Historical fiction for your summer reading list
History was never my favourite subject in school and I really couldn’t fathom any historical movies.
So I was certainly apprehensive when I borrowed The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton from the library one summer (a historical fiction set in seventeenth-century Amsterdam). To my surprise, I really loved the book! It instantly transported me to a brisk autumn day in Amsterdam.
Later, I went on to read “ The Muse”, set in 1930s Spain, from the same author. Followed by “The Storyteller” by Jodi Picoult, an astonishing novel that takes us to the horrific World War II. “Homegoing” by Yaa Gyasi, another epic historical fiction that narrates the heartrending lives of slaves in America.
Although I am writing this post sitting at my desk in Belgium, I’m often taking breaks to travel to Alaska, by listening to the emotionally compelling novel “The Great Alone” by Kristin Hannah.
Needless to say, I now adore historical fiction and frequently try picking up new releases whenever I can.
As summer is around the corner, grab these 33 captivating historical fiction to read at the beach or at your favorite reading hook.
As of now, let’s get started!
Historical fiction for summer 2021
Mrs. Lewis by Patti Callihan
A captivating historical fiction that takes us through the life of writer Joy Davidman. When she starts to write letters to C. S. Lewis was hoping to find answers to her spiritual awakening. However, things turn out differently. More than a love story between two people, it’s their love for literature, life, and everything in between.
Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate
An engrossing novel centered around real-life events at the Tennessee Children’s Home Society. The administrators of the organization kidnapped the children from the poor neighborhoods and sold them to wealthy families all over the country. Set in the present and past timelines, the story tells the chronicles of Rill and her sisters. A heartbreakingly beautiful novel to add to your summer reading list.
The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett
A thoughtful crafted historical fiction that takes us through the lives of twin sisters, Desiree and Stella, both grew up in a small town called Mallard. Both are longing to run away from the village to have a new life. Spanning over generations this story is a stimulating read.
Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell
The New York Times bestselling novel is set in 1580. The book is an imaginative take on the life of William Shakespeare. From their marriage to family life and their struggles thereafter, O’Farrell’s magnificent writing is surely going to transport you to the early modern era.
Eternal by Lisa Scottoline
Eternal is a World War II historical fiction set in Rome. It’s about three best friends- Elisabetta, Marco, and Sandro and their story of survival and suffering in the midst of fascism and anti-Semitism. A poignant novel that will melt your heart.
Florence Adler Swims Forever by Rachel Beanland
This family drama starts with a shocking tragedy and takes us through the three generations of the Adler family. The story is based on the real-life of a young woman named Florence Lowenthal who was from the author’s family. Filled with sadness, romance, and well-written characters, Florence Adler Swims Forever is a perfect summer read.
Under a Dancing Star by Laura Wood
Under a Dancing Star is an exciting retelling of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing. Set in 1930’s England, this is the story of Bea who dreams of an adventurous life. She wants to be more than just a wife for a stranger her parents choose. When she gets a chance to travel to Italy, to stay with her uncle, a whole new world of experience awaits her. A dreamy timeless romance novel for your summer reading list.
City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert
The bestselling author of Eat Pray Love narrates the story of a young girl, 19-year-old Vivian Morris, her life in 1940s New York. Having been expelled from the college, Vivian’s parents send her to live with her Aunt Peg, who owns the theater, The Lilly Playhouse. From the flamboyant showgirls to handsome actors, Vivian explores the glamorous world. City of Girls is a story of glamour, adventure, and companionship
Mrs. Everything by Jennifer Weiner
Mrs. Everything is a coming of age story of two sisters, Jo and Bethie Kaufman, in 1950s Detroit. Both sisters have their own unique personalities. Jo is a tomboy and rebel while Bethie is a girly girl. However, both sisters have to overcome the traumas, tragedies, and hardships in their individual journeys. An intense and absorbing read for your summer reading list.
The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris
This #1 International bestseller & New York Times Bestseller is a compelling story of Lale, a Slovakian Jew who has been forcibly transported to concentration camps where he was appointed as a tattooist. The book tells his life as a prisoner and tattooist along with the horrible events he witnessed during that time.
A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles
A Gentleman in Moscow is a historical fiction set in Moscow from 1918- 1950. The book tells the story of a noble Russian aristocrat, Count Alexander Rostov. The Count is convicted of being an unrepentant aristocrat and has been sentenced to house arrest in Moscow’s Metropol Hotel. A delightful read with the elements of romance, adventure, and politics.
The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
Kristin Hannah’s heartbreakingly beautiful novel tells the coming-of-age story of two sisters in the background of World War II and their individual struggles to survive the Germans in France. A gripping story of courage and determination.
The Book of Lost Names by Kristin Harmel
Kristin Harmel’s novel tells the story of twenty-three-year-old Eva Traube Abrams who is a Jewish woman, living in France during WWII. Told in two different timelines, 2015 and 1942, the story takes us through Eva’s life as a forger in Paris. Her artistic talent for forging documents makes her a member of a Resistance group in France. A well-written book with memorable characters that worth spending your time with.
The German Midwife by Mandy Robotham
This enthralling novel is about young Anke Hoff, a prisoner and a midwife at the concentration camps. She helps the women prisoners in giving birth and looking after the newborns. However, later on, she is recruited to become the midwife of the mistress of Adolf Hitler. Unwillingly, she agrees to take the job in order to protect her family. An epic-page tuner to read on a beach this summer.
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo centers around the fictional Hollywood movie icon Evelyn Hugo. At the age of 79, Hugo decides to narrate her glamorous life story to an unknown magazine reporter, Monique Grant. From her scandalous public life to the forbidden love, this incredibly gripping story is easily a beach read.
If I Were You by Lynn Austin
Set in England, this WWII tale is a fascinating story of Audrey and Eve who develop an unlikely friendship despite their difference in social classes. A well-researched WWII book of friendship, courage, and forgiveness.
The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah
This honest and realistic heartbreaking historical fiction is set in 1930s Texas, the time of the Dust Bowl. Due to unforeseen circumstances Elsinore becomes the daughter-in-law of Martinellis and loves working on the family farmland. However, as the great depression hits the state she is forced to leave her beloved farm to protect her family. Story of survival, courage, and sacrifice, The Four Winds is one of the best books on the list.
The Stationery Shop by Marjan Kamali
This enchanting story of love and loss is set in two timelines – 1950s Iran and 2010s USA. The main character Roya lives in Iran during the political turmoil. Her love for books and poetry take her to the nearby stationery shop. Soon after she meets the lover of her Bahman in the shop. However, the unstable politics and government make their life problematic. An astounding novel that discusses love, culture, politics, and relationships.
Beach Read Historical Fiction
The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes
This historic drama is set in the US and is inspired by a real group of librarians from the 1930s. The novel narrates the life of a group of women in a mobile library. They travel long distances providing books to deserted houses. A funny and charming novel about women’s adventure and friendship.
The Weight of Ink by Rachel Kadish
This remarkable historical fiction is set in London and tells the story of two women from the 1660s and early 21st century. Ester Velasquez is a young Jewish woman from Portugal. While Helen Watt is a historian who loves Jewish history. Often described as “ the tale of two women of remarkable intellect”, The Weight of Ink is an extraordinary chronicle of courage and ambition.
Of Women and Salt by Gabriela Garcia
This debut novel tells the multigenerational story of mother-daughter relationships from migrant families from 1866 Cuba to 2019 in Miami. Written is a form of a short story collection, some stories are interlinked to Jeanette, a drug addict, and her mother. A quick read that discusses intense themes like drug addiction, abuse, etc
Salt Houses by Hala Alyan
A heartwrenching novel that follows the refugee life of a Palestinian family after the 1967 war. Mostly centers upon Salma, the matriarch of the family. This deeply engrossing story depicts the pathetic situation of her and her family who were forced to leave their home during the war. Told from an alternating point of view of family.
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Stay with Me by Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀
This stunning debut novel narrates the sobbing story of a Nigerian couple, Yejide and Akin. For years, the couple has been longing for a child. However, because of the pressure from the family Akin gets a second wife. Told from different perspectives, Stay with Me is an emotional and compelling book.
Sparks Like Stars by Nadia Hashimi
This suspenseful novel takes you to 1978 s Kabul to the life of ten-year-old Sitara Zamani, daughter of a high-ranking official at the president’s office. However, the unexpected political turmoil leads to the assassination of the president and Sita’s entire family except her. An amazing story of resilience you would love reading in the summertime.
The Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd
This spellbound work of fiction is about a young woman Ana, rebellious and ambitious, who later on becomes the wife of Jesus from Nazareth. The story follows their happy and sorrowful life after marriage. This meticulously researched and audacious narrative on the life of Jesus is indeed an amazing read.
The Book of Lost Friends by Lisa Wingate
This New York Times bestseller is a heart-breaking story inspired by real advertisements from the 1800s by newly freed slaves in search of the family. Set between 1875 and 1987, the story follows former slaves Hannie, Lavinia, and Juneau Jane. A remarkable tale about family and relationships.
Lady Clementine by Marie Benedict
Lady Clementine is a fascinating fiction about Clementine Churchill’s marriage to Winston. Ever since their marriage in 1908, Clementine has been fiercely protective of her husband. The story of courageous and high-spirited Lady Clementine who knew how to tackle the world of men.
Courage, My Love by Kristin Beck
This moving debut novel takes place in 1943, Rome, Italy, and narrates the lives of two brave women, a single mother Lucia Colombo, and a polio survivor Francesca Gallo who push themselves into the Italian resilience to fight for their country. An extraordinary story of patriotism, love, loss, and courage.
The Blue Between Sky and Water by Susan Abulhawa
A heart-rending story about a Palestinian family who is forced to leave their ancestral home. The main character, Nazmiyeh is the matriarch and we get to learn how numerous families like hers have been exiled to a country. This book is an insight into refugee life, stories of Palestinian women who are courageous and resilient.
The Henna Artist by Alka Joshi
The Henna Artist takes place in 1950s Jaipur, India, and follows Lakshmi, a henna artist. After fighting her abusive marriage life Lakshmi has found a new career that made her popular in town. However, her future business plans come to suffer when she gets unexpected visitors. An engrossing novel to transport you to a unique setting of 1950s India.
Homeland Elegies by Ayad Akhtar
Pulitzer Prize-winning author Ayad Akhtar‘s new novel is a monumental fictional story with autobiographical elements. A personal account of his life as a son of an immigrant. The exploration of one’s identity and self-representation in 21st century America.
Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Set in 1980s Malibu, the story revolves around a day in the lives of the prominent Riva siblings- Nina, Jay, Hud, and Kit. As the family prepares for Nina’s summer party everything goes out of control. A beautifully written family drama that’s more than a perfect summer read.
The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah
This unpredictable family story is set in Alaska. When Ernt Allbright comes back from the Vietnam war as bad-tempered and irritable he decides to move to a new place. Thirteen-year-old Leni and her mother accompany him hoping that moving can lead to a better future for all of them. An unforgettable family drama for the summer reading list.
That’s the 33 historical Fiction for your summer reading list.
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Time for Your action
Is there any genre you unexpectedly fell in love with? Let me know in the comments.
Always curious to hear from you,