The best books to transport you to another era

Why am I passionate about this?

When I was young, my family accused me of being a “full contact reader.” My hands still bear the scars of books I’d read while slicing carrots, the knife edging ominously close to a curled knuckle. As an adult, I’ve managed to temper my more reckless tendencies – mainly thanks to audiobooks, which allow me to read whilst intersecting traffic or sautéing onions. To me, the best books are those you can’t bear to put down: the ones you read late into the night, unaware that the ticking clock is edging ever closer to dawn. Here’s a list of five of my favourites… preferably to be read without sharp or flammable objects in the vicinity. 


I wrote...

The Last Grand Duchess

By Bryn Turnbull,

Book cover of The Last Grand Duchess

What is my book about?

Grand Duchess Olga comes of age amid a shifting tide for the great dynasties of Europe. But even as unrest simmers in the capital, Olga lives within the confines of her sheltered life, hiding from the world on account of her brother Alexei’s secret affliction and rising controversy over Father Grigori Rasputin. Olga’s only escape from the seclusion of Alexander Palace comes from her aunt’s grand tea parties.
As troubling rumors about her parents trickle in from the front, Olga dares to hope that a budding romance might survive whatever the future may hold. But when tensions run high and supplies run low, the controversy over Rasputin grows into fiery protest, and calls for revolution threaten to end 300 years of Romanov rule.
Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Library of Legends

Bryn Turnbull Why did I love this book?

Chronicling the real-life evacuation of Chinese university students during the Battle of Nanking, Janie Chang makes history and magic come alive in The Library of Legends, perfectly tying together the trials and tribulations of a group of students evacuating Nanking with the myths and legends that they’re sworn to protect – and which protect them in turn over the dangerous 1,000-mile journey to safety. Quite simply, this book is magical.  

By Janie Chang,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"The Library of Legends is a gorgeous, poetic journey threaded with mist and magic about a group from a Chinese university who take to the road to escape the Japanese invasion of 1937 - only to discover that danger stalks them from within. Janie Chang pens pure enchantment!" -Kate Quinn, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of The Alice Network and The Huntress

From the author of Three Souls and Dragon Springs Road comes a captivating historical novel-the third in a loosely-connected trilogy-in which a young woman travels across China with a convoy of student refugees, fleeing the…


Book cover of The Social Graces

Bryn Turnbull Why did I love this book?

I’m a sucker for a gilded-age story, and Renee Rosen’s latest novel ticks all the boxes for a truly immersive read. Chronicling the high society rivalry between Caroline Astor and Alva Vanderbilt, The Social Graces takes readers into the truly baffling feud between old and new money, making you all but feel as though you’re at parties with the Four Hundred, backbiting and gossiping behind the fold of an open fan. 

By Renée Rosen,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The USA Today Bestseller!

Named one of 2021’s Most Anticipated Historical Novels by Oprah Daily ∙ SheReads ∙ Frolic ∙ BookReporter ∙ and more...

The author of Park Avenue Summer throws back the curtain on one of the most remarkable feuds in history: Alva Vanderbilt and the Mrs. Astor's notorious battle for control of New York society during the Gilded Age.

1876. In the glittering world of Manhattan's upper crust, women are valued by their pedigree, dowry, and, most importantly, connections. They have few rights and even less independence—what they do have is society. The more celebrated the hostess, the…


Book cover of Courage, My Love

Bryn Turnbull Why did I love this book?

I can’t tell you how many World War II novels I’ve read (and loved!) and Kristin Beck’s debut novel, Courage, My Love, stands out as an unforgettable tale of women in the Italian resistance. Showcasing the bravery and strength of those who fought against fascism, Beck’s impeccably-researched book drops readers into the harrowing and dangerous world of occupied Rome. Absolutely unputdownable.

By Kristin Beck,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

When the Nazi occupation of Rome begins, two courageous young women are plunged deep into the Italian Resistance to fight for their freedom in this captivating debut novel.

Rome, 1943

Lucia Colombo has had her doubts about fascism for years, but as a single mother in an increasingly unstable country, politics are for other people--she needs to focus on keeping herself and her son alive. Then the Italian government falls and the German occupation begins, and suddenly, Lucia finds that complacency is no longer an option. 

Francesca Gallo has always been aware of injustice and suffering. A polio survivor who…


Book cover of Bloomsbury Girls: A Novel

Bryn Turnbull Why did I love this book?

Pour yourself a cup of Ceylon and settle into your coziest armchair to transport yourself to Bloomsbury Books, the postwar London bookshop where three determined women are about to make history. Natalie Jenner’s upcoming novel is a quiet and triumphant celebration of literary sisterhood, peopled with real-life literary figures and memorable heroines. 

By Natalie Jenner,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"Delightful." --People, Pick of the Week

*Named a Most Anticipated Book of 2022 by Katie Couric Media, the CBC, the Globe and Mail, BookBub, POPSUGAR, SheReads, Women.com and more!*

Natalie Jenner, the internationally bestselling author of The Jane Austen Society, returns with a compelling and heartwarming story of post-war London, a century-old bookstore, and three women determined to find their way in a fast-changing world in Bloomsbury Girls.

Bloomsbury Books is an old-fashioned new and rare book store that has persisted and resisted change for a hundred years, run by men and guided by the general manager's unbreakable fifty-one rules.…


Book cover of Sisters in Arms

Bryn Turnbull Why did I love this book?

I so love a WWII book that opens my eyes to a lesser-known aspect of the fight against fascism, and Kaia Alderson’s debut novel gives readers an insight into the lives of the Six Triple Eight, the only all-Black female battalion that served in Europe. Immersing readers in the experiences of women fighting prejudice at home and abroad, Alderson’s novel is a fantastic read that will stay with you long after you’ve turned the final page. 

By Kaia Alderson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Kaia Alderson's debut historical fiction novel reveals the untold, true story of the Six Triple Eight, the only all-Black battalion of the Women's Army Corps, who made the dangerous voyage to Europe to ensure American servicemen received word from their loved ones during World War II.


Grace Steele and Eliza Jones may be from completely different backgrounds, but when it comes to the army, specifically the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC), they are both starting from the same level. Not only will they be among the first class of female officers the army has even seen, they are also the…


You might also like...

Crossing: A Chinese Family Railroad Novel

By Lisa Redfern,

Book cover of Crossing: A Chinese Family Railroad Novel

Lisa Redfern Author Of Phases of Gage: After the Accident Years

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author DNA genealogy researcher California history storyteller & media maker Cartophile Close-call kefir exploder A philomath with too many books

Lisa's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

Crossing is a vividly human re-imagining of the love, sacrifices, and accomplishments that two Chinese brothers - American Immigrants - experience as they travel to California to build the Transcontinental Railroad. 

Crossing: A Chinese Family Railroad Novel

By Lisa Redfern,

What is this book about?

Crossing is a vividly human re-imagining of the love, sacrifices, and history that laid tracks for the North America of today.

Leaving behind ancestral Chinese homelands and their family, brothers Yang and Lee face harrowing challenges as they join countless immigrants seeking a better life in the 1860s.

This story follows their remarkable journey across the ocean to San Francisco, then into the Sierra Nevada Mountains, where they'll labor to build the Transcontinental Railroad. Surrounded by California's new marvels, and carrying their cultural traditions in their hearts, Yang and Lee find themselves in precarious situations. Their passions, struggles, dreams, and…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in family secrets, Manhattan, and the German occupation of Europe?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about family secrets, Manhattan, and the German occupation of Europe.

Family Secrets Explore 176 books about family secrets
Manhattan Explore 123 books about Manhattan
The German Occupation Of Europe Explore 69 books about the German occupation of Europe