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Whittling all historical fiction books into one manageable list is impossible, truly. Instead of putting together a list of the 223,546 best historical fiction books, I opted instead for adult historical fiction showstoppers that present a wide array of time periods, places, characters, and more. We read historical fiction because we want to travel through time and space. This list, I believe, gives you the broadest view of our world’s shared past.

Now, who’s ready to travel time and space with me?

1. A GENTLEMAN IN MOSCOW BY AMOR TOWLES

Time Period and Setting: 192os, Russia

Description: In 1922, Count Alexander Rostov is deemed an unrepentant aristocrat by a Bolshevik tribunal, and is sentenced to house arrest in the Metropol, a grand hotel across the street from the Kremlin. Rostov, an indomitable man of erudition and wit, has never worked a day in his life, and must now live in an attic room while some of the most tumultuous decades in Russian history are unfolding outside the hotel’s doors. Unexpectedly, his reduced circumstances provide him entry into a much larger world of emotional discovery.

Brimming with humor, a glittering cast of characters, and one beautifully rendered scene after another, this singular novel casts a spell as it relates the count’s endeavor to gain a deeper understanding of what it means to be a man of purpose. Read More.
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2. A RISING MAN BY ABIR MUKHERJEE

Time Period and Setting: 1900s, India

Description: Calcutta, 1919. Captain Sam Wyndham, former Scotland Yard detective, is a new arrival to Calcutta. Desperately seeking a fresh start after his experiences during the Great War, Wyndham has been recruited to head up a new post in the police force. He is immediately overwhelmed by the heady vibrancy of the tropical city, but with barely a moment to acclimatize or to deal with the ghosts that still haunt him, Wyndham is caught up in a murder investigation that threatens to destabilize a city already teetering on the brink of political insurgency.

The body of a senior official has been found in a filthy sewer, and a note left in his mouth warns the British to quit India, or else. Under tremendous pressure to solve the case before it erupts into increased violence on the streets, Wyndham and his two new colleagues―arrogant Inspector Digby and Sergeant Banerjee, one of the few Indians to be recruited into the new CID―embark on an investigation that will take them from the opulent mansions of wealthy British traders to the seedy opium dens of the city. Read More.
  Buy From Amazon

3. ALIAS GRACE BY MARGARET ATWOOD

Time Period and Setting: 1800s, Canada

Description: It’s 1843, and Grace Marks has been convicted for her involvement in the vicious murders of her employer and his housekeeper and mistress. Some believe Grace is innocent; others think her evil or insane. Now serving a life sentence, Grace claims to have no memory of the murders.

An up-and-coming expert in the burgeoning field of mental illness is engaged by a group of reformers and spiritualists who seek a pardon for Grace. He listens to her story while bringing her closer and closer to the day she cannot remember. What will he find in attempting to unlock her memories? Captivating and disturbing, Alias Grace showcases bestselling, Booker Prize-winning author Margaret Atwood at the peak of her powers. Read More.
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