Historical Fiction

The bullet swallower : a novel book cover

The bullet swallower : a novel

Elizabeth Gonzalez James

FICTION Gonzalez Elizabet
Historical Fiction, Fantasy, Adventure

In 1895, Antonio Sonoro is the latest in a long line of ruthless men. He’s good with his gun and is drawn to trouble but he’s also out of money and out of options. A drought has ravaged the town of Dorado, Mexico, where he lives with his wife and children, and so when he hears about a train laden with gold and other treasures, he sets off for Houston to rob it—with his younger brother Hugo in tow. But when the heist goes awry and Hugo is killed by the Texas Rangers, Antonio finds himself launched into a quest for revenge that endangers not only his life and his family, but his eternal soul. In 1964, Jaime Sonoro is Mexico’s most renowned actor and singer. But his comfortable life is disrupted when he discovers a book that purports to tell the entire history of his family beginning with Cain and Abel. In its ancient pages, Jaime learns about the multitude of horrific crimes committed by his ancestors. And when the same mysterious figure from Antonio’s timeline shows up in Mexico City, Jaime realizes that he may be the one who has to pay for his ancestors’ crimes, unless he can discover the true story of his grandfather Antonio, the legendary bandido El Tragabalas, The Bullet Swallower.

Anne M's picture

Looking for an action-packed read that will keep you turning the pages? Look no further. -Anne M

The warm hands of ghosts : a novel book cover

The warm hands of ghosts : a novel

Katherine Arden

Historical Fiction, Fantasy

January 1918. Laura Iven was a revered field nurse until she was wounded and discharged from the medical corps, leaving behind a brother still fighting in Flanders. Now home in Halifax, Canada, Laura receives word of Freddie’s death in combat, along with his personal effects—but something doesn’t make sense. Determined to uncover the truth, Laura returns to Belgium as a volunteer at a private hospital, where she soon hears whispers about haunted trenches and a strange hotelier whose wine gives soldiers the gift of oblivion. Could Freddie have escaped the battlefield, only to fall prey to something—or someone—else? November 1917. Freddie Iven awakens after an explosion to find himself trapped in an overturned pillbox with a wounded enemy soldier, a German by the name of Hans Winter. Against all odds, the two form an alliance and succeed in clawing their way out. Unable to bear the thought of returning to the killing fields, especially on opposite sides, they take refuge with a mysterious man who seems to have the power to make the hellscape of the trenches disappear. As shells rain down on Flanders and ghosts move among those yet living, Laura’s and Freddie’s deepest traumas are reawakened. Now they must decide whether their world is worth salvaging—or better left behind entirely.

Anne M's picture

I really enjoyed this book. Of course, I would--it's set during World War I. I’m intrigued by this time period: the world was going through such drastic changes. Arden explores this “brave new world” theme well. This book is pretty clever, but it is also riveting. -Anne M

The diamond eye : a novel book cover

The diamond eye : a novel

Kate Quinn

FICTION Quinn Kate
Historical Fiction

"The New York Times bestselling author of The Rose Code returns with an unforgettable World War II tale of a quiet bookworm who becomes history's deadliest female sniper. Based on a true story. In 1937 in the snowbound city of Kiev (now known as Kyiv), wry and bookish history student Mila Pavlichenko organizes her life around her library job and her young son--but Hitler's invasion of Ukraine and Russia sends her on a different path. Given a rifle and sent to join the fight, Mila must forge herself from studious girl to deadly sniper--a lethal hunter of Nazis known as Lady Death. When news of her three hundredth kill makes her a national heroine, Mila finds herself torn from the bloody battlefields of the eastern front and sent to America on a goodwill tour. Still reeling from war wounds and devastated by loss, Mila finds herself isolated and lonely in the glittering world of Washington, DC--until an unexpected friendship with First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and an even more unexpected connection with a silent fellow sniper offer the possibility of happiness. But when an old enemy from Mila's past joins forces with a deadly new foe lurking in the shadows, Lady Death finds herself battling her own demons and enemy bullets in the deadliest duel of her life. Based on a true story, The Diamond Eye is a haunting novel of heroism born of desperation, of a mother who became a soldier, of a woman who found her place in the world and changed the course of history forever." --

Heidi K's picture

This was my first time reading Kate Quinn. If her other books are as good as The Diamond Eye, I may have found a new go-to recommendation. I couldn't be more pleased to be able to go back and read her older titles. Also, it looks like Kate Quinn has a new book coming out soon! Mila, the lead character in The Diamond Eye, is both tough and sensitive at the same time. Her growth as the book goes on is stunning. It's been a while since I read a book where I cared this much about the protagonist. Don't miss this book if you love historical fiction! -Heidi K

James : a novel book cover

James : a novel

Percival Everett

FICTION Everett Percival
Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction

" When the enslaved Jim overhears that he is about to be sold to a man in New Orleans, separated from his wife and daughter forever, he decides to hide on nearby Jackson Island until he can formulate a plan. Meanwhile, Huck Finn has faked his own death to escape his violent father, recently returned to town. As all readers of American literature know, thus begins the dangerous and transcendent journey by raft down the Mississippi River toward the elusive and too-often-unreliable promise of the Free States and beyond. While many narrative set pieces of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn remain in place (floods and storms, stumbling across both unexpected death and unexpected treasure in the myriad stopping points along the river's banks, encountering the scam artists posing as the Duke and Dauphin...), Jim's agency, intelligence and compassion are shown in a radically new light. Brimming with the electrifying humor and lacerating observations that have made Everett a "cult literary icon" (Oprah Daily), and one of the most decorated writers of our lifetime, James is destined to be a major publishing event and a cornerstone of twenty-first century American literature"--

Anne M's picture

While I'm writing this in April of 2024, I can attest that "James" is one of the best books of the year. It doesn't matter that there are eight more months of books coming out in 2024. It's very good. As a book, it is smart and funny, yet tragic where it needs to be. It is an homage to Twain, yet stands on its own. -Anne M

The road from Belhaven : a novel book cover

The road from Belhaven : a novel

Margot Livesey

FICTION Livesey Margot
Fiction, Historical Fiction

"From the New York Times best-selling author of The Flight of Gemma Hardy, a novel about a young woman whose gift of second sight complicates her coming of age in late 19th century Scotland Growing up in the care of her grandparents on Belhaven farm, Lizzie Craig discovers at a young age that she can see into the future. Her gift of sight is selective-she doesn't, for instance, see that she has an older sister who will come to join the family on her beloved farm. But she does see "pictures" that foretell various incidents and accidents and begins to realize a painful truth: she may glimpse the future, but she can seldom change it. Nor can Lizzie change the feelings that come when a young man named Louis, visiting Belhaven for the harvest, begins to court her. Why have the adults around her not revealed that the touch of a hand can change everything? After following Louis to Glasgow, though, she learns the limits of his devotion, and when faced with a seemingly impossible choice, she makes what turns out to be a terrible mistake. But while Lizzie can't change the past, her second sight may allow her a second chance. Luminous and transporting, The Road from Belhaven once again displays "the marvelous control of a writer who conjures equally well the tangible, sensory world . . . and the mysteries, stranger and wilder, that flicker at the border of that world." (The Boston Globe)"--

Anne M's picture

There is something reminiscent of Dickens, Hardy, and Bronte in this novel, but the sentiments are all modern. Livesey skillfully illustrates how one's desires shift and change. You never truly sure if what you want or what is best--but there are those moments you do. I really enjoyed this book. -Anne M

Held book cover


Anne Michaels

FICTION Michaels Anne
Literary Fiction, Historical Fiction

"A breathtaking and ineffable new novel from the author of the international best sellers Fugitive Pieces and The Winter Vault-a novel of love and loyalty across generations, at once sweeping and intimate. 1917. On a battlefield near the River Aisne, John lies in the aftermath of a blast, unable to move or feel his legs. Struggling to focus his thoughts, he is lost to memory as the snow falls-a chance encounter in a pub by a railway, a hot bath with his lover on a winter night. 1920. John has returned from war to North Yorkshire, near a different river. He is alive but still not whole. Reunited with Helena, an artist, he reopens his photography business and tries to keep on living. But the past erupts insistently into the present, as ghosts begin to surface in his pictures: ghosts with messages he cannot understand. So begins a narrative that spans four generations of connections and consequences that ignite and re-ignite as the century unfolds. In luminous moments of desire, comprehension, longing, and transcendence, the sparks fly upward, working their transformations decades later. Held is affecting and intensely beautiful, full of mystery, wisdom, and compassion, a novel by a writer at the height of her powers"--

Anne M's picture

“Held” is a little like a literary puzzle. The narrative is organized in generational fragments; but “organized” isn’t quite the right word. Each chapter is connected with the others by a thread—a child, a grandchild, a spouse, a mother--advancing or in some cases, retreating through the 20th century. Each chapter gives you a little more understanding of the family as a whole. It is fitting that we are first introduced to a photographer, John, just back from the trenches in 1917 to find that his photographs contain the ghosts of his subjects. It’s a little like a metaphor for how this book develops. Anne Michaels’s prose shimmers. -Anne M

All the light we cannot see : a novel book cover

All the light we cannot see : a novel

Anthony Doerr

FICTION Doerr Anthony
Historical Fiction

"From the highly acclaimed, multiple award-winning Anthony Doerr, a stunningly ambitious and beautiful novel about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II. Marie Laure lives with her father in Paris within walking distance of the Museum of Natural History where he works as the master of the locks (there are thousands of locks in the museum). When she is six, she goes blind, and her father builds her a model of their neighborhood, every house, every manhole, so she can memorize it with her fingers and navigate the real streets with her feet and cane. When the Germans occupy Paris, father and daughter flee to Saint-Malo on the Brittany coast, where Marie-Laure's agoraphobic great uncle lives in a tall, narrow house by the sea wall. In another world in Germany, an orphan boy, Werner, grows up with his younger sister, Jutta, both enchanted by a crude radio Werner finds. He becomes a master at building and fixing radios, a talent that wins him a place at an elite and brutal military academy and, ultimately, makes him a highly specialized tracker of the Resistance. Werner travels through the heart of Hitler Youth to the far-flung outskirts of Russia, and finally into Saint-Malo, where his path converges with Marie-Laure. Doerr's gorgeous combination of soaring imagination with observation is electric. Deftly interweaving the lives of Marie-Laure and Werner, Doerr illuminates the ways, against all odds, people try to be good to one another. Ten years in the writing, All the Light We Cannot See is his most ambitious and dazzling work"--

Victoria's picture

I read this book when it first came out but picked it back up for a re-read since starting the Netflix adaptation. There have been many books written about World War Two, but this remains one of my favorite historical fiction pieces because of the exhilarating story Doerr crafts. He is highly adept at looking at the war through the lens of his characters; a French, blind woman, and a German man, yet carefully details them in a way where you see them for the richness of their humanity, not solely the countries they fight for. His layered characters: their drives, their consciences, base human instincts highlight the very worst and the very best of mankind that culminates in the reader's understanding in the futility and tragedy of war. Doerr's astute attention to detail, along with short chapters makes for a fantastic story- you will want to keep reading one more chapter, then another! -Victoria

Trust book cover


Díaz, Hernán, 1973- author.

FICTION Diaz Hernan
Historical Fiction

"An award-winning writer of absorbing, sophisticated fiction delivers a stylish and propulsive novel rooted in early 20th century New York, about wealth and talent, trust and intimacy, truth and perception. In glamorous 1920s New York City, two characters of sophisticated taste come together. One is a legendary Wall Street tycoon; the other, the brilliant daughter of penniless aristocrats. Steeped in affluence and grandeur, their marriage excites gossip and allows a continued ascent -- all at a moment when the country is undergoing a great transformation. This is the story at the center of Harold Vanner's novel Bonds, which everyone in 1938 New York seems to have read. But it isn't the only version. Provocative, propulsive, and repeatedly surprising, Hernan Diaz's TRUST puts the story of these characters into conversation with the "the truth"-and in tension with the life and perspective of an outsider immersed in the mystery of a competing account. The result is an overarching novel that becomes more exhilarating and profound with each new layer and revelation, engaging the reader in a treasure hunt for the truth that confronts the reality-warping gravitational pull of money, and how power often manipulates facts"--

Anne M's picture

Of course, you can always start with the Pulitzer Prize, which awards "distinguished fiction from an American author." It is also one of the most notable. Find more Pulitzer Prize winning fiction here: <a href="https://www.pulitzer.org/prize-winners-by-category/219">Pulitzer Prize Winners</a> -Anne M

The fraud book cover

The fraud

Zadie Smith

FICTION Smith Zadie
Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction

"It is 1873. Mrs. Eliza Touchet is the Scottish housekeeper-and cousin by marriage-of a once-famous novelist, now in decline, William Ainsworth, with whom she has lived for thirty years. Mrs. Touchet is a woman of many interests: literature, justice, abolitionism, class, her cousin, his wives, this life and the next. But she is also sceptical. She suspects her cousin of having no talent; his successful friend, Mr. Charles Dickens, of being a bully and a moralist; and England of being a land of facades, in which nothing is quite what it seems. Andrew Bogle, meanwhile, grew up enslaved on the Hope Plantation, Jamaica. He knows every lump of sugar comes at a human cost. That the rich deceive the poor. And that people are more easily manipulated than they realize. When Bogle finds himself in London, star witness in a celebrated case of imposture, he knows his future depends on telling the right story. The "Tichborne Trial"-wherein a lower-class butcher from Australia claimed he was in fact the rightful heir of a sizable estate and title-captivates Mrs. Touchet and all of England. Is Sir Roger Tichborne really who he says he is? Or is he a fraud? Mrs. Touchet is a woman of the world. Mr. Bogle is no fool. But in a world of hypocrisy and self-deception, deciding what is real proves a complicated task.""--

Anne M's picture

Zadie Smith is swinging for Dickens with this novel. There are some glimpses of brilliancy here: the humor, the cast of characters, and the atmosphere Smith creates showing the crushing nature of Victorian society. -Anne M

The Square of Sevens book cover

The Square of Sevens

Laura Shepherd-Robinson

OverDrive Audiobook
Fiction, Mystery, Historical Fiction

This "intricately plotted, epic" (The Times, London) international bestseller—in the vein of the vivid novels of Sarah Waters and Sarah Perry—follows an orphaned fortune teller in 18th-century England as she searches for answers about her long-dead mother.Cornwall, 1730: A young girl known only as Red travels with her father making a living predicting fortunes using the ancient Cornish method of the Square of Sevens. Shortly before he dies, her father entrusts Red's care to a gentleman scholar, along with a document containing the secret of the Square of Sevens technique. Raised as a lady amidst the Georgian splendor of Bath, Red's fortune telling delights in high society. But she cannot ignore the questions that gnaw at her soul: who was her mother? How did she die? And who are the mysterious enemies her father was always terrified would find him? The pursuit of these mysteries takes her from Cornwall and Bath to London and Devon, from the rough ribaldry of the Bartholomew Fair to the grand houses of two of the most powerful families in England. And while Red's quest brings her the possibility of great reward, it also leads to grave danger. "Intricate, haunting, and magical by turns, Laura Shepherd-Robinson's tale is an absolute immersive read you won't soon forget" (Patti Callahan Henry, New York Times bestselling author).

Candice's picture

An engrossing account of a young woman finding her way in 17th century England, from plying her trade of reading tarot on the streets and in fair booths, to seeking out the story of her family in the country homes of Bath and Devon. Red (aka Rachel) is at once an intelligent and curious waif, and a cunning teenager who balks at restraints and finds her own strength, as well as her weaknesses, as she grows up. This is a heroine one can root for at the same time they cringe at some of the choices she has to make, or chooses to make. Expertly read, as ever, by Imogen Wilde, who knows how to nail all the voices and dialects. Aimed at adults, but I think older teens would like this as well. -Candice