The best British and American historical fiction covering the 1850s to the 1960s

Who am I?

I’m the author of ten books, including fiction, memoir, collected journalism, and criticism. My novels are historical fiction, hence my decision to make my recommendations within that genre, mostly. My own historical novels comprise a tetralogy beginning with The Strange Death of Mistress Coffin and ending with The Turner Erotica, so the series takes the reader roughly from 1648 to 1900. The second book chronologically in the series, Rebecca Wentworth’s Distraction, won the 2003 Langum Prize for historical fiction. Retired now, I was the founding director of the MFA in Fiction and Nonfiction at Southern New Hampshire University.


I wrote...

The Strange Death of Mistress Coffin

By Robert J. Begiebing,

Book cover of The Strange Death of Mistress Coffin

What is my book about?

The first novel of an historical tetralogy, Mistress Coffin is based on the unsolved, brutal murder of a strong woman in 17th century New England. The novel follows actual court records from 1640s New Hampshire Province (then under Massachusetts rule) where the case was tried and dropped by the woman’s husband for mysterious reasons. The settlement’s elders call on Richard Browne, a young Englishman, to discover what happened. But the more he learns, the more puzzling the crime becomes, and the more Browne finds himself attracted to the wife of the missing suspect.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Regeneration

Robert J. Begiebing Why did I love this book?

This novel opens Barker’s extraordinary trilogy about World War I, based on accounts given by the soldiers themselves. Barker’s research gives the opening novel a wonderful authenticity and a look into the biographies of soldier-poet Siegfried Sassoon and eminent psychiatrist W. H. Rivers. Sassoon’s protest against the excesses and horrors of war that he witnessed land him in Craiglockart War Hospital as a shell-shocked patient of Dr. Rivers, who becomes more and more conflicted about sending such shell-shocked men back onto the battlefield after his “cures.” I found the novel to be a tale of fascinating history and psychological depth. The final book in Barker’s war trilogy (The Ghost Road), incidentally, earned Barker the Booker Prize for fiction. But for full context I recommend you start where she did, with Sassoon.

By Pat Barker,

Why should I read it?

11 authors picked Regeneration as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"Calls to mind such early moderns as Hemingway and Fitzgerald...Some of the most powerful antiwar literature in modern English fiction."-The Boston Globe

The first book of the Regeneration Trilogy-a Booker Prize nominee and one of Entertainment Weekly's 100 All-Time Greatest Novels.

In 1917 Siegfried Sasson, noted poet and decorated war hero, publicly refused to continue serving as a British officer in World War I. His reason: the war was a senseless slaughter. He was officially classified "mentally unsound" and sent to Craiglockhart War Hospital. There a brilliant psychiatrist, Dr. William Rivers, set about restoring Sassoon's "sanity" and sending him back…


Book cover of The French Lieutenant's Woman

Robert J. Begiebing Why did I love this book?

Fowles studied French Literature and knew the metafictional and postmodern French fashions before they leaked out to much of the rest of the world in the sixties and seventies. In this novel he uses, even parodies, some of the techniques of the French genre, but the wonderful thing is that reading the novel is not an experience of mere authorial cleverness, fashionableness, or hubristic/ hermetic disconnections from reality and the serious ethical concerns of those who have to function in the real world. You put the book down and know you’ve had a meaningful experience

The novel’s protagonist, Charles, is a man of Victorian England, a scientific person who struggles with his inner tension to fit into his repressive public culture of autocratic conventions, rigidity, moral blindness, and hypocrisy, on one hand, and to live a life of freedom, on the other. Sarah, the female protagonist, eventually challenges him to cast aside all the baggage of Victorianism, even though one risks social ostracism. To my mind this is Fowles’ greatest novel, which was made into a good movie well worth watching after reading the book. 

By John Fowles,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The French Lieutenant's Woman as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

As part of Back Bay's ongoing effort to make the works of John Fowles available in uniform trade paperback editions, two major works in the Fowles canon are reissued to coincide with the publication of Wormholes, the author's long-awaited new collection of essays and occasional writings.Perhaps the most beloved of Fowles's internationally bestselling works, The French Lieutenant's Woman is a feat of seductive storytelling that effectively invents anew the Victorian novel. "Filled with enchanting mysteries and magically erotic possibilities" (New York Times), the novel inspired the hugely successful 1981 film starring Meryl Streep and Jeremy Irons and is today universally…


Book cover of Cold Mountain

Robert J. Begiebing Why did I love this book?

Frazier’s book, a serious novel rather than a potboiler, set during and after the American Civil War, nevertheless leaped onto the bestseller lists, then went on to win a National Book Award. Why? Reading the book is a profound experience. You are seamlessly taken back to the middle of the 19th century and engaged with characters whose poignant stories penetrate a reader’s heart. It’s both an adventure and a love story about a soldier on a fraught journey home and his lover’s story as she lives her own life close to the earth in a time before modern conveniences and distractions. The novel is a reminder that great fiction awakens our humanity because the author not only has great gifts and technique, but because he believes in the integrity of his own characters and embeds them in a world that matters. Made into an Oscar-winning film that is well worth watching after reading the book.

By Charles Frazier,

Why should I read it?

10 authors picked Cold Mountain as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In 1997, Charles Frazier’s debut novel Cold Mountain made publishing history when it sailed to the top of The New York Times best-seller list for sixty-one weeks, won numerous literary awards, including the National Book Award, and went on to sell over three million copies. Now, the beloved American epic returns, reissued by Grove Press to coincide with the publication of Frazier’s eagerly-anticipated second novel, Thirteen Moons. Sorely wounded and fatally disillusioned in the fighting at Petersburg, a Confederate soldier named Inman decides to walk back to his home in the Blue Ridge mountains to Ada, the woman he loves.…


Book cover of Home Before Morning: The Story of an Army Nurse in Vietnam

Robert J. Begiebing Why did I love this book?

I’m going to jump historical genres slightly and recommend Lynda Van Devanter’s Vietnam memoir which reads like historical fiction and is every bit as engaging as the great novels and memoirs of the Vietnam War written by such men as Robert Stone, Larry Heinemann, Michael Herr, Tim O’Brien, Philip Caputo, and Karl Marlantes. As an Army nurse, Devanter gave it her all to save others. This book is her effort to learn to live with what she witnessed in Vietnam, to get the truth down as honestly as she can by using all the narrative techniques of the novelist. Of the great books written about that horrific time in our country’s (and Vietnam’s) history, this one grabbed me from start to finish like no other. A powerful voice is telling us what we too readily forget now—that war is a criminal activity, no matter how justified or how much the product of a bright and shining lie. She stayed active in the cause of Vietnam Veterans after her return home, but she was not well, and her war-caused cancer finally killed her in 2002 at age fifty-five.

By Lynda Van Devanter,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Home Before Morning as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Lynda Van Devanter was the girl next door, the cheerleader who went to Catholic schools, enjoyed sports, and got along well with her four sisters and parents. After high school she attended nursing school and then did something that would shatter her secure world for the rest of her life: in 1969, she joined the army and was shipped to Vietnam. When she arrived in Vietnam her idealistic view of the war vanished quickly. She worked long and arduous hours in cramped, ill-equipped, understaffed operating rooms. She saw friends die. Witnessing a war close-up, operating on soldiers and civilians whose…


Book cover of Soul Catcher

Robert J. Begiebing Why did I love this book?

This historical novel is set just before the American Civil War. What singles it out is not the theme—the struggle of an African American slave and mother, Rosetta, for her freedom. More unusual is White’s courageous depiction of the full yet flawed humanity of her slave (“soul”) catcher, Augustus Cain, as Rosetta flees her inhumane conditions in Virginia enroute to Boston. Cain is one of the best at what he does, but the journey both characters endure also brings both toward mutual compassion and redemption. Though published in 2007, the book fits perfectly into, and helps to amplify further, our current awakening to our historical racism and the vast suffering white Americans have inflicted on their Black brothers and sisters. 

By Michael C. White,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Soul Catcher as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Augustus Cain is a man with his back against the wall. A war-scarred wanderer, he faces a past he wants to forget, a present without prospect or fortune, and an uncertain future marred by the loss of his most prized possession - his horse - which he has carelessly gambled away. But he is not without skill - he has an uncanny, if unwelcome, ability to track the most elusive runaway slaves. And to repay a debt and keep his horse, he must head north from Virginia and retrieve a runaway named Rosetta. When he eventually runs Rosetta to ground…


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Traumatization and Its Aftermath: A Systemic Approach to Understanding and Treating Trauma Disorders

By Antonieta Contreras,

Book cover of Traumatization and Its Aftermath: A Systemic Approach to Understanding and Treating Trauma Disorders

Antonieta Contreras Author Of Traumatization and Its Aftermath: A Systemic Approach to Understanding and Treating Trauma Disorders

New book alert!

Who am I?

As a trauma therapist and dedicated researcher, I love uncovering valuable insights within lesser-known books. There are hidden gems, free from the pressure of commercial success, crafted by authors deeply committed to research, understanding, and the art of writing itself. Their dedication resonates with me, as I believe in the profound value of information and the power of critical thinking. Through my own book, Traumatization and Its Aftermath, I aim to emphasize that psychological concepts often lose their depth in translation and my mission is spreading awareness and fostering a deeper understanding of trauma and its intricate facets. With that idea in mind, I chose these five titles. 

Antonieta's book list on uncovering the human experience and exploring the depths of trauma

What is my book about?

A fresh take on the difference between trauma and hardship in order to help accurately spot the difference and avoid over-generalizations.

The book integrates the latest findings in brain science, child development, psycho-social context, theory, and clinical experiences to make the case that trauma is much more than a cluster of symptoms to be tamed, but instead best understood as development gone off course, away from growth and towards (only) survival.

This book prompts a profound shift in perception, inviting to view trauma as an intricate and diverse experience, a point of view that ultimately leads to sharper treatment and, hopefully, more healing. It encourages a transition from asking, "What happened to you?" to the deeper question, "What is your relationship with what happened to you?"

Traumatization and Its Aftermath: A Systemic Approach to Understanding and Treating Trauma Disorders

By Antonieta Contreras,

What is this book about?

The book is comprehensive, bold, and practical-a much-needed resource for the assessment and treatment of trauma. Instead of the traditional focus on the overall importance of healing, Traumatization and its Aftermath decodes why some people don't heal as easily as others, analyzes the various failures of diagnosis, and explains how to make therapeutic interventions truly effective.

This book offers a systemic deep dive into traumatization that clarifies myths and misinformation about the entire spectrum of trauma and provides both clinicians and non-clinicians with the right level of validation, preventive measures, conceptualization methodology, assessment tools, and healing facts that have not…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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