Best Historical Fiction
The best of historical fiction. Historical fiction are novels that re-create a period or event in history and often use historical figures as some of its characters. To be deemed historical, a novel must have been written at least fifty years after the events described.
1 Memoirs of a Geisha
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4.03 of 5 stars 4.03 avg rating — 1,045,213 ratings
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2 Gone with the Wind
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4.25 of 5 stars 4.25 avg rating — 647,327 ratings
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3 The Pillars of the Earth  (...
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4.26 of 5 stars 4.26 avg rating — 333,455 ratings
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4 The Book Thief
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4.36 of 5 stars 4.36 avg rating — 676,137 ratings
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5 The Other Boleyn Girl (The ...
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4.02 of 5 stars 4.02 avg rating — 319,662 ratings
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6 The Red Tent
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4.14 of 5 stars 4.14 avg rating — 336,699 ratings
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7 A Tale of Two Cities
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3.76 of 5 stars 3.76 avg rating — 510,596 ratings
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8 Girl With a Pearl Earring
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3.8 of 5 stars 3.80 avg rating — 333,102 ratings
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9 The Good Earth (House of Ea...
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3.94 of 5 stars 3.94 avg rating — 144,356 ratings
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10 Shōgun (Asian Saga, #3)
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4.33 of 5 stars 4.33 avg rating — 79,872 ratings
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11 The Historian
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3.74 of 5 stars 3.74 avg rating — 163,402 ratings
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12 The Thorn Birds
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4.18 of 5 stars 4.18 avg rating — 198,398 ratings
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13 The Clan of the Cave Bear (...
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3.97 of 5 stars 3.97 avg rating — 147,038 ratings
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14 The Mists of Avalon (Avalon...
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4.1 of 5 stars 4.10 avg rating — 128,927 ratings
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15 Snow Flower and the Secret Fan
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4.02 of 5 stars 4.02 avg rating — 218,466 ratings
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16 The Name of the Rose
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4.08 of 5 stars 4.08 avg rating — 148,164 ratings
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17 World Without End (The Pill...
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4.19 of 5 stars 4.19 avg rating — 97,745 ratings
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18 Dragonfly in Amber (Outland...
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4.31 of 5 stars 4.31 avg rating — 106,332 ratings
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19 The Scarlet Letter
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3.32 of 5 stars 3.32 avg rating — 386,577 ratings
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20 Lonesome Dove
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4.44 of 5 stars 4.44 avg rating — 86,763 ratings
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21 The Shadow of the Wind (The...
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4.21 of 5 stars 4.21 avg rating — 206,405 ratings
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22 The Color Purple
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4.13 of 5 stars 4.13 avg rating — 297,610 ratings
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23 Roots: The Saga of an Ameri...
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4.39 of 5 stars 4.39 avg rating — 90,686 ratings
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24 Cold Mountain
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3.78 of 5 stars 3.78 avg rating — 139,429 ratings
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25 War and Peace
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4.08 of 5 stars 4.08 avg rating — 118,096 ratings
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26 The Guernsey Literary and P...
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4.1 of 5 stars 4.10 avg rating — 304,423 ratings
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27 Year of Wonders
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3.99 of 5 stars 3.99 avg rating — 80,405 ratings
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28 I, Claudius (Claudius, #1)
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4.27 of 5 stars 4.27 avg rating — 28,583 ratings
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29 The Three Musketeers
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4.03 of 5 stars 4.03 avg rating — 157,017 ratings
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30 East of Eden
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4.31 of 5 stars 4.31 avg rating — 243,528 ratings
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31 Drums of Autumn (Outlander,...
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4.33 of 5 stars 4.33 avg rating — 78,305 ratings
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32 The Killer Angels
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4.27 of 5 stars 4.27 avg rating — 45,280 ratings
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33 The Crucible
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3.49 of 5 stars 3.49 avg rating — 171,159 ratings
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34 The Alienist
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4.03 of 5 stars 4.03 avg rating — 73,796 ratings
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35 The Fiery Cross (Outlander,...
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4.25 of 5 stars 4.25 avg rating — 67,072 ratings
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36 Atonement
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3.83 of 5 stars 3.83 avg rating — 272,288 ratings
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37 A Breath of Snow and Ashes ...
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4.4 of 5 stars 4.40 avg rating — 58,508 ratings
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38 Katherine
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4.18 of 5 stars 4.18 avg rating — 17,329 ratings
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39 Sarah's Key
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4.11 of 5 stars 4.11 avg rating — 250,990 ratings
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40 Like Water for Chocolate
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3.91 of 5 stars 3.91 avg rating — 228,952 ratings
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41 One Hundred Years of Solitude
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3.99 of 5 stars 3.99 avg rating — 420,949 ratings
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42 Doctor Zhivago
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4.02 of 5 stars 4.02 avg rating — 47,929 ratings
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43 The English Patient
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3.86 of 5 stars 3.86 avg rating — 69,292 ratings
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44 Exodus
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4.31 of 5 stars 4.31 avg rating — 57,296 ratings
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45 The Witch of Blackbird Pond
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3.92 of 5 stars 3.92 avg rating — 81,761 ratings
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46 The Queen's Fool (The Tudor...
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3.78 of 5 stars 3.78 avg rating — 55,326 ratings
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47 Here be Dragons (Welsh Prin...
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4.31 of 5 stars 4.31 avg rating — 12,751 ratings
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48 Pope Joan
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4.05 of 5 stars 4.05 avg rating — 40,797 ratings
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49 The Boleyn Inheritance (The...
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3.8 of 5 stars 3.80 avg rating — 55,288 ratings
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50 The Sunne in Splendour
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4.39 of 5 stars 4.39 avg rating — 12,924 ratings
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51 The Agony and the Ecstasy
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4.1 of 5 stars 4.10 avg rating — 44,563 ratings
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52 The Scarlet Pimpernel
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4.05 of 5 stars 4.05 avg rating — 79,040 ratings
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53 The Alchemist
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3.75 of 5 stars 3.75 avg rating — 879,793 ratings
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54 Daughter of Fortune
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3.86 of 5 stars 3.86 avg rating — 77,088 ratings
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55 Sarum: The Novel of England
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4.05 of 5 stars 4.05 avg rating — 25,879 ratings
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56 Island of the Blue Dolphins...
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3.76 of 5 stars 3.76 avg rating — 186,101 ratings
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57 Fried Green Tomatoes at the...
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4.22 of 5 stars 4.22 avg rating — 150,780 ratings
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58 Perfume: The Story of a Mur...
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3.97 of 5 stars 3.97 avg rating — 138,078 ratings
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59 Alias Grace
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3.94 of 5 stars 3.94 avg rating — 42,288 ratings
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60 Ivanhoe
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3.71 of 5 stars 3.71 avg rating — 52,457 ratings
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61 The Birth of Venus
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3.76 of 5 stars 3.76 avg rating — 61,438 ratings
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62 The Bronze Horseman (The Br...
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4.41 of 5 stars 4.41 avg rating — 26,724 ratings
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63 Centennial
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4.16 of 5 stars 4.16 avg rating — 21,931 ratings
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64 Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
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3.74 of 5 stars 3.74 avg rating — 103,566 ratings
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65 Forever Amber
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3.98 of 5 stars 3.98 avg rating — 11,444 ratings
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66 Moloka'i
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4.13 of 5 stars 4.13 avg rating — 54,704 ratings
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67 Tai-Pan (Asian Saga, #2)
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4.2 of 5 stars 4.20 avg rating — 25,274 ratings
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68 The House of the Spirits
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4.16 of 5 stars 4.16 avg rating — 100,320 ratings
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69 Possession
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3.86 of 5 stars 3.86 avg rating — 45,476 ratings
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70 One Thousand White Women: T...
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3.86 of 5 stars 3.86 avg rating — 61,400 ratings
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71 Nefertiti
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4.04 of 5 stars 4.04 avg rating — 19,086 ratings
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72 The First Man in Rome (Mast...
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4.04 of 5 stars 4.04 avg rating — 11,972 ratings
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73 Fall of Giants (The Century...
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4.2 of 5 stars 4.20 avg rating — 103,685 ratings
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74 Hawaii
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4.15 of 5 stars 4.15 avg rating — 46,780 ratings
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75 The French Lieutenant's Woman
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3.83 of 5 stars 3.83 avg rating — 28,075 ratings
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76 The Complete Aubrey/Maturin...
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4.69 of 5 stars 4.69 avg rating — 934 ratings
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77 Love in the Time of Cholera
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3.86 of 5 stars 3.86 avg rating — 240,139 ratings
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78 The Time Traveler's Wife
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3.92 of 5 stars 3.92 avg rating — 930,171 ratings
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79 London
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4.03 of 5 stars 4.03 avg rating — 14,371 ratings
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80 Lincoln
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4.17 of 5 stars 4.17 avg rating — 5,367 ratings
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81 March
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3.7 of 5 stars 3.70 avg rating — 33,169 ratings
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82 North and South (North and ...
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4.16 of 5 stars 4.16 avg rating — 37,331 ratings
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83 The Boy in the Striped Pajamas
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4.05 of 5 stars 4.05 avg rating — 174,748 ratings
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84 Sarah, Plain and Tall
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3.67 of 5 stars 3.67 avg rating — 44,913 ratings
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85 The Thirteenth Tale
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3.93 of 5 stars 3.93 avg rating — 169,594 ratings
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86 Gates of Fire: An Epic Nove...
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4.38 of 5 stars 4.38 avg rating — 13,962 ratings
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87 When Christ and His Saints ...
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4.27 of 5 stars 4.27 avg rating — 8,179 ratings
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88 The Game of Kings (The Lymo...
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4.26 of 5 stars 4.26 avg rating — 4,036 ratings
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89 Caddie Woodlawn
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3.97 of 5 stars 3.97 avg rating — 28,275 ratings
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90 Wolf Hall (Thomas Cromwell,...
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3.8 of 5 stars 3.80 avg rating — 73,952 ratings
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91 The Forgotten Garden
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4.1 of 5 stars 4.10 avg rating — 109,465 ratings
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92 The Far Pavilions
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4.18 of 5 stars 4.18 avg rating — 24,698 ratings
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93 The Source
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4.28 of 5 stars 4.28 avg rating — 24,088 ratings
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94 Aztec (Aztec, #1)
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4.16 of 5 stars 4.16 avg rating — 9,807 ratings
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95 The Cider House Rules
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4.07 of 5 stars 4.07 avg rating — 101,341 ratings
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96 The Crystal Cave (Arthurian...
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4.11 of 5 stars 4.11 avg rating — 27,052 ratings
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97 People of the Book
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3.97 of 5 stars 3.97 avg rating — 73,987 ratings
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98 The Crimson Petal and the W...
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3.82 of 5 stars 3.82 avg rating — 21,403 ratings
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99 The Reader
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3.69 of 5 stars 3.69 avg rating — 105,034 ratings
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100 The Autobiography of Henry ...
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4.23 of 5 stars 4.23 avg rating — 18,992 ratings
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4,244 books · 17,704 voters · list created June 12th, 2008 by MBP (votes) .
1030 likes · like
Lists are re-scored approximately every 5 minutes.


MBP
MBP
4013 books
88 friends
Marie
Marie
1871 books
116 friends
Nancy
Nancy
3790 books
658 friends
Cynthia
Cynthia
3095 books
255 friends
Trina
Trina
683 books
47 friends
Jen
Jen
1480 books
47 friends
Ashley
Ashley
811 books
35 friends
Dave
Dave
400 books
0 friends

More voters…


Comments (showing 1-50 of 241) (241 new)


message 1: by Celeste (new)

Celeste The classic historical fiction novel. Couldn't put it down!


message 2: by Evelyn (new)

Evelyn The best. Couldn't stop until I had read the entire series.


message 3: by Charlotte (last edited Nov 11, 2008 07:43AM) (new)

Charlotte The Whiskey Rebels (by David Liss) should be on the list. Though I must say the list itself is sketchy. Just because a book takes place in some moment of time past does not make it historical fiction. The Kite Runner? What is that doing on here?



Susanna - Censored by GoodReads Good point, Charlotte.

For example, I love Pride and Prejudice, but I didn't vote for it, as it is not a historical novel - Jane Austen was writing about her own time.


message 5: by Paulie (new)


message 6: by Lindsey (new)

Lindsey (Babies, Books, and Beyond) Flags of Our Fathers. Definately not fiction.


message 7: by [deleted user] (new)

Where are the Norah Lofts books? She writes great historical fiction.


message 8: by Jen (last edited Nov 29, 2008 07:56AM) (new)

Jen I don't think people are understanding what historical fiction is. If a book was written in the 1800's and it is based in that time frame, then would you consider it historical fiction? I would not. Historical fiction takes historical events (or figures)and creates fictionalized stories either centering on them or surronding them.


message 9: by Coalbanks (new)

Coalbanks Agreed. Historical fiction refers to a time not your own featuring people, events & movements of the time & place re-created in a fictional story of your making. A generation before is time enough, IMHO.


message 10: by Caleb (new)

Caleb Fox Win Blevins's STONE SONG dserves to be recognized as a great book


message 11: by Pat (new)

Pat Shackleford I am ashamed that I even have read historical fiction.


message 12: by Lola (new)

Lola I came here to vote after finding so many brilliant works of art on The Worst Book list. And here I find so many books that are in no way "historical." As already said, many of the above books (and many I love) were written in and of their times. So I could not vote for them. I read all genres (pretty much) but what to me is the best of that genre, so I am in no way embarrassed to read this one.


message 13: by Stephanie (new)

Stephanie Middlesex? Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell? Like Water for Chocolate? Who made this list? Oh well, I enjoyed perusing it and found many new books to add to my "to-read" list.


message 14: by Travis (new)

Travis It was made by the people, or at least the people here on this site who bothered to take the time to contribute. Obviously a massing of individual minds isn't going to match your personal tastes. These lists would be boring and hardly worth looking at if they did.


message 15: by Sparky (new)

Sparky Rusty wrote: "I am ashamed that I even have read historical fiction. "Why? Have you read any Shakespeare? Or perhaps Homer?



message 16: by Myra (last edited Feb 27, 2009 01:13PM) (new)

Myra I (and my husband) read, or actually listened to audio recordings, of all the Sharp series, and just loved them. Cornwell is the only author who ever made me "see" a battle.


message 17: by Mrs. (new)

Mrs. TB "Night" is NOT historical fiction. It's not even fiction ... it's the true story of Elie Wiesel's experiences during the Holocaust. So historical non-fiction would be a better category for it, evne though it doesn't technically exist. Please remove it from this list- I LOVE that book, but it doesn't fall in this category.


message 18: by Nona (new)

Nona well I saw several historical fiction books I've read and though not my favorite I understand why they are on the list and I see a few I plan on reading shortly, I think it's great that someone compiled this list.


message 19: by Manuel (new)

Manuel I really like the concept of the book cementary and given the responasbily to keep the books safe..


message 20: by Stephanie (new)

Stephanie Manuel wrote: "I really like the concept of the book cementary and given the responasbily to keep the books safe.."

Are you talking about the Cemetary of Books in the "Shadow of the the Wind"?


message 21: by ☯Bettie☯ (last edited Apr 08, 2009 02:39AM) (new)

☯Bettie☯ Lordy Lordy but this list is well out of kilter.

ETA I am talking about the objective scoring, not the subjective comments. *waves white flag at Alice, who thought I was dissing a viewpoint* lol


Shannon (Giraffe Days) And here I find so many books that are in no way "historical."

Lola, I noticed that too. Despite the clear definition/description of "historical fiction" at the top there, I'm seeing all kinds of odd books here - Alexandre Dumas, for example, while one of my favourites, was writing not all that long after the Napoleonic War.

Books written during or shortly after the period in which they were set, but 50 years before our own, are generally termed "classics", not historical fiction.

I don't know how these lists work - is there a way of editing it?


Susanna - Censored by GoodReads Well, some of Dumas is historical fiction - like The Three Musketeers - but a lot of it isn't. The Count of Monte Cristo, for example.

Shannon - I think only the creator of the list can edit it (excluding changing one's own votes, of course).


message 24: by Maria M. (last edited Apr 07, 2009 11:37PM) (new)

Maria M. Elmvang Any librarian can edit the list in order to remove books. However, GoodReads is REALLY strict about only removing books that without a doubt don't fit the category, as they don't want people to just remove books they don't like.

I've removed "Anne of Green Gables" and "The Little House" collection. While both great books/series, they were written close to the time they took place and therefore don't fit the definition of historical fiction. There are a LOT of others I'm unsure about though.


Shannon (Giraffe Days) Count of Monte Cristo was the one I was thinking of, Susanna, and his book on Napoleon. I actually forgot about the Musketeers!!

Since anyone can add a book to a list, it stands to reason it could be removed as well. I don't see that function but I'm seeing far fewer non-historical books here than yesterday. Some are more science fiction than historical fiction, not that you can't straddle genres, but a lot of these are giving me a double-take. I personally don't want to change anything, unless it was glaringly obvious.


message 26: by Maria M. (new)

Maria M. Elmvang Shannon, at the very top of the list, immediately following the list description, there is a small (edit) link - very non-descript, very easy to miss.

This link allows you to delete books one at a time.


Shannon (Giraffe Days) I did see that, but I thought it was just for the intro description. Makes sense though!


Susanna - Censored by GoodReads All Quiet on the Western Front is historical fiction? It was written in the 20s, about the teens. Great book, but I wouldn't vote for it here.


message 29: by Bee-Man (new)


message 30: by Catherine (new)

Catherine What exactly is a "historical fiction" book? I thought all those books Courtney put down were historical and so I voted for the one I liked best. I don't really have a big vocabulary, so I am not sure what most of you guys were saying. =/


Susanna - Censored by GoodReads A work of historical fiction is a novel that is set in the past, Catherine.


message 32: by Catherine (new)

Catherine Thank you for the comment I guess. =D


message 33: by Lindsey (new)

Lindsey I didn't read through everyone's comments, so I'm not sure if this was mentioned already, but Elie Wiesel's "Night" is not historical FICTION. In fact, it was based on his own experiences in the Holocaust. It is a very touching, beautifully written book for anyone else who likes WWII non-fiction.


message 34: by Kernos (new)

Kernos Most all of these are NOT historical fiction, IMO. Historical fiction novels are fictional accounts about real people in historical situations. Most mentioned here are simply period pieces.

Examples of historical fiction include Mary Renault's The Persian Boy about Alexander the Great's chamberlain and catamite Bagoas; Family Favorites by Alfred Duggan, a fictional biography of Elagabalus; I, Claudius by Robert Graves about the 1st 5 Caesar's and Julian]by Gore Vidal about Julian II, a 4th century CE Roman emperor...

Some like The Mists of Avalon mentioned above and many other modern Arthurian tales are mythic fiction, not historical fiction.


Susanna - Censored by GoodReads Definitions vary; they clearly have here.


message 36: by Deirdre (new)

Deirdre Susanna wrote: "A work of historical fiction is a novel that is set in the past."

Not just our past but the past of the author too. Many of the examples in the list are simply books that are not contemporary to us and are, by no stretch of the imagination 'historical fiction.' The works of Jane Austen, for instance, are not historical fiction because she was writing about her own times. For a work to be historical it has to be set by the author in a time that precedes their own. It is arguable too that a book set in the author's imagined future does not belong in this category, like 1984. Such works are wholly imagined and not related to an historical reality.






message 37: by Kelly (last edited Jul 27, 2009 07:03PM) (new)

Kelly As so do I Susanna, but maybe the author of this here list put Pride and Prejudice in because it is history to us now. I think that is something authors of the past and future sometimes forget funnily enough, unless you mock whole nations, the works you create will be around for a very long time.
Susanna wrote: "Good point, Charlotte.

For example, I love Pride and Prejudice, but I didn't vote for it, as it is not a historical novel - Jane Austen was writing about her own time."





message 38: by Jennifer (new)

Jennifer I just ran across this list and found it very interesting. I agree with many of the previous comments about not everything on this list REALLY being historical fiction, but it is a good list of books people really like. I see historical fiction as being a decent education in history concealed inside an entertaining story. I look to historical fiction to take the facts (Henry VIII had 8 wives, most of whom died) and put real faces and real people behind those facts, explain how a real person could do the things they did or make the decisions they made -- how a whole country could go out of control (Germany) or how a major historical event (the civil war) affected the real people who lived through it. How did royal people live? How did poor people? What were the excepted norms and morays? How did that play into the world at large?

Many books on this list I love, but did not vote for, such as those by Marion Zimmer Bradley, Mary Stewart, Anne Rice and others whose books are mostly fantasy set in a historical setting, not a tale of real history. Tolkien's stories don't even take place in our world, so they cannot be historical fiction.

Dividing books in to discrete categories can be difficult sometimes, as many books have elements of many categories. I guess, for me, what defines historical fiction is that it takes place in the real world, contains historical events and figures that can be documented, has been researched well, and is intended to educate as much as entertain.


Susanna - Censored by GoodReads Antonia Fraser's The Wives of Henry VIII isn't even fiction! It's straight biography, and a very good one.


message 40: by ☯Bettie☯ (new)

☯Bettie☯ I look to historical fiction to take the facts (Henry VIII had 8 wives, most of whom died) and put real faces and real people behind those facts, explain how a real person could do the things they did or make the decisions they made

Which historical fiction book is this an outline of please?


message 41: by Jan C (new)

Jan C The Devil in the White City is NOT historical fiction. Eric Larson writes NON-FICTION!

And some of these others I question whether they are "historical fiction" - they take place at a certain time in history and they are fiction. But that doesn't make them "historical fiction."

Maybe I just take my historical fiction too literally.


message 42: by ☯Bettie☯ (new)

☯Bettie☯ Jan wrote: "The Devil in the White City is NOT historical fiction. Eric Larson writes NON-FICTION!

And some of these others I question whether they are "historical fiction" - they take place at a certain ti..."


Well, Larson does write fiction as well...

:O)

... but I get your point on this particular work - 300+ readers have it on the fiction shelf. I bet he's nearly as mad about it all as you are.


Susanna - Censored by GoodReads I guess it's sort of a compliment, as people "who don't read non-fiction" always want "non-fiction that reads like fiction."


message 44: by Jan C (new)

Jan C To the best of my knowledge (and Wikipedia's as well) Erik Larson does not write fiction.

He has worked for newspapers, he has taught non-fiction writing and, as far as I can tell, as only written non-fiction.

People may well read him as though he is fiction. Many think that non-fiction is dry and dull. I know many though Seabiscuit by Hillenbrand was fiction. But maybe these books can help bring people into the light. (jk)


message 45: by ☯Bettie☯ (new)

☯Bettie☯ Jan wrote: "To the best of my knowledge (and Wikipedia's as well) Erik Larson does not write fiction.

He has worked for newspapers, he has taught non-fiction writing and, as far as I can tell, as only writ..."


Jan , is his profile on GR wrong? It states that he writes mysteries and thrillers as well but I cannot see any publications along those lines.


Colonel Charles Dahnmon Whitt Colonel Charles Dahnmon Whitt has a new (Historic-Fiction) out. It is a 580 page hardback relating to the years from 1836 to 1900. It is based on an appalachian and his family as they live in the 1800's in Virginia and Kentucky. It also covers his service as a Confederate in Company H, of the 29th. Virginia Infantry. It is a day to day history where the folks come to life and keep you wondering, What's next? "Legacy, The Days of David Crockett Whitt" is the name of this narrative. Get it at dahnmonwhittfamily.com


message 47: by Thom (new)

Thom Dunn WILL SOMEONE WITH SMARTS AND SKILLS PLEASE PLEASE PRUNE THIS LIST DOWN TO HISTORICAL FICTION. Without limitation, no definition. As Alan Turing famously said, Information is Entropy (Boundless information eventually becomes no information at all).

Sadly, we must either cut The Crucible and Inherit the Wind......or let in ALL of Shakespeare's history plays.


message 48: by Susanna - Censored by GoodReads (last edited Oct 12, 2009 11:12AM) (new)

Susanna - Censored by GoodReads Animal Farm is historical fiction?

I cleaned out a lot of the non-fiction.


message 49: by Travis (new)

Travis Stephanie wrote: "Middlesex? Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell? Like Water for Chocolate? Who made this list? Oh well, I enjoyed perusing it and found many new books to add to my "to-read" list. "

Jonathan Strange and Mr.Norrell is historical fiction. The fictional elements including the historical use of magic in Britain, and the use of magic at that time in Britain. But the rest of the book is historical in setting and events, including the Napoleonic Wars. Remember, these aren't history books, but works of fiction that use history as a basis.


message 50: by Courtney (new)

Courtney Is it historical fiction if it was contemporary at the time it was written? Some stuff on this list really confused me.


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Anyone can add books to this list.