Historical 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 (?)
369 books · 407 voters · list created January 25th, 2009 by Misfit (votes) .
96 likes · 
Lists are re-scored approximately every 5 minutes.


Misfit 5261 books
461 friends
Susanna - Censored by GoodReads 3005 books
757 friends
Josie 1691 books
41 friends
Laura 10800 books
251 friends
Tracey 1078 books
318 friends
Rebecca 516 books
9 friends
Donnette 21 books
13 friends
Dottie 7577 books
131 friends

More voters…


Comments (showing 1-50 of 50) (50 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 (Lioness at Large) 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 (Lioness at Large) 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 (Lioness at Large) 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.


message 28: by Booklovinglady (last edited Sep 14, 2015 02:18AM) (new)

Booklovinglady I haven't voted/added any of the Georgette Heyer novels, but here in the Netherlands the Dutch translations have been out of print for years. Such a shame... And not all of her historical novels were available in a Dutch translation anyway. So glad I'm able to read the English ones :-)


message 29: by Booklovinglady (last edited Sep 13, 2015 11:13AM) (new)

Booklovinglady @Misfit

There are several books on this list that shouldn't be here, given your description (as you undoubtedly know?).

Rebecca, To Kill a Mockingbird, Anne of Green Gables, Frenchman's Creek. Pride and Prejudice, Jamaica Inn, Gone with the Wind, Kristin Lavransdatter, Forever Amber, and so on and so forth, are all readily available/definitely not out of print.

Not to mention the fact that I noticed some voters seem to have trouble understanding the concept 'historical' :-0


message 30: by Misfit (new)

Misfit Booklovinglady wrote: "@Misfit

There are several books on this list that shouldn't be here, given your description (as you undoubtedly know?).

Rebecca, To Kill a Mockingbird, [book:Anne of G..."


I kno w. When i first created the list the rules weren't clear. I might clean house a bit.


message 31: by Booklovinglady (new)

Booklovinglady Misfit wrote: "I might clean house a bit..."

Please do... ;-) I really liked the idea of this list, you see.


message 32: by Misfit (new)

Misfit Here we go. Removed: historical novels readily available, well known and in print.

Katherine, The Far Pavilions, Gone with the Wind, Green Darkness, Forever Amber, The Sunne in Splendour,.


message 33: by Misfit (new)

Misfit Books removed that are not within the definition of the list, i.e. written as contemporary, not historical fiction.

The Magnificent Ambersons, To Kill a Mockingbird, Anne of Green Gables, Pride and Prejudice, The Moonspinners, The House on the Strand, Nine Coaches Waiting, Charlotte's Web, Madam, Will You Talk?, Black Beauty.

More later, I have to go vacuum the two rooms now abandoned by the kitties.


message 35: by Booklovinglady (last edited Sep 14, 2015 01:50AM) (new)

Booklovinglady Misfit wrote: "Books removed that are not within the definition of the list, i.e. written as contemporary, not historical fiction...."

You have been busy... :-) Thanks! I have a few more for you:

In a Dark Wood Wandering (#79). Great historical novel by the Dutch author Hella S. Haasse, but still in print, both in Dutch and in English.
Lolita (#60)
Tess of the D'Urbervilles (#38)
The Good Soldier (#36)
Vanity Fair (#41)
The Grapes of Wrath (#47)
Kristin Lavransdatter (#12)
Villette (#81)
War and Peace (#95)
Rebecca (#1)
Frenchman's Creek (#2)
Jamaica Inn (#5)
Rule Britannia (#136)
Ivanhoe (#23)
Waverley (#185)
Ethan Frome (#102)
The Forsyte Saga (#143)
The Glass Palace (#265)
The Old Man and the Sea (#229)
Dragonwyck (#26)

All of the above are still in print, and as they are all considered classics, I very much doubt if they will ever be out of print. A lot of them are (re)printed by well-known publishers (no 'print-on-demand') like Penguin, Vintage, HarperCollins, Random House, Little, Brown Book, Hodder & Stoughton, and so on. The above books are all on my 'read/to read' list, which is why they were so easy for me to find in your Listopia :-)

I thought I had a good chance with Dragonwyck, as the Dutch edition has been out of print for years (I inherited a copy from my grandparents), but when I checked, the English edition turns out to be readily availabe (Hodder & Stoughton / Mariner).

Would you like me to remove the above titles for you (or will you remove them yourself)? Or would you like these books to stay on the list anyway?


message 36: by Booklovinglady (last edited Sep 14, 2015 03:14AM) (new)

Booklovinglady I found one to vote on; the Angelique series! Boy, did I love these books :-) I must have read them all, years ago when I borrowed them from our local library. And yes, I was hooked on the television series too :-)

I also noticed The Thorn Birds (#27) but when I checked it turned out to be still in print (Little, Brown Book / Hodder & Stoughton).

Carrie by Stephen King is on this list as well (#101) but it is still being published.

Also noticed the separate parts of Kristin Lavransdatter, The Wreath (#71), The Wife (#87), The Cross (#77), but those are still in print too.


message 37: by Misfit (new)

Misfit Edit away, I ran out of time yesterday. We are making progress.


message 38: by Booklovinglady (new)

Booklovinglady Misfit wrote: "Edit away, I ran out of time yesterday. We are making progress."

All gone ;-)


message 39: by Misfit (new)

Misfit Booklovinglady wrote: "Misfit wrote: "Edit away, I ran out of time yesterday. We are making progress."

All gone ;-)"


Making progress. There are still some books that aren't historical still to be pruned, but that will take time and research. I'm going back to bed now :)


message 40: by Booklovinglady (last edited Sep 14, 2015 02:36AM) (new)

Booklovinglady Misfit wrote: "..."

It's only end of the morning here :-) but I have to go out later on though.

I'll also remove Quo Vadis, as it is still very much in print.


message 41: by Misfit (new)

Misfit 4AM here. Still trying to get back to sleep :/


message 42: by Booklovinglady (new)

Booklovinglady Misfit wrote: "4AM here. Still trying to get back to sleep :/"

Hope that won't happen to me tonight, as I'm working tomorrow ;-)


message 43: by Misfit (new)

Misfit Still no luck :/


message 44: by Booklovinglady (new)

Booklovinglady Misfit wrote: "Still no luck :/"

Oh poor you.. :-(


message 45: by Misfit (new)

Misfit *nods*

One hour left to try.


message 46: by starryskies (last edited Sep 15, 2015 06:58PM) (new)

starryskies I absolutely adore this list! Just started the Far Pavilions after hunting it down through second hand bookstores and am just adoring it so far. Can't wait to work my way through!

Edit: So I just saw the edits, and I honestly think it's unfortunate that so many of the books that did not fit the criteria were removed, the list introduced me to many so called "well known" titles that I had never heard of before and was excited to try! Thank you for recording any edits you made, I'll look through them first i think.


message 47: by Booklovinglady (last edited Sep 15, 2015 10:42PM) (new)

Booklovinglady starryskies wrote: "Thank you for recording any edits you made, I'll look through them first i think. ..."

I always mention links to books I deleted, and I know several other librarians do too :-)


message 48: by Steven (new)

Steven Harbin Great list, thank you for creating and posting it.


message 49: by Booklovinglady (last edited Feb 17, 2017 12:27AM) (new)

Booklovinglady Georgette Heyer's books are unfortunately out of print in a Dutch translation, and have been out of print for a long time (and only 12 or so were translated in the past anyway).


message 50: by Booklovinglady (last edited Feb 17, 2017 12:26AM) (new)

Booklovinglady I Capture the Castle (#11 ) was not an historical novel at the time of publication. Neither were To Kill a Mockingbird (#48), East of Eden (#74), Of Mice and Men (#98) and several others. Not even to mention the fact that they can hardly be called 'a newly discovered treasure'.... (and the description does say "Looking for something old that could be a newly discovered treasure?")


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