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50 Best Historical Fiction Books That Will Transport You to a Different Era

Travel back in time for mystery, romance, drama, and more with the best historical fiction books ever written. No time machine required!

Every editorial product is independently selected, though we may be compensated or receive an affiliate commission if you buy something through our links. Ratings and prices are accurate and items are in stock as of time of publication.

50 Best Historical Fiction Books That Will Transport You To A Different Erard.com, via amazon.com (7)

Historical flights of fancy

Who needs a time machine when you can pick up an incredible work of historical fiction? Historical fiction, at its core, is a literary genre in which the plot takes place in a setting located in the past. Sound general? That’s because the best thing about historical fiction books is how creative and diverse they can be. From historical mysteries to period romances to epic dramas to fantasies, historical fiction books can cover a wide range of stories, perspectives, and events. Plus, you’ll learn some (real) facts from reading them along the way, so it’s a win-win!

The books on this list were hand-picked for a number of reasons. Some of these historical novels are classics and rank among the best books of all time, while others are more recent, critically acclaimed award winners. Some were chosen by Reader’s Digest book editors for their lasting appeal—look for the Reader’s Digest Editor’s Choice seal on those. Still others are brand-new works written by authors who previously knocked it out of the park or are audience favorites, according to Amazon and Goodreads. And whatever topic you’re in the mood for, you’ll find it here. Just keep in mind that authors can take quite a bit of creative license, so you’ll want to double-check the facts and turn to a trusted source, like these nonfiction books and Holocaust books, for heavier topics. With that in mind, get ready to get swept away to another time and place. Happy reading!

For more book trivia and inside info on authors and books news, follow the Reader’s Digest Select Editions page on Facebook.

Homegoing BookVia Amazon.com

1. Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

Setting: 1700s, Ghana

This novel, set in 18th-century Ghana and originally published in 2016, follows the story of two half sisters who’ve never met. One marries an Englishman and lives a luxurious life in the Cape Coast Castle, and the other ends up being sold into slavery from that very same castle. The book focuses on the theme of legacy as it follows eight generations of the half sisters’ descendants, in places as varied as Africa’s Gold Coast, Mississippi, and Harlem during the Jazz Age. Just how moving is Yaa Gyasi’s seminal work? Homecoming was named one of Oprah’s Best Books of the Year and a New York Times Notable Book, and it also won the prestigious PEN/Hemingway Award. Here are more of the best books by Black authors you won’t want to miss.

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The Four Winds by Kristin Hannahvia amazon.com

2. The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah

Setting: 1930s, Texas panhandle

This 2021 best-selling novel, which has nearly 60,000 five-star reviews on Amazon, looks at a crumbling marriage against the backdrop of the Great Depression. Elsa Wolcott and Rafe Martinelli’s marriage is dying, along with all of the crops on their Great Plains farm. Every day is a constant battle, but Elsa is determined not to give up. This Readers’ Digest editor’s pick shows the resilience, hope, and hardship that was an everyday reality during the Great Depression while spinning a deeply immersive, character-driven story. It’s one of the best new fiction books you won’t be able to put down.

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3. My Name Is Red by Orhan Pamuk

Setting: 1500s, Turkey

Nobel Prize winner Orhan Pamuk deftly mixes historical fiction, mystery, and art in this compelling novel, which was first published in 1998. In the story, the Ottoman sultan has commissioned several talented artists to secretly contribute to a book celebrating his reign, and when one artist goes missing, the rest are accused of being involved in his murder. This IMPAC Dublin Literary Award winner is both entertaining and informative, and when it came out, it earned high praise from numerous publications, including the New York Times Book Review, the Chicago Tribune, and the New Yorker.

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War Trash by Ha Jinvia amazon.com

4. War Trash by Ha Jin

Setting: 1950s, Korea

This compelling novel, published in 2005, explores the often overlooked experience of Chinese soldiers held in U.S. POW camps during the Korean War. It follows clerical officer Yu Yuan as he is taken prisoner by the United States and acts as an intermediary between his fellow prisoners and the American guards. The New York Times Book Review called this Pen/Faulkner Award winner and Pulitzer Prize finalist “nearly perfect.” For a different take on history, these compelling memoirs will give you new perspective.

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5. Property by Valerie Martinvia amazon.com

5. Property by Valerie Martin

Setting: 1820s, Louisiana

Valerie Martin’s 2004 historical novel explores the horrors of slavery from the perspective of a slave owner. Manon Gaudet is the mistress of a Louisiana sugar plantation in 1828, where she chafes under the orders of her husband and becomes obsessed with her slave Sarah, who also has a bitter relationship with Manon’s husband. Toni Morrison called the novel a “fresh, unsentimental look at what slave-owning does to (and for) one’s interior life.” If you’re always looking for something new to read, these book subscription boxes will satisfy even the most avid readers.

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The View from Castle Rock by Alice Munrovia amazon.com

6. The View from Castle Rock by Alice Munro

Setting: 1700s–present day, Scotland

Do you love reading historical fiction books but can’t find the time to dedicate to an entire novel? If so, you’ll want to pick up Alice Munro’s 2006 collection of short stories in The View from Castle Rock. A mix of historical and autobiographical fiction, the stories are fictionalized accounts of Munro’s life and family history. If this isn’t enough to convince you to give this book a try, maybe Munro’s 2013 Nobel Prize in Literature (not to mention her slew of other awards) will do the trick.

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Ragtime BookVia Amazon.com

7. Ragtime by E.L. Doctorow

Setting: 1900s, New York

E.L. Doctorow completely redefined historical fiction with his 1975 novel, Ragtime, which mixes both very real and very fictional characters into the landscape of early 20th-century New York. In addition to the well-off (and well-crafted) family at the center of the book, you’ll meet the likes of Harry Houdini, Henry Ford, Sigmund Freud, and more. This winner of the National Book Critics Circle Awards, which was also selected by the Modern Library as one of the 100 best fiction books of all time and was adapted into a movie, is sure to engage your intellect while thoroughly entertaining you.

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A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest J. Gainesvia amazon.com

8. A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest J. Gaines

Setting: 1940s, Louisiana

Ernest J. Gaines’s classic 1994 novel follows the story of Grant Wiggins, who returns to Jim Crow–era Louisiana to visit Jefferson, a man wrongly convicted of a crime who ends up on death row. Wiggins’s discussions with Jefferson—which cover a wide range of topics, including race, discrimination, dignity, justice, and the human condition—make the book worthy of its critical acclaim. The novel won the National Book Critics Circle Award and was described by the Chicago Tribune as “a book that will be read, discussed, and taught beyond the rest of our lives.” You may also want to pick up some of these books on racism to better understand these issues in America.

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Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichievia amazon.com

9. Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Setting: 1960s, Nigeria

While you may know contemporary author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie from her 2013 novel, Americanah, or her 2014 nonfiction piece We Should All Be Feminists, her 2007 historical fiction work, Half of a Yellow Sun, is just as evocative and engaging. A recipient of the Women’s Prize for Fiction “Winner of Winners” award, this novel is set during the Biafran War of the 1960s, as Biafra attempts to create an independent republic in southeastern Nigeria, and follows five compelling main characters you’ll be completely invested in.

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Yours Cheerfully by AJ Pearcevia amazon.com

10. Yours Cheerfully by AJ Pearce

Setting: 1940s, England

Set during World War II, this heartwarming and uplifting historical fiction book follows the story of Emmeline Lake, a young female wartime advice columnist who must make a difficult decision between fulfilling her duty and supporting her friends. This 2021 novel (by the author of the international best seller Dear Mrs. Bird) is perfect for those looking for a wartime story without major violence or gruesomeness. It just might be the perfect beach read for your next escape.

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Thebes at War by Naguid Mahfouzvia amazon.com

11. Thebes at War by Naguib Mahfouz

Setting: Ancient Egypt

Hailed as “the single most important writer in modern Arabic literature” by Newsday, Nobel laureate Naguib Mahfouz recreates ancient Egypt’s triumphant defeat of Asiatic foreigners in northern Egypt in his novel Thebes at War. Originally published in Arabic in 1944, this historical fiction book was translated into English in 2003 and became an international success. The book is filled not just with facts but also exciting action scenes, intense victories, and excruciating defeats to make for a thrilling and page-turning read.

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Joseph and His Brothers by Thomas Mannvia amazon.com

12. Joseph and His Brothers by Thomas Mann

Setting: Ancient Egypt

Nobel Prize winner Thomas Mann considered this retelling of the biblical story of Joseph to be his magnum opus. In it, he expounds on the story told in the Bible’s Book of Genesis, during which Joseph was sold into slavery by his jealous brothers yet eventually rises to prominence. This historical novel, which was originally published in 1933 and took Mann 16 years to complete, transports readers to ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, and Palestine as it follows the rise and fall of Joseph through four different parts.

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The Underground Railroad by Colson Whiteheadvia amazon.com

13. The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

Setting: Pre–Civil War, United States

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, National Book Award, Best Book of the Year title by the New York Times Book Review and Wall Street Journal, and countless other awards, Colson Whitehead’s 2016 novel is an exciting and provocative read. The book follows the story of Cora and Caesar, two slaves who run away from their Georgia plantation using a not-quite-historically-accurate version of the underground railroad. As it changes between time period, location, and character perspective, The Underground Railroad takes readers on a wild ride. If you’re looking for something that sticks a bit more to the facts, try this list of the best biographies.

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All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerrvia amazon.com

14. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Setting: 1940s, France

There’s a reason that Anthony Doerr’s 2014 World War II novel All the Light We Cannot See spent more than two and a half years on the New York Times Best Seller list (in addition to winning a Pulitzer and being a finalist for the National Book Award). The story, which centers around the connection between a blind French girl and German boy and their journey through occupied France during World War II, is the perfect combination of fanciful and thrilling.

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15. Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

Setting: 1520s, England

Hilary Mantel’s reimagining of England in the 1520s and the lives of King Henry VIII and Thomas Cromwell is so creative and enthralling, it’s no surprise that this 2009 historical fiction novel won both the Man Booker Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction. The themes of power, jealousy, religion, and lust make this a page-turner for any avid Tudor fan—or anyone who loves reading about the royal family’s scandals.

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Kindred by Octavia E. Butlervia amazon.com

16. Kindred by Octavia E. Butler

Setting: Pre–Civil War and the 1970s, United States

Talk about a historical novel with a twist. Octavia E. Butler’s 1979 book Kindred tells the time-traveling story of Dana, a modern Black woman who is pulled from her home in California into the antebellum South, where she is a slave on the plantation of her ancestors. This book combines drama, suspense, and important lessons on the history of racism and discrimination in our country.

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The Book Thief by Markus Zusakvia amazon.com

17. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Setting: 1940s, Germany

Perhaps no book explains the power and importance of storytelling better than the 2005 novel The Book Thief. Markus Zusak crafts a story set in Nazi Germany that follows Liesel Meminger, a girl who steals books to then share with her foster father, her neighbors, and the Jewish man hidden in her basement. It was translated into 63 languages, with more than 16 million copies sold, and there’s no mystery as to why this story of perseverance, humanity, and literature became an international best seller.

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The Second Life of Mirielle West by Amanda Skenandorevia amazon.com

18. The Second Life of Mirielle West by Amanda Skenandore

Setting: 1920s, Louisiana

How far can one socialite fall? That is the question that plagues main character Mirielle West in author Amanda Skenandore’s 2021 novel. The life of a silent film star’s wife is turned upside down when she’s sent to Carville Lepers Home in Louisiana after a doctor suspects her of having the incurable disease. Stuck in what is more of a prison than a patient care center, Mirielle must redefine her purpose and make life worth fighting for. Based on the true story of America’s only leper colony, this novel is a page-turner. If you’re not sure what you’re in the mood for, check out the best books for you, based on your zodiac sign to narrow things down.

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The Red Tent by Anita Diamantvia amazon.com

19. The Red Tent by Anita Diamant

Setting: Ancient Israel

The Red Tent, first published in 1997, takes us back to biblical times as Anita Diamant reinvents the biblical story of Dinah, the daughter of Jacob, who is just briefly hinted at in the Book of Genesis. This look at the world of ancient motherhood is not only passionate but also essential in offering a new view on biblical women’s lives.

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I Claudius BookVia Amazon.com

20. I, Claudius by Robert Graves

Setting: Ancient Rome

This novel, originally published in 1934, is written in the form of an autobiography from the perspective of the Roman emperor Claudius. The book spans a large breath of time, recounting the early years of the Roman Empire, from Julius Caesar’s assassination in 44 BC up to Caligula’s assassination in 41 AD. If you’re absolutely hooked by the end, we’ve got some good news for you: Graves continued the saga in the sequel Claudius the God, which covers the remaining period of the historic figure’s life.

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Alias Grace by Margaret Atwoodvia amazon.com

21. Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood

Setting: 1840s, Canada

While Margaret Atwood may have become a household name thanks to her dystopian novel A Handmaid’s Tale, her 1996 historical fiction book, Alias Grace, should not be overlooked. Set in 1843 and based on the real life of Grace Marks, this book follows Grace after she is convicted of murdering her employer and his housekeeper, who was also his mistress. The issue? Grace claims she has no memory of that day. This historical thriller won the Canadian Giller Prize, was shortlisted for the Booker Prize, and is one of the best books by a female author and one that you won’t be able to get out of your head.

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Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Goldenvia amazon.com

22. Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden

Setting: 1940s–1950s, Japan

There’s a reason why Arthur Golden’s Memoirs of a Geisha, first published in 1997, was nominated as one of America’s best-loved novels by PBS’s The Great American Read. Both entertaining and extremely heartfelt, this novel follows the life of fictional geisha Nitta Sayuri and her story after being sold into slavery to a renowned geisha house in Kyoto, Japan; it’s set before, during, and after World War II. After you’re done reading, make sure to check out the 2005 film based on the novel, which won three Academy Awards.

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Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevaliervia amazon.com

23. Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier

Setting: 1600s, Holland

This 1999 novel, inspired by the famous 17th-century Johannes Vermeer painting of the same name, is for art and history lovers alike. In this fantastical rendering, Chevalier invents the story of the relationship between the painter, the model, and the painting itself. Its universal themes of restraint, love, and womanhood make it easy to see how it became an instant number one New York Times best seller.

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Beloved by Toni Morrisonvia amazon.com

24. Beloved by Toni Morrison

Setting: 1870s, Ohio

Another Pulitzer Prize–winning classic that deserves its rightful spot on our list, Toni Morrison’s 1987 historical fiction best seller tells the story of Sethe, an escaped slave living in post–Civil War Ohio with her daughter, her mother-in-law, and the spirit of her unnamed child, who calls herself Beloved. This masterfully poetic work conjures the pain and brutality of slavery in such a way that all modern audiences can see the institution’s continuing effect on all of our lives. These Black poets also bring the realities of race and racism into their work.

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25. Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

Setting: 1900s, Japan

This 2017 National Book Award finalist by Korean American author Min Jin Lee tells the story of four generations of a poor immigrant Korean family as they attempt to make a life for themselves in 20th-century Japan. The historical epic is perfect for anyone interested in character-driven novels about family, stereotypes, and the power to overcome.

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Fortune Favors the Dead by Stephen Spotswoodvia amazon.com

26. Fortune Favors the Dead by Stephen Spotswood

Setting: 1940s, New York

Historical fiction and mystery are a match made in heaven, and author Stephen Spotswood’s 2020 novel Fortune Favors the Dead proves it beyond a shadow of a doubt. After Willowjean “Will” Parker and Lillian Pentecost become an unlikely detective duo, the two are faced with the case of Abigail Collins, who was murdered in the very same spot her husband had shot himself years before. Full of paranormal hijinks, the story features messages from the dead, vengeful spirits, and a doomed romance. If you love all things spooky, you’ll also want to peruse this list of the best horror books of all time.

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A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towlesvia amazon.com

27. A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

Setting: 1920s–1950s, Russia

Amor Towles’s 2016 novel, set in Moscow during the Stalin era, tells the story of Count Alexander Rostov, a Russian aristocrat who is sentenced to house arrest in a grand hotel by the Bolshevik tribunal. While Russian history unfolds outside his very hotel window, Rostov embarks on his own journey of emotional discovery from within the confines of the hotel walls. This elegant and finely constructed novel is sure to pull you away from the current realities of the world and take you to an era of both violence and refinement.

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The English Patient by Michael Ondaatjevia amazon.com

28. The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje

Setting: 1940s, Italy

While you’ve most likely heard of the 1996 film version of The English Patient, which racked up nine Academy Awards, the book by Michael Ondaatje is also highly decorated. Winner of the Booker Prize, the Governor General’s Award, and the Golden Man Booker, this 1992 novel tells the story of four unlikely characters brought together during the Italian Campaign of World War II. Secrets, romance, and mystery abound.

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29. Atonement by Ian McEwan

Setting: 1930s–1940s, England

At its core, Atonement is a story about a mistake and its aftermath. The 2001 novel centers around young Briony Tallis and the effects of an accusation she makes against Robbie Turner, the Tallis family’s housekeeper and a close friend of Cecilia, Briony’s older sister. Atonement is divided into three parts and a postscript, spanning 1935 England, World War II–era England and France, and present-day England. The 2007 movie adaptation features Keira Knightly, James McAvoy, and a young Saoirse Ronan as Briony. Chances are, you’ll find yourself shedding a few tears while you read this one. These other sad books will also tug at your heartstrings.

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30. The Help by Kathryn Stockett

Setting: 1960s, Mississippi

The Help centers on the lives of Aibileen and Minny, two Black maids, and Skeeter, a White recent college graduate who is deemed a social failure, as they separately and jointly navigate the tense social sphere of Jackson, Mississippi, in the early 1960s. When these three unlikely companions team up to write a tell-all tale about what it’s truly like to work as a Black maid in the Jim Crow South, things change forever. This 2009 historical fiction book became an instant classic, and despite controversy over the portrayal of the characters in relation to the author herself, it is still a book from which much can be learned.

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The Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kiddvia amazon.com

31. The Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd

Setting: Ancient Israel

From the New York Times best-selling author of The Secret Life of Bees and The Invention of Wings comes this creative 2020 novel about the imagined marriage of Jesus Christ. Ana is an ambitious and forward-thinking woman hailing from a wealthy family with ties to the ruler of Galilee. When she meets broad-minded 18-year-old Jesus, her life changes forever—and so does his. Critics say this feminist tale is painstakingly researched and expertly crafted, and readers love it too.

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A Peculiar Combination by Ashley Weavervia amazon.com

32. A Peculiar Combination by Ashley Weaver

Setting: 1940s, England

From mystery to murder, action to romance, Edgar-nominated author Ashley Weaver’s first book in the Electra McDonnell series offers something for everyone. The 2021 psychological thriller follows Electra, a young woman who breaks into houses of the posh in London to keep her family business alive in war-torn England. After getting caught during one such heist by a government official, the two form an unlikely pair to solve a mystery in order to stop Allied plans from falling into the wrong hands.

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Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooksvia amazon.com

33. Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks

Setting: 1660s, England

This 2001 novel, set in England in 1666, has some surprising ties to our current realities. The story follows the spread of a plague from London to an isolated village. Anna Frith, a handmaid, becomes an unlikely healer and heroine in this story of perseverance and the human spirit. What happens when a year of horrors becomes one’s year of wonders? This imaginative and utterly compelling historical fiction book, which was inspired by the true story of a village named Eyam, was chosen as both a New York Times and Washington Post Notable Book.

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The Paris Wife by Paula McLainvia amazon.com

34. The Paris Wife by Paula McLain

Setting: 1920s, France

This New York Times best seller chronicles the love affair between Ernest Hemingway and his first wife, Hadley Richardson, and is told from the latter’s perspective. After a whirlwind courtship and engagement in Chicago, the two set sail for Paris in the 1920s. However, as the Jazz Age heats up and Ernest pours himself into his work, their relationship goes through many ups and downs. A tale of love, betrayal, and romance, this 2011 historical fiction book is as fresh and relevant as ever.

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Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchellvia amazon.com

35. Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

Setting: Mid- to late-1800s, Georgia

We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention Margaret Mitchell’s classic 1936 novel. This Pulitzer Prize–winning tale of romance, survival, and the human spirit hardly needs an introduction. But a word of warning: Gone with the Wind‘s depiction of the Civil War and Reconstruction Era in the American South isn’t entirely accurate and is highly whitewashed, which is why it’s also on this list of beloved books that didn’t age well.

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The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolvervia amazon.com

36. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

Setting: 1960s, Congo

Barbara Kingsolver expertly weaves a story about the Prices, a missionary family who relocate from the U.S. state of Georgia to the village of Kilanga in the Belgian Congo in 1959. But when they arrive, they realize that the village is not what they were expecting. Set against the tumultuous historical backdrop of the Congo’s fight for independence from Belgium, the murder of its first elected prime minister, and the CIA coup to install his replacement, this 1998 novel tells the sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes hopeful tale of three generations living in postcolonial Africa.

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The Personal Librarian BookVia Amazon.com

37. The Personal Librarian by Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray

Setting: Early 1900s, New York

Belle da Costa Greene is hired by the esteemed J.P. Morgan as his personal librarian. Because of this role, Belle quickly becomes a fixture in the New York society scene and is viewed as a beacon of art, literature, and all things splendid. But what seems like a dream job is a constant threat for Belle, who’s hiding a big secret in 1906 America: She’s a Black woman who passes for White. This 2021 New York Times best seller touches on themes of race, legacy, and hope, with messages that still resonate in modern-day America. Stay apprised of all the best new books by joining one of these online book clubs.

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The Marriage of Opposites by Alice Hoffmanvia amazon.com

38. The Marriage of Opposites by Alice Hoffman

Setting: 1800s, Saint Thomas

Alice Hoffman mixes history with romance in her 2015 novel, The Marriage of Opposites, a retelling of the story of the woman who gave birth to Camille Pissarro, the Father of Impressionism. Rachel is a rebellious and strong female character growing up in a Jewish refugee community on Saint Thomas in the early 1800s. After being married off to an old widower who dies suddenly, Rachel meets Frédérick, her late husband’s much younger nephew. The rest, as they say, is history—or, perhaps better yet, historical fiction.

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Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scottvia amazon.com

39. Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott

Setting: Middle Ages, England

This 19th-century classic revisits England in the Middle Ages, as Sir Walter Scott delves into the conflicts between the Crown and the Barons, the Norman overlords and the conquered Saxons, and Richard the Lionheart and his brother, Prince John. Ivanhoe is credited with increasing interest in chivalric romance as a literary category.

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The Lieutenant’s Nurse by Sarah Ackermanvia amazon.com

40. The Lieutenant’s Nurse by Sarah Ackerman

Setting: 1940s, the Pacific

In this novel set before, during, and after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, author Sarah Ackerman paints a vivid picture of the heroic American wartime nurses. Eva Cassidy, a newly enlisted Army Corps nurse, finds herself on the glamorous SS Lurline with the dashing yet mysterious Lt. Clark Spencer. But when Pearl Harbor is bombed and the United States’ involvement in World War II becomes imminent, Eva must band together with her fellow nurses in order to keep the American wounded alive. Filled with romance, hardship, and hope, this 2019 historical fiction piece has something for everyone. Need a brief break from books? Curl up on the couch with one of these beloved romantic movies.

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The Whispers of War by Julia Kellyvia amazon.com

41. The Whispers of War by Julia Kelly

Setting: 1940s, England

How far would you go to protect your friends? It’s 1939, and the threat of war is looming in England for childhood best friends Nora, Hazel, and Marie. When Germany invades Poland, German expat Marie is labeled as an enemy and threatened to be put into an internment camp. The three friends find themselves fighting to keep Marie free—and fighting for their friendship. Publishers Weekly praised this 2019 novel as “intricate, tender, and convincing.”

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Clark and Division by Naomi Hiraharavia amazon.com

42. Clark and Division by Naomi Hirahara

Setting: 1940s, Chicago

Aki Ito and her parents have just been released from Manzanar, the Japanese internment camp they had been sent to after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Just as they’re about to reunite with Aki’s older sister, Rose, in Chicago, they learn that Rose has mysteriously died. Aki sets off to uncover the mystery of Rose’s death while also coming to terms with the heartbreaking discrimination Japanese American families faced during this time period. What makes this 2021 historical fiction book particularly amazing is the 30 years of research author Naomi Hirahara completed on Japanese American history in order to write it. If you’re looking for material for a younger audience, these children’s books about diversity will address difficult topics in an age-appropriate way.

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The Kitchen Front BookVia Amazon.com

43. The Kitchen Front by Jennifer Ryan

Setting: 1940s, England

From author Jennifer Ryan comes an uplifting story of passion, drive, and femininity. It’s the midst of World War II, and England is beginning to feel its losses. In order to boost morale, the BBC creates a wartime cooking competition with an incredible prize: the chance for the winner to become the program’s first-ever female cohost. Four women enter the competition with different reasons for wanting to win, but will they band together when they need it most, or will their competitive streaks break them apart? Reviewers from Reader’s Digest, Booklist, and NPR rave that this 2021 book is a delightful and satisfying page-turner.

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The Last Dance of the Debutante by Julia Kellyvia amazon.com

44. The Last Dance of the Debutante by Julia Kelly

Setting: 1950s, England

It’s time to get whisked away in a whirl of ball gowns, glitz, and glamour. The newest historical fiction book by Julia Kelly, which is set to be published in January 2022, follows three unlikely friends as they navigate the last debutante season in 1958 London, where they will be presented to Queen Elizabeth II. But when Lily Nichols learns a secret that threatens to devastate her family, the season takes a turn and these young women learn what’s really important in life.

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The Children’s Blizzard by Melanie Benjaminvia amazon.com

45. The Children’s Blizzard by Melanie Benjamin

Setting: 1880s, the Great Plains

This gripping tale of survival, resilience, and courage, written by the author of The Aviator’s Wife and set to release early January 2022, is based on the true story of the Schoolhouse Blizzard of 1888. In it, two schoolteacher sisters, Raina and Gerda Olsen, are faced with the difficult decision of how to save their students when an unexpected blizzard strikes. While fictionalized, this story about nature threatening the lives of hundreds of immigrant families is as important as it is riveting.

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The Book of Lost Names by Kristin Harmelvia amazon.com

46. The Book of Lost Names by Kristin Harmel

Setting: 1940s, France

All that is forgotten isn’t always lost—or so says Kristin Harmel’s 2020 historical novel, The Book of Lost Names. The story centers around Eva Traube Abrams, a graduate student forced to flee Paris at the start of World War II. Eva begins forging identity documents for Jewish children hoping to escape to neutral Switzerland with the help of fellow forger Rémy. But Eva has also been keeping a record of the children’s true identities in the Book of Lost Names, which leads to a moment that will come back to haunt her years down the line.

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The Tobacco Wives BookVia Amazon.com

47. The Tobacco Wives by Adele Myers

Setting: 1940s, North Carolina

You’re going to want to get your hands on this highly anticipated novel, set to be released early 2022, about the lesser-known women’s activism during the post-war period. It follows Maddie Sykes, a young seamstress who relocates to Bright Leaf, North Carolina, to join her aunt’s sewing business. Bright Leaf just so happens to be the Big Tobacco capital of the South, and her aunt’s clientele includes the glamorous wives of the tobacco executives. But when Maddie uncovers evidence that links Big Tobacco to the declining health of Bright Leaf’s citizens, she has to make a big decision: do what’s best for her fellow man … or what’s best for her. In your own life, these self-help books can help you tackle your own brand of tricky decisions.

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The Mad Girls of New York by Maya Rodalevia amazon.com

48. The Mad Girls of New York by Maya Rodale

Setting: 1880s, New York

Maya Rodale weaves a tale about the life of famous Gilded Age reporter Nellie Bly and her undercover escapades at Blackwell’s Island Insane Asylum for Women. Set to be published in April 2022, this historical fiction book follows Nellie as she uncovers the horrible conditions that Blackwell patients were subject to. What starts off as a way to prove her ability in the male-dominated field of early journalism turns into a mission far greater.

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The Magnolia Palace BookVia Amazon.com

49. The Magnolia Palace by Fiona Davis

Setting: 1920s, New York

This historical fiction novel, set to come out in January 2022, follows the story of 21-year-old Lillian Carter. After losing her mother to the Spanish flu in 1919, Lillian jumps at the chance to be employed as the secretary to Helen Frick. But as time goes on and Lillian’s life becomes more and more intertwined with that of the infamous New York family, the stakes become high—life-or-death high. Full of secrets, mystery, murder, and romance, this Reader’s Digest favorite will likely become one of yours too.

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The Nightingale by Kristin Hannahvia amazon.com

50. The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

Setting: 1940s, France

While Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale is set during World War II, it’s not your typical war story. Instead, Hannah reimagines this volatile time from a female perspective, telling the story of two sisters, Vianne and Isabelle, as they separately navigate German-occupied France. Vianne gets her home requisitioned by a German captain and must make impossible choices in order to keep herself and her daughter alive. Meanwhile, 18-year-old Isabelle falls in love with Gaetan, who believes the French can fight the Nazis from within France. But what happens when he betrays her? A deeply moving tale about the resilience of women, this best-selling fan favorite will stay with you long after the last page. For a totally different type of read, our favorite fantasy books will take you well out of reality and into magical, mythical worlds.

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Lucie Turkel
Lucie is a lifestyle and culture writer covering the latest in holidays, books, movies and television, and e-commerce for RD.com. She graduated with an individualized major in Comparative Literary & Cultural Studies from the University of Connecticut.