So, here’s the theme I’m going with this week for Top Ten Tuesday as, I recommended 10s of books ALL THE TIME and thought, hey I should do today’s topic with a theme in mind. Note, not all of the books are based on real life history or have real life settings, however, they do all have a historical sort of feel to them.
1. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Why?: Set in Germany during World War II, The Book Thief by Markus Zusak is one of those books I would hand to non-believers. It’s flawlessly written, told by Death. This book is one I’ve read multiple times and honestly, every time I read it, I get something new out of it, and always, always feel the emotions. I love this book in that the feels do not diminish with time.
2. The Aviary by Kathleen O’Dell
Why?: The Aviary by Kathleen O’Dell is actually more of a middle grade book, but honestly it could straddle the line. Set in the nineteenth century, on the coast this book is a fantasy about birds, obviously, and magic, and secrets. It’s also about friendship and being brave. The Aviary is not really based on any historical event or anything, but it feels old fashioned, thus merits inclusion.
3. A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly
Why?: A Northern Light is one of my favorite books of all time and another one of those I am not sure I still love you if you haven’t read this sort of books. Basically it’s set in Upstate NY during the Grace Brown murder, so in the Catskills, you know that whole event An American Tragedy by Theodore Dresier is based on. Anyways, it’s the story of a girl who loves books and wants to stretch her wings and go to college. It’s so, so gorgeous. I treasure my copy and this is what I want historical fiction to be.
4. The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner
Why?: Looking for a great series to start that has some historical elements? So, The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner has a setting that does not exist — Attolia. Yet, it blends elements of things that do exist like Greeks and Romans and such to make a brilliant adventure with twists and gasps and a crazy ending that will likely have you flipping back through. Again, there are parts of the book that feel like ancient history, yet also parts that feel modern.
5. Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers
Why?: Of course, nuns with magical powers who could spot death marques did not quite exist in medieval France, but the land of Brittany did and still does to this day. The whole fight for independence was/is a thing. That’s not pretend. And so, despite a lot of it you know, not actually existing, Grave Mercy makes medieval history utterly fascinating and exciting — not that it needed it, but it’s a historical fantasy that I found worked really well.
6. Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
Why?: Be still my heart. I can’t even think about Code Name Verity without feeling a sob coming on thinking about best friends and kiss me Hardy and Peter Pan. And, okay it’s like I am sharing inside jokes that people who’ve read the book will get. But for real, if you are in the market for a World War II era historical fiction book featuring girls who do something, without a trace of romance, then you definitely need to read Code Name Verity. Just have someone on hand when you finish, because chances are you’ll want to share your emotions.
7. Gilt by Katherine Longshore
Why?: Y’all, Tudor history gets so much love in adult historical fiction, yet it seems woefully underrepresented in YA. Perhaps I am just reading the wrong books. Alas, Gilt is a fabulous read narrated by Kitty Howard’s best friend. It’s very… scintillating. Y’all I never use that word, but that’s totally what this book is.
8. Bloody Jack by LA Meyer via Audio
Why?: Okay, so lol Jacky Faber never existed. However, the setting of Bloody Jack DID – the late 18th century. These books are about a girl who is orphaned and living in Cheepside. Rather than prostitute her body, Jacky Faber decides to chop her hair, bind her chest and try to get a job as a ship’s boy. It works. Hijinks happen. Basically this book is hilarious and fun and again, about a girl who does things. Note: When reading this, go for the audiobook version, Katherine Kellgren basically transforms into Jacky Faber with excellent results.
9. A Great And Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray
Why?: Do you like boarding schools? Mean girls? Magic? Intrigue? Victorian England? Well, A Great And Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray is the start to an excellent historical fantasy trilogy. I remember getting the first book out of the library in high school, before the sequels were written and following Bray’s Livejournal for information. See, this was pre-goodreads. And I remember years later, still thinking about the first book and then my elation at discovering my sister owned copies of the sequels. Seriously, these are books that stick in your head in the best possible way.
10. Okay For Now by Gary D. Schmidt
Why?: Okay For Now by Gary D. Schmidt has the most modern historical setting on this list, but it deserves it’s place as 1968 was an interesting time period y’all. This book follows Doug Swieteck as his family moves from Long Island to Marysville in upstate NY. There’s Coke in a bottle, the Audubon Society books, Jane Eyre and so many other events to love in this book. Also, if you get the chance, listen to the audio – Lincoln Hoppe provides a grade A performance.
- What historically-themed books would you recommend?
- Have you read any of the books on the list? Loved it? Hated it?
Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke And The Bookish.