The best books that shake fantasy and history up together

Why am I passionate about this?

I was seven when our headmaster told us about Stone-Age people using stone tools and living in caves. This seemed so unlikely that I checked with my Dad before believing it, but after that, I loved history. I adored the idea of time machines: a day trip to Ancient Rome! A selfie with a saber-tooth! Writing allowed me to time-travel to whenever I liked and to use what I learned about how people lit and warmed their homes, cooked their food, and worshipped their gods. It was inevitable that I would write a time travel book, and it’s a real pleasure to revisit some books that inspired me.

I wrote...

Book cover of The Sterkarm Handshake

What is my book about?

The ruthless FUP Corporation intends to use a time machine to strip the past of fossil fuel. They go back 500 years to the border between England and Scotland and dismiss the local Sterkarm family as ‘peasants armed with sticks.’ Big mistake. The Sterkarms are a smart and war-like clan, armed with longbows and eight-foot lances. Superb light cavalry, they acknowledge no rule but their own and defend their land against all comers.

FUP embeds their researcher, Andrea Mitchell, with the Sterkarms and she falls in love with Per, the chief’s handsome son. As misunderstanding grows between the Sterkarms and the 21st Century ‘Elves’, Andrea struggles to keep the peace. But when the two centuries go to war, she is forced to pick a side…

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Technicolor Time Machine

Susan Price Why did I love this book?

I read this as a teenager and learned that history and science-fiction could be knock-about, silly and hilarious.

A failing film studio gets hold of a time machine and uses it to make a typical Hollywood movie about the Viking colonization of America, complete with gorgeous romantic leads, cast for their looks. It’s shot on location in the 10th Century, with real Viking extras.

But real Vikings aren’t cooperative. They don’t want to sail across the Atlantic.

The ingenious plot makes great use of Time. What if you return before you left and meet yourself? With a script needed in a rush, the writer is sent to the Pre-Cambrian, before life left the oceans, where there are no distractions. “The eyes,” he mutters. “The eyes in the sea.”

I won’t give away the end, but it’s great.

By Harry Harrison,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Why pay for costumes, scenery, props or actors when the most brilliant drama of all time is unfolding before your very eyes, in vivid color--in 1000 A.D.?

The head of ailing Climactic Studios has given producer Barney Hendrickson five days to get a major movie in the can--and Climactic out of it.


Not with Professor Hewett's miraculous time machine, the answer to a Hollywood producer's prayer.

Skipping back to AD 1,000 with a whole film crew and two glam stars, Barney sets out to prove that the Vikings discovered America five hundred years before Columbus--and to film the event…

Book cover of Doomsday Book

Susan Price Why did I love this book?

Recommended to me by a good friend, proving what a good friend she is.

It’s set in a future where history students take field trips into the past. Kivrin persuades Professor Dunworthy to risk sending her back further than anyone’s gone before: to the 14th Century.

No sooner has she left than the techie operating the Time-Net falls seriously ill with influenza. The authorities, fearing that the disease has been brought back from the past, close the Time Net, trapping Kivrin in the 1300s.

Her plight worsens when the Black Death reaches her village and all the people she’s befriended start dying…

It’s a cracking read, vividly imagined.

By Connie Willis,

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked Doomsday Book as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"A tour de force" - New York Times Book Review

"Ambitious, finely detailed and compulsively readable" - Locus

"It is a book that feels fundamentally true; it is a book to live in" - Washington Post

For Kivrin Engle, preparing an on-site study of one of the deadliest eras in humanity's history was as simple as receiving inoculations against the diseases of the fourteenth century and inventing a bullet-proof backstory. For her instructors in the twenty-first century, it meant painstaking calculations and careful monitoring of the rendezvous location where Kivrin would be received.

But a crisis strangely linking past and…

Book cover of Life After Life

Susan Price Why did I love this book?

Is this book about Time-Travel or Dimension-Jumping? Or about someone who’s freakishly aware of their rebirth into numerous lives? I don’t know— but I do know that it’s a breathtakingly audacious, witty, intelligent, brilliant book.

It recounts the life of Ursula Todd, born in 1910. She then lives, well, Life After Life. Some are very short: she is still-born or drowns as a child. Others, as she seems to cycle through almost every life it is possible for her to have lived, involve considerable suffering. She becomes dimly aware of these numerous lives and learns, to an extent, to manipulate them. As she passes through one of her German lives in the 1930s, can she use this awareness to assassinate Hitler?

I am completely in awe of this book.

By Kate Atkinson,

Why should I read it?

16 authors picked Life After Life as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

What if you could live again and again, until you got it right?

On a cold and snowy night in 1910, Ursula Todd is born to an English banker and his wife. She dies before she can draw her first breath. On that same cold and snowy night, Ursula Todd is born, lets out a lusty wail, and embarks upon a life that will be, to say the least, unusual. For as she grows, she also dies, repeatedly, in a variety of ways, while the young century marches on towards its second cataclysmic world war.

Does Ursula's apparently infinite number…

Book cover of The Corridors of Time

Susan Price Why did I love this book?

I read this classic sci-fi way back when I was a teenager and I think, over the years, it has been a quiet, persistent influence on my own writing.

Two groups of time-travellers go back and forth along ‘the corridors of Time,’ fighting to influence history their way. The protagonist is taken from a prison cell to join one group and has to catch up with what’s going on as he’s taken to the future, the seventeenth century, and the Bronze Age.

What stayed with me most vividly was Anderson’s recreation of the Danish Bronze Age and the fact that the main character chooses to give up his own time in order to remain in the Bronze Age with the people he has come to love.

By Poul Anderson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A young man from the twentieth century is recruited to fight in a war that rages throughout time in this classic science fiction adventure from a multiple Hugo and Nebula Award–winning master.

College student, ex-marine, and martial artist Malcolm Lockridge is in prison awaiting his trial for murder when he receives an unexpected visit from an extraordinarily beautiful woman named Storm. Claiming to be a representative of the Wardens, a political faction from two thousand years in the future, Storm offers the astonished young man a proposition: freedom in return for his assistance in recovering an unspecified lost treasure. But…

Book cover of Night Watch

Susan Price Why did I love this book?

I love Pratchett’s Discworld books. They’re compassionate, insightful, serious, angry— and hilarious.

Pratchett merrily mixes accurate history and free-wheeling fantasy without giving a damn. And, in mocking fairy tales and fantasy tropes, he makes scathing comments on our time.

In Night Watch, Commander Vimes pursues a murderer across the rooves of Unseen University, a place that throbs with magic, during a thunderstorm. A lightning strike causes ‘a temporal shattering.’ Vimes wakes to find himself in his own past, being arrested by his younger self.

Until he can return to his own time, Vimes poses as his own mentor. Which means that young Sam Vimes was taught to be an exceptional police officer by— Sam Vimes.

As we Pratchett fans say: Night Watch is the best Discworld book of them all. Until you read the next one.

By Terry Pratchett,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Night Watch as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A beautiful new hardback edition of the classic Discworld novel.

Commander Sam Vimes of the Ankh-Morpork City Watch had it all.

But now he's back in his own rough, tough past without even the clothes he was standing up in when the lightning struck...

Living in the past is hard. Dying in the past is incredibly easy. But he must survive, because he has a job to do. He must track down a murderer, teach his younger self how to be a good copper and change the outcome of a bloody rebellion.

There's a problem:if he wins, he's got no…

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A Sparrow Falls

By Vicki Olsen,

Book cover of A Sparrow Falls

Vicki Olsen Author Of A Sparrow Falls

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Air Force brat World War 2 junkie Gallivanter Beret-wearing Francophile Book hoarder

Vicki's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

In this book set against the backdrop of a changing America, Sarah must find the courage to confront the ghosts of her past and come to terms with her future. Sarah, a young woman from the rural town of Tolerance, Arkansas, has endured an impoverished and painful childhood.

But now, as the innocence of the 1950s transforms into the turbulent 1960s, Sarah must find the strength to overcome her traumas, forgive those who have wronged her, and discover her true self. With its moving and often disturbing narrative, A Sparrow Falls is an evocative account of a young woman's journey…

A Sparrow Falls

By Vicki Olsen,

What is this book about?

A moving, sometimes disturbing, beautifully written book...Amazon Customer Review
Set in Arkansas as the innocence of the 1950s morphs into the turbulent ‘60s, A Sparrow Falls is an evocative account of a young woman emerging from an impoverished and traumatic childhood as she finds the inner strength to overcome her past. Te ghosts of the past and come to terms with her future is in the strength to forgive those who have wronged her?
Content Advisory: This book is intended for mature audiences and contains child sexual abuse and disturbing imagery.

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Interested in time travel, the Bronze Age, and the Middle Ages?

11,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about time travel, the Bronze Age, and the Middle Ages.

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