Historical Fiction

The Watsons go to Birmingham-- 1963 book cover

The Watsons go to Birmingham-- 1963

Christopher Paul Curtis

jFICTION Curtis, Christopher Paul
Fiction, Historical Fiction, Humor, Kids

The ordinary interactions and everyday routines of the Watsons, an African American family living in Flint, Michigan, are drastically changed after they go to visit Grandma in Alabama in the summer of 1963.

Anne W's picture

You will laugh out loud again and again until the end, when you'll cry. A family from Michigan goes to visit relatives down South in Birmingham for the summer. Ten year old Kenny, the protagonist, has a wonderful voice and spirit. -Anne W

Midnight without a moon book cover

Midnight without a moon

Linda Williams Jackson

jFICTION Jackson Linda
Fiction, Historical Fiction, Kids

Rose Lee Carter, a thirteen-year-old African-American girl, dreams of life beyond the Mississippi cotton fields during the summer of 1955, but when Emmett Till is murdered and his killers are unjustly acquitted, Rose is torn between seeking her destiny outside of Mississippi or staying and being a part of an important movement.

Anne W's picture

It's summer in Mississippi in 1955 and one town over from where Rose Lee Carter lives with her grandparents, a boy named Emmett Till is murdered. Unrest begins to build, and Rose Lee is forced to question everything she's ever known and decide whether to join a dangerous movement for change in the South. Complex, multilayered characters dealing with wider social change as well as family events. -Anne W

When you reach me book cover

When you reach me

Rebecca Stead

YOUNG ADULT FICTION Stead, Rebecca
Kids, Fiction, Adventure, Historical Fiction, Science Fiction, Mystery

As her mother prepares to be a contestant on the 1980s television game show, "The $20,000 Pyramid," a twelve-year-old New York City girl tries to make sense of a series of mysterious notes received from an anonymous source that seems to defy the laws of time and space.

Anne W's picture

Mix of sci-fi, mystery, and historical fiction (set in the 1970s), a middle-school girl must investigate the source of mysterious notes that appear in her personal belongings and, she realizes, predict the future. Time travel! -Anne W

The poisonwood Bible book cover

The poisonwood Bible

Barbara Kingsolver

FICTION Kingsolver, Barbara
Historical Fiction

"The Poisonwood Bible is a story told by the wife and four daughters of Nathan Price, a fierce evangelical Baptist who takes his family and mission to the Belgian Congo in 1959. They carry with them all they believe they will need from home, but soon find that all of it―from garden seeds to Scripture―is calamitously transformed on African soil. This tale of one family's tragic undoing and remarkable reconstruction, over the course of three decades in postcolonial Africa, is set against history's most dramatic political parables." (Amazon Summary)

Becky's picture

This is a difficult, but important story that evaluates multiple post-colonial attitudes through the lenses of a missionary wife and her four daughters. It provides such an interesting portrait of a family and of a village in the Belgian Congo (beginning in 1959), and delves deeply into issues of culture, politics and human experience. -Becky

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell book cover

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell

Susanna Clarke

SCIENCE FICTION Clarke, Susanna
Fantasy, Historical Fiction

"English magicians were once the wonder of the known world, with fairy servants at their beck and call; they could command winds, mountains, and woods. But by the early 1800s they have long since lost the ability to perform magic. They can only write long, dull papers about it, while fairy servants are nothing but a fading memory. But at Hurtfew Abbey in Yorkshire, the rich, reclusive Mr Norrell has assembled a wonderful library of lost and forgotten books from England's magical past and regained some of the powers of England's magicians. He goes to London and raises a beautiful young woman from the dead. Soon he is lending his help to the government in the war against Napoleon Bonaparte, creating ghostly fleets of rain-ships to confuse and alarm the French. All goes well until a rival magician appears. Jonathan Strange is handsome, charming, and talkative-the very opposite of Mr Norrell. Strange thinks nothing of enduring the rigors of campaigning with Wellington's army and doing magic on battlefields. Astonished to find another practicing magician, Mr Norrell accepts Strange as a pupil. But it soon becomes clear that their ideas of what English magic ought to be are very different. For Mr Norrell, their power is something to be cautiously controlled, while Jonathan Strange will always be attracted to the wildest, most perilous forms of magic. He becomes fascinated by the ancient, shadowy figure of the Raven King, a child taken by fairies who became king of both England and Faerie, and the most legendary magician of all. Eventually Strange's heedless pursuit of long-forgotten magic threatens to destroy not only his partnership with Norrell, but everything that he holds dear." (Goodreads)

Becky's picture

At around 800 pages in length, I was a bit daunted by my choice in reading this novel. But, after watching the BBC series based on Clarke's book and having it recommended to me by my brother, I was determined to give it a try. This story was a great fit for me because it combines my love of fantasy, England and historical fiction. I especially liked the striking differences between Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell and enjoyed watching their relationship to one another and magic evolve. -Becky

The nightingale book cover

The nightingale

Kristin Hannah

FICTION Hannah Kristin
Historical Fiction

"Viann and Isabelle have always been close despite their differences. Younger, bolder sister Isabelle lives in Paris while Viann lives a quiet and content life in the French countryside with her husband Antoine and their daughter. When World War II strikes and Antoine is sent off to fight, Viann and Isabelle's father sends Isabelle to help her older sister cope. As the war progresses, it's not only the sisters' relationship that is tested, but also their strength and their individual senses of right and wrong. With life as they know it changing in unbelievably horrific ways, Viann and Isabelle will find themselves facing frightening situations and responding in ways they never thought possible as bravery and resistance take different forms in each of their actions. Vivid and exquiste in its illumination of a time and place that was filled with great monstrosities, but also great humanity and strength, Kristin Hannah's novel will provoke thought and discussion that will have readers talking long after they turn the last page"--

Becky's picture

This is a story that highlights the endurance, courage and strength of women. I worked through the book rather quickly, absorbed in the plot and determined to find out how it would all end. An opening quote in the novel suggests that "In love we find out who we want to be; In war we find out who we are..." this statement was revealed in an interesting development in each of the two sisters. -Becky

A gentleman in Moscow book cover

A gentleman in Moscow

Amor Towles

FICTION Towles Amor
Historical Fiction

"A Gentleman in Moscow immerses us in another elegantly drawn era with the story of Count Alexander Rostov. When, in 1922, he is deemed an unrepentant aristocrat by a Bolshevik tribunal, the count is sentenced to house arrest in the Metropol, a grand hotel across the street from the Kremlin. Rostov, an indomitable man of erudition and wit, has never worked a day in his life, and must now live in an attic room while some of the most tumultuous decades in Russian history are unfolding outside the hotel's doors. Unexpectedly, his reduced circumstances provide him a doorway into a much larger world of emotional discovery. Brimming with humor, a glittering cast of characters, and one beautifully rendered scene after another, this singular novel casts a spell as it relates the count's endeavor to gain a deeper understanding of what it means to be a man of purpose."

Becky's picture

Amor Towles does a fantastic job with character development; I especially enjoyed watching Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov masterly navigate his circumstances with class, wisdom, and a great deal of charm. Such a beautifully written book and satisfying from start to finish. -Becky

Alias Grace book cover

Alias Grace

Margaret Atwood

FICTION Atwood, Margaret
Historical Fiction

"It's 1843, and Grace Marks has been convicted for her involvement in the vicious murders of her employer and his housekeeper and mistress. Some believe Grace is innocent; others think her evil or insane. Now serving a life sentence, Grace claims to have no memory of the murders. An up-and-coming expert in the burgeoning field of mental illness is engaged by a group of reformers and spiritualists who seek a pardon for Grace. He listens to her story while bringing her closer and closer to the day she cannot remember. What will he find in attempting to unlock her memories? Captivating and disturbing, Alias Grace showcases bestselling, Booker Prize-winning author Margaret Atwood at the peak of her powers." (Amazon Summary)

Becky's picture

In Alias Grace, Margaret Atwood delivers a fascinating account of the life of Grace Marks, an Irish immigrant who settled in Canada as a young child. My initial perception of Grace's character is immediately put into question as the story builds around her possible involvement in the horrific murders of her employer, Thomas Kinnear, and his mistress. Based on a true story from the 1840's, Atwood excels in historical storytelling. By weaving in period appropriate views of religion, science and mental illness along with the memories shared by Grace Marks and actual accounts written about the trial, you are constantly left wondering: victim or villain? -Becky

Becoming Mrs. Lewis : a novel : the improbable love story of Joy Davidman and C.S. Lewis book cover

Becoming Mrs. Lewis : a novel : the improbable love story of Joy Davidman and C.S. Lewis

Patti Callahan Henry

FICTION Henry Patti
Historical Fiction

"The love story of C.S. Lewis and his wife, Helen Joy Davidman Gresham, was improbable--and seemingly impossible. Their Eros-story led to some of Lewis's greatest works, yet Joy is most commonly known for how she died. Becoming Mrs. Lewis allows us to see how this brilliant and passionate woman lived--and why she stole Jack's heart"--

Kara's picture

I love books by C.S. Lewis. This book brought back some nostalgia from my childhood and helped me learn more about someone I admire. -Kara

The Chelsea girls : a novel book cover

The Chelsea girls : a novel

Fiona Davis

FICTION Davis Fiona
Historical Fiction

From the dramatic redbrick facade to the sweeping staircase dripping with art, the Chelsea Hotel has long been New York City's creative oasis for the many artists, writers, musicians, actors, filmmakers, and poets who have called it home-a scene playwright Hazel Riley and actress Maxine Mead are determined to use to their advantage. Yet they soon discover that the greatest obstacle to putting up a show on Broadway has nothing to do with their art, and everything to do with politics. A Red scare is sweeping across America, and Senator Joseph McCarthy has started a witch hunt for Communists, with those in the entertainment industry in the crosshairs. As the pressure builds to name names, it is more than Hazel and Maxine's Broadway dreams that may suffer as they grapple with the terrible consequences, but also their livelihood, their friendship, and even their freedom.

Kara's picture

1950's New York comes alive at the Chelsea Hotel when two friends, playwright Hazel Riley and actress Maxine Mead, try to put on a show on Broadway. They learn their skills and determination are challenged by Senator Joseph McCarthy and the Red Scare witch hunt for communists. A great book! -Kara