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Top Ten Historical Fiction Books

Updated on September 12, 2014

Favorites in Historical Fiction

I find historical fiction to be fascinating. I love the way the books take you to other times and places. Give me a good book of historical fiction, and I could curl up in a chair and read all day.

I also love to travel and reading historical fiction that takes place in countries I have visited is always fascinating.

On this page I will tell you a bit about ten of my favorite historical fiction books that I have read in recent years. I hope you will find some books that you would enjoy reading.

photograph taken in Bruge, Belgium

photographs by Mary Beth Granger

Girl with a Pearl Earring - Tracy Chevalier

This delightful tale is a fictional story based on a painting by Vermeer. It takes places in 17th century Delft, Holland. I visited Delft several years ago and the book brought back memories of this historic town.

Delft, Holland

setting for Girl with a Pearl Earring

I had visited Delft, Holland shortly before I read the book Girl with the Pearl Earring. As I read the book I could picture the canals and the village of Delft. The book was great but for me being able to picture the place made it even more interesting.

Sarah's Key - Tatiana de Rosnay

Sarah's Key takes place in Paris both in the present time period and in the 1940's. It is a fictional story based on the persecution of the Jews in France during the occupation. It was a very moving story, one of the best I've read in a long time.

Memories of Paris

city of lights

The book Sarah's Key took place in Paris and as I read it I could picture the scenes at the places I had visited during my travels.

Daughters - historical family saga

This compelling historical novel of three generations of Palestinian Christian women details the lives of the women and the struggles they faced. It starts out in a tiny village of one room dwellings just outside Jerusalem and takes you through to the elegant home in Georgetown in the US. I enjoyed following the lives of these three generations of women and again enjoyed reading about places that I have visited.

Pillars of the Earth - Ken Follet

This epic novel by Ken Follet is set in 12th century England. It follows a family through the building of a cathedral in the fictional town of Kingsbridge, England. It is a very long book because it took a long time to build a catheral in the middle ages. I really enjoyed reading the book. It had great character development and at times you almost felt as if you were living in England in the Middle Ages. I found myself getting very involved in the lives of the main characters and when I got too tired to read anymore I was always anxious to pick up the book and read some more.

Elizabeth Street - Italy and America

I really enjoyed this story written by Laurie Fabiano. It is the true story of her grandparents struggles as they immigrated from Italy to the United States. It follows their lives as they establish their lives in New York city.

Yukon Quest - trilogy by Tracie Peterson

This book was recommended to me by fellow lensmaster Sylvestermouse. There are three books in the trilogy and I have now read all three. It takes place in Alaska during the gold rush era and is a very exciting read as you follow a families trials and victories during this period of history. It is very enjoyable light reading.

Alaska Wilderness - Gold Rush Territory

This is a photo I took from a train ride up the mountain in Skagway, Alaska. The tour guide told stories of the gold rush days and how the prospectors would face troubles trying to forge their way through the wild Alaska territory. While I was reading the Yukon Quest trilogy, these images kept popping into my mind.

Winter Garden - Kristin Hannah

This is one of the best books I have read in a long time. Although probably not technically a historical fiction novel, it does take place both in Russia over 65 years ago and in the Alaska wilderness. It is a touching love story and explores the bond between mothers and daughters. A really great page turner that I had a hard time putting down.

The Help - America's south in the 60's

This excellent book by Kathryn Stockett takes place in Jackson, Mississippi in the 1960's. It follows the lives of Afrrican-American maids working in white households. The book was made into a movie and has been up for many awards.

I read the book first and then saw the movie. I enjoyed both even though they were a bit different. I do think the book brought out more details that made it have more depth than the movie. I highly recommend this book.

The Guernsey Literary and Potatoe Peel Pie Society - World War II Historical Fiction

This delightful tale talks of the people of Guernsey and their remarkable resilience during the German occupation of their island during World War II. We read this book for my book club and everyone thoroughly enjoyed it.. There was lots of discussion on the various characters and how they each handled being in a difficult situation.

Do you have a favorite historical fiction book? - I'd love to hear your recommendation

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      Ibidii 3 years ago

      I really loved the Dovekeepers: A novel by Alice Hoffman. I did not read Pillars of the Earth yet, but it is in my queue. I saw the movie Sarah's Key and it was really good. I will read it soon. The Help is in my queue also. Daughters and the Alaska books sound great! Great lens! I love historical fiction!

    • dbitterman profile image

      dbitterman 4 years ago

      Historical fiction is my favorite genre...and this lens has introduced me to a couple I had not heard of before. They are now on my list.

    • profile image

      gracezylb2 4 years ago

      @Scriber1 LM: yah! i read that too, it was nice tracing your family to a supposed "witch" in the past. haha

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      gracezylb2 4 years ago

      i also made a similar lens with girl with a pearl earring on it. i'm so jealous you actually went to holland and saw the place where the story "happened". :)) i also want to read pillars of the earth (i watched world without end and i suppose it's the same story?). i also recommend the historian by elizabeth kostova (a lot of places were described beautifully in that novel). wew! nice lens though :)

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      ohcaroline 4 years ago

      Those Yukon books sound interesting to me.

    • Michey LM profile image

      Michey LM 4 years ago

      Great lest, I pin to have it.... because from your list I read only 2 books:

      1) The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett, he is my favorite English contemporan author and

      2) Memories of Paris city of lights by Sarah Key

      So I have to keep an eye and read the rest of your recommendation.

    • lawrence01 profile image

      Lawrence Hebb 5 years ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

      For me, anything by James Mitchener is a classic. My favourite of his were the books "Space" about the space race and "The source" about an Archaeological dig in Israel, but rather than leaving it there, he wove a story about each of the levels of the dig, so in one level you were there alongside the Crusaders defending the little church, but in another level you were in the Palace of King David himself! I liked this lens, but the only book I really know about on the list is Pillars of the Earth

    • Sylvestermouse profile image

      Cynthia Sylvestermouse 5 years ago from United States

      Oh, excellent! You have a few here that I haven't read yet! Wonderful! You know I love historical fiction and I am grateful for the recommendations. I am really glad you enjoyed Yukon Quest too! It still makes my top 10 list too :)

    • Scriber1 LM profile image

      Scriber1 LM 5 years ago

      "The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane", by Katherine Howe, is one of my favorite historical novels. Really enjoyed reading this lens and the way you tied your travels in with the novels you've recommended.

    • PopcornThomas profile image

      PopcornThomas 5 years ago

      Love the Yukon Quest trilogy! (Top 10 books...I'm assuming the trilogy counts as one?)

    • OhMe profile image

      Nancy Tate Hellams 5 years ago from Pendleton, SC

      I love this page and saw several historical fiction books that I have not read. I will be back to check this out from time to time. Thanks

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      JayEle 5 years ago

      Great lens! I've read many of these books, thank you for including them

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      MaggiePowell 5 years ago

      great list... I've read a few.. will look for the rest. Does "Water For Elephants" qualify? I also loved all of Eric Larson's books... they tie history with fiction.

    • mbgphoto profile image
      Author

      Mary Beth Granger 5 years ago from O'Fallon, Missouri, USA

      @WhitePineLane: You are right...I'll have to find another one. Thanks.

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      WhitePineLane 5 years ago

      Great lens - but I think you only have nine books in your top ten! I LOVE historical fiction! Over the last few years - starting with The Other Boleyn Girl - I've read probably a dozen fictionalized accounts of the Tudor Dynasty. They're fascinating! I love historical fiction that's not about real people as well, though. I've read four of the books on your list. I think next I'll try The Guernsey Literary and Potatoe Peel Pie Society!

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      Joan4 5 years ago

      Oh wow! so many I want to read right now! trying to decide which one of these to read first. I read the Help and saw the movie. But all the others are new to me. Thank you! I do love a great recommended books list!

    • Joan Haines profile image

      Joan Haines 5 years ago

      You've included three of my faves: The Help, Pillars of the Earth, and Girl with a Pearl Earring. What a great thing that you were in Delft!

    • TreasuresBrenda profile image

      Treasures By Brenda 5 years ago from Canada

      Just read a book set during the depression called Mildred Pierce. It was amazing and is also a television mini-series and was (apparently) a movie before that. The book was excellent.

    • Brandi Bush profile image

      Brandi 5 years ago from Maryland

      I LOVE historical fiction...I'm definitely going to have to check out some of these books. The Help is already on my reading list for this year. :) Thanks for the suggestion!

    • DIY Mary profile image

      DIY Mary 5 years ago

      What an interesting book list! I was especially intrigued by "Daughters" by Consuelo Saah Baehr. I have added it to my list of books to read.

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      anonymous 5 years ago

      I read mostly biographies these days after spending the past few years reading text books

    • ZenandChic profile image

      Patricia 5 years ago

      I don't read fiction anymore or books too much, but I used to love V.C. Andrews books when I was a teenager.

    • SophiaStar LM profile image

      SophiaStar LM 5 years ago

      What a great list! I am always looking for new books to read. Sarah's Key is on my list to read.

    • flicker lm profile image

      flicker lm 5 years ago

      Great list of recommended books! I would like to have more time to read historical fiction because I, like you, like to be transported via reading to another place and/or time.

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      ourmarket 5 years ago

      Never been much a reader of fiction, But I might get Alaska Wilderness

      Gold Rush Territory. Not much of a traveler out of USA other than Canada have always had an interest in going to Alaska so maybe someday.