April 8, 2009

Thursday Thirteen - Historical Fiction

Part Two

Apologies to those of you who came back last Thursday, hoping to find my second list of historical fiction favorites. The day came and went before I knew it. I still have a few more to share after today, but I won't promise to have a list up next Thursday!

From Bookmarks Magazine:

Bookstores, libraries—even this magazine—all seek to help readers by categorizing books into generally accepted genres: literary fiction, crime, romance, inspirational, and all the rest. Fans of historical fiction know that there are other ways of categorizing the world of books, but they are forced to sort through tales of modern suburban angst, lurid contemporary thrillers, or generic bodice rippers to find the works that match a compelling story with an informed view of the past. However, once a reader is on the trail of historical fiction, the genre’s diversity has some real benefits: regardless of one’s mood or temperament, there’s always a mystery, a western, a romance, or a sweeping epic that can be found to fit one’s tastes.

If finding historical fiction can be tricky, defining it is even trickier. The Historical Novel Society’s definition, for example, includes novels written at least 50 years after the events described or novels written by people approaching the subject only via research. Others may use a different cut-off date. Still, for the most part, readers recognize historical fiction when they see it.

The genre also has unofficial rules that authors are expected to follow. To persuade readers that the story could really have happened (and perhaps some of it did), authors should portray the time period as accurately as possible and avoid obvious anachronisms. The fiction and the history should be well balanced, with neither one overwhelming the other. It’s a tough genre to write, but a fascinating one to read. (Masters of the Past, Twenty Classic Historical Novels and Their Legacy by Sarah L. Johnson)

by Gary Jennings

The Good Earth
by Pearl S. Buck

The Book Thief
by Markus Zusak

The Tea Rose
by Jennifer Donnelly

by Alan Brennert

Dreamers of the Day
by Mary Doria Russell

by Sandra Dallas

The Year of Wonders
by Geraldine Brooks

The Help
by Kathryn Stockett

The Last Days of Summer
by Steve Kluger

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet
by Jamie Ford

Click on the titles for plot summaries and purchasing information.

My favorites, you ask? Well, The Book Thief is definitely my #1 pick, but The Help, The Tea Rose, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and Dreamers of the Day are excellent, as well.

Click here if you missed the first list of historical fiction favorites.


  1. What a great list Lesley! Some I have read and some I really want to read--namely, The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet!
    Thanks for such a well thought out post and list.

  2. After having read almost all of your first group, I've only read 3 of these...but The Good Earth is one of my all-time favorites and I loved Guernsey and The Tea Rose. The Help will be my next audio book, and I have a couple of the others in my tbr pile. These are great lists. Thanks, Les!

  3. Great list. I've read most of them, and agree they belong on this list. Those couple I haven't read I'm going to check out becuase you obviously have good taste.

  4. Now this list is very recognizable and filled with great reads (imho). I've read 7/10, but have Dreamers of the Day on my iPod ready to go. Aztec and The Madonnas of Leningrad have escaped me.

    I see Little Bee under "Currently Reading"! I was notified yesterday that my copy at the library is waiting for me. So, that means it has advanced to next read status. I won't be reading your review, but I will be looking for your rating. :) Of course, I'll come back and read it after I've posted my thoughts. I hope it's hanging in there with its predecessors.

  5. Another terrific list. You and I agree on several books. I've read and loved: The Book Thief (definitely one of my top ten of all time), The Good Earth, Moloka'i, The Madonnas of Leningrad and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. I have Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet and The Help waiting to be read. Thanks for giving me some I haven't thought about to add to my growing wish list!

  6. Oh I like that intro you posted. I'm so happy with my local indie bookstore which actually has shelves devoted to historical fiction. That's rare. Granted, if it's mainly a mystery then it goes in mysteries and so on. But that has helped me add bunches of new titles to look for.

    I've read some of your list selections and my faves are The Book Thief, The Good Earth and Year of Wonders.

  7. Another very familiar looking list. Of the 7 I've read I really liked most of them.

    Year of Wonders (IMHO)would be great if the last chapter was eliminated.

    The other's I've read and really liked are: Aztec, Good Earth, Book Thief, Tea Rose, Madonnas and Guernsey.

    Is it any wonder that I've learned to trust your recommendations???

  8. Kim - Thanks! Glad you enjoyed the list. Hope you get to Jamie Ford's book soon.

    JoAnn - I loaned my copy of The Help to my sister-in-law and she's loving it! It really is a wonderful, wonderful book. I can't wait to hear what you think of the audio.

    Joy - Aztec is quite a chunkster! My husband bought it while we were vacationing in Puerto Vallerta over 20 years ago! I read it after we came home and really enjoyed it.

    I just finished Little Bee earlier this evening. I really liked it. I won't post a review until next week, as we have a busy weekend visiting friends. I wonder if you'll like it. It's somewhere between a 4 and 4.5 rating. Definitely worth my time.

    Wendy - I enjoyed Moloka'i and The Madonnas of Leningrad, but I wouldn't say I loved them. At least not in retrospect. When I compare them (and The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet) to The Book Thief, The Help, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and Dreamers of the Day, they definitely don't fall into the "great" category. Just my two cents, though!

    Iliana - Wow. I'd love to see a section of our bookstore devoted to nothing but historical fiction. We have a couple of endcaps set up with favorite works of historical fiction, but they're all shelved within general fiction.

    Sounds like The Book Thief is high on everyone's list of favorites in this genre.

    SuziQ - I liked some more than others on this list, too. I think we agree on most, although I wouldn't say I loved Madonnas.

    I'm so glad you trust my recommendations. Get The Help! It's fabulous!

  9. Loved your list!! I've read quite a few of those but it looks like I have a few to check out!!

  10. Hooray for The Good Earth, but the whole list looks tasty!

  11. I'm so stoked I get to meet Markus Z. as we both are doing readings on Kauai at the same time!!! I loved that book!!!

  12. The best historical fiction I ever read was The World is Not Enough. I remember the story took place in the Dark Ages. The main character had to marry at twelve or thirteen. She had about twenty children!

    I also loved Love is a Wild Assault, but I doubt if others would love it as I have; I love it because it takes place, for the most part, along the Gulf Coast of Texas, where I live and grew up. It is the story of some of the early settlers of this area. My mom gave it to me to read when I was a young girl.

  13. I've only read 4 of these 13. I need to quit doing all those other fun things that distract me from reading! I do need to clean my house and I so enjoy time with my family, so I really just need to read faster and faster... LOL

  14. Staci - Thanks. I have a few more to share, but doubt I'll have enough for another Thursday Thirteen. I'll get around to posting another list one of these days.

    Bybee - I love making lists. :)

    Pat - You are so lucky!!! I would love to meet Markus Zusak. Yep, it's a great book.

    Debnance - Thanks for the recommendations. I'll have to see if we have a copies at work and give them a look.

    Booklogged - I know exactly what you mean! I always have great intentions of spending an entire day curled up with a book, but it usually winds up being just an hour or two at the most.

  15. Melanie - Thanks! Sorry I missed your comment. Just discovered it hadn't been published yet.

  16. I just requested this book from the library and hope to read it soon. Based on your review I'm sure to love it!

  17. Stephanie - Which book?

  18. Kristen10:49 AM

    Thank you so much for the book list. I love historical fiction and I have been looking for some new reads. I found one the other day that you might be interested in. It's called Bedlam South by David R. Donaldson and Mark Grisham. Check it out and see what you think!

  19. Kristen - Glad you enjoyed the list. Thanks for the recommendation. I'll have to check it out!


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