The best historical fiction featuring gorgeous prose

Who am I?

I’m a bestselling author of historical fiction—some readers might recognize my pen name, Olivia Hawker, under which I wrote One for the Blackbird, One for the Crow, along with several other novels. My greatest passion is literary fiction, especially when it intersects with historical fiction. Along with my books, I continue to explore new modes of storytelling and new uses for story in my podcast, Future Saint of a New Era.

I wrote...

The Prophet's Wife: A Novel of an American Faith

By Libbie Grant,

Book cover of The Prophet's Wife: A Novel of an American Faith

What is my book about?

The Prophet’s Wife explores the founding of the Mormon religion through the eyes of Emma Hale Smith, the first (and only legal) wife of the prophet Joseph Smith.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Wolf Hall

Libbie Grant Why did I love this book?

This is the first in a trilogy, and the whole series is excellent, but you have to start at the beginning. Wolf Hall is a reading experience unlike any other. Mantel’s masterful command of prose and her willingness to use language in unusual ways completely enmeshes the reader in a dream-like sense of being actually inside the mind of a 16th-century man—Thomas Cromwell, the central figure of the series. It can be a little tricky to read the first time you tackle it, so I recommend the audiobook version, which is superbly narrated.

By Hilary Mantel,

Why should I read it?

19 authors picked Wolf Hall as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Winner of the Man Booker Prize Shortlisted for the the Orange Prize Shortlisted for the Costa Novel Award

`Dizzyingly, dazzlingly good' Daily Mail

'Our most brilliant English writer' Guardian

England, the 1520s. Henry VIII is on the throne, but has no heir. Cardinal Wolsey is his chief advisor, charged with securing the divorce the pope refuses to grant. Into this atmosphere of distrust and need comes Thomas Cromwell, first as Wolsey's clerk, and later his successor.

Cromwell is a wholly original man: the son of a brutal blacksmith, a political genius, a briber, a charmer, a bully, a man with…

Book cover of The Poisonwood Bible

Libbie Grant Why did I love this book?

From its enigmatic opening lines, this novel captivates, holding you in an embrace that forces you to see the things you don’t want to see and acknowledge the things you don’t want to acknowledge. The Poisonwood Bible does what all great literary fiction tries to do: it changes the way we relate to ourselves, each other, and our history.

By Barbara Kingsolver,

Why should I read it?

17 authors picked The Poisonwood Bible as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?



An international bestseller and a modern classic, this suspenseful epic of one family's tragic undoing and their remarkable reconstruction has been read, adored and shared by millions around the world.

'Breathtaking.' Sunday Times
'Exquisite.' The Times
'Beautiful.' Independent
'Powerful.' New York Times

This story is told by the wife and four daughters of Nathan Price, a fierce, evangelical Baptist who takes his family and mission to the Belgian Congo in 1959.

They carry with them everything they believe they will…

Book cover of Where the Bird Sings Best

Libbie Grant Why did I love this book?

I was first intrigued by Jodorowsky’s bizarre, unforgettable films. I only discovered his fiction later, but I’m glad I did. Where the Bird Sings Best is a semi-fictional account of the author’s family history, incorporating the magical-realism tradition of Latin American literature with factual details of one family’s immigration and resettlement half a world away from their original homeland. As in Jodorowsky’s filmmaking, the images within his novel are haunting, weird, and leave the reader with the impression that she has only grasped one-tenth of the real meaning.

By Alexandro Jodorowsky, Alfred MacAdam (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Where the Bird Sings Best as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The magnum opus from Alejandro Jodorowsky—director of The Holy Mountain, star of Jodorowsky’s Dune, spiritual guru behind Psychomagic and The Way of Tarot, innovator behind classic comics The Incal and Metabarons, and legend of Latin American literature.

There has never been an artist like the polymathic Chilean director, author, and mystic Alejandro Jodorowsky. For eight decades, he has blazed new trails across a dazzling variety of creative fields. While his psychedelic, visionary films have been celebrated by the likes of John Lennon, Marina Abramovic, and Kanye West, his novels—praised throughout Latin America in the same breath as those of Gabriel…

Book cover of Unnatural Creatures: A Novel of the Frankenstein Women

Libbie Grant Why did I love this book?

This book was just published in late 2022, but I had the privilege of reading it early, in January. It remained my favorite read of ’22 all throughout the year, which is really saying something, considering the astounding number of excellent novels that were published in ’22 (the pandemic really threw publishing off)! Waldherr is a criminally underappreciated writer. Unnatural Creatures is simply exquisite, from its concept (a retelling of Frankenstein from the women’s perspective) to its brooding atmosphere to its intoxicating prose. 

By Kris Waldherr,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"Worthy of comparison to Jean Rhys's Wide Sargasso Sea . . . Unnatural Creatures is a splendid achievement from a writer at the height of her powers."-Historical Novels Review (Editors' Choice)

"This book has it all. Unnatural Creatures is an atmospheric, reimagined classic about the lines we cross for loyalty and love." - Foreword Reviews

Some tales aren't what you think. For the first time, the untold story of the three women closest to Victor Frankenstein is revealed in a dark and sweeping reimagining of Frankenstein by the author of The Lost History of Dreams and Doomed Queens.


Book cover of All the Horses of Iceland

Libbie Grant Why did I love this book?

I’ve been a certified horse nut since I was a girl, and this novel—another new one from the 2022 crop of all-time literary blockbusters—is the perfect marriage of two of my favorite things: horses (particularly the Icelandic breed) and gorgeous, ethereal prose. Of course, it’s not just about horses, so you’ll find it intriguing and delightful even if you weren’t an O.G. horse girl. Tolmie’s voice carries a mythic tang that draws you in and holds you fast as you explore a world that existed before Christian colonization. It’s just beautiful and wonderful; I loved every page.

By Sarah Tolmie,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked All the Horses of Iceland as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A hypnotic historical fantasy with gorgeous and unusual literary prose, from the captivating author of The Fourth Island.

Everyone knows of the horses of Iceland, wild, and small, and free, but few have heard their story. Sarah Tolmie’s All the Horses of Iceland weaves their mystical origin into a saga for the modern age. Filled with the magic and darkened whispers of a people on the cusp of major cultural change, All the Horses of Iceland tells the tale of a Norse trader, his travels through Central Asia, and the ghostly magic that followed him home to the land of…

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Brother. Do. You. Love. Me.

By Manni Coe, Reuben Coe (illustrator),

Book cover of Brother. Do. You. Love. Me.

Manni Coe Author Of Brother. Do. You. Love. Me.

New book alert!

Who am I?

As a gay man born into an evangelical Christian family, my coming out story was wrought with pain, trauma, and separation from family and loved ones. In the same year I lost my best friend in an accident. My world tumbled and I had to crawl back to a place of reckoning. Walking became my path to healing. So when my brother Reuben, who has Down's syndrome sent me a message from the isolation of a care home in the pandemic, I knew he was in trouble. Those five words - ´brother. do. you. love. me.´changed our lives. I thought I might know a way to save him.

Manni's book list on memoirs that capture the struggle of everyday life

What is my book about?

Brother. Do. You. Love. Me. is a true story of brotherly love overcoming all. Reuben, who has Down's syndrome, was trapped in a care home during the pandemic, spiralling deeper into a non-verbal depression. From isolation and in desperation, he sent his older brother Manni a text, "brother. do. you. love. me."

This cry for help, this SOS in the sand unleashed a brotherly love that had Manni travelling back to the UK mid-pandemic to rescue his brother from the care home, and together they sheltered from the world in a cottage in deepest, darkest Dorset. There began a journey of recovery and rediscovery. Little by little, the brothers had to piece back together Reuben's world, help him to find his voice and find ways for him to trust the world again. This is a book about care, about Down's syndrome, about love. It is a story of resilience and patience in a world that Reuben thought had abandoned him.

Brother. Do. You. Love. Me.

By Manni Coe, Reuben Coe (illustrator),

What is this book about?

The story of two brothers, one with Down syndrome, and their extraordinary journey of resilience and repair.

"Profoundly moving and hugely uplifting."—Mark Haddon, author of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

Reuben, aged 38, was living in a home for adults with learning disabilities. He hadn’t established an independent life in the care system and was still struggling to accept that he had Down syndrome. Depressed and in a fog of antidepressants, he hadn’t spoken for over a year. The only way he expressed himself was by writing poems or drawing felt-tip scenes from his favorite musicals…

5 book lists we think you will like!

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