Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Top Ten Favorite Historical Novels

Top Ten Tuesdays are hosted at The Broke and the Bookish. Today's topic is Top Ten Books of a genre of our choosing. There aren't many genres in which I read enough to be able to pick 10 favorites, but I do read a lot of historical fiction. It was hard to narrow down to 10, and I'm afraid that I'm forgetting something important, but here goes:

1. Tipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters
This story about a young lesbian in Victorian England is just dripping with historical detail and lush language. I know everybody's favorite Sarah Waters book is supposed to be Fingersmith, and I liked Fingersmith a lot, but I remember really really loving this one. I want to read it again sometime.

2. My Notorious Life by Kate Manning
Also Victorian-era (which is my favorite!) I loved this story of a woman who reinvents herself and becomes a midwife who provides birth control and abortions. Definitively feminist slant and wonderful historical detail.

3. Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
I was skeptical about reading a lengthy novel about the building of a cathedral, but it is SO MUCH more than that. I was completely engrossed in the lives of the many characters in this sweeping novel set in the 1100s.

4. Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
This may be the only historical novel I've read set in the 1960s, but Adichie brought that period in Nigeria vividly to life. Everything she's written is fantastic, but this one was my first and the only one I'd consider historical.

5. The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton
Seventeenth-century Amsterdam is fascinating, and I was SO excited to read this novel about a young woman being married off to an older stranger who gives her a miniature replica of their house to decorate as a hobby. Many intriguing mysteries and secrets are woven among the period details to make this novel difficult to put down.

6. The Tea Rose by Jennifer Donnelly
Speaking of books that are hard to put down, this one (and the two sequels) got passed all around my family for a while several years ago. Set in Victorian London, the protagonist is an independent, headstrong woman (my favorite kind!) and I loved everything about the story and characters.

7. Moloka'i by Alan Brennert
This epic begins in the late 1800s when a 7-year-old girl is taken from her family to live in a leper colony. The novel spans her whole life, which is not only fascinating, but longer and happier than you'd think.

8. The Piano Teacher by Janice Y.K. Lee
Set in Hong Kong, the story moves between two timelines; one in the 1940s and the other in the 1950s. It focuses on events surrounding the World War II occupation of Hong Kong by the Japanese, and the relationships between several British and Chinese people. Lee's writing is just beautiful, and I also highly recommend her recent contemporary novel, The Expatriates.

9. The Luxe by Anna Godbersen
This teen series set in Manhattan beginning in 1899 was a ton of fun! Full of scandal and intrigue, the chapters all begin with snippets from society pages or etiquette manuals, adding lots of period detail. Of course, what reeled me in in the first place were the gorgeous dresses on the covers!

10. City of Thieves by David Benioff
I'm a sucker for anything set in Russia. This life-or-death adventure story about two young men during the Siege of Leningrad captures just the sort of dark humor common in many Russian novels.

What's interesting about this list is that these aren't necessarily my 5-star reads. I usually rate my books on Goodreads soon after reading them, but often the ones I give the highest ratings to don't stick with me, or vice versa. But when I sat down to think about books to put on this list, these are the ones I thought of right away.

What are your favorite historical novels?


M @ A Blog Of One's Own said...

Awesome choices! Both Half of A Yellow Sun and The Miniaturist are on my tbr and I've read City of Thieves years ago and loved it :)
Here's my own (first ever, yay!) TTT post if you want to check it out:

https://mreadsbooks.wordpress.com/2016/09/13/ttt-1-all-time-favorite-classics/ :)

Susan said...

I love historical fiction, too, but I've actually only read ONE of the books on your list. MOLOKA'I was a very memorable one. I loved it. I really like Jennifer Donnelly, too, and need to read her Tea Rose series.

Happy TTT!

Louise @ Foxes and Fairy Tales said...

I love historical fiction. I have The Miniaturist sitting on my shelf waiting to be read, but I just haven't gotten around to it yet - soon!

Lindsay said...

I've only read one of these books ("Molokai," one of my all-time faves), but almost all the others sound so good the way you described them! I have a weakness for Victorian England too. Have you ever checked out Tasha Alexander's Lady Emily mysteries? You might enjoy them; they're set in the late 1800s and feature a brilliant protagonist who defies the social norms of her day. It's one of the only series I actually manage to keep up with.

3goodrats said...

That sounds so good! I can't believe I haven't heard of those before.

You should all definitely read all of these! They're SO good. I wouldn't lie to you! :)

Kevin said...

I, Claudius by Robert Graves

Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier.

The Gate of Angels by Penelope Fitzgerald.

True Grit by Charles Portis.

The Ides of March by Thornton Wilder

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel.

The Year is '42 by Nella Bielski.

Blood Red, Sister Rose by Thomas Keneally.

3goodrats said...

The only one of those I've read is Wolf Hall. And you know how I feel about *that* book :)