The best historical fiction to capture the essence of 19th & 20th century America

Rich DiSilvio Author Of A Blazing Gilded Age: Episodes of an American Family and a Volatile Era
By Rich DiSilvio

The Books I Picked & Why

East of Eden

By John Steinbeck

East of Eden

Why this book?

What is a story without great characters? Steinbeck himself believed this novel was the apex of his career, citing all his previous works as working towards this summit. East of Eden has some very dark and chilling moments and captures a rawness of human nature rarely seen in books of his era. This emotional grit draws the reader in and showcases Steinbeck’s literary skills as a progressive, one perhaps not welcomed as readily in his day, but one that’s proven to withstand the test of time. For a vivid recreation of a distant era with characters that sizzle with emotion, consider reading East of Eden.  


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Gone With the Wind

By Margaret Mitchell

Gone With the Wind

Why this book?

Margaret Mitchell’s novel needs no introduction, being hailed as The Great American Novel. However, despite my concern of the main two characters lacking noble character, the novel has appeal. What drew me in most were the changing times and how the Civil War tore apart not only the country but individual people’s lives. One’s environment has a great impact on how they and others behave and here is where the flirtatious and shallow Scarlett redeems herself, pitching in at military hospitals and witnessing tragedy firsthand. Poverty also motivates Scarlett to harden her resolve, and it’s moments like that which, to me, offer the greatest impact. While older people have seen the iconic movie or read the book, younger readers should pick up a copy, as a new adventure awaits them.


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North and South

By John Jakes

North and South

Why this book?

John Jakes’s trilogy is a huge investment of time, but for those who love family sagas, American history and intriguing conflicts, it's a huge banquet to sink your teeth into. This sprawling saga drew me in with its inevitable chain of events, namely the Civil War, and how it split families and friends apart due to a military conflict, one that threatened to split the nation apart and with profound humanitarian rights at its core. Superbly written and even beautifully captured on film, John Jake’s magnum opus is a winner. 


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The Winds Of War

By Herman Wouk

The Winds Of War

Why this book?

Although a war novel, in essence, Herman’s second book in the trilogy is infused with a great deal of history. Wartime offers an author a wide spectrum of events, be they political or economic, philosophical or psychological, or personal challenges, which add dimension and emotional impact. In this regard, Herman’s novel offers readers a riveting rollercoaster ride on The Winds of War.


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The Grapes of Wrath

By John Steinbeck

The Grapes of Wrath

Why this book?

A masterwork by John Steinbeck. More Americans are familiar with this novel than Steinbeck’s sprawling East of Eden, and perhaps that’s due to school requirements and the award-winning film by John Ford, but The Grapes of Wrath is a golden chunk of bullion that makes a nice bookend to my first recommendation. Once again, Steinbeck’s knack for creating three-dimensional characters in dire situations is the intense, emotional bait the lures me in. The tragedies and resilience of the Joads offer a poignant glimpse of life amid very hard times, known to history as the Great Depression. And Steinbeck’s masterpiece is a Great American novel, not to be missed.


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