Discussion: Why I Should Read More Historical Fiction

History – the study of past events, particularly in human affairs.

There’s no doubt that contemporary and fantasy are my go-to book. I never want to limit myself to one particular genre so I’ll read anything and everything that interests me. I’ve not read many historic fiction books but the ones I have read have all been hits. As always, I have to be in the right mood to read historical fiction, but every time I’ve immersed myself in that genre I’ve always enjoyed it. So here are the reasons I should take the time to read more historical fiction titles.

Emotion

Fun fact, I am a history graduate. Over the three years I studied history I explored all kinds of different historic periods and events. We are taught the facts, we read the accounts and then we have to deconstruct that evidence and analyse it until there’s nothing left. We had to look at every side of the coin, meaning we had to remain impartial and use the evidence we collected to form our own conclusion. It was easy to shut off the emotional components of the events.

However, historical fiction allows us to connect with the emotion in history. Why? Because we explore the humanity in these books. Take a setting like the World Wars and I could spew a ton of facts about them. However, take a character and place them in such a horrifying setting and follow their journey from beginning to end and you are faced with the harsh reality of War. You get to see them struggle through all the horrors and hardships but you also get to see their resilience. You get to know the character and connect with them and that brings out the emotional component that’s often overlooked when looking at history.

Educate

Historical fiction also has that freedom to explore topics that are often overlooked in history. They can take a topic and bring it to the forefront of a discussion. History is a broad topic and we are constantly discovering new evidence and learning about new events. Books provide and opportunity to shine a light on these overlooked historic events. For example, Salt to the Sea explores the tragedy of the Wilhelm Gustloff. This was one of the biggest maritime tragedies ever recorded yet so little is mentioned about it. Not once did I hear about this events when I was learning about World War II. This book highlights the scope of the tragedy with a total of over 9000 fatalities with half of that number made up of innocent children. It’s a harrowing tragedy and one that deserves to have a spotlight. There’s always a learning curve that comes with historical fiction and that’s possibly the aspect that draws me in to the genre most.

Variety

There are no limits to historical fiction. You can take any event in time and have the liberty to explore those events from a wide range of perspectives. Within this you can also take the time to tackle the big “what ifs.” There’s something terrifying and fascinating about reading an alternate historical timeline whilst know that that could have been our reality. The variety of events and perspectives also gives us a chance to delve into that psychological component of history. No character is the same and with that we get to explore just how morally ambiguous the choices and actions of these characters are. It highlights the grey areas of history. Instead of drawing battle lines, we get an insight into the mentality of characters on all sides of the spectrum and how their circumstances shaped their paths in history.

Historical Fiction Recommendations

 

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys
Highlights the overlooked tragedy of the Wilhelm Gustloff. Multiple POV. Fast Paced.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Narrated by Death. World War II setting. Highlights the horrors of war.

All the Truth That’s In Me by Julie Berry
Implied colonial American setting. Second prose narrative. Highlights the loneliness of being ostracized from a community. A journey to find ones voice.

Outrun the Moon by Stacey Lee
Set during the San Francisco earthquake of 1906. Strong female friendships. Chinese-American protagonist.

Wolf by WolfΒ  by Ryan Graudin
Alternate historical narrative. Hitler wins the war. Exploration of identity.

Those are the reasons I need to read more historical fiction.
Why do you read historical fiction?
What are your historical fiction recommendations?

 

 

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27 thoughts on “Discussion: Why I Should Read More Historical Fiction

  1. What a fantastic post! I really loved the point you made about emotion – its a completely different experience reading about an event in the past and reading a book set in the past.
    I’ve been trying to read more historical fiction this year so thanks for the recommendations!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for the comment. I’m still amazed by how some of the books provoked such a strong emotional reaction from me. I hope that if you end up reading one of the recs that you enjoy it. πŸ˜€

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow!!! I like to read historical fiction as well, I always have the feeling I learned something I haven’t known yet. The Book Thief was a wonderful book. Rwading Dead Wake was really hard since I knew how it would end, which just underscores your point of historical fiction bringing up emotions that I never thought I had about a certain topic.

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  3. This was such an interesting post to read, Lois! πŸ™‚
    I’m not much of a historical fiction reader – I don’t know why, I guess I’ve never really been into the genre and didn’t have the best recommendations, maybe? I’ve never felt drawn to this genre, compared to others ; but you made some great points here – I might have to check some of your recommendations, maybe they’ll make me change my mind about the genre and even love it πŸ™‚

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    • It’s a fickle of a genre. I have to be in the right mood to read and appreciate it which is why I’ve read so few. I do want to make more of an effort to read more in the genre. The Book Thief will always be my favourite but if you want a book with a bit of a faster pace then I’d go for Wolf by Wolf. πŸ˜€

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  4. I was a history major, too, and I love reading historical fiction. It helps me experience times and places that I would never be able to visit and that are often so different from our lives today. Giving any recommendations would be so hard – there are so many time periods to choose from! I tend to gravitate towards WWII and Tudor England – so totally different!

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s amazing how much I’ve learned from reading historical fiction alone. I tend to gravitate towards World War II based books as well but I definitely hope to read more from this genre in the near future. Thank for stopping by. πŸ˜€

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  5. I read this genre for all the reasons you mentioned above. Two recs I have are: The Dollhouse by Fiona Davis (it’s a breezy read but there is something about it that I latched onto), and City of Thieves by David Benioff (First, author writes for Game of Thrones, you know that book is going to be a page turner! And second, task that sounds completely absurd but is so fricken awesome!)

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  6. This is a wonderful discussion post. Like you, I’m more drawn to contemporary and fantasy than any other genre, and I often leave historical fiction behind when I make exceptions in my reading. I’m a huge history lover, though. It was always my favorite subject in high school and in college, as well. Your point that historical fiction definitely injects more emotion into the facts you’re already familiar with is SPOT-ON, and I couldn’t agree more. Salt to the Sea is a book high on my TBR because I’ve heard such wonderful things. I’m so glad you recommend it too. πŸ™‚

    ~ Aimal @ Bookshelves & Paperbacks

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    • I really do need to make more of an effort to read more historical fiction books. I’ve always enjoyed the ones I read but it’s also a genre that I have to be in the right mood to read. I’m amazed by how emotional I’ve gotten with some of the books I read but historical fiction just heightens that sense of horror and heartbreak of the periods and events they cover. I hope you enjoy Salt to the Sea when you get to read it. πŸ˜€

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  8. I love this post!! I’ve read some historical fiction (not any of the books you listed though…) and found myself loving it! One of my favorite series, Ruby Red, is about time travelers who go throughout history in Germany. And of course The Boy in the Striped Pajamas ripped my heart out…. both the movie and the book (it was a surprisingly good adaptation).

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve heard of Ruby Red and keep meaning to read it. Hopefully I can tick that book off the tbr list at some point. I’ve only seen the film of the Boy in the Striped Pajamas and that crushed me to bit. It was so emotional.

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      • Yes!! Please read Ruby Red! It’s amazing!
        TBH I was more affected by the movie BITSP than the book… maybe it’s because I saw the movie first? Idk, either way the adaptation was great.

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  9. i totally agree! I don’t read enough historical fiction- but I often enjoy them when I do. i especially like what you said about it being education- I didn’t know about that tragedy before I read Salt to the Sea, but it was really educational (and a great book besides)

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