It’s impossible to put all historical fiction books into one list that is small enough. There are more than 223,546 historical fiction books out there. Instead, I chose adult historical fiction books that show off a wide range of time periods, characters, and more. The reason we read historical fiction is so that we can go back in time and space. This list, I think, gives you the widest view of our world’s shared history. We can go back and forth in time and space now.
What is historical fiction?
An easy way to think about historical fiction is that it’s a story that takes place in the past. History books are usually written at least 30–50 years after the event or time period they are about. When writing a historical fiction book, a lot of it is based on research. Some of it may come from a real-life experience.
In addition, historical fiction is usually thought to be more realistic. Books that mix up genres, on the other hand, have shown how a little fantasy or magical realism can help us learn more about how the past worked. Because of this, I think historical fiction books are also those that couldn’t have happened at any other time or in any other place because of this. Whether it is a character or a plot twist, the book’s time period and real historical events are as important to the story as any of them. You can also read more about this at the Historical Novel Society.
The Best Historical Fiction Books
A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles
Time and place: 1920s, Russia In 1922, Count Alexander Rostov is found to be an unrepentant aristocrat by a Bolshevik tribunal. He is sentenced to house arrest in the Metropol, a grand hotel across the street from the Kremlin, where he will spend the rest of his time. It turns out that Rostov, a man with a lot of knowledge and humor, has never worked a day in his life. He now has to live in an attic room while some of the most tumultuous decades in Russian history are happening outside the hotel’s doors. Unbeknownst to him, his limited circumstances allow him to enter into a much bigger world of emotional exploration.
This one-of-a-kind book has a lot of humor, a colorful cast of characters, and beautiful scenes. It tells the story of the count’s quest to learn more about what it means to be a man of purpose.
A Rising Man by Abir Mukherjee
In the 1900s, India was a country. Calcutta, 1919: This is what the city looked like. There is a new captain in Calcutta: Sam Wyndham, who used to work for Scotland Yard. When Wyndham was in the Great War, he was desperate for a new start. He has been chosen to lead a new department in the police force, and he wants to start over. He is immediately overwhelmed by the heady vibrancy of the tropical city. With no time to adapt or deal with the ghosts that still haunt him, Wyndham is caught up in a murder investigation that could destabilize a city already on the edge of political insurgency.
The body of a senior official has been found in a disgusting sewer. A note left in his mouth tells the British to leave India, or else they will die. Wyndham and his two new colleagues, Inspector Digby and Sergeant Banerjee, are under a lot of pressure to solve the case before it escalates into more violence on the streets. They go on an investigation that will take them from the opulent mansions of wealthy British traders to the seedy opium dens of the city.
Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood
In the 1800s, Canada was a country. Grace Marks has been found guilty of murdering her employer, his housekeeper, and his mistress. It’s 1843. There are people who think Grace is innocent, and there are people who think she is evil or crazy. Grace, who is now serving a life sentence, says that she doesn’t remember killing the people.
A group of reformers and spiritualists want Grace to be pardoned. An up-and-coming expert in the field of mental health is hired by them. His ears are tuned in as he listens to her story and brings her closer and closer to the day that she can not remember. What will he find when he tries to open her memories? Alias Grace is both captivating and disturbing. Margaret Atwood is at her best in this book, which won the Booker Prize and is a bestseller.
As Meat Loves Salt by Maria McCann
In the 1600s, England was a country. An example: In the 17th century, the English Revolution is taking place. Violence and terror have broken out across the country because of religious and political discontent. Jacob Cullen and his friends want to start over when the war is over. But war will take them over.
As Meat Loves Salt is a darkly erotic story about love and obsession. It’s a gripping picture of a war-torn England. It is also a moving picture of a man who is on the verge of going crazy. This is a book that has been called a masterpiece. It is written by a very unique new voice in fiction.
Beloved by Toni Morrison
In the late 1800s, the United States. Exodus and a lullaby are two of the most powerful stories in history, but this book turns history into a story that is as personal as a lullaby.
As a child, Sethe became a slave and fled to Ohio. 18 years later, she is still not free. Too many times, she thinks about Sweet Home, the beautiful farm where so many bad things happened. So when Sethe moves into her new home, the ghost of her baby, who died without a name and whose tombstone reads “Beloved,” haunts it. Beloved is one of the best books ever written. It’s full of bitter poetry and suspense that’s as tight as a rope.
The Book of Night Women by Marlon James
Late 1700s, Jamaica: The time and place. The Book of Night Women is a true masterwork of voice and storytelling. It has both a profound authenticity and a modern energy. It is the story of Lilith, who was born into slavery on a Jamaican sugar plantation at the end of the 1800s. Even when she was born, the slave women around her knew that she had a dark power that they both revered and feared.
It has been a long time since the Night Women, as they call themselves, planned to free their slaves. As Lilith comes of age, they see her as a key to their plans. However, when Lilith starts to understand her own feelings and desires, she starts to push the boundaries of what is possible for a slave woman. This makes her a weak link in the conspiracy. There is a lot to learn from this book, but Marlon James is the real star of the show. He’s a young writer who is both daring and skilled.
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
In the 1930s, Germany was a country. The year is 1939. In Nazi Germany, there were a lot of people who were The country is waiting for its breath to be taken in. As time goes on, death will get even busier.
Liesel Meminger is a foster girl who lives outside of Munich and steals when she comes across something she can’t resist: books. He plays an accordion so that she can learn to read and share her stolen books with her neighbors and the Jewish man hiding in the basement when the bombs fall.
The Bourbon Thief by Tiffany Reisz
In the 1900s, the U.S. was a country. After a night with a beautiful stranger, Cooper McQueen wakes up to find that someone has taken his money and other things. The only thing that was stolen was a million-dollar bottle of bourbon. The thief, a woman named Paris, says that the bottle is hers. All right, the label says it’s owned by the Maddox family, who owned and ran Red Thread Bourbon distillery from the end of the Civil War until the company went out of business for no one knows why. Nobody but Paris.
At some point in the early hours of a Louisville morning, Paris starts telling the story of Tamara Maddox, the heiress to the distillery that turned into a huge business. But the roots of the family tree are in tainted soil, and it has grown rotten fruit. They have a lot of money and power, but they also have lies, secrets, and omissions that they didn’t tell anyone about. Their blood and their bourbon have bourbon in them and blood in their bourbon, too. To find out why Paris wants the bottle of Red Thread, the truth about her identity and the century-old vengeance Tamara took on her family will have to wait.
The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka
In the early 1900s, the U.S. was a country. This is a beautiful book by the author of When the Emperor Was Divine. It tells the story of a group of young women who were brought from Japan to San Francisco as “picture brides” nearly a century ago.
The Buddha in the Attic tells the stories of eight women who lived extraordinary lives. They traveled by boat, arrived in San Francisco, and had tense first nights as new wives. They raised children who would later reject their culture and language, and then war came. Again, Julie Otsuka has written an amazing book about what it means to be an American in a time of uncertainty about who you are and who you should be.
Doc by Mary Doria Russell
In the late 1800s, the United States. In this description, Dr. John Henry Holliday, born in the South, comes to the Texas frontier in hopes of getting better with the dry air and sunshine of the West. He was born into a wealthy Southern family. The two of them start gambling for a living soon, even though Doc Holliday doesn’t have many job options. His partner is Mário Katarina Harony, a high-strung and classically educated Hungarian whore.
In their search for high-stakes poker, the couple goes to the saloons in Dodge City, where they meet other people. Before the gunfight at the O.K. Corral, Doc Holliday and Wyatt Earp formed an unlikely friendship. When neither man wanted to be famous or deserved to be famous, they formed a friendship.