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Reading Challenges > September 2013 Reading Challenge: Historical Fiction

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message 1: by Barrie (new)

Barrie | 35 comments Mod
I gorged myself on historical fiction in elementary school. Embarrassing series that usually had a heroine on the cover flanked by two men. I think James Cameron stole the plot of Titanic from one of those books. September's challenge is - you guessed it!- historical fiction. If you want to participate I'd say anything that incorporates an historical event or brings a previous time period to life is fair game.

I plan on reading The Aviator's Wife by Melanie Benjamin and Above All Things by Tanis Rideout. I like that whole behind-every-successful-man-stands-a-great-woman thing.

To participate simply post your progress or leave a comment below for a chance to win a pre-publication copy of a book.

Happy Fall!

message 2: by Chip (new)

Chip | 89 comments I've been thinking of reading Murder as a Fine Art by David Morrell - it sounds wonderful!

message 3: by Barrie (new)

Barrie | 35 comments Mod
I'm also intrigued by fiction that rewrites, or reimagines, history. I'm thinking here of Stephen King's 11/22/63.

message 4: by Eleanor (new)

Eleanor (hangakugozen) This challenge has me thinking it's time to tackle Gore Vidal's Lincoln. At 600+ pages, it's not light reading; I've also heard people complain that Vidal's pace is leisurely at best, glacial at its worst. Maybe not the greatest book to tackle at the beginning of the fall, when winter places a deadline on outdoor projects and we're still seeing a trickle of out-of-town visitors. But I've been meaning to read this novel since it came out in 1984. There aren't many writers who can make witty, mordant observations about events and people in American history like Vidal. He could be a snob---he made no secret about his dislike for "Middle America," disposable tissues (real gentlemen carried handkerchiefs) or vinyl anything---but one has to admire him for his high principles and belief that America could always do better. There, now I've talked myself into reading the book. :D

message 5: by Barrie (new)

Barrie | 35 comments Mod
All of these books sound great. Historical fiction can encompass so much.
Eleanor - I say go for it with Gore Vidal!
Tabitha - Kinslayer sounds intriguing. Speaking of Victoriana, there are lots of good books coming out that incorporate that time period. Historical mysteries in general are on the rise. These include Alys Clare's Hawkenlye series; Anne Perry's William Monk & Thomas and Charlotte Pitt series; Laurie R. King's Sherlock Holmes books; and Rhys Bowen.

message 6: by Mthacher (new)

Mthacher | 1 comments I'm reading When a Crocodile Eats the Sun but Peter Godwin, about how Robert Mugabe has caused the complete disintegration of Zimbabwe. It's very recent history, but still history, and gives a lot of information in a very literary style that makes you feel as if you are there.

message 7: by Matt (new)

Matt I loved Stephen King's 11/22/63! I'm also a big fan of the books that re-imagine history. Another author who writes in this genre, but more science fiction is Harry turtledove. He has some great series works one of which is based on the Civil War (where it's the confederate states of America). If you REALLY like Science fiction and historical fiction, he has a series about World War II, but with aliens!

message 8: by Chip (new)

Chip | 89 comments Tabitha the Pabkins wrote: "...I just started Gideon South and the Mechanical Girl. A book set in nineteenth century London and steam punk. The Work War II and aliens sounds good!"

Your comment made me think of Scott Westerfeld's Leviathan trilogy for young adults (Leviathan, Behemoth, and the soon-to-be-released Goliath). The stories take place in a re-imagined WWI between the "Darwinists" (the English and their allies) and the "Clankers" (the Germans and theirs). The Germans' machines are very "steampunk" but the Darwinists have used genetics to spawn all sorts of marvelous and terrifying creatures of war. Behemoth (Bk 2) spends a lot of time in Constantinople, and it's just wonderful. Loads of fun and very imaginative. You might like it!

And thanks for calling my attention to Gideon Smith (not "South") - I put it on my to-read list!

message 9: by ❤Marie (new)

❤Marie Gentilcore (rachelx) | 39 comments I wasn't going to do this challenge because I don't read a lot of historical fiction, but a friend loves the books of Norah Lofts so I changed my mind and I'm going to read The Concubine by Norah Lofts, a story of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn.

message 10: by Eleanor (new)

Eleanor (hangakugozen) Another new book---books actually---that could be added to the list of historical fiction is Gene Luen Yang's Boxers & Saints. I realize not everyone thinks graphic novels are in the same category as "real books," but this was solid storytelling within a historical context, in this case, the Boxer Rebellion at the end of the 19th century in China. Yang observes the events through the eyes of two different characters: Bao, a young man whose family and village have suffered as the result of government policies created in favor of the "foreign devils" who occupy their country; and Vibiana, a young girl who finds validation in becoming a Christian after being mistreated by her own family. As in his previous book, American Born Chinese, Yang weaves human events with classical Chinese mythology and literature. In an interesting switch however, Vibiana is visited by the spirit of Joan of Arc. I won't say more for fear of spoiling the story for others: but the characters are so palpably human, at once sympathetic, funny, horrible, and sad, it's hard not to wish there was more about them. I don't normally write reviews for the books I read, but I loved these books and hope they'll gain a wider audience beyond comic book fans and alternative-press readers.

message 11: by Barrie (new)

Barrie | 35 comments Mod
Love all the great discussion going on here! Even though these titles are not fiction, both the Persepolis series by Marjane Satrapi and Radioactive: Marie and Pierre Curie: A Tale of Love and Fallout by Lauren Redniss, are two graphic novels that really bring history to life. There is also a good list of "historical graphic novels" on this site:

I am enjoying The Aviator's Wife, although it certainly doesn't idealize Charles Lindbergh. This is a less an historical love story than it is a tale of Anne Morrow Lindbergh's resilience.

message 12: by Sarah (new)

Sarah (mrsclift) | 11 comments I finished reading Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker by Jennifer Chiaverini. on Saturday. It read more like a history book than a novel. But it provided an accurate glimpse into wartime Washington, Mrs. Lincoln's life at the Whitehouse and after, and the life of Elizabeth Keckley, a slave who bought her freedom and became the most successful dressmaker in Washington. Excellent book.

Then today, I finished Blackmoore by Julianne Donaldson. I laughed, I cried, and I cheered at the end! Five stars!

message 13: by Chip (new)

Chip | 89 comments I just finished David Morrell's Murder as a Fine Art. Wow - that was terrific! Deeply researched, a fascinating glimpse into Victorian England. And into Thomas de Quincy, who wrote the famous (or infamous) Confessions of an English Opium-Eater. Plus, it's an excellent detective story. Be sure to read all the Postscript, Afterword, and Acknowledgements. This was a great read!

Next up is Shields' and Salerno's Salinger. Yikes - 700+ pages and only 17 days until it's due back at the library!

message 14: by Barrie (new)

Barrie | 35 comments Mod
I finished The Aviator's Wife. The writing was good and the events of Anne Morrow Lindbergh's life certainly make for compelling reading. But I found the character of Anne altogether too passive. Charles Lindbergh was incredibly domineering, according to this book. I wasn't that keen on viewing history through her eyes because I found myself wanting to her to more bold and assertive. I think I may steer away from fictionalized versions of real people. Historical fiction can be so good with wholly imagined characters and story lines.

To that end, I've put off my plans to read "Above All Things," and started The Hangman's Daughter by Oliver Pötzsch. It has to do with witchcraft in 17th century Bavaria. The setting and time period are vividly drawn. Witch trials were common in Europe around the time of the Thirty Years's War. I'll keep you posted...

message 15: by Barrie (new)

Barrie | 35 comments Mod
The Hangman's Daughter is great! A good read to transition into October. The book got me thinking about the Salem Witch Trials and the Great Awakening in America. The idea that witches, demons and ghouls were walking among us was very pervasive then. Women with knowledge, power, and influence, including midwives, were singled out. The author brings 17th century Bavaria to life. The book has elements of historical fiction, suspense, mystery, horror and magical realism. Highly recommended.

How are everyone's challenges going?

message 16: by Barrie (new)

Barrie | 35 comments Mod
Thanks to everyone for participating in our Reading Challenge! Tabitha the Pabkins has won an Advanced Reading Copy of a soon-to-be published book! Leave a comment to let us know at which Sacramento Public Library branch you would like to pick up your prize!

message 17: by Barrie (new)

Barrie | 35 comments Mod
Hi Tabitha! Does The Emperor's Blades sound good? I noticed you have it on your "to reads" list. It should get there in a couple of days.

message 18: by Barrie (new)

Barrie | 35 comments Mod
That'd be great!

Any favorite genres?

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