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

Who am I?

I am an Amazon Best-Selling author, playwright, songwriter, American-born daughter of immigrants, and mom to two amazing sons. What inspires me to write are untold stories of hope, heroism, and humanity that I, too, hope to share with the world. Personally, I knew from the time I first began hearing my grandparents’ stories of their lives in Germany and Czechoslovakia during WWII, how important it was to preserve them for future generations. With that in mind – their tribulations and refusal to allow what they endured to dominate their lives for the rest of their days – I became determined to ensure that what my grandparents had experienced would not be forgotten.

I wrote...

Roses in a Forbidden Garden; A Holocaust Love Story

By Elise Garibaldi,

Book cover of Roses in a Forbidden Garden; A Holocaust Love Story

What is my book about?

Amidst the unspeakable horrors of Hitler’s Concentration Camps, a young German girl finds beauty and love for a man that will span a lifetime. This story is the true account of Inge Katz; the striking daughter of a successful businessman who meets and falls in love with a handsome fellow inmate. But when he gets shipped “Out East” to a Death Camp, she goes years not knowing if he is alive or dead. Her love for this man endures against all odds – from Nazi rifles to starvation, to disease, to assaults of allied fire. But as time passes without word or confirmation of his survival, should she remain loyal, or, as everyone suggests, move on with another?

Garibaldi reveals her grandmother’s most intimate feelings during those terrible times.

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The books I picked & why

The Red Tent

By Anita Diamant,

Book cover of The Red Tent

Why did I love 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.

By Anita Diamant,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked The Red Tent as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In The Red Tent Anita Diamant brings the fascinating biblical character of Dinah to vivid life.

'Intensely moving . . . feminist . . . a riveting tale of love' - Observer

Her name is Dinah. In the Bible, her fate is merely hinted at in a brief and violent detour within the verses of the Book of Genesis that recount the life of Jacob and his infamous dozen sons. Anita Diamant's The Red Tent is an extraordinary and engrossing tale of ancient womanhood and family honour. Told in Dinah's voice, it opens with the story of her mothers -…

Book cover of The Joy Luck Club

Why did I love 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.

By Amy Tan,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked The Joy Luck Club as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'The Joy Luck Club is an ambitious saga that's impossible to read without wanting to call your Mum' Stylist

Discover Amy Tan's moving and poignant tale of immigrant Chinese mothers and their American-born daughters.

In 1949 four Chinese women, recent immigrants to San Francisco, meet weekly to play mahjong and tell stories of what they left behind in China. United in loss and new hope for their daughters' futures, they call themselves the Joy Luck Club.

Their daughters, who have never heard these stories, think their mothers' advice is irrelevant to their modern American lives - until their own inner…

Girl with a Pearl Earring

By Tracy Chevalier,

Book cover of Girl with a Pearl Earring

Why did I love 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.

By Tracy Chevalier,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked Girl with a Pearl Earring as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The New York Times bestselling novel by the author of A Single Thread and At the Edge of the Orchard

Translated into thirty-nine languages and made into an Oscar-nominated film, starring Scarlett Johanson and Colin Firth

Tracy Chevalier transports readers to a bygone time and place in this richly-imagined portrait of the young woman who inspired one of Vermeer's most celebrated paintings.

History and fiction merge seamlessly in this luminous novel about artistic vision and sensual awakening. Girl with a Pearl Earring tells the story of sixteen-year-old Griet, whose life is transformed by her brief encounter with genius . .…

Like Water for Chocolate

By Laura Esquivel,

Book cover of Like Water for Chocolate

Why did I love 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.

By Laura Esquivel,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Like Water for Chocolate as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


'This magical, mythical, moving story of love, sacrifice and summering sensuality is something I will savour for a long time' MAUREEN LIPMAN

Like Water For Chocolate tells the captivating story of the De la Garza family. As the youngest daughter, Tita is forbidden by Mexican tradition to marry. Instead, she pours all of her emotions into her delicious recipes, which she shares with readers along the way.When Tita falls in love with Pedro, he is seduced by the magical food she cooks.…

River God

By Wilbur Smith,

Book cover of River God

Why did I love 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.

By Wilbur Smith,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked River God as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


'Best historical novelist' - Stephen King

'A master storyteller' - Sunday Times

'Wilbur Smith is one of those benchmarks against whom others are compared' - The Times

'No one does adventure quite like Smith' - Daily Mirror


Taita is a humble slave; an expert in art, poetry, medicine and engineering, as well as the keeper of important secrets. He is the most treasured possession of Lord Intef. Yet when…

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in Chinese Americans, the Bible, and Mexico?

9,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about Chinese Americans, the Bible, and Mexico.

Chinese Americans Explore 43 books about Chinese Americans
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