The best historical fiction books to open your heart as well as your mind

The Books I Picked & Why

The Red Tent

By Anita Diamant

Book cover of The Red Tent

Why this book?

This interpretation of the Biblical story of Dinah is beautifully written in the first-person perspective. It exquisitely and vividly invokes a lost and fascinating ancient world. I particularly enjoy Diamant’s depiction and celebration of the love between mothers and daughters, all while honoring the resilience and resolve of the female spirit.


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The Joy Luck Club

By Amy Tan

Book cover of The Joy Luck Club

Why this book?

An intricately written, and profoundly conveyed, multi-generational story that explores the complex yet loving relationships between mothers and their daughters. The author enchantingly weaves tales of four different women and their struggles in China with the modern lives of their American-born daughters. The way Tan delves into cultural conflict through the generations, and eventually has the characters evolve into more appreciation and kindness, thereby strengthening their familial bonds, really resonates with me and my experiences writing my book with my grandmother.


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The Girl with a Pearl Earring

By Tracy Chevalier

Book cover of The Girl with a Pearl Earring

Why this book?

Chevalier transports her readers to a bygone time and place of art, inspiration, and sensuality. This is the story of the young subject of famed painter, Johannes Vermeer’s, most famous portrait. The book offers the reader a little slice of what life was like in Delft, Holland in the 1600s, and offers a very thoughtful perspective on the very flawed, complex, and human characters and relationships through the eyes of an insightful and intelligent 16-year-old girl.


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Like Water for Chocolate: A Novel in Monthly Installments with Recipes, Romances, and Home Remedies

By Laura Esquivel

Book cover of Like Water for Chocolate: A Novel in Monthly Installments with Recipes, Romances, and Home Remedies

Why this book?

A classic, bitter-sweet love story taking place in turn-of-the-century Mexico. Tita, the youngest daughter on the De la Garza Ranch, grows up to be a master chef. Through whimsy, wit, and a dash of magic, she expresses her heartaches, hopes, and dreams, through her dishes. Esquivel takes us on a journey that is both meaningful, emotional, and heartfelt, as Tita discovers her worth, strength, and passion for life and love. Emotionally, this book can be a challenging read, but perhaps that bit of realism is what resonates with me so profoundly.


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River God

By Wilbur Smith

Book cover of River God

Why this book?

We follow the slave, Taita, an expert in art, poetry, medicine, and engineering after he is commanded to look after a young princess married off to the Pharoah. Smith’s portrayal of ancient Egypt during the era of the pharaohs will enthrall you, all while weaving a heart-racing tale of bravery, heroism, revenge, and love. I particularly had a fondness for the faithful and affectionate friendship he had with the Queen all throughout her life.


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