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  • Writer's pictureMarina Rose

Recommended Reading: Historical Fiction

Who doesn't love a bit of historical fiction? And there are so many sub-genres to choose from - historical romance, historical mystery, multi-eras, and more! But what makes a work of fiction historical? I've been watching oodles of webinars on what we library folks like to call "reader's advisory." Put simply, reader's advisory is a way librarian's recommend books to our patrons, usually based on the patron's interests.

In the Historical Fiction webinar, the presenters defined historical fiction as any book that's time period takes place before the author's lifetime. So, what may be history to me (everything 1980s and prior) may not be history to you. Interesting, right? But enough about that, you came here for reading suggestions!

Creepy, crumbling mansion

Historical Mystery

A Test of Wills by Charles Todd

The year is 1919. World War I veteran, Ian Rutledge, has joined Scotland Yard as an investigator. As he struggles to deal with the things he witnessed during the war, he is assigned a case that involves the military. Will he be able to temper his emotions and solve the case, or will his wounds prove too difficult to heal?

Cover photo of "Pardonable Lies" by Jacqueline Winspear

Pardonable Lies by Jacqueline Winspear

Pardonable Lies is the third novel in Jacqueline Winspear's bestselling Maisie Dobbs series. Maisie's newest assignment is to investigate the supposed death of Ralph Lawton during World War I. Ralph's mother, Agnes', dying wish to her husband is to find out the truth about their son. But before she died, Agnes' quest for the truth brought her to the brink of madness - and she began dealing with folks adept in the dark arts. As Maisie works on the assignment she finds herself tested, spiritually and emotionally. She also runs into one of her old pals who helps her make a startling connection to Ralph - one that just might help her find some answers.

Historical Fantasy

The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang

War orphan, Rin, has lived a life of servitude and humility. So when she aces the Keju - a test that determines the most talented youth in the Empire - and is accepted to Sinegard - the most elite military school in Nikan - Rin and everyone else are shocked. Rin is excited to leave her life of poverty and despair, but she faces prejudice from the other students at Sinegard. But despite the trials, Rin discovers she has a rare talent for the art of shamanism and begins studying with an eccentric teacher. What she discovers through her studies may help save her people and her country in the impending Third Poppy War.

Cover photo of The City of Brass

The City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty

Nahri knows how to con even the cleverest of Ottoman nobles - it's not magic, just sleight of hand and clever tricks. But one trick goes awry and Nahri winds up summoning a djinn warrior and is forced to admit that magic is very, very real. The warrior tells her about the mythical city of brass, Daevebad - a city in which Nahri finds herself closely bound. As she enters the world of Daevebad she finds herself in a dangerous tangle of court politics and learns how terrifying true power really is.

Alternative Histories

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

Imagine the real-life world of slavery and indentured servitude pre-Civil War. Now imagine the Underground Railroad was an actual railroad - located underground. That's the world that Colson Whitehead has created. Cora and Caesar, the novel's protagonists, escape the Georgia cotton plantation and travel on the underground railroad to South Carolina. They spend some time in a city that seems fairly safe - taking regular jobs to care for themselves. But there is a notorious slave catcher hell-bent on finding them, and Cora is forced to take the Underground Railroad on her own in search of freedom.

Cover photo of 11/22/63

11/22/63 by Stephen King

What would you do if you could change history? This is the question that Jake Epping - a young English and GED teacher asks himself when his friend, Al, reveals that his diner storeroom has a portal to the past - a day in 1958. Al is obsessed with preventing the murder of John F. Kennedy and enlists Jake's help to change history. Jake travels back in time and must familiarize himself with the new culture and his new identity as George Amberson. As 1963 approaches, Jake meets Lee Harvey Oswald and the suspense intensifies in the mission to save JFK.

American Civil War

Conjure Women by Afia Atakora

Conjure Women is a story that spans generations of women in the South before and after the Civil War. Three women are at the center of the story: Miss May Belle, her daughter, Rue, and their master's daughter, Varina. Miss May Belle is a gifted midwife, and, although Rue is expected to follow in her mother's footsteps, she has no desire to do so. The three women share multiple secrets and bonds that are strained by war and the birth of a new child. Superstitions about the child abound among the community and threaten the newfound freedom of the story's women.

Cover photo of "The Killer Angels" with a quote from the book

The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara

This book is number two in Michael Shaara's Civil War series. The Killer Angels takes place on a Pennsylvania battlefield over four bloody and exhausting days. It's the Battle of Gettysburg brought to life for the reader with author-imagined accounts from leaders and soldiers on both sides of the horrendous battle.


The Second Mrs. Hockaday by Susan Rivers

Inspired by true events. Major Gryffth Hockaday is called for duty in the Civil War shortly after marrying Placidia. In his two year absence, the teen, Placidia, must find a way to manage the three-hundred acre farm and raise a baby by herself. But when Major Hockaday returns, Placidia is facing jail time for birthing and killing a child during her husband's absence. What really happened during those two years?

Cover photo of The Clan of the Cave Bear

Many of you, I'm sure, have heard of this series. Clan of the Cave Bear takes place in paleolithic times. The novel's protagonist, Ayla, is left alone after a natural disaster. She is taken in by a member of the Clan. However, her appearance differs vastly from those of the Clan, and many are suspicious of her. The boy who is set to become the Clan's next leader develops a deep hatred for Ayla and is determined to be rid of her.


All of the titles listed above are available in our ebook collections through OverDrive/Libby, although some have a short waiting list. If you need help accessing titles, please reach out to us at or 208-459-3242.

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