Gems from the Past
Tired of reading all the latest and "greatest" historical novels from our current batch of best selling authors? Looking for something old that could be a newly discovered treasure? Some of these have been newly reissued, but most are out of print and in some cases quite hard to find without spending a fortune, although the hunt is worth it. Happy reading.

Note to clarify: This list is for historical novels. It is not for novels that were contemporary at the time they were written/published. Austen, Bronte, Gaskell, etc. do not qualify.

Additional clarification 11/7/13:The list creator intended this list for long-lost, long-forgotten, out-of-print historical novels. As noted above, novels by authors like Bronte, Austen, etc. were contemporary at the time they were written, and do not qualify for this list. Children's books, romantic suspense, mysteries, "Jaws" or any other book that might be deemed a "classic". Historical novels that have been continuously in print and well known (that includes Sharon Penman, much as we love you) do not meet the purposes of this list, nor do historical novels that have only been published in the last year or two.

I apologize for the confusion, this list was created when I was fairly new to Goodreads and didn't realize anyone and everyone could vote on my list and that I hadn't made the guidelines for adding books clear enough.
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flag this list (?)
334 books · 347 voters · list created January 25th, 2009 by Misfit (votes) .
57 likes · Like
Lists are re-scored approximately every 5 minutes.


Misfit 4864 books
371 friends
Susanna - Censored by GoodReads 2619 books
535 friends
Josie 1527 books
35 friends
Laura 8324 books
191 friends
Tracey 1045 books
294 friends
Rebecca 459 books
9 friends
Donnette 21 books
13 friends
Dottie 7489 books
125 friends

More voters…


Comments (showing 1-27 of 27) (27 new)

dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Thom (new)

Thom Dunn The Forty Days of Musa Dagh, by Hans Werfel...I tried three times with no success, yet the book exists in multiple editions on the Goodreads site. Frustrating.


message 2: by Linds (new)

Linds What a great list. Thanks for putting this together!


message 3: by Janet (new)

Janet I found a couple that looked interesting, I put them on my to-read list. I remember a lot of these titles, but am not sure if I've read them or not. I like this list!


message 4: by Laura (new)

Laura a GREAT list Misfit. I would add The Forsyte Saga


Elizabeth(The Book Whisperer) I love this list! I have found several I am planning to read and a few I have read since discovering this list. It is very exciting to find new books to read, even though these books aren't new at all1


message 6: by Caz (new)

Caz Puzzled that Jane Austen's books are on here...


message 7: by Laura (new)

Laura Someone must have added these books on this list. If you are a librarian, you may remove them.


message 8: by Misfit (new)

Misfit Laura wrote: "Someone must have added these books on this list. If you are a librarian, you may remove them."

GR is pretty serious about not removing books from lists unless they absolutely do not belong on said list. This is actually a list I created. I could reword the list description if that would help.


message 9: by Laura (new)

Laura My sincere apologies!!!


message 10: by Misfit (new)

Misfit What's to apologize for?


message 11: by Caz (new)

Caz @Misfit: I actually assumed that you hadn't put those particular titles on the list and that someone else had added them (which was why I mentioned it).


message 12: by Misfit (new)

Misfit Thing is, anyone can add a book to any list at GR. I'm OK with what gets added on as long as it isn't another stinking Twilight or Fifty Shades. I just like see the oldie books listed.


message 13: by Misfit (new)

Misfit PS, I don't know if you've ever tried to remove a book from a list Laura, but there's a we are really really serious about removing books from lists so you'd better be really really sure the book is wrong. It's better to wait for the experts, like Susannah, and play it safe.


Themis-Athena (Does not and never will own a Kindle) How far back is "from the past"? E.g., I see some of Sharon Kay Penman's books on this list -- they're great historical fiction of course, but Penman is a contemporary author, even if some of the books placed on this list have been out quite a while. Also, her books (IMHO, at least) don't necessarily qualify as "worthy of being rediscovered" ... almost all of them are bestsellers and never went out of print.

That all said: GREAT list indeed!


Themis-Athena (Does not and never will own a Kindle) Also: I notice the list is starting to be stuffed with the likes of Austen, Bronte and Dickens. I'd personally have no qualms about removing those (clearly contemporary writing when first published) -- Sir Walter Scott is a different matter, of course.


message 16: by Misfit (new)

Misfit Themis-Athena wrote: "Also: I notice the list is starting to be stuffed with the likes of Austen, Bronte and Dickens. I'd personally have no qualms about removing those (clearly contemporary writing when first publishe..."

I'm wondering how Charlotte's Web, Heidi and Peter Name to name three got on the list. *shrugs*


Themis-Athena (Does not and never will own a Kindle) Misfit wrote: "Themis-Athena wrote: "Also: I notice the list is starting to be stuffed with the likes of Austen, Bronte and Dickens. I'd personally have no qualms about removing those (clearly contemporary writi..."

Do you want any books to be removed? As you specified very clearly in the list description what should NOT be added, librarians would be on the safe side at the very least deleting those books that are squarely within the "contemporaneous when written" category you expressly mentioned as books not to be added.


message 18: by Misfit (new)

Misfit I'd like to see more opinions from others who have voted on this list, as my original description wasn't clear enough.


message 19: by Caz (new)

Caz Misfit wrote: "I'd like to see more opinions from others who have voted on this list, as my original description wasn't clear enough."

I think your description was quite clear enough - I just think the people who added those particular books didn't read it!

No: Austen, Dickens, Hardy (even though Oliver Twist could just about be called "historical", it's hardly unknown) - Penman, for the reasons given above - even GWTW is hardly unknown, is it?


message 20: by Misfit (new)

Misfit Thanks for the input Caz.


message 21: by Misfit (last edited Nov 07, 2013 05:42AM) (new)

Misfit What is Jaws doing on this list?


message 22: by Misfit (last edited Nov 07, 2013 05:56AM) (new)

Misfit I think I need to clarify some more and then clean this list up. I love Penman, but a book that hasn't been out of print should not belong here, nor shoulda recently published historical like By Fire, By Water.


message 23: by Diane Lynn (new)

Diane Lynn This is a great list Misfit.


message 24: by Misfit (new)

Misfit Diane Lynn wrote: "This is a great list Misfit."

Thank you ma'am :)


message 25: by Misfit (new)

Misfit #209 By Fire, By Water removed. A novel published in 2010 is not a gem from the past.


message 26: by Aerulan (last edited May 02, 2015 10:23PM) (new)

Aerulan The Wild Reel by Paul Brandon is an urban fantasy with a contemporary setting and was written in 2004. It's a good book but nothing about it makes it suitable for this list as far as I can see.


message 27: by Misfit (new)

Misfit Aerulan wrote: "The Wild Reel by Paul Brandon is an urban fantasy with a contemporary setting and was written in 2004. It's a good book but nothing about it makes it suitable for this list as far as ..."

Thank you.


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Anyone can add books to this list.