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12 Books for Readers who Love Historical Fiction

Back in mid-February we threw a question out to readers on our Facebook page, asking you to recommend some historical fiction and we clearly have a lot of fans of this genre. In total over 450 of you posted replies and collating them there were over 200 books mentioned. As often happens the same authors were mentioned over and over and there are clearly some shining lights in this genre, bringing in lots and lots of suggestions.

I’ve now put all those entries together and counted up all the suggestions to bring you the top 12 books for readers who love historical fiction.

Outlander Series – Diana Gabaldon (29 votes)


Outlander (US)
Outlander (UK)

This books series seems to cross very many genres, fantasy, action, romance but it also has an historical twist and that’s led to 29 of you voting for it in this poll.

The Pillars of the Earth – Ken Follett (20 votes)

Pillars of the Earth

The Pillars of the Earth (US)
The Pillars of the Earth (UK)

Not only did The Pillars of the Earth come second in our poll, but Ken Follett was mentioned over and over with his Century Trilogy also coming further down the list.

Wolf Hall – Hilary Mantel (12 votes)

Wolf Hall

Wolf Hall (US)
Wolf Hall (UK)

With Wolf Hall recently hitting our television screens it’s really made an impact. Described as a meticulously researched masterpiece it comes third in our list but author Mantel made the list twice.

Tudor Court Series – Phillipa Gregory (12 votes)

Tudor Court Series

Tudor Court Series (US)
Tudor Court Series (UK)

Phillipa Gregory was one of the most mentioned authors in the entire poll and the Tudor Court series shares third place as the most mentioned. Wideacre and The Other Bolyn Girl also made the list.

The Book Thief – Markus Zusak (9 votes)

The Book Thief

The Book Thief (US)
The Book Thief (UK)

The Book Thief is set during WWII in Germany and is hugely popular among our readers, so we’re hardly surprised this modern classic made the list.

The Lymond Chronicles – Dorothy Dunnett (7 votes)

Lymond Chronicles

The Game of Kings (book1) (US)
The Game of Kings (book1) (UK)

An oldie but a goodie, lots of you loved the Lymond Chronicles suggesting it as the next book series you should read if you love historical fiction.

Then, with 6 votes each came:

Aubrey Maturin Collection – Patrick O’Brian

Bringing up the Bodies – Hilary Mantel

All Souls Trilogy – Deborah Harkness

Then finishing the list with 5 votes each:

The Other Bolyn Girl – Phillipa Gregory

Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown

Wideacre – Phillipa Gregory

The Historian – Elizabeth Kostova

Thanks to everyone who joined in and suggested books and authors, as always you can add your own in the comments.

Leave your vote


  • Lori D says:

    Another historical fiction book to read is “My Enemy’s Cradle” by Sara Young. I knew nothing about the Nazi’s Lebensborn program until this book. It kept me intrigued from beginning to end.

    • Christine Pak says:

      I read this book several years ago, it was great and finished it in a weekend.

  • jodi van zaig says:

    “Shashenka” Simon Sebag Montefiore

  • Joyce Hollman says:

    Another great one is “Stone’s Fall” by Iain Pears. Romance, plot, history, great character development…it has it all!

  • Janet webster says:

    Sharon Penman is really good

  • Carol Mason says:

    Don’t forget Anya Seton books and Jude Deveraux’ Montgomery series.

    • Sheila Zalky says:

      I love Anya Seton!!! I have read all of her books several times. Katherine is the best ever!!!

    • Cheryl Bremson says:

      Loved Anya Seton from the time I was a teenager. She wrote wonderful books!

  • Lisa Smith says:

    my favorite is “Year of Wonders” by Geraldine Brooks.

  • OLD FRIENDS by Tracy Kidder

  • janet bardsley says:

    add in C.J. Sansom’s Shardlack series set in 1540’s England

  • I’ve always enjoyed Anne Perry’s detective series with Thomas Pitt and William Monk. Great mysteries with obvious detailed research into Victorian times.

    • Christine Pak says:

      I have read both series and waiting for her newer ones. They are all good ,but the Monk ones have been better lately.

    • Lana Lipsett says:

      Anne Perry and a friend killed the friend’s mother when they were teenagers in New Zealand. Anne Perry is not her birth name. They both received jail time. The friend seems quite repentant, Anne does not. Since finding this out I have never felt the same about her books.

  • Pam S. says:

    Somehow I missed the chance to throw my 2 cents in… This is my go-to genre, so I have opinions galore! My favorite historical fiction author is Elizabeth Chadwick. As difficult as it is to choose a favorite of her works, it would have to be Lady of the English, about Empress Matilde, daughter of Henry I.
    Will you have a category of Christian historical fiction sometime? I have some greats in that, too!

  • Chad M. says:

    A Rainbow in the Dark By Wade McCoy and Patrick Chalfant.

    It’s set in a rural Oklahoma town during the 1940s. It’s about an African American adolescent and his determination to get by on his own after his family moves away to better themselves. He convinces them to allow him to stay to finish high school because he didn’t want to leave his friends and basketball team. Follow Kirk as he received hate from some and love from others.

  • Jill Porco says:

    My vote goes to Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale. The best book I’ve read in the last three months. It is clear she did a lot of research to weave in the history of France under the Vichy puppet government and with the French resistance movement.

    • Kathy Belisle says:

      I agree with Jill! THE NIGHTINGALE was a fantastic, hard-to-put-down book that taught the reader much about history of France and their resistance movement. A beautiful story.

  • Annette says:

    “Night” by Edgar Hilsenrath.
    Autobiografical Fiction (if such thing exists)

  • Toril Trana says:

    Music & Silence by Rose Tremain is a gem.

  • lexi says:

    My favorite historical fiction book (and my first) is Sarah’s Key. Heartbreaking and eye-opening

    • Christine Pak says:

      This was one of those books that you don’t put down until you finish it.

    • Christine Pak says:

      The Sharpe series by Bernard Cornwell, follows Richard Sharpe a British soldier from India through the Napoleonic wars.
      The first series I ever read was The Williamsburg Series by Elswyth Thane, it follows 2 families from before the American Revolution through WWll both in the US and Britian.

      • Charlotte says:

        I also like Cornwell. His series about the Last Kingdom about a Northumbrian Lord raised by a Norse family and his contact with King Alfred of Wessex, is very good.
        Also, Lindsey Davis and her Roman Empire detective, Marcus Didius Falco.
        I also would endorse Wilbur Smith’s River God series. Excellent.

  • Thomas says:

    i like the John Shakespeare mysteries by Rory Clements.
    The first book of the series is Martyr. It takes place during the conflict between Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots. The war with Soain is looming.
    Excellent series!

  • Beth says:

    didnt see Grapes of Wrath on this list…. It’s not ancient history, but almost … 1930’s Oklahoma and California …. Great book!

  • paula says:

    How about the best (and longest!) series on before WWI, during, after , WWII and after—Upton Sinclair’s Lanny Budd—-“World’ End”. It’s the best ever way to understand the 1900-1950 world.

  • jlalo says:

    Two of my favorites are Tulip Fever and Pope Joan.

  • Mark says:

    No Steven Pressfield? For shame….

  • Cara says:

    And no John Jakes? I love the Kent Family Chronicles. I have probably read the series 10 or 12 times. I read the first book “The Bastard” in 1976.

  • Sidhe says:

    Warlock, Quest, River God and Seventh Scroll by Wilbur Smith….The Arthurian Trilogy (Winter King, Enemy of God and Excalibur) by Bernard Cornwell. Wilbur Smith is very good, and Bernard Cornwell is AMAZING. And I agree, Pillars of the Earth (and World Without End) by Ken Follett were both fantastic books. I’ve read them both more than once.

  • Mary Hobart says:

    Hotel at the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

  • Pam Dunn says:

    Invisible Bridge, Mr. rosenblatt Dreams in English, The House at Riverton

  • Carl Baker says:

    You forgot to mention “14 Days in July “

  • Jill says:

    I was surprised that The Red Tent by Anita Diamant did not make the list. I found it to be a compelling story that even though it based on a story in the Bible, it does not read as a religious work.

    • Jill Porco says:

      I agree, very good book. Liked it much better than The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman, which my book group read.

  • Nancy says:

    What about Killer Angels!

  • ZeynepT says:

    Samarkand by Amin Maalouf 🙂

  • Petra Bauermeister says:

    I’ve discovered this page only recently so I’m going a few to add as well: Jennifer Roberson’s ‘Lady of the Forest’ and ‘Lady of Sherwood’ (Robin Hood adaptations concentrating on Marian) and ‘Lady of the Glen’, about the occurrences leading up to the Glen Coe Massacre. Evelyn Anthony’s ‘Clandara’ and ‘The Heiress’ (Jacobite Rising and subsequent French exile). Roberta Gellis’s ‘Knight’s Honour’ and ‘The Sword and the Swan’, set during the 12th century reign of King Stephen. Edward Rutherfurd’s books are great as well; and, and, and..

  • Nellmezzo says:

    Cecilia Holland, and she’s particularly enlightening about little known periods — 11th century England, Hungary during Turkish incursions, the Holy Land during the Crusades. She is a good writer, with a fine imagination about how ordinary people would have lived.

  • Melissa says:

    New York by Edward Rutherford is my favorite historical fiction book.

  • Ken says:

    The Winds of War and War and Remembrance (Herman Wouk).

  • kit peto says:

    Anything by Anne Easter Smith: A Rose for the Crown, Daughter of York, The King’s Grace, Queen By Right, and Royal Mistress. They’re all set in England during and after the Wars of the Roses.

  • Catherine Busby says:

    My favorite author of all time on historical fiction is Francis Parkinson Keyes. She wrote many books, all in exquisite detail of the period in which she was writing. Some of my favorites are “Steamboat Gothic” ” All that Glitters” & “Came a Cavalier .”

  • HELENK3 says:

    the swan trilogy by celeste deblasis. wild swan, swan’s chance and season of swans. begins in england then to Maryland from the 1850’s to 1880s. great reading of history

  • Debra Benifield says:

    Where did Ken Follett’s Century Trilogy fall? I love his work 🙂

  • Beverly says:

    Anyone have suggestions on historical fiction set during the Civil Was period in USA?

    • Beverly says:

      *WAR not was, sorry

      • Jane S says:

        I loved the book, I am Mary Sutter by Robin Olivera; about a young woman who is a midwife and wants to find a doctor who will train her to be one too. What happens is a great read! Have you read Cold Mountain?

    • Amyd says:

      Cameron Judd has a trilogy from the Civil War that takes place in western NC and eastern TN. Love it, one of the best I’ve read. The 1st of the set is The Shadow Warriors.

    • Carol Rigsbee says:

      Widow of the South by Robert Hicks – my favorite. It’s based on a true story.

  • sarah says:

    I knew nothing about the Leningrad blockade which lasted two and a half years during the 2nd World War until I read ‘The Siege’ by Helen Dunmore…a harrowing read! Neither had I read much about the Spanish Civil war until I read ‘Winter in Madrid’ by C. J. Sansom . Am now reading ‘Guernica’ by Dave Boling.

  • May says:

    The Spanish Bite saga and other books by Don Coldsmith are great historical fiction reading.

  • Jill Porco says:

    Lindsay Davis’ books about Ancient Rome belongs on the list too.

  • llilian jacobs says:

    love all the books ,just not enough time to read them all!!!! reading Africa laughter by Drois Lessing now.

  • charly sullivan says:

    not sure if this fits the list, but I enjoy William Martins stories, Back Bay, Cape Cod, The lost Constitution. need to read his latest, the Lincoln Letter

  • Alissa says:

    Has anyone ever read The Gaslight Mysteries by Victoria Thompson? I loved those.

  • Heather Mills says:

    Edward Rutherfords books are the best historical fiction I have read. There are so many of them….London, Princes of Ireland, Rebels of Ireland, The Forrest, Sarum, Russka, New York. Paris and a few more that I have not accessed yet.

  • Carol says:

    I wish you would make a small printable list on the article when you do these “best of” lists. They are so helpful. I would save time from writing them down. Thank you for the list.

  • Kat says:

    Jack Whyte’s series “A Dream of Eagles” is a must on any historical fiction list imo! Six absolutely riveting books about Camelot/Arthur/Merlin and Roman occupied Britain.

  • Becky Brooks says:

    I can’t believe that Sharon Kay Penman’s work isn’t on this list. Check her out if you want to read well-written, meticulously researched novels of the medieval era. I have read all of her books and am anxiously awaiting her next.

  • DT says:

    Conn Iggulden’s Emperor series on Julius Caesar. He has two other series too, Conqueror (Genghis Khan) and War of the Roses.

  • Janet Laybourne says:

    Sandra Gulland’s “The Josephine B” trilogy is amazing. You will finish one and go directly to the next. Amazingly written. I’m shocked that you don’t hear of her. I recommend these books continually.

  • Julie Black says:

    Rosemary Sutcliffe set in Roman and Celtic Britain. Written for kids but I still love them

  • Bookworm says:

    “The Eight” by Katherine Neville followed by its sequel “The Fire”. “The magic circle” is also in thos category. Love them all! ❤

  • Moira says:

    No-one’s mentioned Norah Lofts who wrote many excellent books or Colleen McCllough’s Masters of Rome series.

  • Patty Diamond says:

    I cannot believe All The Light We Cannot See is not on this list!! Good grief! It is great historical fiction and so well written it is unbelievable! Also a Pulitzer Prize winner!

  • Adele Taylor says:

    I love Simon Scarrow and his Cato and Macro series, Emporer at the Gates of Rome etc . Also Valerio Massimo Manfredi is excellent. Ariana Franklin and Pat Barker. I could go on and on !!

  • Jane S says:

    What about Pat Barker’s Regeneration series, set during WW1? Enjoyed those too, esp. The first.

  • Bryce Courtenay, The Power of One, and all his other books about South Africa and Australia. When I read those books , Dickens and
    Swift made much more sense to me. The stories in these books are also riveting. I always feel bad when one of his books end, I just
    want to stay with the characters.

  • Christie says:

    Just finished reading Shadow of a Century by Jean Grainger. I really enjoyed it!

  • Mikki says:


  • Heather says:

    I absolutely LOVE Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series! I recommend her all the time. Her books are so well written and all her characters, including the supporting characters, are well developed, intriguing and just down right fabulous! The first book in the series has a lot of introductory backstory in the first quarter of the book but after that, it is very easy to get lost in the series. Each time I re-read the series, it is like I am meeting up with old friends! Ken Follet’s books are also among the best I have ever read. His story telling is masterful, his characters and plot lines well developed and I fell in love with both of his series! Phillipa Gregory is another fantastic writer and I loved her books set in Tudor England. However, I felt differently regarding the Wide Acre trilogy. While the writing was on par with all of her other books, there was an element to the plot line that I, personally, found rather disturbing. I won’t spoil it for anyone, but I will say that having read the Wide Acre series once, I won’t read it again. Of course, others may not find they feel the same as I do, and that is fine. It was just not in line with my particular taste.

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