The best books that transport you to another time and place until the last page

Charles Rosenberg Author Of The Day Lincoln Lost
By Charles Rosenberg

Who am I?

If I hadn’t become a lawyer, I might well have been a history teacher. I’m always reminded that history is just a story that's isn't yet complete. We're constantly uncovering things that alter our knowledge of the past, but we also become aware of just how many things could have gone differently. My first alternative history novel The Trial and Execution of the Traitor George Washington, was inspired by an 18th Century rumor that I stumbled upon: That the British army planned to kidnap George Washington and spirit him back to England to be tried for high treason. Whether that was true or not, it seemed a great plot device for an alternative history novel.

I wrote...

The Day Lincoln Lost

By Charles Rosenberg,

Book cover of The Day Lincoln Lost

What is my book about?

Abby Kelley Foster arrived in Springfield, Illinois, with the fate of the nation on her mind. Her fame as an abolitionist speaker had spread west and she knew that her first speech would make headlines. One of the residents reading those headlines would be none other than the likely next president of the United States. Abraham Lincoln, lawyer and presidential candidate, knew his chances of winning were good. All he had to do was stay above the fray of the slavery debate and appear the voice of reason until the people cast their votes.

As his rival President James Buchanan's term ends and his political power crumbles, he gathers his advisers at the White House to make one last move that might derail Lincoln’s campaign, steal the election and throw America into chaos.

The books I picked & why

Shepherd is readers supported. When you buy through links on our website, we may earn an affiliate commission. This is how we fund this project for readers and authors (learn more).

Shōgun

By James Clavell,

Book cover of Shōgun

Why this book?

Shōgun dropped me into the middle of 17th century Japan and allowed me to imagine what it would have been like to live, fight, and survive in a world vastly different than my own. It beautifully pairs the traditions of the past with the excitement of a modern-day action movie. While not always historically accurate, it inspired me to learn more about this time period and even travel to Japan myself.

Papillon

By Henri Charriere,

Book cover of Papillon

Why this book?

Papillon is a story about survival set in a penal colony in French Guiana. Imprisoned for a crime he didn’t commit, Papillon refuses to give up and turns his focus to his only option – escape. The writing is only matched by the action-packed story and inspiring feats of endurance and human spirit amidst the horrors of the prison system. I found this book particularly inspiring during the 2020 pandemic as my thoughts often turned to wanting to escape myself. 


The Vicar of Christ

By Walter F. Murphy,

Book cover of The Vicar of Christ

Why this book?

I am lucky to have lived a few lives – I am a lawyer, was a television consultant and analyst, and am now an author.  But that’s nothing compared to this book’s protagonist, a man who was a medal of honor winner, then a Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, then a monk, and finally the Pope. Creatively told and excellently written, this book inspires me to think that anything, any path is possible. 


Pachinko

By Min Jin Lee,

Book cover of Pachinko

Why this book?

Back to Japan. Pachinko tells the story of a Korean woman living in Japan who eschews what is expected of her and instead takes the rockier path. It reminded me of how often women have to push against the tide of tradition to forge a story not yet written for them by their fathers. Beautifully written, this book transported me to another world and had me living the inner workings of a life very different from my own.


The Day of the Jackal

By Frederick Forsyth,

Book cover of The Day of the Jackal

Why this book?

When you want a novel that has the trappings of an action movie but feels elevated and takes its time, this book is it. Inspired by real-life events the story lays out a fictional scenario that nevertheless feels highly plausible (much like my own alternative history novel, The Day Lincoln Lost). The book has been wildly popular since its publication and it’s easy to see why once you pick up this page-turner. 


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in France, exile, and Japan?

5,309 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about France, exile, and Japan.

France Explore 544 books about France
Exile Explore 9 books about exile
Japan Explore 299 books about Japan

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like The World Turned Upside Down: Medieval Japanese Society, Samurai William: The Englishman Who Opened Japan, and The Forgotten Highlander: An Incredible WWII Story of Survival in the Pacific if you like this list.