Chatterbox: Why I Read Historical Fiction

October 12, 2016 by Jenna | Chatterbox, Features


We’ve done a series of Chatterbox posts on this blog discussing why we love and read a certain genre and I thought I’d tell you a few reasons why I read historical fiction. I’ll also give a few YA historical fiction recommendations at the end of this post.

Check out our other posts in this series: Fantasy | Contemporary | Science Fiction

History Lessons

The main reason why I love reading historical fiction is because it teaches me so much about history. I love history and I’ve taken some history electives at university because learning about the past is something that brings me great joy. But reading history textbooks or non-fiction books is the most boring thing in the world! What I love about historical fiction is that it allows me to get a taste of the culture and the events of the past and it makes the learning experience very engaging and interesting. Most historical fiction novels are very well-researched and historically accurate, so why learn about history through a bunch of dry facts when you can read about engage with characters who are going through the particular historical events that you want to learn about? What I also love about historical fiction is that you can go into the book purely for the characters and the plot, without intending to learn about the history, but still be so captivated by everything that is happening that you end up seeking more information. These are the best books in my opinion.

A Study in Humanity

There are so many unexpected heroes and villains in historical fiction novels. My favourite historical period to read about is WWII and this is mostly because war brings out the best and worst in people. I love seeing characters care for each other and do things for others that they wouldn’t normally do. On the flip side, there are self-preserving characters who end up caring only for themselves and I enjoy the psychology behind it. Historical fiction is both beautiful and ugly and I really enjoy that these stories bring out both and feature morally ambiguous characters. I also really love that historical fiction novels are mostly character-driven, and this allows us to really establish an emotional connection to the characters, regardless of whether they behave in good or bad ways.

Variety and Diversity

Historical fiction never gets boring. Despite there being lots of books set around the same time period and the same events that occurred in history, no story is the same. I could read endless stories about the same event and still want to read more because there is never just one perspective on anything. This is another reason why I love reading WWII historical fiction so much. I could read stories with main characters from different backgrounds: German, French, Polish, Russian, American, British, etc. They all bring a fresh perspective and no story is the same for any of these characters. But it’s not only diversity within a single time period, there is just so much variety of time period itself. I mean, it’s history. There’s thousands of years of history and there can be novels about every historical event, as long as someone cares.

YA Historical Fiction Recommendations

Here are some of my favourite historical fiction novels:


And of course, I couldn’t end this post without including a handful of adult historical fiction recommendations:

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Jenna is an Aussie blogger and reader who loves to indulge in great books and great food. She is a doctor (of philosophy) and can usually be found fangirling about something, devouring delicious food, or taking a nap. You can find her on Twitter @readwithjenna and on Instagram @readingwithjenna.

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17 responses to “Chatterbox: Why I Read Historical Fiction

  1. Marianne @ Boricuan Bookworms

    Ooohhhh I love all the recommendations. I've read a couple of them already, my favorites being Wolf by Wolf, My Lady Jane, and The Book Thief. I'd add Ink & Bone by Rachel Caine, set in an altwrnate world where the Library of Alexandria was never burnt down.

  2. Jess D

    I absolutely love historical fiction as well!! Basically for all the same reasons. I don't like using the word fan in this situation but I'm super interested in WWII in general so those books are always my favorite. My pop-pop has so many first person stories about his dad and 5 uncles from the war that sometimes it's just nice to read a fiction book about it from time to time. Thank you for all the lovely recommendations!! Definitely adding them to my list 🙂

  3. Yesss, I totally agree with this post! I actually have only recently REALLY gotten into historical fiction, but what I've read I've mostly loved. I'm also a HUGE fan of WWII fiction and could definitely read all the books on it. Because, like you said, there is never just one perspective, and I love the diversity within that time period, and within history. And that there's so much that can be written about. I hope authors take advantage of it more because of that. I'm a bit of a history nerd, but nonfiction has never gone well for me, and sometimes historical fiction can be so DRY. So I really enjoy those books that make learning the history engaging and interesting; it's one of the reasons I am drawn especially to YA hist fic, I think. And with your second point, that can be SO intriguing to study humanity through them. The Book Thief and Salt to the Sea are two of my FAVORITES, and I really just love Ruta Sepetys' books and hope she never stops writing historical fiction. I haven't read any of the others, but All the Light We Cannot See and My Lady Jane are two that I've been excited about since I've learned of them. I definitely will be reading MLJ before 2016 ends. I've heard such good things! Awesome post, Jenna!
    My recent post October New Release Giveaway Hop!

  4. Yes! The reason I also read historical fiction is because reading textbooks or taking a course is kind of…boring. I think it helps that there are characters and a story and a PLOT, because then I'm learning and taking in more that way than any other way. Plus, THE EMOTIONS.

    And yes, I love WWII, but there is so much history that I would be happy reading about any of it as long as I'm intrigued! 😀
    My recent post Review: Replica

  5. Becca

    Love your point about history lessons!! I actually had a university professor who would give us a list of 12 historical fiction books (in groups of 3 by time period) at the start of the semester and we had to choose 4 to read and be quizzed on throughout the course. She would quiz us on the accuracies AND inaccuracies in the books using what we'd talked about in class and separate article assignments. I found some fabulous books through her course!
    My recent post Bookish Obsessions: CANDLES

  6. I love Historical Fiction that actually has historical significance. All The Light We Cannot See is a good one. And if you have the chance, you should definitely read A Constellation of Vital Phenomena. Such a wonderful read!

  7. In truth I’m not a fan of Historical Fiction. I read very few books in this genre, it’s usually Historical Romance, which was highly recommended by my friends. But I can see, why it appeals to you, though I’m not sure about your “history lessons” point. Many authors stray away from real historical facts and only use them as an inspiration.

    Most of the books on your recommendation list are on my tbr-shelf, but I’ll check out others. Great post, Jenna!

    My recent post Review: Cuff Me (New York’s Finest #3) by Lauren Layne

  8. TOTALLY agree with you on these reasons! I adore historical fiction, which is funny, because I had been wary of it for a long time and then boom, suddenly loved it! I plan to read Max soon, and Salt to the Sea and Blood for Blood are on my shelf just waiting for me to get some time 😉 The Book Thief was great of course, and I really liked Smelly Houses, and while there were some things I didn't love about The Passion of Dolssa, it was an overall win. But seriously, I feel like the potential in historical fiction is just never ending, and I love it! Such a great post, Jenna!
    My recent post The Daemoniac by Kat Ross: Review & Giveaway

  9. A quote that stands out to me when I was reading your post is "those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it." Historical fiction is so great and so important because it teaches you history in a more engaging and entertaining way than, perhaps, a history class would. It allows you to really empathize with the characters and the historical period they live in. Wolf by Wolf, Salt to the Sea and The Book Thief are definitely some of my favorite historical fiction novels too. Thanks for sharing Jenna and, as always, fabulous post! <3

  10. Being someone who mainly prefers fantasy, historical fiction must be one of my least favourite genres lol. It's definitely interesting seeing why you enjoy it though and learning about the past and the details that HF can teach us. Awesome post Jenna!

  11. Great post! I love historical fiction (especially when you learn so much from it), but for some reason I rarely read any. I don't even know why! Goodnight Mister Tom was one of my favourite books ever when I was little and I love watching the film whenever it's on too. I have All the Light We Cannot See at home somewhere so I definitely need to dig into it soon!

  12. Look at all those gorgeous recs! I'm right with you on this one Jenna. Historical fiction is so underrated in my opinion, and there are SOOO many good ones out there. It's so great to explore all these cultures and histories that you would never have dreamed of knowing, like Mesopotamian life (Forbidden by Kimberley G Little) or even the Ice Age time (Ivory and Bone by Julie Eshbaugh). It's even better when the author just fits the story inside of actual historical tidbits, like in Traitor Angels by Anne Blankman where we see cameos of famous people in history books inside.

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