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  • Writer's pictureNovel Nest

10 Historical Fiction Books That Will Make You Smarter!

Updated: Aug 3, 2023



As we reflect on the past during late summer thunderstorms and the changing of seasons, we reached out to our bookworm community and asked them about the historical fiction books that taught them the most and why. Their responses left us eager to embark on a journey into the past in search of knowledge. Here is a curated selection of their recommended historical fiction books that will expand your horizons. We’ve included reader reviews and publishers’ descriptions to give you a glimpse into each captivating story.


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1. “Fall of Giants” by Ken Follett

Ken Follett’s epic historical novel kicks off his Century Trilogy, following five interrelated families as they navigate the momentous dramas of the First World War, the Russian Revolution, and the fight for women’s suffrage. This gripping tale takes you from Welsh mining pits to Woodrow Wilson’s White House, from aristocratic households to the chaos of war, providing an immersive experience of the twentieth century’s transformative events.



2. “Cutting for Stone” by Abraham Verghese

Immerse yourself in the vivid world of Ethiopia through this beautifully written novel. Set in Addis Ababa, it tells the captivating story of twin brothers, born to an Indian nun and a British surgeon. As they navigate their personal and cultural identities, their lives become entangled with love, betrayal, and the practice of medicine. Abraham Verghese’s masterful storytelling transports readers to a land rich in history and tradition.



3. “Auschwitz Lullaby” by Mario Escobar

Based on a true story, this gripping novel follows Helene Hannemann, a German woman who sacrifices everything for her family during the Holocaust. When her Romani husband and children are taken into custody by the SS, Helene, despite being German and safe, refuses to abandon them. Through Helene’s harrowing journey in Auschwitz, Mario Escobar explores the power of sacrifice, the strength of the human spirit, and the profound impact of acts of kindness.



4. “Maisie Dobbs” by Jacqueline Winspear

Set in London during the aftermath of World War I, this compelling novel introduces Maisie Dobbs, a former maid who becomes a private investigator. Maisie’s unique perspective as a woman and her deep empathy allow her to uncover the truth behind complex mysteries. Jacqueline Winspear’s series delves into the impacts of war on society while exploring human nature and the resilience of the human spirit.



5. “My Name Is Resolute” by Nancy E. Turner

Set in the 18th century, “My Name Is Resolute” follows the captivating journey of Resolute Talbot, who is captured by pirates and sold into slavery in colonial New England. As she navigates the challenges of a society quick to judge a young woman without a family, Resolute becomes entwined in the events of the American Revolution. Nancy E. Turner weaves a tale of resilience, determination, and the untold stories of the brave women who played a role in shaping history.



6. “Moloka’i” by Alan Brennert

Set in early 20th century Hawaii, “Moloka’i” tells the story of Rachel Kalama, a young girl who is forcibly removed from her family due to her leprosy diagnosis and sent to the isolated leper colony of Kalaupapa. Alan Brennert’s poignant novel explores themes of resilience, love, and the indomitable spirit of those affected by a devastating disease. Through Rachel’s experiences, readers gain a deep understanding of the human capacity to find strength and beauty even in the face of immense challenges.


7. “An Untamed Land” by Lauraine Snelling

In “An Untamed Land,” Roald and Ingeborg Bjorklund, along with their son Thorliff, leave their home in Norway to pursue a new life in America in the late 19th century. Settling in Dakota Territory, they face the harsh realities of the untamed land and the challenges of building a prosperous future. Lauraine Snelling’s immersive storytelling sheds light on the struggles, dreams, and resilience of emigrant pioneers as they strive for a better life in a new world.



8. “Secrets of a Charmed Life” by Susan Meissner

Set in Oxford, England, “Secrets of a Charmed Life” follows Kendra Van Zant, an American scholar who interviews Isabel McFarland, an elderly woman ready to reveal the secrets she has kept about her experiences during World War II. The novel seamlessly weaves between the present and the 1940s, exploring the lives of two sisters during the London Blitz and the profound impact of their choices. Susan Meissner’s evocative storytelling invites readers to contemplate the resilience of the human spirit and the lasting effects of war.



9. “The Narrow Road to the Deep North” by Richard Flanagan

Set during World War II, “The Narrow Road to the Deep North” portrays the life of Dorrigo Evans, an Australian surgeon held as a prisoner of war by the Japanese. Richard Flanagan’s powerful narrative delves into themes of love, courage, and the enduring impact of war. Through Dorrigo’s harrowing experiences, the novel explores the complexities of human relationships and the moral dilemmas faced in extraordinary circumstances.



10. “The Book Thief” by Markus Zusak

Set in Nazi Germany, “The Book Thief” is a poignant and unforgettable story narrated by Death. It follows Liesel Meminger, a young girl who finds solace in books amidst the turmoil of war. Markus Zusak’s lyrical prose and unique perspective offer profound insights into the power of words, the resilience of the human spirit, and the endurance of hope even in the darkest times.




These are just a few examples of the historical fiction books recommended by our readers. Each of these stories provides an opportunity to learn about different eras, cultures, and human experiences. Whether you’re interested in World War history, exploring diverse cultures, or seeking emotional and thought-provoking narratives, these books offer a chance to delve into the past and emerge with a deeper understanding of the world. Happy reading!



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