The best novels that turn history upside down

Trevor P. Kwain Author Of The Wynnman and the Black Azalea
By Trevor P. Kwain

Who am I?

History is nearly always relegated to heavy tomes and stuffy museum rooms. Learning about our past seems no longer important, and we keep promoting it in such uncool and unsexy ways. I feel any of our histories, with either a capital or lower case ‘h’, whether focused on big world events or local life, deserve to be told in a special kind of way, with that sprinkle of “magic realism” only fiction authors can deliver. Alternative history, historical fiction, magic fabulism, they are the sides of the same dice creating new, different stories inspired by our collective memory of things that have happened. These books touch this topic so dear to me.


I wrote...

The Wynnman and the Black Azalea

By Trevor P. Kwain,

Book cover of The Wynnman and the Black Azalea

What is my book about?

In 2015, when I decided to write a story that celebrated the history and surroundings of Wimbledon Village, in London, England, I wanted to use the power of fiction to revalue this lovely suburb. At 9b High Street in Wimbledon Village is where a curious Italian baker, Enrico LoTrova, sets shop to make his dreams come true. Introduced in the first book of the series, The Wynnman and the Black Azalea, his arrival to Wimbledon Village will set in motion a series of shocking events unearthing long-forgotten secrets from the buried depths of Wimbledon history. The Wynnman books blend fiction from different genres (mystery, fantasy, adventure, thriller) bound together with the real history of Wimbledon always at heart, its curious tales and location always at heart.

The books I picked & why

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Brave New World

By Aldous Huxley,

Book cover of Brave New World

Why this book?

Brave New World is a relatively well-known British novel, lazily classified as science-fiction. Instead, it is actually a dystopian novel that offers a view of the future that is not grim or tyrannical, like 1984, but passive and disheartening. Nobody is in pain in Brave New World, everyone is happy and acquiescing, enjoying the pleasure of the senses. I loved it for its satirical hints to Ford’s assembly line and for its prediction of what genetic engineering may do to society decades before the discovery of the DNA. It is a novel that creates a possible future from real historical events in Huxley’s lifetime and throws back to us the egoistic and trivial side of human nature we, in part, see today.

Brave New World

By Aldous Huxley,

Why should I read it?

12 authors picked Brave New World as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

**One of the BBC's 100 Novels That Shaped Our World**

EVERYONE BELONGS TO EVERYONE ELSE. Read the dystopian classic that inspired the hit Sky TV series.

'A masterpiece of speculation... As vibrant, fresh, and somehow shocking as it was when I first read it' Margaret Atwood, bestselling author of The Handmaid's Tale.

Welcome to New London. Everybody is happy here. Our perfect society achieved peace and stability through the prohibition of monogamy, privacy, money, family and history itself. Now everyone belongs.

You can be happy too. All you need to do is take your Soma pills.

Discover the brave new…


Fatherland

By Robert Harris,

Book cover of Fatherland

Why this book?

I love it when a book uses a relatively less popular genre to create a new world with new rules. Fatherland starts with the premise of alternative history (what if Hitler had won the war?) but never spends time explaining how this alternative 1964 works. Instead, he tells us a spy thriller story like any other and I love how the author subtly feeds us the perils of dictatorship, making us wonder if it had happened in reality. It is a subversive novel without being apocalyptic or fatalist, and most of all, the ending is a clear attack on those who deny the evils of totalitarianism in every shape or form.

Fatherland

By Robert Harris,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

_________________________
'The highest form of thriller . . . non-stop excitement' The Times

NOW AVAILABLE: THE SECOND SLEEP, ROBERT HARRIS'S LATEST NOVEL
_________________________

What if Hitler had won the war?

It is April 1964 and one week before Hitler's 75th birthday. Xavier March, a detective of the Kriminalpolizei, is called out to investigate the discovery of a dead body in a lake near Berlin's most prestigious suburb.

As March discovers the identity of the body, he uncovers signs of a conspiracy that could go to the very top of the German Reich. And, with the Gestapo just one step behind,…


Emperor: The Gates of Rome: A Novel of Julius Caesar

By Conn Iggulden,

Book cover of Emperor: The Gates of Rome: A Novel of Julius Caesar

Why this book?

Reliving the lives of two famous Romans in a new fictional light is what makes this five-book series a dazzling example of magical realism. The entire settings, that is Ancient Rome during the Republic, is real and has existed in the form it is presented. The characters, though, have taken on a more personal shape, independent from the historical image we know. Caesar and Brutus become larger-than-life characters, allowing more to be told about them, their feelings, their ambitions, and giving us a version of them we may never read in history books. We become closer to them, and try to understand them more as human beings engulfed by history rather than historical figures. It is an unparalleled humanisation of history through fiction.

Emperor: The Gates of Rome: A Novel of Julius Caesar

By Conn Iggulden,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The ultimate Rome story

From the spectacle of gladiatorial combat to the intrigue of the Senate, from the foreign wars that secure the power of the empire to the betrayals that threaten to tear it apart, this is the remarkable story of the man who would become the greatest Roman of them all: Julius Caesar.

In the city of Rome, a titanic power struggle is about to shake the Republic to its core. Citizen will fight citizen in a bloody conflict - and Julius Caesar, cutting his teeth in battle, will be in the thick of the action.

The first…


Time and Time Again

By Ben Elton,

Book cover of Time and Time Again

Why this book?

Here we enter the topic of time travel, a concept very dear to me from both a fictional, moral, and scientific point of view. Many novels have attempted to show how one change in the past could change our future. Elton’s novel struck me for its originality in picking a notorious historical event largely ignored by fiction when it comes to time travel and alternate history. The assassination of the Franz Ferdinand of Austria is used not just as the spark of World War I but as the start of the ideological and warmongering terror that would spread through Europe. The novel is an example of man’s fixation with trying to find one cause for all problems when maybe there are multiple causes going back years and years. The search is as vain as the main character’s attempts to change history.

Time and Time Again

By Ben Elton,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

It's the 1st of June 1914 and Hugh Stanton, ex-soldier and celebrated adventurer is quite literally the loneliest man on earth. No one he has ever known or loved has been born yet. Perhaps now they never will be.

Stanton knows that a great and terrible war is coming. A collective suicidal madness that will destroy European civilization and bring misery to millions in the century to come. He knows this because, for him, that century is already history.

Somehow he must change that history. He must prevent the war. A war that will begin with a single bullet. But…


The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

By Arthur Conan Doyle,

Book cover of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

Why this book?

Although not historical fiction per se, Sherlock Holmes is a strong product of his time. He embodies the revolutionary modernism of the late Victorian period and for this reason alone the famous fictional detective has become a real character himself embedded in history. The fact his home address half-exists in London makes him even more real. His stories were one of the sources to inspire me for the Wynnman. This idea of creating real characters in a real setting that share their way of thinking, their passions, their curious attitudes, without having to answer to the hard, crude boundaries of factual reality.

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

By Arthur Conan Doyle,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Is there a more enduring, legendary detective than Sherlock Holmes?
This quintessential collection includes many of the famous cases that made the legendary Sherlock Holmes one of fiction's most popular creations. Set against the foggy backdrop of London and the English countryside, each story unravels an exciting new mystery, from mistaken identity and ominous omens to counterfeit currency and jewellery theft. Including 'A Scandal in Bohemia', 'The Five Orange Pips', 'The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle', 'The Speckled Band' and 'The Final Problem', the collection follows Sherlock Holmes and John Watson on some of their most enjoyable cases.
First published…


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