The Most Popular Historical Fiction Novels of the Last Five Years

Posted by Cybil on May 23, 2019
Historical fiction lovers, rejoice! We've rounded up the 40 most popular historical fiction novels on Goodreads published during the last five years, which includes the first half of this year.

We measured popularity through a mix of total number of reviews, average reader rating, and additions to readers' Want to Read shelves. These books will not only teleport you back in time, they'll also take you around the world from Korea, to Ghana, to Vietnam, and beyond.

Explore the books below and add what catches your eye to your Want to Read shelves. And share your own recommendations in the comments!



2015's top historical fiction


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2016's top historical fiction


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2017's top historical fiction


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2018's top historical fiction


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2019's top historical fiction (so far)


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What recently published historical fiction would you recommend to your fellow readers? Share them with us in the comments!

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Comments Showing 1-50 of 74 (74 new)


message 1: by Nissa (new)

Nissa I am currently reading “The Flight Portfolio” by Julie Orringer and “Resistance Women” by Jennifer Chiaverini. If you like to read WW2 historical fiction than I would definitely recommend checking both of them out, because what I’ve read so far is really good.


message 2: by Janine (new)

Janine I loved Nothing But Sky by Amy Trueblood, featuring wing walkers in 1922. She has another historical novel coming out later this year, Across a Broken Shore.


message 3: by Erin (new)

Erin The Boat Runner by Devin Murphy! An amazing story of WW2 and the struggle of growing up in the middle of Nazi occupation.


message 4: by Chi (new)

Chi Read Pachinko by Min Jin Lee a few months ago, only put it down to eat and sleep. Really great book about a time in Korea worth learning more about. Phenomenal storytelling.


message 5: by Sophie (new)

Sophie Chi wrote: "Read Pachinko by Min Jin Lee a few months ago, only put it down to eat and sleep. Really great book about a time in Korea worth learning more about. Phenomenal story..."
I agree. One of the best books I've read in years...and I read a LOT!


message 6: by Saifullah (new)

Saifullah Glad to see this list. Pachinko and homegoing are on my tbr.


message 7: by True Review (new)

True Review When Montauk by Nicola Harrison is released on June 4, it should go on this list. A beautiful read. Most of these books are on my TBR list, hope to get my hands on a few of them.


message 8: by [deleted user] (new)

Serious question from someone new to the genre: do men not write as much historical fiction? Or is it that women's historical fiction is just more popular?


message 9: by Lenoire (new)

Lenoire Aww, I only read three books (The Lost Girls of Paris, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo and The Girls). It looks like I have a few more books to add to my "TBR" pile.


message 10: by Diane (new)

Diane Cropper From sand and ash was my favorite


message 11: by Gene (new)

Gene Borowski Here's another shout out for "The Boat Runner". This is the book that got me interested in the genre.

And as an aside for those who may be interested, Netflix is working on a presentation of "All The Light We Cannot See".


message 12: by Judy (new)

Judy I’ve read 17 and 8 others are in my “to read” pile. I think my favorites were The Nightingale and Gentleman in Moscow.


message 13: by [deleted user] (new)

November Road Lou Berney

Be it fact or fiction, the Kennedys', the assassination and all the secrets are and will always be remembered in our history.

"In the end, November Road is more than the sum of its parts— It has a thrilling plot, is an iconic period piece with unforgettable characters. Above all, it’s an American novel not to be missed."


message 14: by Barbara (new)

Barbara Hudson Ambulance Girls by Deborah Burrows


message 15: by Barbara (new)

Barbara Hudson Blood on the Stone by Jake Lynch


message 16: by Mark (last edited May 23, 2019 10:42AM) (new)

Mark Schmiedeberg "The Wolf and the Watchman", by Niklas Natt och Dag. 2017

One morning in the autumn of 1793, watchman Mikel Cardell is awakened from his drunken slumber with reports of a body seen floating in the Larder, once a pristine lake on Stockholm’s Southern Isle, now a rancid bog. Efforts to identify the bizarrely mutilated corpse are entrusted to incorruptible lawyer Cecil Winge, who enlists Cardell’s help to solve the case. But time is short: Winge’s health is failing, the monarchy is in shambles, and whispered conspiracies and paranoia abound.


message 17: by Marcia (new)

Marcia Diane wrote: "From sand and ash was my favorite"

Mine too. I love WWII historical fiction. This book rivals The Nightingale and I think I like it better


message 18: by Marcia (new)

Marcia Gene wrote: "Here's another shout out for "The Boat Runner". This is the book that got me interested in the genre.

And as an aside for those who may be interested, Netflix is working on a presentation of "All ..."


Do you know when? I read it and loved it. It should make a great movie.


message 19: by Elena (new)

Elena The Huntress by Kate Quinn.


message 20: by Jim (new)

Jim i find it hard to pin down historical fiction as a genre... regardless, seemingly i don't read much of it as i only have one book from this list... huh.


message 21: by Gene (new)

Gene Borowski Marcia wrote: "Gene wrote: "Here's another shout out for "The Boat Runner". This is the book that got me interested in the genre.

And as an aside for those who may be interested, Netflix is working on a presenta..."

No, I'm sorry. I went looking around, but I couldn't pin down any dates as to when it will air. All I could find is that the same company that produced "Stranger Things" will handle ATLWCS and the book will be serialized (not a 1 shot movie).


message 22: by Alfred (new)

Alfred Weber Kishan wrote: "Serious question from someone new to the genre: do men not write as much historical fiction? Or is it that women's historical fiction is just more popular?"

Try Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey-Maturin series. Best historical fiction series ever, IMO. Also, Wouk's Wind of War and War and Remembrance.


message 23: by Kristen (new)

Kristen Why is so much historical fiction set in WWII? Is it just because it's a well documented time? Is that just what's popular? I like the genre but don't care for that time period. There's SO MUCH history. No reason to always stay in the same sandbox.


message 24: by [deleted user] (new)

I have never read better historical fiction than that of Colleen McCullough's Ancient Rome series, starting with "The First Man in Rome", and Sharon K. Penman's medieval Britain / Welsh series, starting with "When Christ and His Saints Slept". These are classics in the genre, amazingly well researched, and narrated. I can't recommend them highly enough.


message 25: by Kassie (new)

Kassie I loved ‘The Paris Seamstress’ by Natasha Lester, and ‘The Girl from Munich’ by Tania Blanchard, both Australian authors!


message 26: by Renee (new)

Renee Babcock All the Light We Cannot See was published 5 years ago this month in 2014. A list of best historical fiction of the last 5 years without that book on it is an incomplete list.


message 27: by Rachel (new)

Rachel The Baker's Secret by Steven P Kiernan is so so good.


message 28: by Linda (new)

Linda I really liked Lincoln in the Bardo but it seems more like a ghost story than historical fiction to me. There's some history in it, but the main characters are ghosts.


message 29: by Joanne (new)

Joanne Walters Amor Towles 2 books are magnificent!


message 30: by Christian (new)

Christian Ekman Kristen wrote: "Why is so much historical fiction set in WWII? Is it just because it's a well documented time? Is that just what's popular? I like the genre but don't care for that time period. There's SO MUCH his..."

THANK YOU. I have had this exact same thought so many times now. I don't get why authors are so afraid of exploring anything that is not set during WW2. It has been done to death already. Of course you can make a good book set during WW2, but there's literally thousands of years of history aside from WW2 that you could write about. It's predictive. I've actually found myself not wanting to read anything set during WW2 anymore. I just don't find it interesting after already having read so many books set in that time period. Almost anything else in regards to historical fiction, I will give a try and be excited about. Just give me something original, please.


message 31: by Rui Ning (new)

Rui Ning Kristen wrote: "Why is so much historical fiction set in WWII? Is it just because it's a well documented time? Is that just what's popular? I like the genre but don't care for that time period. There's SO MUCH his..."

Ha! I'm glad I'm not alone with this feeling. I read so many of them over the years, I now have a really hard time picking up books about WWII, and also books that are taking place in the US. Seriously, it feels like going on vacation every year at the same place, it's horrible.


message 32: by [deleted user] (new)

Kristen wrote: "Why is so much historical fiction set in WWII? Is it just because it's a well documented time? Is that just what's popular? I like the genre but don't care for that time period. There's SO MUCH his..."

Kristen,

I am a big fan of historical fiction too. I just read A Good American by Alex George. It mentioned "smatterings" about the war, but not in any detail. It is a great story. I think you might like it:)


message 33: by Debbi (new)

Debbi DuBose A Bend in the Stars and The Song of the Jade Lily are two novels I'm reading now, that I had not expected to really love. Oh, but I do!! I also agree with Nissa about The Flight Portfolio and Resistance Women. ALL 4 ARE GREAT READS!


message 34: by Tracy (new)

Tracy Can’t believe author Lucinda Riley isn’t on this list. Her Seven Sisters series is epic.


message 35: by Nancy (new)

Nancy Au Just finished "The Bookshop of the Broken Hearted", by Robert Hillman. It was wonderful and deserves a place on this list.


message 36: by Lisa of Hopewell (new)

Lisa of Hopewell I agree with the others on All The Light Cannot See, but also Quintland Sisters, Swans of Fifth Avenue, Loving Eleanor by Susan Wittig Albert, The Gown by Jennifer Robson, Flight of the Sparrow by Amy Belding Brown, I Shall Be Near You by Erin Lindsay McCabe, Under the Wide and Starry Sky by Nancy Horan. I hope the dates are right--I was looking at my reading log.


message 37: by Marcia (new)

Marcia If you want another suggestion I suggest reading historical fiction about real people. Under the Scarlet Sky takes placeinItaly and it is based on a real persons story. We Were the Lucky Ones was a book that resulted from a genealogy story about a real family during WWII


message 38: by Rhonda (new)

Rhonda All The Light We Cannot See by Anothony Doerr should definitely be on this list!


message 39: by Joy (new)

Joy Hurst Kristen wrote: "Why is so much historical fiction set in WWII? Is it just because it's a well documented time? Is that just what's popular? I like the genre but don't care for that time period. There's SO MUCH his..."

I agree! I read several but became tired of them. Authors seem to be fixed on them.


message 40: by C (new)

C Monica wrote: "When Montauk by Nicola Harrison is released on June 4, it should go on this list. A beautiful read. Most of these books are on my TBR list, hope to get my hands on a few of them."

just ordered it.


message 41: by Kathleen (new)

Kathleen Danahy Loved the Nightengale


message 42: by Jaime (new)

Jaime Being almost 60, I have no desire to read 95% of contemporary historical fiction novels for anything from the 1950s forward. There are a couple of exceptions. my preference is for novels set at least in the late-19th century and before.


message 43: by Davida (new)

Davida Chazan Mistress of the Ritz by Melanie Benjamin!!!!!

Mistress of the Ritz by Melanie Benjamin


message 44: by Sophie (new)

Sophie Lost Girls of Paris by Pam Jenoff is a must read
The Lonely Hearts Hotel by Heather O'Neil not exactly new but such a demanding read by an author that does not get enough mention nor praise on Goodreads.
The Boat People by Sharon Bala also an important read about the Tamil people's struggle for survival.
The Chelsea Girls by Fiona Davis just sounds like fun!


message 45: by Philip (new)

Philip Higgins No Bernard Cornwell or C. J. Sansom? Some mistake surely.


message 46: by Edward (new)

Edward Sheehy Outside Looking In by T C Boyle, a fascinating head trip back to early 60s and Timothy Leary’s experiments with LSD while at Harvard. Sex, drugs, and jazz. Fasten your seat belts for this one.


message 47: by Alison (last edited Jun 18, 2019 09:04AM) (new)

Alison Glazier I second the question - no Bernard Cornwell?


message 48: by Dan (new)

Dan Acosta Kishan wrote: "Serious question from someone new to the genre: do men not write as much historical fiction? Or is it that women's historical fiction is just more popular?"Let me introduce you to my novel, *Iron River* a coming-of-age story set in 1958 Mexican-American Southern California. www.ironrivernovel.com.


message 49: by Deb (new)

Deb Kishan wrote: "Serious question from someone new to the genre: do men not write as much historical fiction? Or is it that women's historical fiction is just more popular?"

There are many famous male historical fiction writers--Sir Walter Scott (slated as the "Father of the Historical Novel"), Robert Louis Stevenson, and James Michener...just to name a few. It IS odd that so many on this list are female-written.


message 50: by Charles (new)

Charles Judy wrote: "I’ve read 17 and 8 others are in my “to read” pile. I think my favorites were The Nightingale and Gentleman in Moscow."

I agree with Judy on these 2.. They are excellent reads. Also try The Rules of Civility, one of my favorites.


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