Here is our collection of expert book recommendations of the best historical fiction: engaging reading lists for fans of historical novels seeking to be immersed in times past.
If you're looking for the best prize winning books in this genre, a great place to start is the annual Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction. Our deputy editor Cal Flyn speaks to the chair of the judges every year – they read dozens of submissions so as to compile a shortlist of the best new historical novels every year.
If you're looking for classic works of historical fiction, we have recommendations from bestselling novelist, Vanora Bennett, who chose the the best historical novels ever published. Zimbabwean novelist Tendai Huchu chose his top hf books, including three set in Africa.
In terms of specific time periods, it came up so often that we have a list of highly recommended novels set in the Second World War.
Many of the world's leading historians have made reading lists for Five Books, and here are some historical fiction recommendations by historians. These are good books if you enjoy historically accurate fiction.
Probably our most-recommended author in this genre is Hilary Mantel, who has twice triumphed at the Booker Prize with the first two instalments of her Thomas Cromwell trilogy, Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies. The third book in the trilogy, The Mirror and the Light, which charts Cromwell’s inevitable demise, was included in Cal Flyn's selection of the favourite novels of 2020. Another popular author is Robert Harris, whose novels set in Republican Rome or about the Dreyfus affair in 19th century France read almost like history.
We keep a running list of what's best in new historical fiction.
Historical fiction is great for any reader who enjoys both history – and a good, atmospheric story to pull you along too.
The medieval era in Europe lasted a millennium and saw massive social change and technological innovation, as well as calamities like the Black Death. That makes it a great period for historical fiction, offering a glimpse of a past that was very different from our own lives, and yet can resonate with the present. Here Marion Turner, Professor of English Literature at Oxford University, recommends some of her favourite historical novels set in the Middle Ages and explains why she finds them so compelling.
The Walter Scott Prize seeks to highlight the very best of historical fiction—and in 2021, we find the shortlist dominated by Australian writers. Katharine Grant, the acclaimed novelist and chair of the judges, returns to Five Books to discuss the cream of this year’s crop, and the art of transforming the historical record into a creative exercise.
The ancient world offers an excellent canvas for historical fiction but too many books fall victim to anachronistic thinking, says Oxford ancient historian Harry Sidebottom, author of two series of historical novels set in Ancient Rome. Here he recommends some of his own favourites, all written during the golden age of classical historical fiction half a century ago.
Historical fiction is experiencing something of a golden age at present: there’s never been a better time to immerse oneself in the past. The acclaimed novelist Katharine Grant—chair of the judges for the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction—talks us through their 2020 shortlist.
Bestselling British historian and author Alison Weir plunges us deep into the world of walled-up skeletons, Vikings, poisoning, intrigue, witchcraft and rebellion. This is the best of historical novels – books that never compromise on painstaking research.
The Best of Historical Fiction: The 2019 Walter Scott Prize Shortlist, recommended by Katharine Grant
The best historical novels are those so immersive and natural in tone that their period setting is a ‘by-the-way,’ says Katharine Grant, the novelist and judge for the Walter Scott Prize for historical fiction. Here she discusses the six brilliant books that made the 2019 shortlist.