Top Of 35 Best Historical Fiction Novels Of All Time

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  • April 5, 2024
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  • 8 min read

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Historical fiction has captivated readers for centuries, offering a unique blend of imagination and historical events. From ancient civilizations to modern-day conflicts, these novels transport readers to different eras, allowing them to experience the past through vivid storytelling. Here are the top 35 historical fiction novels that have left a lasting impact on readers worldwide.

1. The Pillars of the Earth” by Ken Follett

Set in 12th-century England, this epic historical fiction novel follows the construction of a cathedral amidst political intrigue and personal vendettas.

2. “The Name of the Rose” by Umberto Eco

This masterpiece is set in a Benedictine monastery in the 14th century, where a Franciscan friar investigates a series of murders, blending mystery, philosophy, and historical accuracy.

3. “Gone with the Wind” by Margaret Mitchell

A sweeping epic set during the American Civil War, following the life of Scarlett O’Hara as she navigates love, loss, and survival in the antebellum South.

4. “Wolf Hall” by Hilary Mantel

A Booker Prize-winning novel chronicling the rise of Thomas Cromwell, the powerful advisor to King Henry VIII, set against the backdrop of Tudor England.

5. “The Nightingale” by Kristin Hannah

Set in France during World War II, this historical fiction novel tells the story of two sisters who resist the German occupation in different ways, highlighting the bravery and sacrifice of women during wartime.

6. “All the Light We Cannot See” by Anthony Doerr

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, this novel follows the parallel lives of a blind French girl and a German boy during World War II, showcasing the power of human resilience and connection amidst devastation.

7. “The Book Thief” by Markus Zusak

This historical fiction novel follows a young girl named Liesel who discovers the transformative power of words and storytelling during a time of great upheaval and loss.

8. “The Other Boleyn Girl” by Philippa Gregory

A gripping tale of ambition, betrayal, and political intrigue in the court of King Henry VIII, focusing on the rivalry between Anne Boleyn and her sister Mary.

9. “The Secret History” by Donna Tartt

This psychological thriller follows a group of students at an elite college who become entangled in a murder plot, exploring themes of guilt, obsession, and the search for meaning.

10. “The Underground Railroad” by Colson Whitehead

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award, this is one of the best historical fiction novels that reimagines the Underground Railroad as an actual railroad system, following the journey of a young slave named Cora as she seeks freedom in the antebellum South.

11. “The Kite Runner” by Khaled Hosseini

Set in Afghanistan, this novel follows the friendship between two boys, Amir and Hassan, against the Soviet invasion, the rise of the Taliban, and the turmoil of war.

12. “The Help” by Kathryn Stockett

This story is set in Mississippi when Black people fought for their rights. It’s about the relationships between Black maids who work for white families. This book’s tone and perspective about how race, class, and gender all play a role in the South during this time.

13. “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald

A classic tale of love, wealth, and disillusionment in 1920s America, exploring the lives of Jay Gatsby, Daisy Buchanan, and Nick Carraway amidst the glittering excess of the Jazz Age.

14. “The Picture of Dorian Gray” by Oscar Wilde

A Gothic masterpiece exploring the nature of beauty, morality, and corruption, as a young man’s portrait ages while he remains perpetually youthful, reflecting the consequences of his hedonistic lifestyle.

15. “War and Peace” by Leo Tolstoy

One of the greatest historical fiction novels ever written, this epic saga follows the lives of Russian aristocrats during the Napoleonic Wars, exploring themes of love, war, and the search for meaning in life.

16. “Les Misérables” by Victor Hugo

A sprawling epic set against the backdrop of revolutionary France, following the lives of ex-convict Jean Valjean, the idealistic student Marius Pontmercy, and the tragic figure of Fantine amidst social injustice and political upheaval.

17. “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee

One of the timeless historical fiction novels exploring racial injustice and moral growth in the American South, through the eyes of young Scout Finch and her father, Atticus, a lawyer defending an innocent black man accused of rape.

18. “The Grapes of Wrath” by John Steinbeck

This story takes place during the Great Depression. It’s about the Joad family, who leave the Dust Bowl and head to California for a better life. It shows the difficulties that migrant workers go through and the unfair treatment they endure.

19. “The Color Purple” by Alice Walker

Winner of many prestigious literary awards, this novel explores the lives of African American women in the South in the early 20th century, focusing on the journey of Celie as she finds her voice and strength amidst oppression and abuse.

20. “Alias Grace” by Margaret Atwood

Based on a true story, this novel follows Grace Marks, a young Irish immigrant accused of murder in 19th-century Canada, exploring themes of memory, identity, and the nature of truth.

21. “The Shadow of the Wind” by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

This novel follows a young boy named Daniel who discovers a mysterious book by an obscure author, leading him on a quest to uncover the truth behind the book’s origins and the fate of its author.

22. “The Joy Luck Club” by Amy Tan

This novel follows the lives of four Chinese immigrant families in San Francisco, exploring themes of mother-daughter relationships, cultural identity, and the immigrant experience.

23. “Atonement” by Ian McEwan

This book is set in England before, during, and after World War II. It’s about a young girl who makes a false accusation, and the story follows how this affects her and those around her. It explores love, guilt, and redemption themes, showing how people deal with mistakes and try to make things right.

24. “The Dutch House” by Ann Patchett

Spanning five decades, this novel follows siblings Danny and Maeve as they navigate the complexities of family, loss, and forgiveness centered around the opulent Dutch House they were raised in.

25. “The Paris Wife” by Paula McLain

This novel offers a fictionalized account of the marriage between Ernest Hemingway and his first wife, Hadley Richardson, exploring the bohemian lifestyle of 1920s Paris and the challenges of love and ambition.

26. “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society” by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

Set in the aftermath of World War II, this novel tells the story of a writer who forms an unexpected bond with the residents of Guernsey Island through letters exchanged during the German occupation.

27. “The Essex Serpent” by Sarah Perry

This novel follows the story of Cora Seaborne, a widow and amateur naturalist, who becomes entangled in the mystery surrounding the sightings of a mythical creature in the Essex countryside, exploring themes of science, superstition, and love.

28. “The Alice Network” by Kate Quinn

This novel intertwines the stories of two women, a female spy during World War I and a pregnant American socialite searching for her cousin in post-World War II Europe—as they uncover secrets from the past and seek redemption.

29. “The Tattooist of Auschwitz” by Heather Morris

Based on a true story, this novel follows the experiences of Lale Sokolov, a Jewish prisoner tasked with tattooing his fellow inmates at Auschwitz-Birkenau, and his forbidden romance with Gita, a fellow prisoner.

30. “The Luminaries” by Eleanor Catton

This novel follows a complex web of interconnected characters and events, exploring themes of greed, fate, and the search for fortune.

31. “The Miniaturist” by Jessie Burton

Set in 17th-century Amsterdam, this novel follows a young bride named Nella who receives a miniature replica of her house as a wedding gift, leading her to unravel dark secrets and mysteries within her new home.

32. “The Poisonwood Bible” by Barbara Kingsolver

This novel follows the experiences of the Price family, American missionaries who traveled to the Belgian Congo in the late 1950s, exploring themes of cultural clash, colonialism, and the consequences of fanaticism.

33. “The Golem and the Jinni” by Helene Wecker

Set in New York City at the turn of the 20th century, this historical fiction novel follows the unlikely friendship between a golem, created by a Jewish rabbi, and a jinni, released from a copper flask, as they navigate the challenges of assimilation and belonging in a new world.

34. “The Night Watch” by Sarah Waters

Set in London during and after World War II, this historical fiction novel follows the lives of several characters whose lives intersect in unexpected ways, exploring themes of love, loss, and resilience amidst wartime devastation.

35. The Shadow of the Wind” by Carlos Ruiz Zafón –

This novel follows a young boy named Daniel who discovers a mysterious book by an obscure author, leading him on a quest to uncover the truth behind the book’s origins and the fate of its author.

If you want to read more historical fiction novels, visit Ghostwriting Founder, where you can find more books.


Historical fiction novels offer a gateway to the past, immersing readers in different eras and cultures while experiencing the human drama of historical events. From ancient civilizations to modern-day conflicts, these novels capture the essence of history through compelling storytelling and richly drawn characters. Whether exploring the intricacies of medieval Europe or the complexities of colonial America, distinguishing fiction continues to captivate readers with its blend of imagination and historical accuracy.

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