I’ve always been so fascinated by the people who came before me and the legacies they leave behind. I love submerging myself into the inner lives of people across time and places in which I could never experience for myself. Reading historical fiction continues to inspire me to learn more about different countries, their culture, and their fascinating history. Does this sound like you? Do you love books that take you to places you’ve never been to? Well, you’re in luck! I’ve compiled a list of my personal favorite historical fiction books that I couldn’t put down. Experience culture, time travel, scandal, war, death, and love with these favorites today!
Outlander: Outlander Series (8 Book Series)
This book has it all, time travel, war, romance, history and culture and so much more! It’s one of those reads I just can’t put down.
Synopsis: Scottish Highlands, 1945. Claire Randall, a former British combat nurse, is just back from the war and reunited with her husband on a second honeymoon when she walks through a standing stone in one of the ancient circles that dot the British Isles. Suddenly she is a Sassenach an “outlander”—in a Scotland torn by war and raiding clans in the year of Our Lord . . . 1743.
Claire is catapulted into the intrigues of a world that threatens her life and may shatter her heart. Marooned amid danger, passion, and violence, Claire learns her only chance of safety lies in Jamie Fraser, a gallant young Scots warrior. What begins in compulsion becomes an urgent need, and Claire finds herself torn between two very different men, in two irreconcilable lives.
The Last Kingdom: Saxon Chronicles (12 Book Series)
Synopsis: In the middle years of the ninth century, the fierce Danes stormed onto British soil, hungry for spoils and conquest. Kingdom after kingdom fell to the ruthless invaders until but one realm remained. And suddenly the fate of all England—and the course of history—depended upon one man, one king.
Written by best selling Bernard Cornwell a rousing epic adventure of courage, treachery, duty, devotion, majesty, love, and battle as seen through the eyes of a young warrior who straddled two worlds.
Ross Poldark: Poldark Series (12 Book Series)
Synopsis: In the first novel in Winston Graham’s hit series, a weary Ross Poldark returns to England from war, looking forward to a joyful homecoming with his beloved Elizabeth. But instead, he discovers his father has died, his home is overrun by livestock and drunken servants, and Elizabeth—believing Ross to be dead—is now engaged to his cousin. Ross has no choice but to start his life anew.
Thus begins the Poldark series, a heartwarming, gripping saga set in the windswept landscape of Cornwall. With an unforgettable cast of characters that spans loves, lives, and generations, this extraordinary masterwork from Winston Graham is a story you will never forget.
The White Queen: The Cousins Wars Series (5 Book Series)
Elizabeth Woodville is a woman of extraordinary beauty and ambition. Her mother is Jacquetta, also known as the mystical lady of the rivers, and she is even more determined to bring power and wealth to the family line. While riding in the woods one day, Elizabeth captures the attentions of the newly crowned King Edward IV and, despite her common upbringing, marries him in secret.
When she is made his queen, the English court is outraged, but Elizabeth rises to the demands of her exalted position and fights for her family’s dominance. Yet despite her best efforts, and even with the help of her mother’s powers, her two sons become pawns in a famous unsolved mystery that has confounded historians for centuries: the lost princes in the Tower of London.
In this dazzling account of the deadly Wars of the Roses, brother turns on brother to win the ultimate prize: the throne of England.
Memoirs of Mary Queen of Scots:
Synopsis: Queen of Scotland at six days of age, married as a young girl to the invalid young King of France, Mary took the reins of the unruly kingdom of Scotland as a young widow and fought to keep her throne. A second marriage to her handsome but dissolute cousin Lord Darnley ended in murder, and scandal, while a third to the dashing Lord Bothwell, the love of her life, gave her joy but widened the scandal and surrounded her with enduring ill repute.
Unable to rise above the violence and disorder that swirled around her, Mary escaped to England only to find herself a prisoner of her ruthless, merciless cousin, Queen Elizabeth.In this riveting first-person account, is the enchanting woman whose name still evokes excitement and compassion. She whose death under the headsman’s ax still draws forth our sorrow.
Last Wife of Henry VIII:
How could anyone not be interested in anything that has to do with King Henry VIII? The man who notoriously beheaded his wives and enemies. In this book, we see through the eyes of Catherine Parr the last surviving wife of the infamous king.
Synopsis: The least known of Henry VIII’s six wives was the cleverest of them all. Alluring, witty, and resourceful, she attracted the king’s lust and, though much in love with the handsome Thomas Seymour, was thrown into the intrigue-filled snake pit of the royal court. While victims of the king’s wrath suffered torture and execution, Catherine withstood the onslaught, even when Henry sought to replace her with wife number seven. She survived her royal husband and found happiness with Seymour but it was shadowed by rivalry with the young Princess Elizabeth, whose affection Seymour coveted. Catherine won the contest, but at great cost.
The Virgin Lover:
Synopsis: In the autumn of 1558, church bells across England ring out the joyous news that Elizabeth I is the new queen, yet one woman hears the tidings with utter dread. She is Amy Dudley, wife of Sir Robert, and she knows that Elizabeth’s ambitious leap to the throne will draw her husband back to the center of the glamorous Tudor court, where he was born to be.
Elizabeth’s excited triumph is short-lived. She has inherited a bankrupt country where treason is rampant and foreign war a certainty. Her faithful advisors warn her that she will survive only if she marries a strong prince to govern the rebellious country, but the one man Elizabeth desires is her childhood friend, the ambitious Robert Dudley. As the young couple falls back in love, a question hangs in the air: can he really set aside his wife and marry the queen? When Amy is found dead, Elizabeth and Dudley are suddenly plunged into a struggle for survival.
Memoirs of a Geisha:
Synopsis: Speaking to us with the wisdom of age and in a voice at once haunting and startlingly immediate, Nitta Sayuri tells the story of her life as a geisha. It begins in a poor fishing village in 1929, when, as a nine-year-old girl with unusual blue-gray eyes, she is taken from her home and sold into slavery to a renowned geisha house. We witness her transformation as she learns the rigorous arts of the geisha: dance and music; wearing kimono, elaborate makeup, and hair; pouring sake to reveal just a touch of inner wrist; competing with a jealous rival for men’s solicitude and the money that goes with it.
In Memoirs of a Geisha, we enter a world where appearances are paramount; where a girl’s virginity is auctioned to the highest bidder; where women are trained to beguile the most powerful men; and where love is scorned as illusion. It is a unique and triumphant work of fiction—at once romantic, erotic, suspenseful—and completely unforgettable.
Synopsis: Victor Hugo’s tale of injustice, love, and heroism follows the fortunes of Jean Valjean, an escaped convict determined to put his criminal past behind him. But his attempts to become a respected member of the community are constantly put under threat by his conscience, a case of mistaken identity, and by the relentless investigations of the dogged policeman Javert.
It is not simply for himself that Valjean must stay free, however, for he has sworn to protect the baby daughter of Fantine, driven to prostitution by poverty. A compelling and compassionate view of the victims of early nineteenth-century French society, Les Misérables is a novel on an epic scale, moving inexorably from the eve of the battle of Waterloo to the July Revolution of 1830.
Synopsis: In boyhood, Louis Zamperini was an incorrigible delinquent. As a teenager, he channeled his defiance into running, discovering a prodigious talent that carried him to the Berlin Olympics. But when World War II began, the athlete became an airman, embarking on a journey that led to a doomed flight on a May afternoon in 1943. When his Army Air Forces bomber crashed into the Pacific Ocean, against all odds, Zamperini survived, adrift on a foundering life raft.
Ahead of Zamperini lay thousands of miles of open ocean, leaping sharks, thirst and starvation, enemy aircraft, and, beyond, a trial even greater. Driven to the limits of endurance, Zamperini would answer desperation with ingenuity, hope, resolve, and humor; brutality with rebellion. His fate, whether triumph or tragedy, would be suspended on the fraying wire of his will.
Unbroken is an unforgettable testament to the resilience of the human mind, body, and spirit, brought vividly to life by Seabiscuit author Laura Hillenbrand.
I hope you enjoy this list as much as I do and that you allow yourself to be transported to new worlds. Each and every one of these books has been a fantastic experience for me and it will be for you too. Also, I love hearing from you guys so have you read any of these or plan to? Should I have a book giveaway? Great, tell me all about it in the comments below!