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The Hundred Best Historical Fiction Novels

Historical Fiction

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1mcenroeucsb
Aug 22, 2012, 11:50pm Top

How many have *you* read?

1. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
2. Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
3. The Kitchen Boy by Robert Alexander
4. The Book of Saladin by Tariq Ali
5. Daughter of Fortune by Isabel Allende
6. In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez
7. Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood
8. The Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M. Auel
9. Regeneration by Pat Barker
10. The Long Ships by Frans G. Bengtsson
11. Little Big Man by Thomas Berger
12. A Sailor of Austria by John Biggins
13. Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks
14. March by Geraldine Brooks
15. The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck
16. Earthly Powers by Anthony Burgess
17. Your Blues Ain't Like Mine by Bebe Moore Campbell
18. Girl With a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier
19. The Great Train Robbery by Michael Crichton
20. Shōgun by James Clavell
21. Tai-Pan by James Clavell
22. The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay
23. The Farming of Bones by Edwidge Danticat
24. The Red Tent by Anita Diamant
25. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
26. Ragtime by E.L. Doctorow
27. The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas
28. The Birth of Venus by Sarah Dunant
29. The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco
30. Cathedral of the Sea by Ildefonso Falcones
31. The Siege of Krishnapur by J. G. Farrell,
32. Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks
33. The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
34. World Without End by Ken Follett
35. Fall of Giants by Ken Follett
36. Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford
37. Flashman by George MacDonald Fraser
38. The General in His Labyrinth by Gabriel García Márquez
39. The Autobiography of Henry VIII by Margaret George
40. Sea of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh
41. Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden
42. The Physician by Noah Gordon
43. I, Claudius by Robert Graves
44. The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory
45. The Many Lives & Secret Sorrows of Josephine B. by Sandra Gulland
46. Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson
47. Roots by Alex Haley
48. Genghis: Birth of an Empire by Conn Iggulden
49. Aztec by Gary Jennings
50. The Journeyer by Gary Jennings
51. The Far Pavilions by M.M. Kaye
52. Schindler's List by Thomas Keneally
53. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
54. Samarkand by Amin Maalouf
55. Leo Africanus by Amin Maalouf
56. Akhenaton by Naguib Mahfouz
57. Palace Walk by Naguib Mahfouz
58. Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
59. Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel
60. The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough
61. Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry
62. Poland by James A. Michener
63. Wild Ginger by Anchee Min
64. A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry
65. The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell
66. Black Robe by Brian Moore
67. Blonde by Joyce Carol Oates
68. Master and Commander by Patrick O'Brian
69. My Name is Red by Orhan Pamuk
70. Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak
71. The Sunne in Splendour by Sharon Kay Penman
72. Gates of Fire by Steven Pressfield
73. The Last of the Wine by Mary Renault
74. I, the Supreme by Augusto Roa Bastos
75. Doc by Mary Doria Russell
76. Sarum by Edward Rutherfurd
77. The Girl Who Played Go by Shan Sa
78. The Jewel in the Crown by Paul Scott
79. Ivanhoe by Walter Scott
80. Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See
81. A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth
82. Katherine by Anya Seton
83. The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara
84. A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute
85. Quo Vadis by Henryk Sienkiewicz
86. The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons
87. Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner
88. Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
89. The Agony and the Ecstasy by Irving Stone
90. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
91. The War of the End of the World by Mario Vargas Llosa
92. The Feast of the Goat by Mario Vargas Llosa
93. Creation by Gore Vidal
94. Burr by Gore Vidal
95. Lincoln by Gore Vidal
96. The Egyptian by Mika Waltari
97. The Winds of War by Herman Wouk
98. War and Remembrance by Herman Wouk
99. Memoirs of Hadrian by Marguerite Yourcenar
100. Musashi by Eiji Yoshikawa

2dkhiggin
Aug 23, 2012, 12:44am Top

Only 15 for me. :-/

Who came up with the list? So many seem way too recent to be included in a Hundred Best list.

3marieke54
Edited: Aug 23, 2012, 2:57am Top

In this list only 18 for me.

I second the question.
I miss i.e. my own all time favourite Dorothy Dunnett.

And why Herman Wouk but not Elsa Morante who imo did so much a greater thing with History?

And what about Alfred Duggan, who knows him nowadays?

And isn't The Count of Monte Christo a greater novel than The Three Musketeers?
I could go on.

4.Monkey.
Aug 23, 2012, 4:36am Top

*hides* I've only read 2 of those so far. I have about 15 more on my shelves, not yet gotten to. I did dearly love Count of Monte Cristo. And I agree that a lot of this seems very modern. And all three of those Ken Follet ones?? There are several others with two & three to their name, but still. A "top list" shouldn't contain so many doubles & triples, in my opinion.

5thorold
Aug 23, 2012, 5:14am Top

I've read 28, but it certainly doesn't look like a serious list. Flashman, Ivanhoe and Master and Commander all look as though they were arbitrarily picked "because we should have one novel by..." rather than for their quality as novels: none of them could be called their author's best work.
Kidnapped is a much better historical novel than Treasure island, even if the latter is better as an adventure story.
A town like Alice has a story set only five or six years before it was written, so it can't be a historical novel by any sane definition of the term. Earthly powers is debatable as well - most of the story is set during the author's lifetime. And I'm sure there are plenty of others one could quibble about.

6Booksloth
Aug 23, 2012, 6:48am Top

I've read 39 of them (well, to be accurate, 38 1/2 as I only got half way through Cathedral of the Sea, though I do plan to return to it one day). Although it'll be a handy list for more recommendations I'm another one who doesn't see the logic behind it. Would love to know where it came from. Like all these lists, there's a lot I'd disagree with but they're still fun.

100% agree with Thorold about A Town Like Alice and I'd also have doubts about The Thorn Birds though I guess with that one it depends on which bit you're reading and how far back you count as 'historical'.

Please come back, OP, and tell us where you got the list from!

7majkia
Aug 23, 2012, 8:02am Top

There are some highly questionable choices in that list IMHO.

8Morphidae
Aug 23, 2012, 8:30am Top

I've read 20 and I'd agree. There are some weird choices on that list. Where's it from?

9Osbaldistone
Edited: Aug 23, 2012, 8:43am Top

Treasure Island? Really? Is there anything about it that makes it an historical novel? As far as I know, it's not based on an historical event, there are no historical characters in it, and it doesn't take place in the midst of actual historical events. It's an adventure novel; perhaps what we would now call a 'period piece', but not an historical novel. If it is, then nearly every novel written other than science fiction/fantasy could be called an historical novel. Am I off-base here? Are there others like this on the list?

I've read 6 on the list; seen several of the movies; have many on my TBR list.

Os.

10Betty30554
Aug 23, 2012, 8:51am Top

I didn't count, but I have read quite a few that are on the list. And I will be looking for several more from the list.

Honest question - does it have to be related to a long-ago time to be considered "historical" fiction? There are many history-making events that are fairly recent, but is history-making the same as historical?

11mcenroeucsb
Aug 23, 2012, 10:26am Top

2 (dkhiggin): I came up with the list.

3 (marieke54): Thank you for the recommendations! I'm working on a revised version to include Duggan and Dunnet (and to exclude Wouk and Shute -- I didn't realize their novels' time-periods overlapped with their lifetimes). And while I can't include Morante on the list as it doesn't seem to qualify as HF, I now plan on reading the book. It looks great. "I could go on." -- please do!

4 (PolymathicMonkey): "A "top list" shouldn't contain so many doubles & triples, in my opinion." Good point. I'll trim down a few of the multiple listings. But I can't bring myself to remove Gore's Burr, Lincoln, or Creation -- all are so excellent.

5 (thoroldToday). Good points about A Town Like Alice and Earthly Powers -- they will be removed from the next iteration.

HOWEVER, I have to strongly disagree with your claim that 'Flashman, Ivanhoe and Master and Commander all look as though they were arbitrarily picked "because we should have one novel by..." rather than for their quality as novels: none of them could be called their author's best work.' Flashman is well-written, well-researched historical fiction and I'm intrigued to find out what is Fraser's better work. Something else from the Flashman series? While I like the other books, the original Flashman novel seems to be the best. But I'm open to other opinions.

Re:"Master and Commander" -- it actually is not my favorite book, but I have several friends who are fanatics for the series. Would you recommend a different book from the series?

Re: Ivanhoe. For a historical fiction list, Ivanhoe seems to be the antithesis of "arbitrarily picked." It's one of the most landmark works in the genre of historical novels/historical fiction. And it's a good read, although it was a little slow the last time I picked it up (compare to my first reading of it, which I loved).

@ 6 (Booksloth): The Thorn Birds was actually included by accident -- I meant to list McCullough's Morgan's Run. I'm still a little conflicted on Morgan's Run -- it's got some good parts, but it moves so slowly at times.

9 (Osbaldistone): "Treasure Island? Really?" Fair enough, I like the book and therefore tried to shoe-horn it into the list, but you're right -- it doesn't belong.

10 (Betty30554) "does it have to be related to a long-ago time to be considered "historical" fiction? There are many history-making events that are fairly recent, but is history-making the same as historical?" If there's a definitive answer, I haven't heard it. I've heard that to be considered historical fiction it should have been set fifty years or more, I've heard that to be considered historical fiction it should be set before the author's lifetime. I think both of those are a bit arbitrary. If I was born in 1965 and write a novel about Neil Armstrong and Buzz set around the time of their 1969 moon landing, I think it strange that that novel wouldn't qualify as historical fiction under the two example HF "criteria" I listed.

12PensiveCat
Aug 23, 2012, 11:36am Top

I've read 14 on the list. Don't know if I agree with 'best', or even with 'historical fiction' (anything that happened in my lifetime doesn't seem like history), but it's a decent TBR list anyway.

13.Monkey.
Aug 23, 2012, 2:25pm Top

>11 mcenroeucsb:, Ah, makes more sense knowing it's a sole individual's list. In that, a group of literary types sitting around discussing & polling and such would have more luck coming up with a broader range, I think. Understandable.

Creation is one of those on my shelves that I've not yet got to, haven't read any of his work yet, but I am looking forward to doing so. :)

14mamalaz
Aug 23, 2012, 3:35pm Top

I have read about 30 of the books. I am not sure that all of them are historical fiction, but I like the list anyway. Gives me some ideas for new reading material.

15thorold
Aug 23, 2012, 4:31pm Top

>11 mcenroeucsb:
Well, in any case, you've got us talking! No-one's ever posted an entirely uncontroversial list on LibraryThing, as far as I know. :-)

I agree that Ivanhoe is a fun read and has been very influential on popular culture, but if you're talking about "best historical novels" then you ought to have (at least) The Heart of Midlothian, Old Mortality and Rob Roy ahead of it on the list. In the 17th and 18th centuries, Scott took the history seriously. The medieval ones are just entertainment.

16Osbaldistone
Aug 23, 2012, 5:46pm Top

>15 thorold: No-one's ever posted an entirely uncontroversial list on LibraryThing, as far as I know

List of 21st Century Presidents of the United States:
1. William Jefferson "Bill" Clinton
2. George Walker Bush
3. Barack Hussein Obama II

;-)

17varielle
Aug 23, 2012, 5:53pm Top

25, though 10 more are languishing on my TBR pile.

18mcenroeucsb
Aug 23, 2012, 6:23pm Top

Revised list (removed non-HF books, added some of the suggested titles):

1. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
2. Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
3. The Kitchen Boy by Robert Alexander
4. The Book of Saladin by Tariq Ali
5. Daughter of Fortune by Isabel Allende
6. In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez
7. Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood
8. The Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M. Auel
9. Regeneration by Pat Barker
10. The Long Ships by Frans G. Bengtsson
11. Little Big Man by Thomas Berger
12. A Sailor of Austria by John Biggins
13. Water Music by T. C. Boyle
14. Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks
15. March by Geraldine Brooks
16. The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck
17. A Dead Man in Deptford by Anthony Burgess
18. True History of the Kelly Gang by Peter Carey
19. Your Blues Ain't Like Mine by Bebe Moore Campbell
20. Girl With a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier
21. The Great Train Robbery by Michael Crichton
22. Shōgun by James Clavell
23. Segu by Maryse Conde
24. The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay
25. The Farming of Bones by Edwidge Danticat
26. The Red Tent by Anita Diamant
27. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
28. Ragtime by E. L. Doctorow
29. Winter Quarters by Alfred Leo Duggan
30. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
31. The Birth of Venus by Sarah Dunant
32. The Game of Kings by Dorothy Dunnett
33. The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco
34. The Siege of Krishnapur by J. G. Farrell
35. Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks
36. The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
37. Fall of Giants by Ken Follett
38. Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford
39. Flashman by George MacDonald Fraser
40. The General in His Labyrinth by Gabriel García Márquez
41. The Autobiography of Henry VIII by Margaret George
42. Sea of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh
43. Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden
44. The Physician by Noah Gordon
45. I, Claudius by Robert Graves
46. The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory
47. The Many Lives & Secret Sorrows of Josephine B. by Sandra Gulland
48. Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson
49. Roots by Alex Haley
50. Genghis: Birth of an Empire by Conn Iggulden
51. Aztec by Gary Jennings
52. The Journeyer by Gary Jennings
53. The Far Pavilions by M. M. Kaye
54. Schindler's List by Thomas Keneally
55. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
56. Samarkand by Amin Maalouf
57. Leo Africanus by Amin Maalouf
58. Akhenaton by Naguib Mahfouz
59. Palace Walk by Naguib Mahfouz
60. Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
61. The First Man in Rome by Colleen McCullough
62. Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry
63. Poland by James A. Michener
64. Wild Ginger by Anchee Min
65. The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell
66. Black Robe by Brian Moore
67. Blonde by Joyce Carol Oates
68. Master and Commander by Patrick O'Brian
69. My Name is Red by Orhan Pamuk
70. Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak
71. The Sunne in Splendour by Sharon Kay Penman
72. Gates of Fire by Steven Pressfield
73. The Last of the Wine by Mary Renault
74. I, the Supreme by Augusto Roa Bastos
75. The Radetzky March by Joseph Roth
76. Doc by Mary Doria Russell
77. Sarum by Edward Rutherfurd
78. The Girl Who Played Go by Shan Sa
79. The Jewel in the Crown by Paul Scott
80. Rob Roy by Walter Scott
81. Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See
82. A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth
83. Katherine by Anya Seton
84. The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara
85. Quo Vadis by Henryk Sienkiewicz
86. With Fire and Sword by Henryk Siekiewicz
87. The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons
88. Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner
89. The Agony and the Ecstasy by Irving Stone
90. City of Dreams by Beverly Swerling
91. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
92. The War of the End of the World by Mario Vargas Llosa
93. The Feast of the Goat by Mario Vargas Llosa
94. Creation by Gore Vidal
95. Burr by Gore Vidal
96. Lincoln by Gore Vidal
97. The Egyptian by Mika Waltari
98. Red Sorghum by Mo Yan
99. Memoirs of Hadrian by Marguerite Yourcenar
100. Musashi by Eiji Yoshikawa

19majkia
Aug 23, 2012, 6:47pm Top

I like that list a LOT better. Gonna have to investigate a few titles I don't recognize. I've read at least 16 and heard about quite a few others.

20Betty30554
Aug 24, 2012, 4:03am Top

(wailing and wringing hands) OMG! I'M HISTORICAL! ARGHHHH!

21Booksloth
Aug 24, 2012, 5:29am Top

Agreed that as one person's list it makes more sense. I'm tempted to post my own but 100 books is a bit of a mammoth task for me at the moment - maybe one day.

Only 34 this time around.

It does also bring up the interesting (at least, I think it's interesting) point of what counts as historical. In my own head (and my own lists) it's usually anything before the start of WWII (no, I wasn't alive then but I guess I have trouble thinking of history as anything my parents talked about from their own experience). When does 'historical' begin for you?

22.Monkey.
Aug 24, 2012, 6:40am Top

>21 Booksloth: Well, I know 1969 was not so very long ago, but the moon landing seems very much "history" to me. As does Women's Lib, the whole "Flower Power" era, Vietnam, etc. So I guess there's a bit of merit to the -prior to lifetime- descriptor. But I think "lifetime" needs to be qualified a bit- as being more from when one can truly understand the bigger picture rather than the date one is born. I mean if you're 2 yrs old, or even 5 or so, when something "big" happens, you won't remember it, or just barely. You won't comprehend the significance of it. You'll read about it later in life and not feel as though you were a part of it, you know? So I think the example above of being born in '65, that it's still prior to the person's "cognitive lifetime," so to speak.

23thorold
Aug 24, 2012, 7:57am Top

>16 Osbaldistone:
<quibble>Hmm. Can you count someone who was only in office for the first three weeks of the century? </quibble>

>21 Booksloth:,22
I don't think you can ever make a hard and fast rule. It can be very subjective, e.g. "how I watched the moon landings" doesn't feel like history, but a recent non-fiction study of the Apollo programme might. I think Booksloth has a good point about "things my parents talked about": if you look at something in a context that relates it to yourself, it's difficult to think of it as history.

24john257hopper
Aug 24, 2012, 8:51am Top

For me 24 on the first list, 22 on the revised one, though the latter seems more objectively defensible as a "best of" list, meaning no disrespect to the OP's tastes at all. Subjectively, it does seem a bit odd seeing both Philippa Gregory and Tolstoy on one list though!

Very glad to see First Man in Rome on the revised list as the Masters of Rome series is a strong contender for my all time favourite historical series.

FWIW, I think Treasure Island can count as HF - wasn't it supposed to be set in the 18th century (though I admit it's not clearcut)? I don't think the inclusion of real historical characters is an essential part of the definition of what constitutes HF. I think I tend to subconsciously adopt a sort of 30 years before the time of writing rule in my own mind.

I too will use this as a TBR list (as if I needed another one!)

John

25dekesolomon
Aug 24, 2012, 9:03am Top

Any list of the 100 best historical novels that includes Jean Auel's "Clan of the Cave Bear" is laughable. The fact that said list rates "Cave Bear" higher than Robert Graves' "I Claudius" is roll-on-the-floor ludicrous.

The fact that "Cave Bear" made the list while Herman Melville's "Moby-Dick" did not is enough to wreck any literate person's underwear. Maybe Melville should have named his epic "Clan of the Whalepersons"?

In sum, that list smells mighty fishy.

26john257hopper
Aug 24, 2012, 9:18am Top

#25 - I don't think the list is meant to be in order of perceived quality, just 100 selected from others that didn't make the list. And I like both of those books, though they are very different for sure (as are numerous others).

John

27john257hopper
Aug 24, 2012, 9:27am Top

I may also post my own list of favourite historical fiction I have read at some point, though it won't be a favourite 100 - possibly a favourite c30/40 - and definitely not in ranking order. Anyway, this thread is fun and I have starred it.

John

28mcenroeucsb
Aug 24, 2012, 9:52am Top

@25dekesolomon

"The fact that said list rates "Cave Bear" higher than Robert Graves' "I Claudius" is roll-on-the-floor ludicrous."

The books are listed in alphabetical order by author's last name, not in any ranked order.

29Osbaldistone
Aug 24, 2012, 4:53pm Top

I'm sure there's no exact definition of 'historical fiction', but for me, it must include either realistically presented historical characters and/or historical events in more than a decorative 'wallpaper' function. That is, they must have an impact on the arc of the story. Otherwise, it's just a novel, nearly all of which are set in some timeframe.

Os.

30Betty30554
Aug 24, 2012, 8:52pm Top

>29 Osbaldistone: Os, I like your take on "historical." I would also include time period, such as in Rutherford's works.

31dekesolomon
Aug 24, 2012, 11:13pm Top

>28 mcenroeucsb: -- You wrote "The books are listed in alphabetical order by author's last name, not in any ranked order."

OK. As long as that's the case, I retract my first post. Sorry for any bruised toes.

32Bjace
Aug 24, 2012, 11:32pm Top

What about Cloister and the Hearth? Also, no Kenneth Roberts? I liked Arundel very much.

I read 18 items from the first list and 15 from the revised list.

33marieke54
Aug 25, 2012, 3:21am Top

> 11 mcenroeucsb

You are right about Elsa Morante's History. It is a novel, the most moving anti-war novel I know.

34Betty30554
Edited: Aug 25, 2012, 3:47am Top

I applaud all who attempt such a monumental list, and love to read all the different lists I find on LT. They never fail to remind me of books I have read that I had long forgotten. Thank you mcenroe, and all the others who have devoted time and effort to sharing their lists with the rest of us. Whether we agree with a list or not, they always seem to stimulate wonderful conversations and suggestions.

I forgot to mention that these lists provide me with more TBR and Wishlist entries than I really care to think about.

35mcenroeucsb
Aug 25, 2012, 7:45am Top

@34 - Thanks!

36MerryMary
Aug 25, 2012, 10:48pm Top

I think Booksloth has a good point about "things my parents talked about": if you look at something in a context that relates it to yourself, it's difficult to think of it as history

I grew up on stories from my parents about the Great Depression (their childhoods) and World War II (their teen years and my father's service). I always felt deeply that these were "historical" times and felt like I was lucky to be able to touch the past in a sense.

But then, my mother was a history major and so was I, so maybe we just see things historically as a matter of genetics.

37.Monkey.
Aug 26, 2012, 5:26am Top

>36 MerryMary: Agreed, my parents were there for the moon landing and hippie stuff and I've even browsed through a basement closet-full of old 60s/70s clothes my mom wore that I thought were a riot. It certainly didn't make me feel connected to the events just because they were there. The disconnect is that I was not.

38Booksloth
Aug 26, 2012, 8:01am Top

#37 Unggghhhh. Now I feel really ancient. :(

The first time I ever realised I was becoming the 'older generation' was while listening to the radio one day it dawned on me that there were now grown up people in the world who wren't even born when the Beatles were together. I've gone way beyond that now, of course.

39.Monkey.
Aug 26, 2012, 8:53am Top

LOL. I'm nearly 31, I'm not that young! But yeah, the Beatles were slightly before my time. They were still prominent in my youth though (not that they aren't now, but in a different way), so it doesn't quite feel that way. But I was always more fond of the Monkees, myself. :D

40Booksloth
Aug 26, 2012, 11:14am Top

Aaah, the Monkees! I just bought the boxed set of their albums in a fit of reminiscnence and I'm amazed at how great some (I said 'some') of those songs still are. A little piece of my life vanished when Davy died - I was going to marry him one day, though he never knew.

41Betty30554
Aug 26, 2012, 11:48am Top

>40 Booksloth: Me too. And what about Paul Revere and the Raiders - I would watch them every day when I got home from school. I'm glad vinyl is coming back in vogue.

42princessgarnet
Aug 26, 2012, 12:37pm Top

From the original list, I've read # 18, 25, 27, 44, 45, 82, & 90.

43.Monkey.
Aug 26, 2012, 2:17pm Top

>40 Booksloth: Oh I know, I was crushed! Aside of being adorable he was such a sweet genuine person. I watched an E! biography thing about him several years ago and just fell in love with him (Micky was always my big crush, haha)!

44dekesolomon
Edited: Aug 26, 2012, 3:11pm Top

> 41 -- Last I heard, Paul Revere and the Raiders (minus Mark Lindsay) were still playing dance halls in Montana.

It wouldn't be the same though. Name another vocalist who could have dealt with "Hungry" the way Mark Lindsay did. Bob Seger might have done it. But I don't think Seger or anybody else has ever tried to cover that particular tune.

45Betty30554
Aug 26, 2012, 4:37pm Top

Can't quite see Bob Seger being in the Raiders.

46Diane-bpcb
Sep 8, 2012, 1:20am Top

@35 Um, sorry to interrupt the current thread, but to get back on topic, I don't see how any list could leave out Lorna Doone or Kristin Lavransdatter.

47Anonymous1150
Apr 20, 2014, 8:41am Top

I'm surprised Code Name Verity and Rose Under Fire aren't on the list. They are, by far, two of the best historical fiction books I have heard of.

48Lynxear
Apr 20, 2014, 1:55pm Top

this is a VERY subjective list of one person's list of Historical Fiction.

Clan of the Cave Bear is a good read but Historical??? fanciful more like after all the main character invents everything under the sun from fire from striking flint, the wheel and domesticating animals.

Where is Bernard Cornwall in the list....All of his Sharpe series, Grail Series, Starbuck series, are based on real events in history thoroughly researched with his characters playing a part in the battles.?

Where is CS Forrester in the list with his famous Hornblower series?

where is Harry Thompson? He only wrote one book then sadly passed away but This Thing of Darkness is an amazing book in fictional form about Charles Darwin and Capt Robert Fitzroy on the voyages of the Beagle showing the conflict between religion and science thought.

Where is Anna L. Waldo in her amazing description of the Lewis & Clark Expedition Sacajawea?

these are only a small number of books I would have in any list of best Historical fiction books...there are many more missing from this list....

BTW: you should have identified it as YOUR list of historical fiction likes.... it is quite pretentious on your part to announce the list as the 100 best historical books

49tess_schoolmarm
Apr 20, 2014, 10:33pm Top

I've read 14 on the list, with about another dozen on a TBR pile. I would be interested to know where this list originated.

50dajashby
Apr 21, 2014, 1:16am Top

#49
It originated with mcenroeucsb, who despite membership in the Literary Snobs group clearly has catholic tastes!

I have read 25 of the books in the amended list. I regret the time wasted on some of them, but you can't recognise the best if you don't have second-rate stuff for comparison.

I don't think I could nominate 100 favourites, but my personal list would include books by Henry Treece, Geoffrey Trease, Cecelia Holland, Maurice Druon and Rose Tremain. And finally, just to show I also have catholic tastes, what about Sergeanne Golon?

51Cecrow
Apr 25, 2014, 9:43am Top

I suppose Jewel in the Crown is HF where A Passage to India is not since the latter was written as contemporary ... is that the criteria? Too bad though, since the two deserve comparison and the latter is clearly the superior.

52dajashby
Apr 26, 2014, 12:24am Top

#51
I think you'd be right. It's why Jack Maggs would qualify but Great Expectations wouldn't.

Why do you think the two deserve comparison, apart from the obvious fact that both are set in late colonial India? Is it the issue of rape?

53thorold
May 6, 2014, 9:08am Top

>51 Cecrow:
The Jewel in the Crown is set in 1942; Scott was born in 1920 and posted to India as a young officer in 1943. So in that sense it's no more historical than A passage to India - the only essential difference from the purely chronological viewpoint is that Scott was writing twenty years after the events. But Scott is much more explicitly concerned with historical events than Forster, so I think his book probably does qualify on other grounds.

54janerawoof
May 7, 2014, 1:03pm Top

I've read about 10. I too would like to know the origin of this list. Some seem awfully recent, and not very 'classic'.

55Lynxear
May 8, 2014, 8:48am Top

They are the list of the mind of the poster mcenroeucsb and hardly a collection of the 100 best historical novels IMHO

56FelicitySpence
May 10, 2014, 10:19am Top

Does anyone have an interest in answering some questions about historical fiction? I'm writing a novel about the slave trade and am interested in gathering some opinions about what makes good historical fiction. Have added them below, any feedback would be much appreciated!

• Do you feel a historical fiction writer should be a specialist in the period they are writing about or is it enough to have a passionate interest and be self-taught and well-researched?

• The novel for which I’m assessing the audience is a historical thriller based in Bristol, in the 1760s. It centres on the slave trade – do you think there is still an audience for this topic in the genre of historical fiction or not, as it has been very popular for the last few years?

• Do you believe it’s possible to combine a historical fiction novel with a thriller/mystery or is this a case of diluting the genre too much?

• Is it important that the writer is the same age/demographic as their audience?

• Would you say that the majority of the audience of historical fiction is female? (in your experience)

• What age group do you think enjoys historical fiction? (I always thought it might be older people – 40-70)

57SteveJohnson
May 11, 2014, 10:44pm Top

Well, we can argue forever about this list, which is the point. I would add:
--Robert Harris' "Pompei," with its main character a Roman engineer who realizes something is wrong with Mt. Vesuvius when the aqueducts on its slopes start to fail.
--Gore Vidal's "Julian." He's the post-Christian Roman emperor who tried to bring back the old gods. If he had not failed to put on his armor in the midst of a minor ambush (he died from a dart in his side, though there are those who say he was poisoned) the Christian church might have been only a passing fad. Can't praise Vidal's "Burr" enough. A great character who we know a little about, which makes it a great read to see his fascinating life fleshed out.
--Has anyone actually read "The Count of Monte Christo"? I'd rate it among the worst historical fiction. It was issued serially and it shows, a plot twist about every 20 pages. And I think it is equally fair to challenge it as a "historical novel" as it is to complain about "Treasure Island" on the same grounds. Yes, it is set in a historical period, but historical events have very little affect on its plot and the hero's fantastical treasure cave seems decidedly non-historical.
--As a longtime Atlanta resident, I can't believe that "Gone With the Wind" is not on the list. It's a good read, a great movie and a longtime best-seller.
--Caleb Carr's "The Alienist." OK, this is a bit of a test -- is it a historical novel if the characters are involved in a plot in which they certainly did NOT participate in real life? A crime novel, it is set in New York City in the 1890s and Teddy Roosevelt, then the police commissioner, and the financier J.P. Morgan are key characters. The historical setting is key and there is discussion of new police techniques such as fingerprinting and psychology. (Doctorow's "Waterworks" is similar in plot)
--Jack Finney's "Time and Again." There is a little science fiction in this one, as our hero is sent back in time from the 1970s into the Manhattan of the 1880s, but history is key to the plot (if memory serves, the head of the Statue of Liberty, sitting in a park awaiting its move to NY harbor, plays a key role in the story.)

More? Should we divide the list by eras, e.g., classical Greece and Rome versus Medieval Europe versus Civil War or later?

58Cecrow
May 12, 2014, 8:05am Top

>56 FelicitySpence:, I'd recommend starting that as a new topic. No one's going to find your questions here.

59Lynxear
May 25, 2014, 4:52pm Top

> 18 ...I had some time on my hand and I took a look at the "revised" list you made.

The problem I have is that this list is biased to your viewpoint and hence can hardly be called the "best" list of Historical Fiction. It cannot even be called the "most popular" Historical Fiction as fully 20 titles in this list have a Star rating of less than 3.90.... those that don't make that list are Numbers: 1,3,4,5,15,17,18,20,21,31,48,58,63,64,66,69,74,78,80,98

Personally I would have had that average star rating at least 4.0 to be really a "People's Choice"

At least using the LT rating system as a benchmark one would add a large number of Authors missing from you list. To that end I will add this list to replace the numbers I indicated above ...along with their average Star ratings

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak 4.38
Outlander by Diana Gabaldon 4.29
Number the Stars by Lois Lowry 4.13
Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell 4.36
The Help by Kathryn Stockett 4.39
Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen 4.09
Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse 4.02
The Confusion by Neal Stephenson 4.21
Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel 4.34
All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque 4.08
The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón 4.13
The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy 4.06
Dark Fire by C. J. Sansom 4.09
Sharpe's Eagle by Bernard Cornwell 4.05
Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan 4.17
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee 4.41
The Memoirs of Cleopatra by Margaret George 4.02
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon 4.23
A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly 4.04
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini 4.22
Lieutenant Hornblower by C. S. Forester 4.10
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen 4.44
The Spider's Web by Peter Tremayne 4.05

this is only a partial list of titles worth reading as many authors - Patrick O'Brian, CS Forester, CJ Sansom, Bernard Cornwell - have series of books that have ratings of 3.90 or higher for every book in the series.

My experience with LT's star ratings is that I would read any book with an average star rating above 4.0 without hesitation...I have never been disappointed when I do....while these books may not be all classics in English literature (how did "Pride and Prejudice" and "Gone with the Wind" escape your list??) these books were at least enjoyed by the vast majority that read them...

60justifiedsinner
May 25, 2014, 11:39pm Top

How is Pride and Prejudice historical fiction? It was written contemporaneous to the events. Why would you include the second book in a trilogy Bring Up The Bodies without including the first Wolf Hall? Why would you include books that deal with alternate histories The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay and The Confusion (again the second of a trilogy)? Your list has as many holes in it as the original.

61Lynxear
Edited: May 26, 2014, 10:29am Top

>60 justifiedsinner: as far as Pride and Prejudice goes it is certainly not NON-fiction and the novel reflects the customs and life in 19th century England. It is certainly more Historical Fiction than novels such as Clan of the Cave Bear which is pure fiction IMHO.

As far as Bring Up The Bodies by Mantel goes I listed it as IF YOU CAN READ my post, I listed only novels whose average LT Ratings where over 4.0 and Wolf Hall did not make that grade....but having said that I also say (IF YOU CAN READ) in my last post that I did not list all books by a specific author as often they have many books worth reading and you could fill up a list of 100 good books simply by listing the writing of a few authors...So I would consider H. Mantal probably worth a read in most if not all this author's stable of writing.

I see that The Confusion is considered by some to be Alternative History but more consider it Historical Fiction reflecting the life in the 17th century among Barbary Pirates...I have not read the book but given its high rating among LT readers I would certainly do so if I ran across it.

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay is not alternative history....not one reader assigned that tag to this Pulitzer prize winning novel.

As I have taken GREAT PAINS to say....this is not MY LIST...this is a list of books deemed Historical Fiction by the readers represented here on LT and by their rating of these novels of which I represented only 20 or so...they are rated highly by readers using this website. That list is really only a sampling that I took from the list on LT tag "Historical Fiction"

I have no qualifications to create a 100 BEST list...I would not pretend to do so as it would be a bias to my reading taste. HOWEVER, as a list goes, these books/authors chosen in this way at least shows some criteria for selection...the other list shows nothing but a personal selection.

If the person that created this thread had identified the list as HIS/HER list of the best 100 Historical books then the discussion would be different.

62Booksloth
May 26, 2014, 6:48am Top

#61 Not all novels are 'historical fiction' even though all novels will eventually reflect the customs and life of times past. A historical novel is a work of fiction that is set in times prior to those in which the author is writing. Pride and Prejudice is set in what was the modern age at the time of its creation and is therefore not a historical novel - it is a novel that was written in the 19th century. If others have tagged the book as 'historical fiction' they have done so erroneously. Not having read the Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay I'm not in a position to be able to say what genre it comes under but it certainly doesn't depend on the tag readers have applied to it.

Either way, there's really no need for capital letters (considered to be shouting in the world of the internet) or sarky comments like "if you can read". Passsionate disagreements are one of the things that keep LibraryThing interesting; downright rudeness is quite another matter.

63Lynxear
May 26, 2014, 10:53am Top

> 62 Your point is well taken on Pride and Prejudice , I suppose a better definition would be simply Classic Fiction in this case.

I suppose All Quiet on the Western Front would fall under the same classification as it was written within 10 years of the end of WWI. But then not all fiction, written during the period that the book is set, can be classified as "Classic"... so simply "Military Fiction" suffices though I find that lacking as it does not give a clue as to the period of the setting, however a tagmash would solve that problem.

I apologize for my caps but it is frustrating when someone makes a comment on one's post without thoroughly reading what was written.

I stated the method for selecting these books...it is not my list but a consensus of LT reader opinion. I agree it is not perfect but in general I have found a book with an average LT rating over 4.0 is not a badly written uninteresting book and as such is an excellent method for judging an author's work that is unknown to you...much better than depending on the bias of just one individual's reading taste.

64dkhiggin
May 26, 2014, 11:59am Top

There have been many discussions about what constitutes historical fiction, but the most concise, and maybe the most apt, is that it takes place in a time period before the author's own lifetime. In other words, the author cannot have experienced the society in the time period about which s/he is writing and must rely on research.

I think that disqualifies To Kill a Mockingbird, too.

65Lynxear
Edited: May 26, 2014, 3:21pm Top

Yes, I would say that is a decent definition.

But I must say that I like reading stories depicted in the past. I like reading about what it was like to live during those times. To me, and this is a personal viewpoint, I really don't care whether the author lived during that time period of their novel or not. It is more important to find an author that takes me to that period and allows me to experience the time and customs that concerns me. That is why I don't like novels that are set in the past and use modern slang. Simon Scarrow is bad for that in his "Roman Series" I read several in that series and cringed at every modern swear word and idiom used, though not every novel has to have language to the degree Patrick O'Brian uses in his novels (you need a slang dictionary for the period and preferably one on naval slang).

Splitting hairs over a definition is moot to me.

66justifiedsinner
May 26, 2014, 4:04pm Top

#65 That isn't so much as splitting hairs as ignoring it completely.

67Cap27
Jun 12, 2014, 11:04am Top

So where's GONE WITH THE WIND? or did I miss it?

68rongeigle
Jun 18, 2014, 11:08am Top

A pretty amazing collection here. I don't agree with all, but I agree with many on this list. I've read about 10. My favorites from this list: Lonesome Dove and Angle of Repose. I guess I'm showing my bias toward the American West.

69Cecrow
Edited: Jun 18, 2014, 2:51pm Top

Recently received a very strong recommendation for Gates of Fire; checked back here and yup, it's on your list.

Sacajawea is also getting my attention and that one is not; someone above also mentioned it.

70Booksloth
Edited: Jul 12, 2014, 5:47am Top

I don't think I've missed it (apologies if I have) but I'd have liked to see something by Karen Maitland here too.

Ed for touchstones

71Schmerguls
Edited: Oct 24, 2015, 10:21am Top

Well on the list at #1 I have read 47 and on the revised list I have read 42. Has anybody read more than that? I presume that the poster read them all?

Re #57: Yes, i read The Count of Monte Cristo. Here is my comment thereon after finishing it:

1316. The Count of Mote Cristo Volume One, by Alexandre Dumas (23 Feb 1975) Edmond Dantes is a great guy who is falsely imprisoned. When he escapes, after 14 years, he becomes the Count of Monte Cristo and is no longer recognizable as the good guy we knew before. He has attained wealth--thru information given him by a fellow prisoner, and is now seeking revenge on those who imprisoned him. Some of the construction and language is preposterous, but over all one does keep reading.

1317. The Count of Monte Cristo Volume Two, by Alexandre Dumas (6 Mar 1975) This is a fast-moving tale, lotsa crazy things, and uneven in quality. I sure don't regret reading this extravaganza. (4 stars )

72George_Hamilton
Sep 13, 2014, 5:36am Top

I've read 10 on the first list, but didn't see some which I would have put on it. So I suppose these things come down to what the person preparing the list has read and enjoyed.

I often have difficulty in deciding whether to classify a novel as historical. There's an interesting blog post at the link below about the difficulties involved, and I've included a small portion.

http://historicalnovelsociety.org/guides/defining-the-genre/defining-the-genre-w...

"But the reality is, however, that almost everyone – and this includes readers, authors, publishers, agents, and the press — seems to have his or her own idea of what historical fiction is, and also what historical fiction should be. When you become involved with the field, you begin to learn that above all, historical fiction is a genre of controversy and contradiction... For instance, how far back does a novel have to be set to make it “historical”? A hundred years? Fifty years? Five years? To a reader born in the 1960s, novels set during the Second World War may be considered “suitably historical,” but readers who vividly remember the 1940s may not agree... Even if we can agree on a definition that historical fiction includes any works that are set, for example, more than 50 years in the past, whose past are we talking about – the reader’s past or the author’s past? Take, for example, The Great Gatsby, written in 1925, and set during the same time period. To us, today, the novel is obviously set in our historical past. But does it fit what we think of as “historical fiction”?"

73jroger1
Sep 13, 2014, 1:14pm Top

>72 George_Hamilton:
Because any novel except science fiction must necessarily have taken place in our past, any useful definition must relate to the author's past. The Historical Novel Society, from which you quoted in your post, also contains an article with this definition:

"To be deemed historical (in our sense), a novel must have been written at least fifty years after the events described, or have been written by someone who was not alive at the time of those events (who therefore approaches them only by research).

"We also consider the following styles of novel to be historical fiction for our purposes: alternate histories (e.g. Robert Harris’ Fatherland), pseudo-histories (eg. Umberto Eco’s Island of the Day Before), time-slip novels (e.g. Barbara Erskine’s Lady of Hay), historical fantasies (eg. Bernard Cornwell’s King Arthur trilogy) and multiple-time novels (e.g. Michael Cunningham’s The Hours)."

http://historicalnovelsociety.org/guides/defining-the-genre/

Although this definition won't answer all our questions, it seems to be workable.

74dajashby
Sep 18, 2014, 2:18am Top

A Pawn in Frankincense and The Ringed Castle are much better then The Game of Kings, but the whole Lymond series should be in there. Cecelia Holland was a great writer of historical fiction - The Death of Atilla and Firedrake, especially good. Knight in anarchy, by George Shipway, The rogue from Padua, by Jay Williams. Ken Follett isn't good enough to be in there. Try reading some Zoe Oldenbourg, can't think of a title offhand.

75laceyvail
Edited: Sep 21, 2014, 3:53pm Top

Someone many posts back mentioned that Kristen Lavransdatter had to be included in any such list. Absolutely!

And so should the little known but magnificent The Ivory Mischief by Arthur Meeker.

And what about (Zoe Oldenbourg)'s novels of the Albigensian crusade? Or (Bryher)'s spare, short novels of several very different periods in history.

76andrewsp
Oct 24, 2015, 1:46am Top

I've only read 17 of them but the list reminds me of some I want to read.

77Beyondhorizons
Dec 4, 2015, 8:05pm Top

Well, I'm a newcomer to Library Thing, and have joined to connect with lovers of historical fiction (none in my book club). I've read 23 on this list ..... and I'm inspired to read more of them.

78john257hopper
Dec 5, 2015, 7:20am Top

Three years after the start of this thread, I find I have now read 26 of the original list in #1 but still only 22 of the revised list in #18.

79thorold
Dec 7, 2015, 4:37am Top

>78 john257hopper:
Prompted by your post, I had another look and I'm now on 31 1/2 for both lists (the half is La joueuse de go which I'm reading at the moment).

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