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Reader's Advisory

The category of fiction encompasses a wide variety of books. Many people tend to read in just one of these genres, without exploring the different possibilities available. This section will take a closer look at the various fiction categories. We will try to define each genre, explain a little bit about it, and cover some of the popular authors. We hope that you will try at least one book in each category.

Historical Fiction

Books in this category are set in an earlier time period than the one in which the author is writing. They are essentially fictionalized accounts of historical periods, people, and events written in novel form. This means that a book written a long time ago, while possibly full of great historical details, is not necessarily historical fiction.

Accurate historical details are important in this genre; this means not only details pertaining to characters and events, but also geography, customs, culture, and anything else that makes a time period come alive. Characters in these books can be real (like Marie Antoinette), or fictional (see Elizabeth Chadwickís Shadows and Strongholds), but they have to fit their times. Their actions, and the reasons for these actions, have to be true to the time period of the story. In other words, characters must act in a believable way within the context of their time period and setting. Historical fiction can vary; it can be based on a historical event or on a character, whether real or fictional. The best historical fiction authors will blend all this historical detail into the story so well that you donít even realize you are getting a history lesson. You can learn an amazing amount of real historical facts and details from books in this genre, and for reluctant students, or for those that just enjoy history, these books are a painless and fun way to learn.

There are a lot of different ways to go with historical fiction. Some readers prefer reading within a particular time period or setting, say Tudor England (like the three books shown here) and are willing to read any author who writes within that setting. Other readers enjoy sampling many eras and geographic settings, as long as they like the author. There seems to be an endless variety of sub-genres in historical fiction; for example there are books set in the American West, the Middle Ages, the French Revolution, Ancient Rome, Ancient Egypt, Tudor England, Victorian England, Czarist Russia, biblical times, and the list goes on.

Okay, so you might ask what about historical romances? Or mysteries set in historical settings? This is where it gets tricky. For a book to fall strictly in the historical fiction category, the main emphasis of the novel needs to be the history, not the romance or the mystery. So ask yourself, what is the main point, or the biggest part of the book? Is it the mystery or the romance, with historical details as background, or is the history the more important part of the book? Now some of you reading this might prefer the kind of books where the historical detail is still there, but it is not the most important part of the story. And thatís okay too, because genres do tend to kind of bleed into each other. For example, a historical romance can contain great historical details, but, because it is a historical romance, the emphasis of the book is really on the interplay between the two main characters. Besides historical romances, there are also historical mysteries, historical fantasies, historical science fiction, etc. Readers of historical fiction might want to try some of these other books as a natural way to move into new genres, while fans of these kinds of books might want to also try the stricter interpretation of historical fiction.

Historical Fiction Authors

  • Margaret Ball
  • Pat Barker
  • Geraldine Brooks
  • Elizabeth Chadwick
  • Tracy Chevalier
  • Catherine Cookson
  • Bernard Cornwell
  • Anita Diamant
  • Gioia Diliberto
  • Sarah Dunant
  • Michael Ennis
  • Carolly Erickson
  • Karen Essex
  • Thomas Fleming
  • Nicole Galland
  • David Gemmell
  • Margaret George
  • Phillipa Gregory
  • Diane Haeger
  • Elizabeth Hickey
  • Pauline Holdstock
  • Conn Iggulden
  • John Jakes
  • Thomas Keneally
  • Rosalind Laker
  • William Martin
  • Robin Maxwell
  • Colleen McCullough
  • Anchee Min
  • Sena Jeter Naslund
  • Steven Pressfield
  • Rafael Sabatini
  • Lisa See
  • John Schwartz
  • Jeff Shaara
  • Michael Shaara
  • Leo Tolstoy
  • Susan Vreeland
  • Elsa Watson
  • Alison Weir
  • Adam Williams
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