The best historical fiction novels for nerdy teacher-librarians

Who am I?

I am an author of short stories, young adult novels, romance, even a reference book, but I will read any genre and any age group. As a librarian, researcher, book reviewer, and former school teacher, I have a long-standing love for historical fiction. When an author gets the details right, and you feel transported in time and place to WWII, or the 18th century, or Victorian England…there is nothing sweeter. Witnessing humankind overcoming huge obstacles, facing the most that human nature can take, and coming out on top? Definitely literary therapy! So put down the cell phone, pour a hot cuppa, and let these favourites of mine transport you.


I wrote...

#NotReadyToDie

By Cate Carlyle,

Book cover of #NotReadyToDie

What is my book about?

#NotReadyToDie offers a unique glimpse into an unimaginably horrific school day from the perspective of the students trapped inside and told in real-time. The suspenseful story focuses on the students, their relationships, how they cope with unimaginable stress, and their impressive strength. 

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Winemaker's Wife

Cate Carlyle Why did I love this book?

True confession time…after reading The Winemaker’s Wife I hightailed it to the library and took out all of Kristin Harmel’s historical fiction titles (Book of Lost Names!!). Yes, they are that good! In The Winemaker’s Wife, Harmel transports her readers to 1940, a time when WWII and the Nazi regime threatened the lives and livelihoods of a particular Champagne House in France. She expertly taps into all of the five senses in her tale of love and betrayal, of the unyielding power of the human spirit in the face of adversity, and of a Resistance movement hidden beneath the casks and caves of the winery. A riveting, read-in-one-sitting book!

By Kristin Harmel,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Winemaker's Wife as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The author of the “engrossing” (People) international bestseller The Room on Rue Amélie returns with a moving story set amid the champagne vineyards of France during the darkest days of World War II, perfect for fans of Heather Morris’s The Tattooist of Auschwitz.

Champagne, 1940: Inès has just married Michel, the owner of storied champagne house Maison Chauveau, when the Germans invade. As the danger mounts, Michel turns his back on his marriage to begin hiding munitions for the Résistance. Inès fears they’ll be exposed, but for Céline, the French-Jewish wife of Chauveau’s chef de cave, the risk is even…


Book cover of The Book Thief

Cate Carlyle Why did I love this book?

I don’t believe in age recommendations for books, and some of my favourite adult reads are designated as young adult books, including The Book Thief. Narrated by “Death”, the book tells the tale of Liesel, a young book lover who “borrows”/rescues books from Nazi book burnings during WWII. Liesel is a foster child living outside of Munich who shares her love of books and the solace that comes from reading with everyone she encounters, including the Jewish man hidden in the basement. The box office movie version of The Book Thief is a decent rendering as well if you like to follow the book with the movie!

By Markus Zusak,

Why should I read it?

28 authors picked The Book Thief as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 12, 13, 14, and 15.

What is this book about?

'Life affirming, triumphant and tragic . . . masterfully told. . . but also a wonderful page-turner' Guardian
'Brilliant and hugely ambitious' New York Times
'Extraordinary' Telegraph
___

HERE IS A SMALL FACT - YOU ARE GOING TO DIE

1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier.
Liesel, a nine-year-old girl, is living with a foster family on Himmel Street. Her parents have been taken away to a concentration camp. Liesel steals books. This is her story and the story of the inhabitants of her street when the bombs begin to fall.

SOME IMPORTANT…


Book cover of The Good Earth

Cate Carlyle Why did I love this book?

There is a reason why The Good Earth won the Pulitzer Prize, is a regular on best books lists and was featured in Oprah’s Book Club. I have reread this story so many times over the years. It is a heart-wrenching tale of a farmer and his wife struggling to survive in 1920s China. The story follows the birth of their children, the extremes of both wealth and destitution, and the fragility of farm life. Ultimately their children turn their backs on the land that sustained the family for so long. It is a timeless tale of family relationships, severe hardship, love, loss, and the will to survive. A true classic. (If you like to watch the movie after reading the book, the 1937 film won a few Academy Awards as well).

By Pearl S. Buck,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Good Earth as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A Chinese peasant overcomes the forces of nature and the frailties of human nature to become a wealthy landowner.


Book cover of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

Cate Carlyle Why did I love this book?

Jamie Ford, the great-grandson of Chinese immigrants to the United States, nailed every detail in his debut novel, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and SweetHe crafted a gripping love story set against the backdrop of the shameful time in history during WWII when Japanese Americans were imprisoned in internment camps in Seattle. The story begins in modern-day when Henry (Chinese) finds artifacts from his youth at an abandoned hotel and relives the friendship and love he had for young Keiko (Japanese) when they were both school-aged children in the 1940s, despite all the racial barriers that existed at the time. A modern-day Romeo and Juliet if you will. This one will definitely tug at the heartstrings. 

By Jamie Ford,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

1986, The Panama Hotel The old Seattle landmark has been boarded up for decades, but now the new owner has made a startling discovery in the basement: personal belongings stored away by Japanese families sent to interment camps during the Second World War. Among the fascinated crowd gathering outside the hotel, stands Henry Lee, and, as the owner unfurls a distinctive parasol, he is flooded by memories of his childhood. He wonders if by some miracle, in amongst the boxes of dusty treasures, lies a link to the Okabe family, and the girl he lost his young heart to, so…


Book cover of Snow Falling on Cedars

Cate Carlyle Why did I love this book?

While Snow Falling on Cedars also flashes back to Japanese internment camps on the West Coast during WWII, this fictional story centers around a suspicious drowning of a white man in 1954 and the trial of the accused Japanese American. Ishmael Chambers, a one-armed war veteran himself, runs the local newspaper and follows the trial closely as he has a close connection to the players. Ishmael not only grew up with the drowning victim and the accused, but he was also the high school sweetheart of Hatsue, the accused’s wife. A love he never got over. (If you are an Ethan Hawke fan the 1999 movie is also well done, but more of a courtroom thriller than the book.)

By David Guterson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Snow Falling on Cedars as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Pearson English Readers bring language learning to life through the joy of reading.



Well-written stories entertain us, make us think, and keep our interest page after page. Pearson English Readers offer teenage and adult learners a huge range of titles, all featuring carefully graded language to make them accessible to learners of all abilities.



Through the imagination of some of the world's greatest authors, the English language comes to life in pages of our Readers. Students have the pleasure and satisfaction of reading these stories in English, and at the same time develop a broader vocabulary, greater comprehension and reading…


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Book cover of The Alchemy Fire Murder: a Mary Wandwalker Mystery

Susan Rowland Author Of The Alchemy Fire Murder: a Mary Wandwalker Mystery

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