Historical fiction is a genre of literature that takes the reader back in time to experience life as it once was. It combines fact and fiction to create a captivating narrative that transports readers to a different era.
The best historical fiction books for adults offer a glimpse into different times, cultures, and people, providing a unique historical perspective. This article will take you on a journey through time with the best historical fiction books for adults.
The ancient world was a time of significant cultural and technological advancements, and the stories and legends of this time have captured the imagination of readers for centuries.
From the great empires of Greece and Rome to the mysterious kingdoms of the Far East, here are some of the best historical fiction books for adults set in ancient civilizations:
The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
The Pillars of the Earth is a novel set in 12th-century England that captures the spirit of the great Gothic cathedrals of the Middle Ages.
The novel follows the story of Tom Builder, a master builder who dreams of creating a cathedral that will stand as a symbol of God’s glory. He must overcome the challenges of war, famine, and political intrigue to realize his vision.
I, Claudius by Robert Graves
I, Claudius is a novel set in ancient Rome that tells the story of the life and times of Emperor Claudius, who is often remembered as a bumbling and foolish ruler, but who in reality was an intelligent and insightful leader who helped to stabilize the empire during a time of great turmoil and political upheaval.
Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden
Memoirs of a Geisha is a novel set in Japan during the early 20th century that offers a glimpse into the world of the geisha, the highly skilled entertainers who were the cultural icons of Japan’s Edo period.
The novel follows the story of Sayuri, a young girl who is sold into servitude and trained as a geisha and who must navigate the complex and often treacherous world of the geisha to find her place in the world.
These historical fiction books for adults offer a fascinating glimpse into the worlds of ancient civilizations, reminding us of the enduring power and influence of these great cultures and their impact on our modern world.
The medieval period, also known as the Middle Ages, was a time of great upheaval, social change, and cultural transformation. It was also a time of great creativity, artistry, and storytelling, as evidenced by some of this period’s most enduring works of literature.
Here are some of the best historical fiction books for adults set in medieval times:
The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco
The Name of the Rose is a novel set in the 14th century that captures the spirit of intellectual inquiry and religious conflict during the Middle Ages.
The novel follows the story of William of Baskerville, a Franciscan friar who is sent to investigate a series of murders at an abbey in Italy and must confront the dark secrets and hidden agendas of the monks who live there.
The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer
The Canterbury Tales is a collection of stories told by a diverse group of pilgrims traveling to the shrine of Thomas Becket in Canterbury during the 14th century.
The tales offer a glimpse into medieval England’s social, cultural, and literary landscape and showcase Chaucer’s mastery of character and narrative.
The Last Kingdom by Bernard Cornwell
The Last Kingdom is a novel set in the 9th century that captures the spirit of war, conquest, and cultural exchange during the Viking invasions of England.
The novel follows the story of Uhtred of Bebbanburg, a Saxon nobleman the Danes capture, raised as one of their own. It must navigate early medieval England’s complex political and cultural landscape.
These historical fiction books for adults offer a window into the rich and varied tapestry of life in medieval times, reminding us of the enduring power and influence of this fascinating period of history.
Renaissance and Enlightenment
The Renaissance and Enlightenment periods were times of significant cultural, intellectual, and artistic growth in Europe, and they continue to captivate and inspire readers today.
Here are some of the best historical fiction books for adults set in these periods:
The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas
The Three Musketeers is a classic novel that captures the spirit of adventure and romance during the reign of Louis XIII in France, a period that overlaps with the later part of the Renaissance era.
The novel follows the story of D’Artagnan, a young man who travels to Paris to join the King’s Musketeers and is embroiled in a plot to overthrow the King.
The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
The Scarlet Letter is a novel that explores the themes of sin, guilt, and redemption in Puritan New England during the Enlightenment era.
The novel follows the story of Hester Prynne, a young woman who is shamed and punished for having a child out of wedlock and who must find a way to rebuild her life in a society that judges her harshly.
The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
The Count of Monte Cristo is a novel that captures the spirit of revenge and redemption during the Bourbon Restoration in France. This period overlaps with the later part of the Enlightenment era.
The novel follows the story of Edmond Dantès, a young man who is wrongfully imprisoned and who, after escaping, seeks revenge on those who betrayed him and stole his life.
These historical fiction books for adults offer a glimpse into the social, cultural, and literary landscape of the Renaissance and Enlightenment periods, reminding us of these eras’ enduring power and influence.
The Victorian era was a period of significant change and innovation, characterized by a rapidly growing economy, technological advancements, and social reforms. It was also a time of excellent literary output, with many of the greatest writers of all time producing works that continue to captivate and inspire readers today.
Here are some of the best historical fiction books for adults set in the Victorian era:
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
Wuthering Heights is a classic novel that explores the themes of love, revenge, and obsession in northern England’s wild and rugged moors during the early part of the Victorian era.
The novel follows the story of Heathcliff, a mysterious and brooding figure who falls in love with Catherine Earnshaw but is ultimately consumed by his desire for revenge.
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Pride and Prejudice is a timeless novel that explores the themes of love, social class, and gender roles in Georgian England, a period that overlaps with the early part of the Victorian era.
The novel follows the story of Elizabeth Bennet, a strong-willed and independent young woman who must navigate the complex social hierarchy of her time to find true love and happiness.
The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
The Picture of Dorian Gray is a novel that explores the themes of beauty, youth, and morality in late Victorian England.
The novel follows the story of Dorian Gray, a young and handsome man obsessed with his beauty and youth and ultimately descends into a life of evil and corruption.
The Victorian era was a period of excellent literary output, with many of the greatest writers producing works that continue to captivate and inspire readers today.
These historical fiction books for adults offer a glimpse into the time’s social, cultural, and literary landscape, reminding us of the enduring power and influence of the Victorian era.
World War I and II
World War I and II were two of the most significant events of the 20th century, shaping the course of history and leaving an indelible mark on the world.
Here are some of the best historical fiction books for adults that explore the themes of war and its impact on society:
All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque
All Quiet on the Western Front is a powerful and moving novel about Paul Baumer, a young German soldier sent to fight on the Western Front during World War I.
As Baumer witnesses the horror and brutality of war, he begins to question the values and ideals that led him and his comrades to enlist. Remarque’s novel is a poignant and sobering reminder of the human cost of war.
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Set in Germany during World War II, The Book Thief is a beautifully written and profoundly moving novel that tells the story of Liesel Meminger, a young girl who discovers the power of words and storytelling in a time of great darkness.
Through Liesel’s eyes, we see the impact of war on ordinary people and the resilience and courage that can be found in the most unlikely places.
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
Catch-22 is a satirical novel that looks darkly at the absurdity of war. Set in Italy during World War II, the novel follows the exploits of Captain John Yossarian, a bombardier trapped in a bureaucratic nightmare of his own making.
As Yossarian tries to escape the war and the insane logic of his superiors, he finds himself caught in a Catch-22 situation, where the only way to avoid combat is to be declared insane – but anyone who wants to avoid combat is sane.
Contemporary Historical Fiction
Contemporary historical fiction is a genre that blends modern storytelling with historical events, creating a unique narrative that captures the essence of the past while exploring universal themes that are relevant today.
Here are some of the best contemporary historical fiction books for adults:
The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
In France during World War II, The Nightingale tells the story of two sisters, Vianne and Isabelle, who must navigate the perils of war and occupation.
As Vianne tries to protect her family and community, Isabelle joins the French Resistance, risking her life to fight for freedom. This gripping tale of love, sacrifice, and survival has become a modern classic and is a must-read for fans of historical fiction.
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, The Underground Railroad is a powerful and haunting story that imagines an alternate history of the Underground Railroad, the network of secret routes and safe houses used by enslaved people to escape to freedom.
Whitehead’s novel follows the journey of Cora, a young enslaved person who escapes from a Georgia plantation and embarks on a dangerous journey to find freedom. Along the way, she encounters allies and enemies and must navigate the complexities of race, identity, and power.
A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles
A Gentleman in Moscow is a charming and elegant novel about Count Alexander Rostov, an aristocrat sentenced to house arrest in a Moscow hotel in the aftermath of the Russian Revolution.
As Rostov adapts to his new life, he forms relationships with the hotel staff and guests and finds joy in the small pleasures of daily life. But as the political landscape of Russia changes, Rostov must confront his place in the world and the meaning of freedom.
The benefit of Historical Fiction Books for Adults
There are many benefits to reading historical fiction books for adults. Here are some of the key advantages:
- Enhanced understanding of history: Historical fiction provides a window into the past, allowing readers to learn about historical events, people, and cultures in a more engaging and relatable way. By immersing themselves in the story’s world, readers can better understand history and how it has shaped our world today.
- Improved empathy and perspective-taking: Historical fiction often features characters from different cultures, backgrounds, and periods. Readers can better understand their struggles, joys, and perspectives. This can lead to improved empathy and a more extraordinary ability to see the world from different points of view.
- Engaging storytelling: Historical fiction books often combine actual historical events with fictional characters and plots. This can create a compelling and immersive narrative that draws readers in and keeps them engaged from beginning to end.
- Opportunities for escapism and relaxation: Reading historical fiction can be a way to escape from the stresses of modern life and immerse oneself in a different world. This can relieve relaxation and stress, allowing readers to recharge and refresh their minds.
- Improved critical thinking and analysis: Historical fiction books often require readers to think critically about the events and characters depicted in the story. By analyzing the historical context and cultural norms of the period, We can understand the story and its meaning.
Historical fiction books offer a unique blend of entertainment and education, allowing readers to learn about history while enjoying a great story.
What makes a book historical fiction?
A historical fiction book is set in the past and draws upon historical events, people, or places. The author weaves a fictional narrative around these elements, creating an entertaining and educational story.
What is the difference between historical fiction and non-fiction?
Historical fiction is a genre of literature that uses actual historical events, people, and places as the basis for a fictional story. Non-fiction, on the other hand, is a factual account of historical events that is based on research and primary sources.
Why do people enjoy reading historical fiction?
Historical fiction allows readers to experience life in different times and places. It allows them to learn about history fun and engagingly while exploring universal themes such as love, war, and adventure.
The best historical fiction books for adults offer a captivating journey through time. These books provide a unique historical perspective from ancient to modern times, allowing readers to experience life in different eras and cultures.
Whether you are a history buff or love a good story, there is a historical fiction book out there for