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden
The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
The Mountains Sing by Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai
Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman
Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier
Washington Black by Esi Edugyan
The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen
The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead
Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah
The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende
Hamnet by Maggie O'Farrell
I, Claudius by Robert Graves
The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton
The Mirror & the Light by Hilary Mantel
The Alice Network by Kate Quinn
The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
I Must Betray You by Ruta Sepetys
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer
The Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich
Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See
How Much of These Hills Is Gold by C Pam Zhang
Trust by Hernan Diaz
Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
Fingersmith by Sarah Waters
The Magnolia Palace by Fiona Davis
Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
March by Geraldine Brooks
The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton
Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset
The Diamond Eye by Kate Quinn
Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel
Silence by Shusaku Endo
My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante
Fruit of the Drunken Tree by Ingrid Rojas Contreras
The Tobacco Wives by Adele Myers
Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Half-Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
The Evening and the Morning by Ken Follett
The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory
Little by Edward Carey
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
The Color Purple by Alice Walker
A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James
Human Acts by Han Kang
The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan
Regeneration by Pat Barker
The Marriage of Opposites by Alice Hoffman
At Night All Blood Is Black by David Diop
The Flight Portfolio by Julie Orringer
We Came Here to Shine by Susie Orman Schnall
The Night Watch by Sarah Waters
Inland by Téa Obreht
Kindred by Octavia E. Butler
The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah
Cilka's Journey by Heather Morris
The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne
These is my Words by Nancy Turner
Fall of Giants by Ken Follett
Number the Stars by Lois Lowry
11/22/63 by Stephen King
The Rose Code by Kate Quinn
A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
A Place to Hang the Moon by Kate Albus
Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys
Circe by Madeline Miller
Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline
What the Wind Knows by Amy Harmon
The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris
The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett
Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus
Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini