The best books to prove that history is the furthest thing from boring

The Books I Picked & Why

The Invisible Woman

By Erika Robuck

Book cover of The Invisible Woman

Why this book?

Virginia Hall is one woman whose stunning personal story ought to make her a household name. Robuck’s fascinating novel drops the reader into France in March of 1944, where the Nazis terrorize the population and American Special Ops leader Virginia Hall is doing all she can to subvert the occupiers and assist in the lead-up to D-Day. I barely breathed while reading this novel of one of the founding ladies of the CIA – and the best part of all? The story is true, and oh-so-inspiring. 


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Next Year in Havana

By Chanel Cleeton

Book cover of Next Year in Havana

Why this book?

This story of a Cuban-American family sweeps the reader from Havana to Florida, from the years of Fidel Castro’s Revolution into the present-day immigrant experience. Historical fiction is a gift to readers in that it puts us squarely into history’s most tumultuous and dramatic moments, and that is exactly what Cleeton has done with this beautiful and transportive novel of the Perez family.


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Hamnet

By Maggie O'Farrell

Book cover of Hamnet

Why this book?

I knew very little of William Shakespeare’s wife and even less of the backstory to the bard’s writing of Hamlet. This gorgeous book blew me away as it put Shakespeare’s wife, Anne, center stage, opening up the imagined story of the Shakespeare family and both their Stratford and London households. The play may have been the thing, but O’Farrell’s book shows us that the story behind the play is just as enthralling.


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A Thousand Splendid Suns

By Khaled Hosseini

Book cover of A Thousand Splendid Suns

Why this book?

This is a haunting, beautiful, life-changing book, written by a beloved Afghan-American novelist. I read this book years ago and it’s one of those reads that will stay with me forever. At the center of this story are Mariam and Laila, two women brought together by war and upheaval, by family and love and loss. The third inspiring and heartbreaking lead character in this epic tale is the land of Afghanistan, whose story, as we see with heartbreaking clarity, is still very much one of upheaval, love, and war. 


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The Diamond Eye

By Kate Quinn

Book cover of The Diamond Eye

Why this book?

A quiet Soviet librarian becomes history’s deadliest female sniper. Based on a true story and sweeping readers from Kiev to Washington D.C. and back again to the Eastern Front, this book tells of the life of Mila Pavlichenko, or Lady Death, as she was known to the Nazis and Allies alike. We’ve all learned about World War II, about the Nazis and the Soviets and their deadly conflicts, but Quinn’s book puts us on the frontlines and allows us to experience history in a breathtaking and page-turning new way.


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