Best Alternate History

There unfortunately now many books listed that are not actually Alternate History, so perhaps I should clarify.

Alternate history stories are written about the past in which historical events differ (intentionally) from what occurred in real history.

What if Nazi Germany won WWII? What if Lincoln wasn't assassinated? What if there had been magic on the American frontier? What if the Civil War hadn't occurred?

While 1984, for example, is an excellent story, it was written about a future time and isn't alternate history. Yes, I know, for some it's hard to imagine, but in spite of the fact that the title year has now come and gone, 1984 is a dystopia regarding an imagined future.

Please do not add books to this list that are not Alternate History.
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305 books · 713 voters · list created July 30th, 2008 by Alexandra (votes) .
161 likes · 
Lists are re-scored approximately every 5 minutes.


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Comments Showing 1-33 of 33 (33 new)

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message 2: by Aubrey (new)

Aubrey Hansen Love alternate history! Is it just me, or does it seem like there's a lot of post-WWII alternate history out there? Anybody know of any Civil War alternate history? I might write some one day (working on alternate Revolutionary War right now...), and I'd love to read some.


Susanna - Censored by GoodReads Try Harry Turtledove.


message 4: by Alexandra (last edited Jan 28, 2013 05:03PM) (new)

Alexandra Can't think of any real alternate history for the Civil War, that'd be interesting. Although it isn't an alternate history you might like Lincoln's Dreams by Connie Willis


message 5: by Aubrey (new)

Aubrey Hansen I have two books from Turtledove on my reading list now, plus I know he's got more. Anyone with the title "master of alternate history" is worth exploring!

That does look like a beautiful story. Thanks!


message 6: by Alexandra (new)

Alexandra I liked it, although I enjoyed other books by Willis much more. I did read a book once about a man who was sent back in time to stop the assassination of Lincoln, I've been trying to remember the title for years though with no success.


message 7: by Aubrey (new)

Aubrey Hansen I'll have to look into Willis's other books, then, too. But as long as I have at least one book by an author on my TBR list, I'll remember that author exists. ;)


message 8: by Alexandra (last edited Jan 29, 2013 01:20PM) (new)

Alexandra Great! Highly recommend her time traveling historians books, particularly Doomsday Book, To Say Nothing Of The Dog.


message 9: by Aubrey (new)

Aubrey Hansen I haven't read much time-travel, but both of those sound awesome!


message 10: by Alexandra (new)

Alexandra :)


message 11: by David (new)

David None of these books are alternate history:
The Anubis Gates
The Stress of Her Regard
The Eagle Has Landed
A People's History of the United States: 1492 to Present


message 12: by Alexandra (last edited May 19, 2014 09:02PM) (new)

Alexandra David wrote: "None of these books are alternate history:
The Anubis Gates
The Stress of Her Regard
The Eagle Has Landed
A People's History of the United States: 1492 to Present"

You're right David. Of the books on this list now that I've read many are not alternate history. I thought the title of the list would be pretty self-explanatory, but apparently there is some confusion about what alternate history is, and what it isn't. I've added a description to the list, hopefully that will help. Unfortunately I cannot remove a book when someone has added it.

These are also not alternate history:
1984
The Eyre Affair
The Wolves of Willoughby Chase (one of my favorite books though!)

There are several others I'm pretty sure are dystopia, and not alternate history, but I haven't read them so I'm not positive.


message 13: by Lobstergirl (new)

Lobstergirl I would classify The Handmaid's Tale as a dystopia rather than an alternate history, wouldn't you?


message 14: by Lobstergirl (last edited Oct 14, 2014 11:40PM) (new)

Lobstergirl Also I saw a nonfiction book on the list. You specifically want fiction, correct?

What Ifs? of American History: Eminent Historians Imagine What Might Have Been


message 15: by Alexandra (new)

Alexandra Lobstergirl wrote: "Also I saw a nonfiction book on the list. You specifically want fiction, correct?

What Ifs? of American History: Eminent Historians Imagine What Might Have Been"


Yes, I would classify The Handmaid's Tale as dystopia, not Alternate History, and I did/do intend this list for fiction only.

Thank you :D


message 16: by Lobstergirl (new)

Lobstergirl Ok. I deleted them both.


message 17: by Kris (new)

Kris Aubrey wrote: "Love alternate history! Is it just me, or does it seem like there's a lot of post-WWII alternate history out there? Anybody know of any Civil War alternate history? I might write some one day (w..."

Definitely read Turtledove's Guns of the South. While technically not about the Civil War itself, Seth Grahame Smith's Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter is a fun read.


message 18: by Keith (last edited May 13, 2016 05:55AM) (new)

Keith I don't think Y: The Last Man should be on this list - it's post-apocalyptic sci-fi set "twenty minutes into the future" from when it was written, as far as I can remember. There are several other near-future/present-day sci-fi books that I can see, like Never Let Me Go and The Handmaid's Tale, as well as at least one historical fantasy book (Kushiel's Dart) that depicts a world a bit like ours but with many differences - I didn't think this sort of thing really counted as alternate history.


message 19: by Kelley (last edited Aug 04, 2016 03:50PM) (new)

Kelley I like this list!!! And you've given a very good description of what SHOULD be on this list.

I agree with all the ones that have been suggested as deletions. Here are a few more and my reasons why:

On the Beach - set in a post-apocalyptic future (from when it was written).
The Postman - although it seems like the past, this is actually set in a post-apocalyptic future.
One Thousand White Women... - this is historical fiction.
11/22/63 - the protagonist DOES try to stop Kennedy's assassination but is unsuccessful and doesn't change anything.

If anyone believes differently about any of my suggestions, please feel free to argue. :)


message 20: by Vonia (new)

Vonia This list fails. Apocalyptic, dystopian, science fiction. Most of these are in no way alternative history books.


message 21: by Keith (new)

Keith Goodreads really needs to change the mechanics of lists so that the list creator can either remove or suspend books that shouldn't be there. Too many lists clearly get spammed up with irrelevant or nearly irrelevant blockbuster books and the creator can't do anything about it unless a librarian gets round to removing the offending books.


message 22: by Vonia (new)

Vonia Yes. None of the Alternate History Lists are even accurate.


message 23: by Lobstergirl (new)

Lobstergirl You can always start a thread in the Librarian Group asking for certain books to be removed. Specify which books and what page they're on to make it easier for the librarian.


message 24: by Veeral (new)

Veeral I'm removing the following books as they are clearly not alternate history:

The Handmaid's Tale (Dystopian)
I Am Legend and Other Stories (Post-Apocalyptic)
On the Beach (Post-Apocalyptic)
The Postman (Post-Apocalyptic)
Replay (Science-fantasy)
Alas, Babylon (Post-Apocalyptic)


message 25: by Veeral (new)

Veeral Further removal:

Oryx and Crake (Post-Apocalyptic)
Y: The Last Man (Post-Apocalyptic)

I have only removed books which I have read and am sure are not alternate history books (fiction).


message 26: by Veeral (new)

Veeral Here are some books that I haven't read but think should not be on this list. But I'm not deleting them since I have to be 100% sure:

The Anubis Gates (time travel)
The Amulet of Samarkand (fantasy)
The Number of the Beast (science fiction)
One Thousand White Women: The Journals of May Dodd (historical fiction)
Look Who's Back (fantasy, basically Hitler wakes up in the modern world. Not alternate history)
Kushiel's Dart (fantasy)
Kill Zombies (post-apocalyptic)
When She Woke (re-imagining of the Scarlet Letter)
Dies the Fire (post-apocalyptic)
Battle Royale (dystopian)
Islandia (fantasy)


message 27: by Vonia (new)

Vonia Kushiel's Dart
Battle Royale
Look Who's Back
Islandia

Those are the ones I agree with for deleting.


message 28: by Booklovinglady (last edited Oct 08, 2016 05:45AM) (new)

Booklovinglady I've read A Clockwork Orange (#23) but I never considered it to be alternate history. But maybe I should reconsider, as 14 people voted for it...


message 29: by Veeral (new)

Veeral Booklovinglady wrote: "I've read A Clockwork Orange (#23) but I never considered it to be alternate history. But maybe I should reconsider, as 14 people voted for it..."

Or, it could mean 14 people don't know the meaning of "alternate history".


message 30: by Lobstergirl (new)

Lobstergirl Booklovinglady wrote: "I've read A Clockwork Orange (#23) but I never considered it to be alternate history. But maybe I should reconsider, as 14 people voted for it..."

I agree, I removed it.

There are a lot of suspicious looking books on here that I suspect don't belong. Time travel for example doesn't by itself make a book alternate history.


message 31: by Booklovinglady (new)

Booklovinglady Veeral wrote: "Or, it could mean 14 people don't know the meaning of "alternate history"..."

My thought exaclty :-)

@Lobstergirl
Thanks for removing it.


message 32: by Brent (new)

Brent Underground Airlines - Ben H Winters


message 33: by Syd (new)

Syd Logsdon Re: Number of the Beast - Heinlein wrote accurate projections of the near future and when the present overran him, began to consider his works as occuring in alternate timelines. This makes all of his work technically alternate history, but not suitable for a list like this.


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