Top 5 Historical Fiction BooksHi Guys, great group! What do you think are your top 5 favorite books in the genre?

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kwoo1213 | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator

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I wouldn't include Grapes of Wrath and Catch-22 in the category of historical fiction. I think the author needs to be far removed from the era in which the novel is set, and I think the Depression was during Steinbeck's lifetime; the same goes for Heller and Cooper.

Completely disagree.  Steinbeck was adamant in his letters and journals to capture history "as it happened" and was very concerned that he "get it right."  I don't see why an author must be far removed from historical "fact" in order to write historical fiction.

Same is true of Heller, IMO. 

I agree with your stance about this.  I think authors who've lived in the time periods they write about are the most credible and believable.  It would be, in my opinion, much easier and more credible to write about something one knows.  I've always taught my students, for example, to write about what they know in the majority of their essays (although I do know they'll write about things they do not know much about and have to research, as well, in other subjects).

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Scott Locklear | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

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Well, I'll take the bullet on this one and toss in good ol' Sir Walter Scott. Muscle your way through the first interminable 80 pages of Waverly, and it's really a great read--love, rebellion, disillusionment, and a high body count. 

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allyson | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Assistant Educator

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I would add The Red Tent by Anita Diamant. Great story about less discussed names from the Bible.

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alexb2 | eNotes Employee

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I'll third Grendel, that was my top choice, historical fiction or not. :) I'm not really all that in to historical fiction, but I do enjoy these three. I couldn't think of 5. :(

1. Jack White's Templar Trilogy

2. The King Must Die - Mary Renault

3. Master and Commander -Patrick O'Brian

 

Master and Commander is a great one! Really exciting stuff. They even did a good job with the movie.

As for the Alienist, you definitely have to be a fan of detective novels and have the stomach for some gruesome stuff. If that's your cup of tea, give it another chance, but if not you won't like it at all. There are some very disturbing historical revelations about New York during that time! We think of today being a violent age, but it's nothing like how it was then.

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linda-allen | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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I am a fan of E.L. Doctorow's work, such as Ragtime. I also like Caleb Carr-- has anyone read "The Alienist"? Fascinating portrayal of New York City during the 19th Century.

I have tried to read The Alienist, but I couldn't get into it. Maybe you can persuade me to give it another try!

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clane | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

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I'll third Grendel, that was my top choice, historical fiction or not. :) I'm not really all that in to historical fiction, but I do enjoy these three. I couldn't think of 5. :(

1. Jack White's Templar Trilogy

2. The King Must Die - Mary Renault

3. Master and Commander -Patrick O'Brian

 

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alexb2 | eNotes Employee

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I am a fan of E.L. Doctorow's work, such as Ragtime. I also like Caleb Carr-- has anyone read "The Alienist"? Fascinating portrayal of New York City during the 19th Century.

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amy-lepore | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Reply to #8 and #9.  The main characters in the OUTLANDER series are also up to their elbows in the action and closely involved.  In order to make it believeable and enjoyable (for me at least) the sense of urgency and immediacy created by an involved narrator makes the book great.

I love Catch-22, but didn't think of it as historical fiction until just now. :)

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linda-allen | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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I like Bernard Cornwell's books, including his Grail Quest series and his Anglo-Saxon series.  He's also the author of the Sharpe series, but I haven't read those.  I also have enjoyed Margaret George's books on Mary, Queen of Scots, and Henry VIII.  Although those are about real people, I would still put them under "historical fiction" because they are definitely NOT biographies.

I love Cornwell's book about the building of Stonehenge. I have a couple of his other books but haven't read them yet. If you like Margaret George, you have to read The Memoirs of Cleopatra. She has written a book about Helen of Troy too.

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malibrarian | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

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I like Bernard Cornwell's books, including his Grail Quest series and his Anglo-Saxon series.  He's also the author of the Sharpe series, but I haven't read those.  I also have enjoyed Margaret George's books on Mary, Queen of Scots, and Henry VIII.  Although those are about real people, I would still put them under "historical fiction" because they are definitely NOT biographies.

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Jamie Wheeler | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

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I wouldn't include Grapes of Wrath and Catch-22 in the category of historical fiction. I think the author needs to be far removed from the era in which the novel is set, and I think the Depression was during Steinbeck's lifetime; the same goes for Heller and Cooper.

Completely disagree.  Steinbeck was adamant in his letters and journals to capture history "as it happened" and was very concerned that he "get it right."  I don't see why an author must be far removed from historical "fact" in order to write historical fiction.

Same is true of Heller, IMO. 

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linda-allen | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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I wouldn't include Grapes of Wrath and Catch-22 in the category of historical fiction. I think the author needs to be far removed from the era in which the novel is set, and I think the Depression was during Steinbeck's lifetime; the same goes for Heller and Cooper.

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Jamie Wheeler | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

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Here's a shocker at #1, coming from me...

1. Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck (http://www.enotes.com/grapes)

2. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller (http://www.enotes.com/catch22)

3. Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper (http://www.enotes.com/last-mohicans)

4. In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez (http://www.enotes.com/time-butterflies)

5. The Confessions of Nat Turner by William Styron (http://www.enotes.com/confessions-nat-qn)

Another good one which I don't have a eNotes link to is Seneca Falls Inheritance by Miriam Grace Monfredo. It's a page turning mystery set at the 1848 Women's Rights Convention. http://www.amazon.com/Seneca-Falls-Inheritance-Miriam-Monfredo/dp/0425144658/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1202944652&sr=8-1

For YA fiction, I'd also like to nominate:

The Bronze Bow by Elizabeth George Speare (http://www.enotes.com/bronze-bow)

A Proud Taste for Scarlet and Miniver by E.L. Konigsburg (http://www.enotes.com/proud-taste-qn)

I am somewhat confused, I was under the impression that historical fiction is a fictionalized re-telling of actual events, and the main characters are notable people from history. Most of your choices would fall into this category, but not all. What is the definition of Historical Fiction, if there is one?

  Whoops.  I guess I lost my train of thought when agreeing to the Grendel (though it is fabulous). 

As for an official definition, my thinking is that the work is based on actual characters or events.  Some combine both, like Alex Haley's Roots.  Others, like Heller, take an event and add fictional characters (his an almalgam of his own experiences and those of his friends.)  Cooper I would defend on the basis of his experiences and interviews of the Frontier.  Styron is probably the closest to combining the two; Steinbeck a close second as many of the characters (like Tom Joad) were based on people he actually knew.

 

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alexb2 | eNotes Employee

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Here's a shocker at #1, coming from me...

1. Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck (http://www.enotes.com/grapes)

2. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller (http://www.enotes.com/catch22)

3. Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper (http://www.enotes.com/last-mohicans)

4. In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez (http://www.enotes.com/time-butterflies)

5. The Confessions of Nat Turner by William Styron (http://www.enotes.com/confessions-nat-qn)

Another good one which I don't have a eNotes link to is Seneca Falls Inheritance by Miriam Grace Monfredo. It's a page turning mystery set at the 1848 Women's Rights Convention. http://www.amazon.com/Seneca-Falls-Inheritance-Miriam-Monfredo/dp/0425144658/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1202944652&sr=8-1

For YA fiction, I'd also like to nominate:

The Bronze Bow by Elizabeth George Speare (http://www.enotes.com/bronze-bow)

A Proud Taste for Scarlet and Miniver by E.L. Konigsburg (http://www.enotes.com/proud-taste-qn)

I am somewhat confused, I was under the impression that historical fiction is a fictionalized re-telling of actual events, and the main characters are notable people from history. Most of your choices would fall into this category, but not all. What is the definition of Historical Fiction, if there is one?

jamie-wheeler's profile pic

Jamie Wheeler | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted on

I hate to sound like a broken record, but OUTLANDER series by Diana Gabaldon is amazing. 

Phillipa Gregory and her series on the Tudors including The Other Bolyn Girl and The Virgin's Lover are also very fun.

John Gardner's Grendel is also wonderful.

 

I'll second Grendel!

http://www.enotes.com/grendel

jamie-wheeler's profile pic

Jamie Wheeler | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted on

Here's a shocker at #1, coming from me...

1. Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck (http://www.enotes.com/grapes)

2. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller (http://www.enotes.com/catch22)

3. Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper (http://www.enotes.com/last-mohicans)

4. In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez (http://www.enotes.com/time-butterflies)

5. The Confessions of Nat Turner by William Styron (http://www.enotes.com/confessions-nat-qn)

Another good one which I don't have a eNotes link to is Seneca Falls Inheritance by Miriam Grace Monfredo. It's a page turning mystery set at the 1848 Women's Rights Convention. http://www.amazon.com/Seneca-Falls-Inheritance-Miriam-Monfredo/dp/0425144658/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1202944652&sr=8-1

For YA fiction, I'd also like to nominate:

The Bronze Bow by Elizabeth George Speare (http://www.enotes.com/bronze-bow)

A Proud Taste for Scarlet and Miniver by E.L. Konigsburg (http://www.enotes.com/proud-taste-qn)

linda-allen's profile pic

linda-allen | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted on

Here are my 5:

1. Katherine by Anya Seton

2. Forever Amber by Kathleen Winsor (because it was the first one I read)

3.The Autobiography of Henry VIII by Margaret George

4. The Firebrand by Marion Zimmer Bradley

5. Everything written by Jean Plaidy--ok, that's a couple of dozen books, but if you love English history, you MUST read her books. She starts with William I and goes all the way to Victoria.

amy-lepore's profile pic

amy-lepore | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

I hate to sound like a broken record, but OUTLANDER series by Diana Gabaldon is amazing. 

Phillipa Gregory and her series on the Tudors including The Other Bolyn Girl and The Virgin's Lover are also very fun.

John Gardner's Grendel is also wonderful.

 

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