The best historical novels that I love to recommend

Why am I passionate about this?

I fell in love with historical novels as a kid somewhere between reading Johnny Tremain and Ben and Me (from the point of view of a mouse living in Ben Franklin’s hat) in elementary school and Mika Waltari’s The Roman and The Egyptian and Lew Wallace’s Ben-Hur in junior high. And that love led me to write After the Lost War, a historical novel in verse based on the life of the poet Sidney Lanier, who served in the confederate army in the civil war, survived to start a family and died from tuberculous he contracted as a prisoner of war.

I wrote...

After the Lost War: A Narrative

By Andrew Hudgins,

Book cover of After the Lost War: A Narrative

What is my book about?

Andrew Hudgins imagines himself in the life of a now largely forgotten poet, Sidney Lanier, who served as a soldier for the Confederacy.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Julian

Andrew Hudgins Why did I love this book?

Two philosophers who were once close to the emperor Julian write each other long epistolary recollections of and reflections on the emperor’s failed attempt to overthrow Christianity and restore paganism as the official religion of the Roman empire. The book sounds boring when described that way, but one of the philosopher’s wants to write a biography of Julian while the other possesses and it reluctant to part with Julian’s own narrative of his life and thought. Julian’s rise and fall is full of action and heartbreak, and the jockeying between the men who distrust each other while each claiming the legacy of the long-dead emperor is amusing. The post-modern refractions of the three views of Julian (the two philosophers and Julian’s himself) make a rich story that is also a mediation on how history is lived, shaped, written, and received. For yet another perspective, it’s entertaining to watch Vidal put into play his own anti-Christian biases and his longing for a tolerant paganism that probably never existed. For other takes on other Roman emperors it’s hard to beat Margaret Yourcenar’s meditative Memoirs of Hadrian, John Williams’ Augustus, and Robert Graves’ towering I, Claudius.

By Gore Vidal,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Julian as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Gore Vidal's fictional recreation of the Roman Empire teetering on the crux of Christianity and ruled by an emperor who was an inveterate dabbler in arcane hocus-pocus, a prig, a bigot, and a dazzling and brilliant leader.

Book cover of Aztec

Andrew Hudgins Why did I love this book?

Mixtli, an elderly Aztec lord captured by the Spanish, is reluctantly questioned by a Catholic bishop charged with reporting to the king of Spain about the customs and mores of his new unwilling subjects. The bishop is repulsed and appalled by the violent history and, to his mind, sexual looseness of the Aztecs while blind to the violent depredations of the conquistadors who protect him. But the story that outrages the bishop is for the reader a spectacular tragic saga of the end of the Aztec empire from the point of view of the conquered and a telling of what was lost.

By Gary Jennings,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Gary Jennings's Aztec is the extraordinary story of the last and greatest native civilization of North America.

Told in the words of one of the most robust and memorable characters in modern fiction, Mixtli-Dark Cloud, Aztec reveals the very depths of Aztec civilization from the peak and feather-banner splendor of the Aztec Capital of Tenochtitlan to the arrival of Hernán Cortás and his conquistadores, and their destruction of the Aztec empire. The story of Mixtli is the story of the Aztecs themselves---a compelling, epic tale of heroic dignity and a colossal civilization's rise and fall.

Book cover of The Long Ships

Andrew Hudgins Why did I love this book?

Whenever someone asks me to recommend a historical novel, the first title out of my mouth is always The Long Ships. I loved it when I read it as a boy and then loved it all over again half a century later when I reread it. The Long Ships is the epic 11th-century story of Red Orm, who is abducted as a boy by Vikings and then abducted again put work as a galley slave and later bodyguard in the service of Almansur, the Arab warrior who is intent on spread the Islamic influence in Spain. And that’s just the beginning of the action-packed and thrilling story.

By Frans G. Bengtsson, Michael Meyer,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This saga brings alive the world of the 10th century AD when the Vikings raided the coasts of England.

Acclaimed as one of the best historical novels ever written, this engaging saga of Viking adventure in 10th century northern Europe has a very appealing young hero, Orm Tostesson, whose story we follow from inexperienced youth to adventurous old age, through slavery and adventure to a royal marriage and the search for great treasure. Viking expeditions take him to lands as far apart as England, Moorish Spain, Gaardarike (the country that was to become Russia), and the long road to Miklagard.…

Book cover of Circe

Andrew Hudgins Why did I love this book?

The rebellious half-human daughter of Helios, the sun, gets sideways with her father and ends up exiled to a small island. Sure, Circe is not technically historical fiction in the way that Mary Renault’s The King Must Die and The Bull from the Sea aren’t historical either, but like Renault’s books, Circe is also a sensationally immersive reimagining of myth. It’s a great story of a woman making a personal paradise out of her enforced isolation, which is punctuated by a cameo appearance by such famous lovers as Daedalus, the sexy enigmatic Hermes, and, halfway through the book, Odysseus. When she transforms Odysseus’ sailors into pigs the reader is cheering her on. They are swine to begin with; she’s merely turning the metaphor into fact.

By Madeline Miller,

Why should I read it?

33 authors picked Circe as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The international Number One bestseller from the author of The Song of Achilles, shortlisted for the Women's Prize for Fiction

Woman. Witch. Myth. Mortal. Outcast. Lover. Destroyer. Survivor. CIRCE.

In the house of Helios, god of the sun and mightiest of the Titans, a daughter is born. Circe is a strange child - not powerful and terrible, like her father, nor gorgeous and mercenary like her mother. Scorned and rejected, Circe grows up in the shadows, at home in neither the world of gods or mortals. But Circe has a dark power of her own: witchcraft. When her gift threatens…

Book cover of Hannibal

Andrew Hudgins Why did I love this book?

Ever wonder how in the world Hannibal got elephants across the alps? Ross Leckie’s violent and graphic account answers that question and more as it plunges the reader into the mind of the Carthaginian general driven to avenge his father’s defeat and this country’s humiliation in the first Punic War. The book revels in the fascinating details of ancient military campaigns and battle tactics. It’s a blood-drenched fever-dream of a novel that’s not for the squeamish, but a compulsive read for the rest of us.

By Ross Leckie,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A battle is like lust. The frenzy passes. Consequence remains.

Hannibal is an epic vision of one of history's greatest adventurers, the almost mythical man who most famously led his soldiers on elephants over the Alps. In Ross Leckie's unforgettable re-creation of the Punic wars, it is Hannibal, the Carthaginian general, who narrates the story, and who is carried by his all-consuming ambition through profoundly bloody battles against the great Roman armies of early empire.

In this breathtaking chronicle of love and hate, heroism and cruelty, one of humanity's greatest adventurers is brought to life, who learns through suffering that…

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Api's Berlin Diaries: My Quest to Understand My Grandfather's Nazi Past

By Gabrielle Robinson,

Book cover of Api's Berlin Diaries: My Quest to Understand My Grandfather's Nazi Past

Gabrielle Robinson Author Of Api's Berlin Diaries: My Quest to Understand My Grandfather's Nazi Past

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Retired english professor

Gabrielle's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

Gabrielle found her grandfather’s diaries after her mother’s death, only to discover that he had been a Nazi. Born in Berlin in 1942, she and her mother fled the city in 1945, but Api, the one surviving male member of her family, stayed behind to work as a doctor in a city 90% destroyed.

Gabrielle retraces Api’s steps in the Berlin of the 21st century, torn between her love for the man who gave her the happiest years of her childhood and trying to come to terms with his Nazi membership, German guilt, and political responsibility.

Api's Berlin Diaries: My Quest to Understand My Grandfather's Nazi Past

By Gabrielle Robinson,

What is this book about?

"This is not a book I will forget any time soon."
Story Circle Book Reviews

Moving and provocative, Api's Berlin Diaries offers a personal perspective on the fall of Berlin 1945 and the far-reaching aftershocks of the Third Reich.

After her mother's death, Robinson was thrilled to find her beloved grandfather's war diaries-only to discover that he had been a Nazi.

The award-winning memoir shows Api, a doctor in Berlin, desperately trying to help the wounded in cellars without water or light. He himself was reduced to anxiety and despair, the daily diary his main refuge. As Robinson retraces Api's…

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