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Best Historical Novels

Looking for the best historical novels? Dive into captivating stories set in the past, filled with rich characters and vivid settings. Explore different eras and experience the thrill of historical events through these compelling narratives. Discover a world of adventure, romance, and intrigue as you immerse yourself in these top-rated historical novels.

If you’re a fan of captivating stories set in the past, you’ll be delighted to explore the best historical novels available today. These literary gems transport readers to different eras, immersing them in richly detailed worlds and bringing history to life. From epic tales of war and romance to gripping accounts of real-life events, these best historical novels offer a captivating blend of fact and fiction. Immerse yourself in the best historical novels that transport you to ancient civilizations, turbulent periods of political unrest, or pivotal moments in human history. With their meticulously researched settings and well-developed characters, these best historical novels provide a unique opportunity to learn about the past while enjoying a compelling narrative. Discover the best historical novels that will transport you through time and leave you craving for more.

# Novel Author Year Published Rating
1 The Pillars of the Earth Ken Follett 1989 9.5/10
2 Gone with the Wind Margaret Mitchell 1936 9/10
3 The Name of the Rose Umberto Eco 1980 8.8/10
4 Wolf Hall Hilary Mantel 2009 8.5/10
5 The Book Thief Markus Zusak 2005 8.2/10
6 All the Light We Cannot See Anthony Doerr 2014 8/10
7 The Shadow of the Wind Carlos Ruiz Zafón 2001 7.8/10
8 The Historian Elizabeth Kostova 2005 7.5/10
9 Outlander Diana Gabaldon 1991 7/10
10 The Miniaturist Jessie Burton 2014 6.5/10

The Pillars of the Earth

  • Author: Ken Follett
  • Genre: Historical Fiction
  • Setting: 12th Century England
  • Main Characters: Tom Builder, Prior Philip, Aliena, Jack Jackson
  • Plot Summary: The Pillars of the Earth is an epic historical novel that follows the construction of a cathedral in the fictional town of Kingsbridge. Set against the backdrop of political turmoil and social unrest in 12th century England, the story intertwines the lives of various characters as they navigate love, betrayal, and ambition. With its richly detailed historical setting and compelling characters, this novel offers a captivating journey through medieval Europe.

The Pillars of the Earth is widely regarded as one of the best historical novels ever written. Its intricate plot, well-researched historical background, and vivid storytelling make it a must-read for fans of the genre. Ken Follett’s meticulous attention to detail brings the medieval world to life, immersing readers in a captivating tale of power, passion, and perseverance.

Gone with the Wind

  • Author: Margaret Mitchell
  • Genre: Historical Fiction
  • Setting: American Civil War and Reconstruction Era
  • Main Characters: Scarlett O’Hara, Rhett Butler, Ashley Wilkes, Melanie Hamilton
  • Plot Summary: Gone with the Wind is a sweeping historical novel set in the American South during the Civil War and Reconstruction era. The story revolves around Scarlett O’Hara, a headstrong Southern belle, as she navigates love, loss, and survival amidst the chaos of war. With its vivid portrayal of Southern society and its complex characters, this novel explores themes of love, resilience, and the impact of war on individuals and society.

Gone with the Wind is a timeless classic that has captivated readers for generations. Margaret Mitchell’s masterful storytelling and her ability to bring the setting and characters to life have made this novel an enduring favorite. Through Scarlett O’Hara’s journey, readers are transported to a tumultuous period in American history, experiencing the triumphs and tragedies of a society on the brink of change.

The Name of the Rose

  • Author: Umberto Eco
  • Genre: Historical Mystery
  • Setting: 14th Century Italy
  • Main Characters: William of Baskerville, Adso of Melk, Jorge of Burgos, Abbot Abo
  • Plot Summary: The Name of the Rose is a gripping historical mystery set in an Italian monastery in the 14th century. Franciscan friar William of Baskerville arrives at the monastery to investigate a series of mysterious deaths. As he delves deeper into the investigation, he uncovers a web of secrets, religious intrigue, and forbidden knowledge. This intellectually stimulating novel combines elements of history, philosophy, and detective fiction.

The Name of the Rose is hailed as a masterpiece of historical fiction and mystery. Umberto Eco’s intricate plot, rich historical detail, and philosophical musings make this novel a thought-provoking read. With its exploration of medieval theology and its engaging narrative, The Name of the Rose offers readers a captivating journey into the heart of mystery and intellectual curiosity.

Wolf Hall

  • Author: Hilary Mantel
  • Genre: Historical Fiction
  • Setting: Tudor England
  • Main Characters: Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn, Thomas More
  • Plot Summary: Wolf Hall is a historical novel that follows the rise of Thomas Cromwell, a commoner who becomes a key figure in the court of Henry VIII. Set against the backdrop of Tudor England, the story explores the political intrigues, religious conflicts, and personal ambitions of the era. With its meticulous attention to historical detail and complex characterizations, this novel offers a fresh perspective on one of history’s most fascinating periods.

Wolf Hall has garnered critical acclaim for its immersive portrayal of Tudor England and its compelling depiction of Thomas Cromwell’s journey. Hilary Mantel’s vivid prose and her ability to breathe life into historical figures make this novel a standout in the genre. Through Cromwell’s eyes, readers gain insight into the complexities of power, loyalty, and survival in a tumultuous era.

The Book Thief

  • Author: Markus Zusak
  • Genre: Historical Fiction
  • Setting: Nazi Germany during World War II
  • Main Characters: Liesel Meminger, Hans Hubermann, Rosa Hubermann, Max Vandenburg
  • Plot Summary: The Book Thief is a poignant historical novel set in Nazi Germany during World War II. The story revolves around Liesel Meminger, a young girl who finds solace in books amidst the horrors of war. Narrated by Death, this novel explores themes of love, friendship, and the power of words in the face of adversity. With its unique narrative style and unforgettable characters, The Book Thief offers a fresh perspective on a well-known period in history.

The Book Thief has touched the hearts of readers around the world with its powerful storytelling and its exploration of humanity’s capacity for compassion and resilience. Markus Zusak’s lyrical prose and his ability to evoke emotions make this novel a standout in the genre. Through Liesel’s journey, readers are reminded of the enduring power of literature and the strength of the human spirit.

All the Light We Cannot See

  • Author: Anthony Doerr
  • Genre: Historical Fiction
  • Setting: World War II Europe
  • Main Characters: Marie-Laure LeBlanc, Werner Pfennig, Etienne LeBlanc, Sergeant Major Reinhold von Rumpel
  • Plot Summary: All the Light We Cannot See is a beautifully written historical novel that tells the parallel stories of Marie-Laure, a blind French girl, and Werner, a young German soldier, during World War II. As their paths converge, the novel explores themes of fate, morality, and the power of human connection. With its lyrical prose and intricate storytelling, this novel offers a poignant exploration of love and resilience in the face of adversity.

All the Light We Cannot See has received widespread acclaim for its evocative writing and its portrayal of the human experience during wartime. Anthony Doerr’s vivid descriptions and his ability to capture the complexities of human nature make this novel a compelling read. Through Marie-Laure and Werner’s intertwined stories, readers are transported to a world where hope and compassion persist even in the darkest times.

The Shadow of the Wind

  • Author: Carlos Ruiz Zafón
  • Genre: Historical Fiction
  • Setting: Post-Spanish Civil War Barcelona
  • Main Characters: Daniel Sempere, Julian Carax, Fermín Romero de Torres, Nuria Monfort
  • Plot Summary: The Shadow of the Wind is a captivating historical novel set in post-Spanish Civil War Barcelona. The story follows young Daniel Sempere as he becomes obsessed with a mysterious author named Julian Carax. As Daniel delves into Carax’s past, he uncovers a web of secrets, love, and tragedy. This atmospheric novel combines elements of mystery, romance, and historical fiction to create a mesmerizing tale.

The Shadow of the Wind has enchanted readers with its lush prose and its atmospheric portrayal of post-war Barcelona. Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s intricate storytelling and his ability to evoke a sense of time and place make this novel a true gem. Through Daniel’s quest for truth, readers are drawn into a world of literary intrigue and the enduring power of storytelling.

The Historian

  • Author: Elizabeth Kostova
  • Genre: Historical Fiction, Gothic Fiction
  • Setting: Various European locations
  • Main Characters: Paul, Helen Rossi, Professor Bartholomew Rossi, Dracula
  • Plot Summary: The Historian is an engrossing historical novel that combines elements of mystery and gothic fiction. The story follows an unnamed narrator as she delves into her father’s research on Vlad the Impaler, the historical figure who inspired the legend of Dracula. As she uncovers hidden documents and travels across Europe, she becomes entangled in a web of danger and intrigue. This atmospheric novel offers a thrilling exploration of history, folklore, and the eternal allure of vampires.

The Historian has captivated readers with its blend of history, mystery, and supernatural elements. Elizabeth Kostova’s meticulous research and her ability to create a sense of unease make this novel a compelling read. Through the narrator’s quest for answers, readers are taken on a thrilling journey through the dark corners of history and the enduring fascination with vampires.


  • Author: Diana Gabaldon
  • Genre: Historical Fiction, Time Travel
  • Setting: Scotland, 18th Century
  • Main Characters: Claire Randall, Jamie Fraser, Frank Randall, Black Jack Randall
  • Plot Summary: Outlander is a captivating blend of historical fiction and time travel. The story follows Claire Randall, a British nurse who finds herself transported back in time to 18th century Scotland. As she navigates the dangers of the past and becomes entangled with Scottish clans and Jacobite uprisings, she also grapples with her love for two men from different eras. This epic tale combines romance, adventure, and historical detail to create an unforgettable reading experience.

Outlander has gained a devoted fanbase with its sweeping storytelling and its unique blend of history and fantasy. Diana Gabaldon’s vivid descriptions and her ability to create complex characters make this novel a standout in the genre. Through Claire’s time-traveling journey, readers are transported to a world of intrigue, passion, and the timeless power of love.

The Miniaturist

  • Author: Jessie Burton
  • Genre: Historical Fiction
  • Setting: 17th Century Amsterdam
  • Main Characters: Nella Oortman, Johannes Brandt, Marin Brandt, Cornelia
  • Plot Summary: The Miniaturist is a mesmerizing historical novel set in 17th century Amsterdam. The story follows Nella Oortman, a young bride who receives a mysterious dollhouse replica of her own home as a wedding gift. As she delves into the secrets of the miniaturist who creates the intricate furnishings for the dollhouse, she unravels a web of hidden truths and forbidden desires. This atmospheric novel explores themes of identity, power, and the constraints of society.

The Miniaturist has garnered praise for its immersive setting and its exploration of societal norms and expectations. Jessie Burton’s evocative prose and her attention to historical detail make this novel a compelling read. Through Nella’s journey, readers are transported to the opulent yet restrictive world of 17th century Amsterdam, where appearances can be deceiving and secrets lurk behind closed doors.

What are the characteristics of the best historical novels?

The best historical novels are known for their meticulous research, attention to detail, and ability to transport readers to a different time and place. They often feature well-developed characters who navigate through significant historical events, providing a rich and immersive reading experience. These novels strike a balance between historical accuracy and engaging storytelling, capturing the essence of the era they depict. They offer insights into different cultures, societies, and perspectives, allowing readers to gain a deeper understanding of history while being entertained by a compelling narrative.

Which historical novels are considered classics?

There are several historical novels that have achieved classic status due to their enduring popularity and literary merit. Examples include “War and Peace” by Leo Tolstoy, which explores the Napoleonic era in Russia, and “Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen, set in Regency England. Other notable classics include “Gone with the Wind” by Margaret Mitchell, depicting the American Civil War, and “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee, portraying racial injustice in the 1930s. These timeless works continue to captivate readers with their timeless themes and masterful storytelling.

Are there any recent historical novels worth reading?

Absolutely! The genre of historical fiction continues to thrive with new releases that offer fresh perspectives on past events. Some recent notable historical novels include “The Book Thief” by Markus Zusak, set during World War II and narrated by Death itself. Another compelling read is “The Underground Railroad” by Colson Whitehead, which reimagines the network of escape routes for enslaved African Americans in the 19th century. Additionally, “Wolf Hall” by Hilary Mantel provides an engrossing portrayal of Thomas Cromwell’s rise to power in the court of Henry VIII. These contemporary historical novels showcase the genre’s ability to shed light on the past while resonating with modern readers.

Exploring the world of historical novels

Historical novels take us on captivating journeys through different time periods, allowing us to immerse ourselves in rich historical settings and experience the lives of fascinating characters. These novels offer a unique blend of fiction and history, providing both entertainment and educational value.

The allure of ancient civilizations

Step back in time and delve into the mysteries of ancient civilizations with historical novels set in Egypt, Rome, or Greece. These stories bring to life legendary figures, epic battles, and intricate societal structures, offering a glimpse into the past that is both thrilling and enlightening.

Unveiling untold stories

Some historical novels shed light on lesser-known events or individuals, uncovering hidden stories that have been overlooked by mainstream history. These narratives provide fresh perspectives and challenge our understanding of the past, making them particularly intriguing for history enthusiasts.

Reviving pivotal moments in history

From World War II to the Renaissance, historical novels allow us to witness pivotal moments that have shaped our world. Through vivid descriptions and compelling characters, these novels transport us to significant eras, enabling us to gain a deeper appreciation for the struggles and triumphs of those who came before us.

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