Have you ever wished you could travel back in time? While we don’t have a time machine (yet!), the next best thing is losing yourself in a great historical novel. The best historical novels can transport you to different eras, making you feel as if you’re walking the cobblestone streets of ancient cities, witnessing grand events, or living the everyday lives of people from the past.

As a book lover who has spent countless nights getting lost in the pages of historical fiction, I’m excited to share my top 10 best historical novels that promise to take you on an unforgettable journey through time.

1. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
“A blind French girl and a German soldier’s lives collide in war-torn Saint-Malo, highlighting the resilience of the human spirit during WWII.”

A Tale of Survival and Humanity

Set during WWII, this novel intertwines the lives of a blind French girl, Marie-Laure, and a young German soldier, Werner. Their stories converge in the occupied city of Saint-Malo, bringing to light the impact of war on individuals from opposing sides.

Why It’s a Must-Read

Anthony Doerr’s poetic writing brings out the beauty amidst the horrors of war. The meticulous detail and deep emotional resonance make this book unforgettable. I remember finishing this book with tears in my eyes, feeling both heartbroken and hopeful.

2. The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

The Nightingale" by Kristin Hannah
“Two sisters in Nazi-occupied France navigate love, loss, and resistance, showcasing the bravery of women during WWII.”

Sisters in Resistance

This powerful story follows Vianne and Isabelle, two sisters navigating life in Nazi-occupied France. While Vianne tries to keep her family safe, Isabelle joins the resistance, showing different forms of bravery and resilience.

Why It’s a Must-Read

The Nightingale captures the essence of courage and sacrifice. Kristin Hannah’s storytelling had me on the edge of my seat, rooting for the characters. It’s a gripping tale of the unsung heroes of war, especially the women whose stories often go untold.

3. Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
“Follow Thomas Cromwell’s rise to power in the court of Henry VIII, immersed in the political intrigue of Tudor England.”

Inside the Tudor Court

Hilary Mantel’s masterpiece takes you inside the tumultuous court of Henry VIII through the eyes of Thomas Cromwell. Witness the political machinations and personal struggles of one of history’s most enigmatic figures.

Why It’s a Must-Read

The rich detail and intricate character portrayals make Wolf Hall a standout. Mantel’s writing is so immersive that I often felt like I was sitting in Cromwell’s chambers, witnessing history unfold firsthand.

4. The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett

The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
“An epic saga of ambition and perseverance, centered on the building of a cathedral in medieval England.”

Building a Dream

This epic saga follows the lives of several characters involved in the construction of a cathedral in the fictional town of Kingsbridge during the 12th century. It’s a tale of ambition, love, and the relentless pursuit of dreams.

Why It’s a Must-Read

Ken Follett’s attention to historical accuracy and his ability to weave a complex, engaging narrative is unparalleled. The Pillars of the Earth is a hefty read, but once you start, it’s hard to put down. I found myself deeply invested in the characters’ journeys and the monumental task they undertake.

5. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
“A WWII nurse is transported back to 18th-century Scotland, where she finds adventure, danger, and unexpected romance.”

A Journey Through Time

Outlander follows Claire Randall, a WWII nurse who is mysteriously transported back to 18th-century Scotland. There, she navigates the dangers of the past while falling in love with a dashing Highland warrior, Jamie Fraser.

Why It’s a Must-Read

This novel perfectly blends romance, adventure, and historical detail. Diana Gabaldon’s vivid descriptions of Scottish landscapes and the rich cultural context make this a compelling read. I was completely swept away by Claire and Jamie’s story, and the series has become a personal favorite.

6. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
“In Nazi Germany, a young girl finds solace in stealing books and sharing them, narrated by Death itself.”

The Power of Words

Narrated by Death, The Book Thief tells the story of Liesel Meminger, a young girl in Nazi Germany who finds solace in stealing books and sharing them with others, including the Jewish man hiding in her foster family’s basement.

Why It’s a Must-Read

This novel’s unique narration and poignant storytelling left a lasting impression on me. It’s a testament to the power of literature and the human spirit. The Book Thief is both heartbreaking and uplifting, reminding us of the light that can be found even in the darkest of times.

7. A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles
“A Russian count under house arrest in a grand hotel makes the most of his confined life during the Bolshevik Revolution.”

Life in Confinement

Count Alexander Rostov is sentenced to house arrest in a grand hotel in Moscow during the Bolshevik Revolution. Despite his confinement, he finds ways to live a rich and fulfilling life within the hotel’s walls.

Why It’s a Must-Read

Amor Towles’ elegant writing and the charming protagonist make this novel a joy to read. The historical backdrop of post-revolutionary Russia is fascinating, and Rostov’s story is one of resilience and grace. I found myself savoring every page, reluctant to leave the Metropol Hotel.

8. The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory

The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory
“Mary Boleyn’s story of ambition and rivalry at the Tudor court, overshadowed by her sister Anne’s quest to become queen.”

Courtly Intrigue

This novel tells the story of Mary Boleyn, who catches the eye of Henry VIII, only to be overshadowed by her sister Anne’s ambition to become queen. It’s a tale of sibling rivalry, ambition, and the treacherous world of the Tudor court.

Why It’s a Must-Read

Philippa Gregory’s ability to bring historical figures to life is impressive. The Other Boleyn Girl is filled with intrigue and drama, making it a page-turner. It offers a fresh perspective on the well-known tale of Anne Boleyn, highlighting the often-overlooked role of her sister, Mary.

9. The Paris Wife by Paula McLain

The Paris Wife by Paula McLain
“An intimate look at Hadley Richardson and Ernest Hemingway’s life in 1920s Paris, capturing the essence of the Jazz Age.”

A Glimpse into the Lost Generation

The Paris Wife follows Hadley Richardson, Ernest Hemingway’s first wife, as they navigate life in 1920s Paris. It offers a glimpse into the expatriate community and the early career of one of America’s greatest writers.

Why It’s a Must-Read

Paula McLain’s portrayal of Hadley and Hemingway’s relationship is both intimate and evocative. The novel captures the essence of the Jazz Age and the vibrant literary scene of Paris. As someone who adores Hemingway’s work, I found this inside look at his life both enlightening and deeply moving.

10. Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden

Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden
“A captivating journey into the secret world of geishas in Kyoto, following the transformation of a young girl into a celebrated geisha.”

Behind the Kimono

This novel takes you into the secret world of geishas in Kyoto before, during, and after WWII. It follows the life of Sayuri, a girl sold to a geisha house, and her transformation into one of Japan’s most celebrated geishas.

Why It’s a Must-Read

Arthur Golden’s lyrical prose and detailed descriptions bring the geisha culture to life. The story is both exotic and relatable, as it explores themes of perseverance and identity. Memoirs of a Geisha transported me to a world completely different from my own, yet deeply human in its struggles and triumphs.


Whether you’re a history buff or just looking for a great story, these best historical novels have something to offer. Each book on this list is a portal to another time, filled with rich details and compelling narratives that will keep you captivated from beginning to end.

So, grab a cup of tea, find a cozy spot, and let these novels transport you to another era. Happy reading!

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