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

Who am I?

I have a passion for telling the stories of women who've been sidelined by history, fascinating and significant leading ladies who made a meaningful mark, even though their names are now less well-known than many of the men of their time. The Magnificent Lives of Marjorie Post is my ninth book. I’ve written two children’s books, one nonfiction memoir, and six historical fiction novels, but this one feels particularly exciting and personal to me because I fell in love with the historical material, the time periods covered, and the subject herself, while researching and writing this novel. Post’s life is not taught in history classes, but should be, because she certainly makes history fun.


I wrote...

The Magnificent Lives of Marjorie Post

By Allison Pataki,

Book cover of The Magnificent Lives of Marjorie Post

What is my book about?

Growing up in the modest farmlands of Battle Creek, Michigan, Marjorie Merriweather Post was inspired by a few simple rules: always think for yourself, never take success for granted, and work hard—even when deemed American royalty, even while covered in imperial diamonds. Marjorie had an insatiable drive to live and love and to give more than she got.

Marjorie’s story, though full of beauty and grandeur, was equally marked by challenge and tumult. A wife four times over, Marjorie sought her happily-ever-after with the blue-blooded party boy, the charismatic financier, the international diplomat with a dark side, and the bon vivant whose shocking secrets would shake Marjorie and all of society. Marjorie did everything on a grand scale, especially when it came to love.

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).

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. 


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.


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.


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. 


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.


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in family secrets, plagues, and France?

5,888 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about family secrets, plagues, and France.

Family Secrets Explore 83 books about family secrets
Plagues Explore 26 books about plagues
France Explore 587 books about France

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like The Book of Lost Names, Lilac Girls, and Tombland if you like this list.