Recommended Reading
    Found in the Annenberg Library

Historical Fiction


American Wars

World Wars

World Conflicts

Map of Love, Ahdaf Soueif
It is the story of two Western women at opposite ends of the twentieth century who find themselves in love with men whose histories anchor them to another place and time: Egypt.

A Very Long Engagement, Sebastien Japrisot
Determined to discover what happened to five wounded soldiers left for dead on a Picardy battlefield in 1917, a young wheelchair-bound Frenchwoman unveils an elaborate web of deception & coincidence, as well as the acts of kindness that co-exist with the acts of war.

Water for Elephants, Sara Gruen
When Jacob Jankowski, recently orphaned and suddenly adrift, jumps onto a passing train, he enters a world of freaks, grifters, and misfits, a second-rate circus struggling to survive during the Great Depression, making one-night stands in town after endless town.

The Other Bolelyn Girl, Philippa Gregory
Sibling rivalry and royal intrigue are at the heart of this Phillipa Gregory's historical novel. With diabolical delight, the author of The Queen's Fool etches the story of the unsisterly machinations of Anne Boleyn and her sibling Mary. Though the story of King Henry VIII and his contentious consorts has been told often, The Other Boleyn Girl sustains our interest.

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, Lisa See
In nineteenth-century China, in a remote Hunan county, a girl named Lily, at the tender age of seven, is paired with a laotong, "old same," in an emotional match that will last a lifetime. The laotong, Snow Flower, introduces herself by sending Lily a silk fan on which she's painted a poem in nu shu, a unique language that Chinese women created in order to communicate in secret, away from the influence of men. As the years pass, Lily and Snow Flower send messages on fans, compose stories on handkerchiefs, reaching out of isolation to share their hopes, dreams, and accomplishments. Together, they endure the agony of foot-binding, and reflect upon their arranged marriages, shared loneliness, and the joys and tragedies of motherhood.

Empress Orchid, Anchee Min

A fictional portrait of the last empress of China follows Orchid, a beautiful teenager from an aristocratic family, who is chosen to become a low-ranking concubine of the emperor and rises to a position of power in the Chinese court.

And Ladies of the Club, Helen Hooven Santmyer
"A warm, evocative, often hilarious picture of society, culture, politics and family life." --Atlanta Journal-Constitution This novel centers on the members of a book club and their struggles to understand themselves, each other, and the tumultuous world they live in - that of a small Ohio town during the late 1800's through the early 1900's.

Clan of the Cave Bear series, Jean M. Auel
Auel takes us back to the dawn of mankind and sweeps us up into the amazing and wonderful world of Ayla, one of the most remarkable heroines ever imagined.

Daughter of Fortune, Isabell Allende
A sweeping portrait of an unconventional woman carving her own destiny in an era defined by violence, passion, and adventure. The story setting begins in South America and moves to California at the time of the gold rush.

Doctor Zhivago, Boris Pasternak
This famous novel of the Russian revolution and Civil War became a cause celebre when its publication was cancelled by Soviet authorities and Pasternak had the manuscript smuggled out of the country for publication. Doctor Zhivago was cited by the Swedish Academy when it awarded Pasternak the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1958.

Gates of Fire, Stephen Pressfield
Tells the story of tthe Battle of Thermopylae in 480 B.C., when 300 warriors of Sparta held back an overwhelming number of rampaging soldiers from the Persian Empire for six days before being wiped out.

Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell
“A monumental classic considered by many to be not only the greatest love story ever written, but also the greatest Civil War saga.”

Great Expectations, Charles Dickens
Great Expectations follows the life of the orphan, Pip. We first meet him as a tiny, terrified child in a village churchyard. Years later, through the help of an anonymous benefactor, Pip will travel to London, full of expectations to become a gentleman. But his life is already inextricably tangled in a mystery that surrounds a beautiful woman, an embittered recluse, and an ambitious lawyer.

Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte
In early nineteenth-century England, an orphaned young woman accepts employment as a governess at Thornfield Hall, a country estate owned by the mysteriously remote Mr. Rochester.

Kim, Rudyard Kipling
“Kim (1901) is Rudyard Kipling's story of an orphan born in colonial India and torn between love for his native India and the demands of Imperial loyalty to his Irish-English heritage and to the British Secret Service.”

Lonesome Dove, Larry McMurtry
Bestselling winner of the 1986 Pulitzer Prize, Lonesome Dove is an American classic. A love story, an adventure, an American epic, Lonesome Dove embraces all the West -- legend and fact, heroes and outlaws, whores and ladies, Indians and settiers -- in a novel that recreates the central American experience, the most enduring of our national myths.

Memoirs of a Geisha, Arthur Golden
Nitta Sayuri tells the story of her life as a geisha. In Memoirs of a Geisha, we enter a world where appearances are paramount; where a girl's virginity is auctioned to the highest bidder; where women are trained to beguile the most powerful men; and where love is scorned as illusion.

Mill on the Floss, George Elliot
One of George Eliot's best-loved works, The Mill on the Floss is a portrait of the bonds of provincial life as seen through the eyes of the free-spirited Maggie Tulliver, who is torn between a code of moral responsibility and her hunger for self-fulfillment. Rebellious by nature, she causes friction both among the townspeople of St. Ogg's and in her own family, particularly with her brother, Tom. Maggie's passionate nature makes her a beloved heroine, but it is also her undoing.

O Pioneers, Willa Cather
O Pioneers! (1913) is the story of Alexandra Bergson, a fiercely independent and clear-headed young woman whose passionate faith in the Nebraska prairie makes her a wealthy landowner.

Pillars of the Earth, Ken Follett
The epic story of the building of a cathedral in 12th century England and the lives of the people entwined with it and each other is a sensuous, enduring narrative, and a gripping tale of faith, ambition, bloodshed and betrayal.

Pompeii, Robert Harris
Pompeii recreates in spellbinding detail one of the most famous natural disasters of all time. And by focusing on the characters of an engineer and a scientist, it offers an entirely original perspective on the Roman world.

Portrait of a Lady, Henry James
When Isabel Archer, a young American woman with looks, wit, and imagination, arrives in Europe, she sees the world as 'a place of brightness, of free expression, of irresistible action'. She turns aside from suitors who offer her their wealth and devotion to follow her own path. But that way leads to disillusionment and a future as constricted as 'a dark narrow alley with a dead wall at the end'. In a conclusion that is one of the most moving in modern fiction, Isabel makes her final choice.

The Red Tent, Anita Diamant
“The Red Tent is the story of Jacob's daughter, Dinah, and Jacob's four wives. [] As Diamant explores the trials and triumphs of ancient women, she brings a foreign yet beautiful world to life as seen through the emotional filter of Dinah's eyes. This lush, evocative tale [] brings new life to the Old Testament.”

Return of the Native, Thomas Hardy
“The native of the title is Clym Yeobright, who returns to the area from the bright society of Paris and, as any reader of Hardy knows, all is not smooth. He is quickly taken by and marries the one woman he should not--Eustacia Vye. The suffering that follows is mitigated somewhat by the ending.”

Roots: the saga of an American family, Alex Haley
“This "" (Newsweek magazine) begins with a birth in an African village in 1750, and ends two centuries later at a funeral in Arkansas. And in that time span, an unforgettable cast of men, women, and children come to life, many of them based on the people from Alex Haley's own family tree.”

Shogun, James Clavell
“A bold English adventurer. An invincible Japanese warlord. A beautiful woman torn between two ways of life, two ways of love. All brought together in a mighty saga of a time and place aflame with conflict, passion, ambition, lust and the struggle for power.”

Thorn Birds, Colleen McCullough
“In the rugged Australian Outback, three extraordinary generations of Cleary's live through joy and sadness, bitter defear and magnificent triumph — driven by their dreams, sustained by remarkable strength of character...and torn by dark passions, violence and a scandalous family legacy of forbidden love.”