The best books about life in Tudor times

Who am I?

Tracy Borman is a historian and novelist specialising in the Tudor period and has written a number of best-selling books, including The Private Lives of the Tudors, Thomas Cromwell, and Elizabeth’s Women. She is also a popular broadcaster and has presented numerous history documentaries, including Channel 5’s The Fall of Anne Boleyn and Inside the Tower of London. Alongside this, she is the joint Chief Curator of Historic Royal Palaces and Chief Executive of the Heritage Education Trust.


I wrote...

Thomas Cromwell: The Untold Story Of Henry VIII's Most Faithful Servant

By Tracy Borman,

Book cover of Thomas Cromwell: The Untold Story Of Henry VIII's Most Faithful Servant

What is my book about?

Thomas Cromwell has long been reviled as a Machiavellian schemer who stopped at nothing in his quest for power. As King Henry VIII's right-hand man, Cromwell was the architect of the English Reformation; secured Henry's divorce from Catherine of Aragon and plotted the downfall of his second wife, Anne Boleyn; and was fatally accused of trying to usurp the king himself. But in this engrossing new biography, acclaimed British historian Tracy Borman reveals a different side to one of history's most notorious characters: that of a caring husband and father, a fiercely loyal servant and friend, and a revolutionary who was key in transforming medieval England into a modern state.

The books I picked & why

Shepherd is reader supported. We may earn an affiliate commission when you buy through links on our website. This is how we fund this project for readers and authors (learn more).

Six Tudor Queens: Katharine Parr, The Sixth Wife

By Alison Weir,

Book cover of Six Tudor Queens: Katharine Parr, The Sixth Wife

Why this book?

The last in this stunning Six Wives series, this novel brings Henry VIII’s last wife to life as never before. Impeccably researched and with stunning period detail, this book paints a vivid picture of how women had to battle for survival in the Tudor world.

Six Tudor Queens: Katharine Parr, The Sixth Wife

By Alison Weir,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'A detailed and convincing portrait of an extraordinary life... this series is a serious achievement' THE TIMES

'This brilliant series has brought Henry VIII's six wives to life as never before. This novel will enthral and inspire, just as much as it will break your heart' TRACY BORMAN

Alison Weir, historian and author of the SUNDAY TIMES bestselling SIX TUDOR QUEENS series, recounts the story of Henry VIII's last wife - Katharine Parr, the queen who survived him.

---

A WOMAN TORN BETWEEN LOVE AND DUTY.

Two husbands dead, a boy and a sick man. And now Katharine is free…


Tombland

By C.J. Sansom,

Book cover of Tombland

Why this book?

I am a huge fan of the Shardlake novels and this latest instalment is one of the most compelling. What sets Sansom’s books apart from other historical novels is the colossal amount of research he undertakes for each one. The protagonist is far from being an archetypal hero but is brilliantly drawn and you find yourself rooting for him from the first page to the last.

Tombland

By C.J. Sansom,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Tudor England is brought vividly to life in Tombland, the seventh novel in C. J. Sansom's number one bestselling Shardlake series, for fans of Hilary Mantel and Philippa Gregory.

'When it comes to intriguing Tudor-based narratives, Hilary Mantel has a serious rival' - Sunday Times
'Sansom has the trick of writing an enthralling narrative. Like Hilary Mantel, he produces densely textured historical novels that absorb their readers in another time' - Andrew Taylor, Spectator

The Sunday Times Number One Bestseller

England, 1549: Two years after the death of Henry VIII, England is sliding into chaos . . .

The nominal…


Bring Up the Bodies

By Hilary Mantel,

Book cover of Bring Up the Bodies

Why this book?

My non-fiction biography of Thomas Cromwell was inspired by Hilary Mantel’s stunning Wolf Hall trilogy. She transformed Henry VIII’s henchman from one of the most despised villains in history into a sympathetic hero: a self-confessed ‘ruffian’ who rose to become the most powerful man in England, next to his royal master, Henry VIII. This, the second book in the trilogy, is for me the most compelling and charts the seemingly inexorable rise and shocking fall of Anne Boleyn.

Bring Up the Bodies

By Hilary Mantel,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Bring Up the Bodies as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Winner of the Man Booker Prize

The second book in Hilary Mantel's award-winning Wolf Hall trilogy, with a stunning new cover design to celebrate the publication of the much anticipated The Mirror and the Light

An astounding literary accomplishment, Bring Up the Bodies is the story of this most terrifying moment of history, by one of our greatest living novelists.

'Our most brilliant English writer' Guardian

Bring Up the Bodies unlocks the darkly glittering court of Henry VIII, where Thomas Cromwell is now chief minister. With Henry captivated by plain Jane Seymour and rumours of Anne Boleyn's faithlessness whispered by…


The Watchers: A Secret History of the Reign of Elizabeth I

By Stephen Alford,

Book cover of The Watchers: A Secret History of the Reign of Elizabeth I

Why this book?

Although Elizabeth I has gone down in history as the iconic ‘Gloriana’, the longest-reigning and arguably most successful monarch from the Tudor dynasty, as queen she never enjoyed the luxury of feeling secure on her throne. This brilliant non-fiction book explores the many plots that swirled around the Virgin Queen’s throne – and the intricate spy network that helped thwart them all.

The Watchers: A Secret History of the Reign of Elizabeth I

By Stephen Alford,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The acclaimed and enthralling story of the dark side of Elizabethan rule, from Stephen Alford

Elizabeth I's reign is known as a golden age, yet to much of Europe she was a 'Jezebel' and heretic who had to be destroyed. The Watchers is a thrilling portrayal of the secret state that sought to protect the Queen; a shadow world of spies, codebreakers, agent provocateurs and confidence-men who would stop at nothing to defend the realm.

Reviews:

'Forget Le Carre, Deighton and the rest - this is more enthralling than any modern spy fiction' Daily Telegraph

'Absorbing and closely documented ...…


Game of Queens: The Women Who Made Sixteenth-Century Europe

By Sarah Gristwood,

Book cover of Game of Queens: The Women Who Made Sixteenth-Century Europe

Why this book?

There is no doubt that the sixteenth century was a man’s world. Women were treated as second-class citizens and viewed as inferior in every single respect: mentally, physically and emotionally. Yet it was also the era of powerful female sovereigns, consorts and regents. Sarah Gristwood’s beautifully written and well-researched study follows the varying fortunes of some of the period’s most formidable matriarchs, from Isabella of Castile to the six wives of Henry VIII.

Game of Queens: The Women Who Made Sixteenth-Century Europe

By Sarah Gristwood,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A BBC History magazine Book of the Year and an amazon.com Best Book of the Month

As religion divided sixteenth-century Europe, an extraordinary group of women rose to power. They governed nations while kings fought in foreign lands. They ruled on behalf of nephews, brothers and sons. They negotiated peace between their warring nations. For decades, they ran Europe. Small wonder that it was in this century that the queen became the most powerful piece on the chessboard.

From mother to daughter and mentor to protegee, Sarah Gristwood follows the passage of power from Isabella of Castile and Anne de…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in murder, Tudor, and criminal investigations?

7,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about murder, Tudor, and criminal investigations.

Murder Explore 493 books about murder
Tudor Explore 17 books about Tudor
Criminal Investigations Explore 275 books about criminal investigations

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Hamnet, Katherine, and Lamentation if you like this list.