Hot Historicals: A Book List

If you’ve ever felt like you were born too late just want to get swept away in a book about a different time, these historical books might be just the ticket for you.

  • Strings Attached by Judy Blundell: New York City in 1950 isn’t everything Kit Corrigan hoped for. Instead of finding success as an actress she is caught in a web of lies and danger when she accepts one small favor from the wrong person. This novel is a stunner with mystery and an atmospheric setting that brings 1950s New York to life. If noir films or hardboiled detectives are your passion you’ll also want to check out Blundell’s National Book Award winning debut What I Saw and How I Lied.
  • The Wicked and the Just by J. Anderson Coats: 1293. Cecily’s father ruins her life abruptly and irrevocably when he moves them to Caernarvon in occupied Wales. Gwenhwyfar is equally unhappy as servant to the brat. As tensions rise both Cecily and Gwenhwyfar will be caught up in the disastrous moment when the tension finally has to break and there will be justice for those who deserve it. The novel expertly brings medieval Wales to life from the period setting to the historically accurate name-calling.
  • Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly: When Andi’s school research leads her to a diary from the French Revolution she discovers the story of Alexandrine Paradis, a girl whose life was changed forever by a chance encounter with a doomed prince. These dual narratives tell the story of France’s bloody past as well as a story of redemption and hope. Donnelly’s writing is stellar in this powerhouse that covers everything from music theory to the political motivations at play during the French Revolution.
  • Vixen by Jillian Larkin: It’s 1923. Prohibition has driven drinking underground, women are cutting their hair and raising their hemlines, life is a party and everyone is ready to have some fun. For three young women in Chicago the world is full of possibilities if they’re ready to take a chance. This start to The Flappers trilogy has all of the drama and scandal you would expect from a book about the Roaring Twenties. If you want even more Jazz Age drama Anna Godbersen’s Bright Young Things starts another flapper trilogy that’s the bee’s knees.
  • Tamar by Mal Peet: In this novel of espionage, passion and betrayal Tamar tries to make sense of her grandfather’s death. And the secrets he left behind. Concurrently, the book tells her grandfather’s story as a part of the resistance movement in Nazi-occupied Holland in 1944. This evocative narrative is a definite page-turner filled with intrigue and twists.
  • The Bride’s Farewell by Meg Rosoff: Living in England in1850, Pell Ridley refuses to reconcile herself to the stifling life of a married woman. When Pell rides off on the morning of her wedding day, her one choice irrevocably alters both her own life and the lives of her family forever. Simultaneously bleak and hopeful, this book captures the upheaval caused by the Industrial Revolution as expertly as any Dickens novel.
  • Song of the Sparrow by Lisa Ann Sandell: A free verse retelling of “The Lady of Shalott” complete with a feminist interpretation of Elaine of Ascolat’s role in Arthurian Legend. The only problem with this book is that no other version of the story of King Arthur will compare after you read this one.
  • The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick: The inspiration for the most nominated film at this year’s Academy Awards, this charming book tells the story of early film as well as the story of a boy trying to find his way in Paris in 1931. Filled with a compelling story and Selznick’s beautiful illustrations this is a must read for movie lovers everywhere.
  • Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys: In 1941 Lina and her family are deported from their Lithuanian home as part of Stalin’s cleansing of the Baltic region. As she makes the long journey with thousands like her, Lina struggles to survive. If she can hold onto who she is and her art, maybe she can make it through.
  • I Rode a Horse of Milk White Jade by Diane Lee Wilson: What if the story of Mulanwas about a Hun girl instead of a Chinese daughter? Labeled with bad luck when a horse crushes her foot as a child, Oyuna knows her future is tied to horses even if no one else believes it. When she follows a beautiful white horse into Kublai Khan’s army Oyuna might finally have a chance to change her luck.

Ready for more historical fiction? The Atlantic Wire has a A Literary Tour of Historical YA with lots of great titles broken down by time period (via @pwkidsbookshelf).