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 new 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 historical fiction books, including three set in Africa.
In terms of specific time periods, we have a list of highly recommended novels set in the Second World War.
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 published in early 2020 and was included in Cal Flyn's selection of the best new novels of spring 2020.
Historical fiction is great for any reader who enjoys both history – and a good, atmospheric story to pull you along too.
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.