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.
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:
- Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys (WWII)
- The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (WWII)
- Max by Sarah Cohen-Scali (WWII)
- Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin (alternate WWII)
- My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Ashton Brodi and Jodi Meadows (alternate Tudor)
- The Smell of Other People’s Houses by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock (Alaska 1970s) – Jeann’s review
- The Passion of Dolssa by Julie Berry (1200s)
- Goodnight Mister Tom by Michelle Magorian (WWII)
And of course, I couldn’t end this post without including a handful of adult historical fiction recommendations:
- All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr (WWII) – My favourite book of all time!
- The Lake House by Kate Morton (Cornwall 1930s)
- A Year of Marvellous Ways by Sarah Winman (WWI)
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