The best books that reimagine the Middle Ages

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been reading fiction set in the middle ages since…well, since I could read! Tales of Arthur and his knights featured largely on my childhood bookshelves. In graduate school, I got the chance to study both the literature and the religion of the middle ages and read up on the source texts. Reading literature from the period itself – whether saints’ lives or poems or travel tales – made me realize how rich the age was, and how few stories we tend to retell. I became passionate about writing more about the experiences of those who didn’t fit the mainstream expectations of gender and sexuality. There are a wealth of tales that need to be retold.


I wrote...

The Story of Silence

By Alex Myers,

Book cover of The Story of Silence

What is my book about?

There was once, long ago, a foolish king who decreed that women should not, and would not, inherit. Thus when a girl-child was born to Lord Cador – Merlin-enchanted fighter of dragons and Earl of Cornwall – he secreted her away: to be raised a boy so that the family land and honour would remain intact. That child’s name was Silence.

Silence must find their own place in a medieval world that is determined to place the many restrictions of gender and class upon them. With dreams of knighthood and a lonely heart to answer, Silence sets out to define themselves. Soon their silence will be ended.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Pope Joan

Alex Myers Why did I love this book?

I love this novel because of how it takes what seems like an impossible story (a female pope?!) and writes it so carefully and compellingly that the impossible becomes completely plausible. The young woman’s journey from her home and family to becoming pope…how she navigates a world that is completely not designed for her…I was totally captivated by the story.

By Donna Woolfolk Cross,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

“Pope Joan has all the elements one wants in a historical drama—love, sex, violence, duplicity, and long-buried secrets. Cross has written an engaging book.”—Los Angeles Times Book Review

In this international bestseller and basis for the 2009 movie of the same name, Donna Woolfolk Cross brings the Dark Ages to life in all their brutal splendor and shares the dramatic story of a woman whose strength of vision led her to defy the social restrictions of her day.

For a thousand years her existence has been denied. She is the legend that will not die—Pope Joan, the ninth-century woman who…


Book cover of Matrix

Alex Myers Why did I love this book?

Matrix pulled me in immediately. I loved the realness of the setting: the mud and the cold and the food and the smells. Life in the middle ages wasn’t easy, and Groff’s novel doesn’t try to romanticize that. I also loved the protagonist, a woman who gradually builds a position of power for herself. Groff explores sexuality and desire, community and meaning, religion and power on a scale that is both personal and profound.

By Lauren Groff,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

THE NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
SHORTLISTED FOR THE NATIONAL BOOK AWARDS
AN OBAMA'S BOOK OF THE YEAR

'Gorgeous, sensual, addictive' SARA COLLINS
'Brightly lit' NAOMI ALDERMAN

Born from a long line of female warriors and crusaders, yet too coarse for courtly life, Marie de France is cast from the royal court and sent to Angleterre to take up her new duty as the prioress of an impoverished abbey.

Lauren Groff's modern masterpiece is about the establishment of a female utopia.

'A propulsive, captivating read' BRIT BENNETT
'Fascinating, beguiling, vivid' MARIAN KEYES
'A dazzlingly clever tale' THE TIMES
'A thrillingly vivid,…


Book cover of The Pillars of the Earth

Alex Myers Why did I love this book?

This may be the book that got me hooked on historical fiction about the middle ages. Follet’s account of the cathedral building was both grand in scale and meticulous in detail. I am always amazed when I see castles and cathedrals and wonder – how did that build that? How is it still standing? Follet’s novel answers those questions and also shows the lives of those who did the building – not just the rich and powerful, but the simple stonemasons as well.

By Ken Follett,

Why should I read it?

18 authors picked The Pillars of the Earth as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

#1 New York Times Bestseller

Oprah's Book Club Selection

The "extraordinary . . . monumental masterpiece" (Booklist) that changed the course of Ken Follett's already phenomenal career-and begins where its prequel, The Evening and the Morning, ended.

"Follett risks all and comes out a clear winner," extolled Publishers Weekly on the release of The Pillars of the Earth. A departure for the bestselling thriller writer, the historical epic stunned readers and critics alike with its ambitious scope and gripping humanity. Today, it stands as a testament to Follett's unassailable command of the written word and to his universal appeal.

The…


Book cover of The Name of the Rose

Alex Myers Why did I love this book?

I love a good murder mystery. And when an author can write a compelling whodunit and pair that with a historically accurate depiction of a medieval monastery and then, on top of that, add in some deep reflections on language, desire, and philosophy… swoon! This novel is creepy and captivating and will make you want to visit some catacombs.

By Umberto Eco,

Why should I read it?

12 authors picked The Name of the Rose as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Read the enthralling medieval murder mystery.

The year is 1327. Franciscans in a wealthy Italian abbey are suspected of heresy, and Brother William of Baskerville arrives to investigate. When his delicate mission is suddenly overshadowed by seven bizarre deaths, Brother William turns detective.

William collects evidence, deciphers secret symbols and coded manuscripts, and digs into the eerie labyrinth of the abbey where extraordinary things are happening under the cover of night. A spectacular popular and critical success, The Name of the Rose is not only a narrative of a murder investigation but an astonishing chronicle of the Middle Ages.

'Whether…


Book cover of The Mists of Avalon

Alex Myers Why did I love this book?

If Pillars of the Earth got me into historical fiction set in the middle ages, then The Mists of Avalon is what hooked me for fantasy set in that period. I adored this feminist retelling of King Arthur’s legends – the women, who are in the background and rather one-dimensional in the original, get to be the story-creators here. There are certainly familiar scenes of swords and quests, but there’s also a lot more magic and a lot more mystery and intrigue.

By Marion Zimmer Bradley,

Why should I read it?

10 authors picked The Mists of Avalon as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Here is the tragic tale of the rise and fall of Camelot - but seen through the eyes of Camelot's women: The devout Gwenhwyfar, Arthur's Queen; Vivane, High priestess of Avalon and the Lady of the Lake; above all, Morgaine, possessor of the sight, the wise, the wise-woman fated to bring ruin on them all...


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The Others

By Evette Davis,

Book cover of The Others

Evette Davis Author Of Woman King

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve worked in journalism, politics, and public policy for 30-plus years and watched as the extreme voices gained the most traction on either side of a debate. On social media, these minority views often dominate the discussion. 48 States is a stand-alone novel highlighting the problems of extremist viewpoints in a civil society. I also have another book series that features a political consultant who discovers she's a witch and joins a secret society that uses magic to manipulate elections to protect humanity. Bottom line: if I can’t fix political discourse for a living, I can write science fiction novels that contemplate how to do it.

Evette's book list on dystopian stories for the bada** feminist in us all

What is my book about?

True Blood meets Supernatural in the kickoff of this urban paranormal fantasy series from an acclaimed author. Readers enter a dystopian San Francisco filled with empaths and vampires embroiled in political unrest—and Book 1 is just the beginning.

Much as she wishes otherwise, superstar political consultant Olivia Shepherd was born a powerful empath. It’s a legacy she walked away from long ago—but when she wakes up one morning to find Elsa, a tenacious time-walker, standing in her kitchen, she realizes she can no longer ignore her gifts. She is quickly plunged into the hidden world of powerful “Others” and drafted…

The Others

By Evette Davis,

What is this book about?

True Blood meets Supernatural in the kickoff of this urban paranormal fantasy series from an acclaimed author. Readers enter a dystopian San Francisco filled with empaths and vampires embroiled in political unrest—and Book 1 is just the beginning.

Much as she wishes otherwise, superstar political consultant Olivia Shepherd was born a powerful empath. It’s a legacy she walked away from long ago—but when she wakes up one morning to find Elsa, a tenacious time-walker, standing in her kitchen, she realizes she can no longer ignore her gifts. She is quickly plunged into the hidden world of powerful “Others” and drafted…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in the Middle Ages, Knights of the Round Table, and Nuns?

11,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about the Middle Ages, Knights of the Round Table, and Nuns.

The Middle Ages Explore 415 books about the Middle Ages
Knights Of The Round Table Explore 7 books about Knights of the Round Table
Nuns Explore 26 books about Nuns