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Historical Fiction

What is Historical Fiction?

Historical fiction novels are stories that take place in the past. They use authentic period detail and may feature fictionalized accounts of real historical figures. Subgenres include fictional biographies, historical mysteries, historical romance, family sagas, nautical fiction, alternate history, and more!

New and Popular

Lessons in Chemistry

by Bonnie Garmus

In the early 1960s, chemist and single mother Elizabeth Zott, the reluctant star of America’s most beloved cooking show due to her revolutionary skills in the kitchen, uses this opportunity to dare women to change the status quo.


by Louise Kennedy

Set in Northern Ireland during the Troubles, a shattering debut novel about a young woman caught between allegiance to community and unsanctioned love.

The invisible life of Addie LaRue

by V.E. Schwab

Making a Faustian bargain to live forever but never be remembered, a woman from early eighteenth-century France endures unacknowledged centuries before meeting a man who remembers her name.

The Diamond Eye

by Kate Quinn

Known as Lady Death – a lethal hunter of Nazis, Mila Pavlichenko, sent to America on a goodwill tour, forms an unexpected friendship with First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and a connection with a silent fellow sniper, offering her a chance at happiness until her past returns with a vengeance.

The Marriage Portrait

by Maggie O’Farrell

In Florence during the 1550s, captivating young duchess Lucrezia de’ Medici, having barely left girlhood behind, marries the ruler of Ferrara, Modena and Reggio, and now, in an unfamiliar court where she has one duty–to provide an heir–fights for her very survival.

The Brighter the Light

by Mary Ellen Taylor

In Florence during the 1550s, captivating young duchess Lucrezia de’ Medici, having barely left girlhood behind, marries the ruler of Ferrara, Modena and Reggio, and now, in an unfamiliar court where she has one duty–to provide an heir–fights for her very survival.

Woman of Light

by Kali Fajardo-Anstine

In 1930s Denver, Luz “Little Light” Lopez, a tea leaf reader and laundress, begins having visions that transport her to her Indigenous homeland in the nearby Lost Territory where she must save her family stories from disappearing into oblivion.



by Melody Razak

The saga of one family’s trials through India’s tumultuous partition-when Pakistan split from India-exploring its impact on women, what it means to be othered, and the redemptive power of family.


Leaving Coy’s Hill

by Katherine A. Sherbrooke

Born on a farm in 1818, Lucy Stone dreamed of extraordinary things for a girl of her time, like continuing her education beyond the eighth grade and working for the abolitionist cause, and of ordinary things, such as raising a family of her own. But when she learns that the Constitution affords no rights to married women, she declares that she will never marry and dedicates her life to fighting for change.



by Geraldine Brooks

A scientist from Australia and a Nigerian-American art historian become connected by their shared interest in a 19th century race horse, one studying its remains, the other uncovering the history of the Black horsemen who were critical to its success.

Act of Oblivion

by Robert Harris

This spellbinding historical novel that brilliantly imagines one of the greatest manhunts in history: the search for two Englishmen involved in the killing of King Charles I and the implacable foe on their trail—an epic journey into the wilds of seventeeth-century New England, and a chase like no other.

Nights of Plague

by Orhan Pamuk

In 1900, when a plague arrives on Mingheria, brought either by Muslim pilgrims returning from the Mecca or by merchant vessels coming from Alexandria, the Sultan, bowing to international pressure, allows foreign and Ottoman warships to blockade the island, forcing its people to defeat the plague on their own.


Historical Fiction: Highlighted Categories

Massachusetts Historical Fiction

The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant (2014)
Recounting the story of her life to her granddaughter, octogenarian Addie describes how she was raised in early-twentieth-century America by Jewish immigrant parents in a teeming multicultural neighborhood.

The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne (1850)
In early colonial Massachusetts, a young woman endures the consequences of her sin of adultery and spends the rest of her life in atonement.

Summer of ’69 by Elin Hilderbrand (2019)
As a man flies to the moon and Ted Kennedy sinks a car in Chappaquiddick, four siblings experience the drama, intrigue and upheaval along with the rest of the country during the summer of 1969.

Hour of the Witch by Chris Bohjalian (2021)
A resourceful Puritan woman in 1662 Boston plots to escape a violent marriage only to find herself targeted by her disapproving and superstitious neighbors for failing to save a child’s life.

The Given Day by Dennis Lehane (2008)
An epic tale set at the end of World War I follows the experiences of a family whose lives mirror the political unrest of an America caught between its well-patterned past and an unpredictable future.

The Beantown Girls by Jane Healey (2019)
After her fiance goes missing during the war, Fiona decides to volunteer overseas as a Red Cross Clubmobile girl and brings along her friends Dottie and Viviana, an adventure that has them encounter new friendships, new loves, and new danger.

The Crucible by Arthur Miller
A dramatic re-telling of the Salem Witch Hysteria of 1692.

Historical Fiction at War

The War Librarian by Addison Armstrong (2022)
Timid and shy Emmaline Balakin lives more in books than her own life. That is, until an envelope crosses her desk at the Dead Letter Office bearing a name from her past, and Emmaline decides to finally embark on an adventure of her own–as a volunteer librarian on the frontlines in France. But when a romance blooms as she secretly participates in a book club for censored books, Emmaline will need to find more courage within herself than she ever thought possible in order to survive.

The Nightingale by Kristen Hannah (2015)
A woman is forced to house a Nazi in WWII France, while her sister becomes a Resistance fighter.

When the Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka (2002)
A Japanese-American family is forced into an internment camp during WWII while their father is taken into captivity.

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
A blind French girl on the run from the German occupation and a German orphan-turned-Resistance tracker struggle with their respective beliefs after meeting on the Brittany coast.

The Last Green Valley by Mark Sullivan
In late March 1944, as Stalin’s forces push into Ukraine, young Emil and Adeline Martel must make a terrible decision: Do they wait for the Soviet bear’s intrusion and risk being sent to Siberia? Or do they reluctantly follow the wolves – murderous Nazi officers who have pledged to protect “pure-blood” Germans?

A Sunlit Weapon by Jacqueline Winspear
Masie Dobbs, a psychologist and investigator in 1942 London, investigates the death of a female ferry pilot and two kidnapped American servicemen.

The Good Left Undone by Adriana Trigiani
This richly woven tapestry of three generations of women faced with impossible choices follows Matelda, the family’s matriarch, as she, facing the end of her life, must decide what is worth fighting for and when to let go.

African American Historical Fiction

My Government Means to Kill Me by Rasheed Newson
A fierce queer coming-of-age story follows the personal and political awakening of a young gay black man in 1980s New York City, from the television drama writer and producer of Narcos.

Take My Hand by Dolen Perkins-Valdez (2022)
In 1973 Montgomery, Alabama, Civil Townsend, a young Black nurse working for the Montgomery Family Planning Clinic, grapples with her role when she takes two young girls into her heart and the unthinkable happens, and nothing will ever be the same for any of them.

HomegoingHomegoing by Yaa Gyasi (2016)
Half-sisters grow up in 1700s Ghana, one married off to an Englishman, the other sold into the slave trade.

Harlem Shuffle by Colson Whitehead
A furniture salesman in 1960s Harlem becomes a fence for shady cops, local gangsters and low-life pornographers after his cousin involves him in a failed heist.

The Personal Librarian by Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray
Hired by J. P. Morgan to curate a collection of rare manuscripts, books and artwork for his newly built Pierpont Morgan Library, Belle de Costa Greene becomes one of the most powerful women in New York despite the dangerous secret she keeps.

An Extraordinary Union by Alyssa Cole
Set during the American Civil War, this compelling story of forbidden love and espionage boasts authentic characters and well-researched historical detail.

The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois by Honorée Fanonne Jeffers
To come to terms with who she is and what she wants, Ailey, the daughter of an accomplished doctor and a strict schoolteacher, embarks on a journey through her family’s past, helping her embrace her full heritage, which is the story of the Black experience in itself.

Kindred by Octavia Butler
Dana, a Black woman, finds herself repeatedly transported to the antebellum South, where she must make sure that Rufus, the plantation owner’s son, survives to father Dana’s ancestor.

20th Century Historical Fiction

The Lincoln Highway

by Amor Towles

In June of 1954, 18-year-old Emmett Watson, released after serving 15 months for involuntary manslaughter, discovers that two friends from the work farm have hidden themselves in the trunk of the warden’s car and have hatched a different plan for Emmett’s future.

The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende (1982)
An ambitious patriarch, his wife, and their defiant daughter live through three generations of politics in 1900s Chile

Trust by Hernan Diaz
Told from the perspective of one woman bent on disentangling fact from fiction, this unrivaled novel about money, power, intimacy and perception is centered around the mystery of how the Rask family acquired their immense fortune in 1920s-1930’s New York City.

Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead
After being rescued as infants from a sinking ocean liner in 1914, Marian and Jamie Graves are raised by their dissolute uncle in Missoula, Montana. There – after encountering a pair of barnstorming pilots passing through town in beat up biplanes – Marian commences her lifelong love affair with flight.

The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
Stevens, an aging butler dedicated to the dignity of his profession, takes to the road to convince Ms. Bent — a now-married former housekeeper — to resume her duties at Darlington Hall.

The Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich
A historical novel based on the life of the author’s grandfather traces the experiences of a Chippewa Council night watchman in mid-19th-century rural North Dakota who fights Congress to enforce Native American treaty rights.

Siren Queen by Nghi Vo
A new novel offers an exploration of an outsider achieving stardom on her own terms, in a fantastical Hollywood where the monsters are real and the magic of the silver screen illuminates every page.

We Measure the Earth with Our Bodies by Tsering Yangzom Lama
A novel tells the compelling and profound story of a Tibetan family’s journey through exile.

Updated: December 2022

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