The best historical fiction to hear forgotten voices of resistance

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve devoured historical fiction ever since that first Johnny Tremain paperback, but I started writing historical fiction after a Master’s in International Economics helped me to better understand world events. What gives those historical events relevance today are the stories we tell about the negotiation of power. I am all for revisiting the power dynamic to win better quality of life for those most marginalized. I’ve been digging into labor history for my latest work in progress and it is fascinating and inspiring. I may write about 19th-century Scottish peasants and Chicago printers, but I also want today’s marginalized populations to see their struggles similarly celebrated.


I wrote...

The Keening

By Margaret Pinard,

Book cover of The Keening

What is my book about?

In 1822, the MacLean family is about to be hit with a tidal wave of economic, social, and political hardship. From their croft in western Scotland, they struggle to stay rooted and stay together, but Fate may have other ideas. The Keening is the story of their journey from home to the New World, and the drama that each of the MacLeans undergoes in adjusting to the new reality.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Women of the Copper Country

Margaret Pinard Why did I love this book?

This book blasted a crater in my chest when I read it last year. A complete surprise, as who among us has heard of the Copper Country Strike of 1913-14? Yet it was the first unionized strike in the region, and had a complicated effect on Michigan, the mining industry, and the lives of those who stood up to the rich mine owners. This book gives us such intimate details of the cost of standing up for one’s dignity and safe working conditions that it felt as important as today’s news. From the woman at the heart of the novel to the network of labor unions she pulled together, to the tragedies experienced by this small town, I loved it and cherished the inspiration for today’s fights.

By Mary Doria Russell,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Women of the Copper Country as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From the bestselling and award-winning author of The Sparrow comes “historical fiction that feels uncomfortably relevant today” (Kirkus Reviews) about “America’s Joan of Arc”—the courageous woman who started a rebellion by leading a strike against the largest copper mining company in the world.

In July 1913, twenty-five-year-old Annie Clements has seen enough of the world to know that it’s unfair. She’s spent her whole life in the mining town of Calumet, Michigan, where men risk their lives for meager salaries—and have barely enough to put food on the table for their families. The women labor in the houses of the…


Book cover of The Weight of Ink

Margaret Pinard Why did I love this book?

Talk about your complex characters…this is a dual timeline historical fiction, with one story following a Jewish girl in 1660s London and the other following a prickly older woman in the modern-day city. Ester struggles to find her own agency against her family’s expectations and society’s strictures, while Helen fights to retain hers against colleagues in academia wanting her to retire and itching to steal her research turf, which includes a certain 1660s London neighborhood… With themes of desire, ambition, friendship, and dignity, this novel won its way into my heart with its characters’ burning desire to be seen and make a difference in the world.

By Rachel Kadish,

Why should I read it?

9 authors picked The Weight of Ink as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

WINNER OF A NATIONAL JEWISH BOOK AWARD A USA TODAY BESTSELLER "A gifted writer, astonishingly adept at nuance, narration, and the politics of passion."-Toni Morrison Set in London of the 1660s and of the early twenty-first century, The Weight of Ink is the interwoven tale of two women of remarkable intellect: Ester Velasquez, an emigrant from Amsterdam who is permitted to scribe for a blind rabbi, just before the plague hits the city; and Helen Watt, an ailing historian with a love of Jewish history. As the novel opens, Helen has been summoned by a former student to view a…


Book cover of Messenger of Truth

Margaret Pinard Why did I love this book?

This is a historical mystery, but so much more than a whodunit. It’s fourth in the series, but can be read alone if you don’t mind spoiling the earlier books a bit. It’s a stand-out to me because it’s about raising one’s voice against inhumanity, even when it seems commonplace, or necessary.

Maisie is an intuitive detective and as such, has to fight against conventional police interference, client skepticism, and male smugness. But what she’s fighting for is the right outcome for everyone concerned, including the victim of the crime. This novel focuses on an artist ex-soldier of WWI who was using his voice to criticize the powers within government. I just love how Maisie deliberately wields her compassion in order to see the full picture of a case.

By Jacqueline Winspear,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

London, 1931. Nick Bassington-Hope, veteran of the Great War and controversial artist, is suddenly found dead. His death from a fall, the night before a much-anticipated exhibition of his work, is recorded as 'accidental'. But his sister is not convinced.

Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, Georgina Bassington-Hope believes her brother was murdered, and she turns to Maisie Dobbs for help. Maisie's investigation takes her from the desolate beaches of Kent to the dark underbelly of London's art world. Still fragile after her war-related breakdown, Maisie's immersion in her work could lead her to lose more than she bargained for,…


Book cover of Vera

Margaret Pinard Why did I love this book?

More tumultuous times! This book takes us deep into the roaring corruption of seedy San Francisco as the 1906 earthquake approaches, tears apart neatly balanced lives, and leaves everyone to fashion new modes of being with the scraps. I loved the details of the young woman protagonist making hard choices to keep those she loves close to her, even if she doesn’t understand them, and let go of those she loved, even as she learns from the experience.

Just a beautiful, thrilling adventure rife with diverse characters, historical detail, and larger than life personalities.

By Carol Edgarian,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

New York Times bestselling author Carol Edgarian delivers “an all-encompassing and enthralling” (Oprah Daily) novel featuring an unforgettable heroine coming of age in the aftermath of catastrophe, and her quest for love and reinvention.

Meet Vera Johnson, fifteen-year-old illegitimate daughter of Rose, notorious proprietor of San Francisco’s most legendary bordello. Vera has grown up straddling two worlds—the madam’s alluring sphere, replete with tickets to the opera, surly henchmen, and scant morality, and the quiet domestic life of the family paid to raise her.

On the morning of the great quake, Vera’s worlds collide. As the city burns and looters vie…


Book cover of Out Front the Following Sea

Margaret Pinard Why did I love this book?

Pre-revolution America is not usually my era for historical fiction but when I tell you that this novel grabs you with visceral detail, I mean it. Smells, textures, glares—everything is so vividly told! The resistance in this novel is really simple survival, as the whole New England village seems to have it in for our heroine Ruth. But she stubbornly holds out, trying to forge a path forward for herself. We get treated to some local politics, some ship lore, run-ins with Indigenous Nations (some good, some bad) and local brigands, and always anchored in Ruth’s evolving notions of right and wrong. The ending was also delicious. Think Last of the Mohicans meets Cold Mountain, but with a surprise for our heroine.

By Leah Angstman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Out Front the Following Sea as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Out Front the Following Sea is a historical epic of one woman’s survival in a time when the wilderness is still wild, heresy is publicly punishable, and being independent is worse than scorned—it is a death sentence. At the onset of King William’s War between French and English settlers in 1689 New England, Ruth Miner is accused of witchcraft for the murder of her parents and must flee the brutality of her town. She stows away on the ship of the only other person who knows her innocence: an audacious sailor—Owen—bound to her by years of attraction, friendship, and shared…


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The Oracle of Spring Garden Road

By Norrin M. Ripsman,

Book cover of The Oracle of Spring Garden Road

Norrin M. Ripsman Author Of The Oracle of Spring Garden Road

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Too often, I find that novelists force the endings of their books in ways that aren’t true to their characters, the stories, or their settings. Often, they do so to provide the Hollywood ending that many readers crave. That always leaves me cold. I love novels whose characters are complex, human, and believable and interact with their setting and the story in ways that do not stretch credulity. This is how I try to approach my own writing and was foremost in my mind as I set out to write my own book.

Norrin's book list on novels that nail the endings

What is my book about?

The Oracle of Spring Garden Road explores the life and singular worldview of “Crazy Eddie,” a brilliant, highly-educated homeless man who panhandles in front of a downtown bank in a coastal town.

Eddie is a local enigma. Who is he? Where did he come from? What brought him to a life on the streets? A dizzying ride between past and present, the novel unravels these mysteries, just as Eddie has decided to return to society after two decades on the streets, with the help of Jane, a woman whose intelligence and integrity rival his own. Will he succeed, or is…

The Oracle of Spring Garden Road

By Norrin M. Ripsman,

What is this book about?

“Crazy Eddie” is a homeless man who inhabits two squares of pavement in front of a bank in downtown Halifax, Nova Scotia. In this makeshift office, he panhandles and dispenses his peerless wisdom. Well-educated, fiercely intelligent with a passionate interest in philosophy and a profound love of nature, Eddie is an enigma for the locals. Who is he? Where did he come from? What brought him to a life on the streets? Though rumors abound, none capture the unique worldview and singular character that led him to withdraw from the perfidy and corruption of human beings. Just as Eddie has…


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