100 books like Once

By Morris Gleitzman,

Here are 100 books that Once fans have personally recommended if you like Once. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of The Bronze Horseman

Emma Lombard Author Of Discerning Grace

From my list on unforgettable characters who stay with you.

Who am I?

I’ve been described as ‘the Energizer bunny,’ so it’s no surprise that I’m drawn to colorful and passionate fictional characters—especially historical ones who have not only life’s circumstances to deal with but societal limitations too. My personality is such that if I’m told I can’t achieve something, I grit my teeth and say, ‘Watch me!’ So, it’s only natural that I draw on this sheer bloody-mindedness to breathe life into my own historical fiction ensembles. Creating characters who are as limp as wet lettuces is one of my biggest challenges. I want everyone to have gumption, but I also understand that good balance in a story is important.

Emma's book list on unforgettable characters who stay with you

Emma Lombard Why did Emma love this book?

A toast to Tatiana and Alexander! *throws back a shot of vodka*

Compounded by Simons’ exquisitely detailed storytelling, which waxes lyrical about the siege of Leningrad during the summer of 1941, these lovebirds from The Bronze Horseman sit high on my list of unforgettable historical fiction characters.

The superb languor of Alexander’s courtship with Tatiana during a time of terrible hardship helped me overlook both of their faults, and become wholly invested in them as a couple.

He is unrelenting in his desire to take care of Tatiana and her family, and while she is young and at times incredibly naïve, she is also brilliantly resilient.

The character I love to hate: Dasha. Ugh! How can a sister be so cruel?

Boy, did my emotions run the gauntlet with this one!

By Paullina Simons,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A magnificent epic of love, war and Russia from the international bestselling author of TULLY and ROAD TO PARADISE

Leningrad 1941: the white nights of summer illuminate a city of fallen grandeur whose palaces and avenues speak of a different age, when Leningrad was known as St Petersburg.

Two sisters, Tatiana and Dasha, share the same bed, living in one room with their brother and parents.

The routine of their hard impoverished life is shattered on 22 June 1941 when Hitler invades Russia. For the Metanov family, for Leningrad and particularly for Tatiana, life will never be the same again.…


Book cover of Outlander

Lena Gibson Author Of Switching Tracks: Out of the Trash

From my list on books that combine love, action, and speculative elements.

Who am I?

I’ve always been an avid reader and loved different genres from the beginning. I started out reading historical fiction as a child, including the Little House books, Anne of Green Gables, and Where the Red Fern Grows. I soon discovered that science fiction and fantasy did the same thing, transporting me to different words and places instead of times. Many of my favorite books have elements of these as well as action, tension, thrills, and romance. These things transcend genre, and by reading books that combine genres, I find some of the most interesting and original stories. 

Lena's book list on books that combine love, action, and speculative elements

Lena Gibson Why did Lena love this book?

This amazing story is one that belongs in multiple sections of any bookstore. Where would you shelve a historical fiction, action-adventure, time-travel, romance? Anywhere you want. This is the quintessential genre combination series, perhaps the best of all time.

I discovered Outlander in 1998 when the fourth book in the series was published. I bought it on a whim, liking the sound of historical fiction/time travel. The book immediately transported me along with Claire into the 1700s, where I rooted for her to fall in love with Jamie Fraser and stay with him.

There is so much love, lust, heartbreak, and action in this story I have to read it again every few years. 

By Diana Gabaldon,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • The first book in Diana Gabaldon’s acclaimed Outlander saga, the basis for the Starz original series.

One of the top ten best-loved novels in America, as seen on PBS’s The Great American Read!
 
Unrivaled storytelling. Unforgettable characters. Rich historical detail. These are the hallmarks of Diana Gabaldon’s work. Her New York Times bestselling Outlander novels have earned the praise of critics and captured the hearts of millions of fans. Here is the story that started it all, introducing two remarkable characters, Claire Beauchamp Randall and Jamie Fraser, in a spellbinding novel of passion and…


Book cover of The Shakespeare Stealer

Nancy McDonald Author Of One Boy's War

From my list on historical middle grade exceptional child heroes.

Who am I?

A longtime student of history, particularly WW2 and the Cold War, my interest was personally piqued when I started to discover more about how my husband’s family narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo – and certain death in a concentration camp. I’m driven to write novels set in this era for middle grade kids – featuring brave young heroes faced with moral dilemmas– so they can learn about the horrors of antisemitism, tyrants, and war because “those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.”

Nancy's book list on historical middle grade exceptional child heroes

Nancy McDonald Why did Nancy love this book?

Widge is an orphan in Elizabethan England, where orphans are sadly too common. But Widge is unusual. He has a unique talent which he learned from his first master: he knows a secret kind of shorthand. Sold to a dastardly villain who wants to use that talent to steal Shakespeare’s newest play, Widge finds himself in London apprenticing with the theatre company. Will he steal the play or risk his life to be loyal to the only “family” he’s ever known? Inspired by Shakespeare’s Lord Chamberlain's Men – and a very real problem of plays being stolen – there’s plenty of action, including swashbuckling swordplay. From the first page, I found myself rooting for Widge, hoping he would make the right choice and live to become an actor in the company.

By Gary Blackwood,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Shakespeare Stealer as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 10, 11, 12, and 13.

What is this book about?

A delightful adveture full of humor and heart set in Elizabethan England!

Widge is an orphan with a rare talent for shorthand. His fearsome master has just one demand: steal Shakespeare's play "Hamlet"--or else. Widge has no choice but to follow orders, so he works his way into the heart of the Globe Theatre, where Shakespeare's players perform. As full of twists and turns as a London alleyway, this entertaining novel is rich in period details, colorful characters, villainy, and drama.

* "A fast-moving historical novel that introduces an important era with casual familiarity." --School Library Journal, starred review

"Readers…


Book cover of The Power of One

Micki R. Pettit Author Of A Kiss for Maggie Moore

From my list on heart-tugging coming-of-age for aging readers.

Who am I?

I'm not Maggie, my title character, but we share a smart mouth, and it has put me in the dog house more than once. Coming-of-age stories appeal to my “Will-I-ever-grow-up?” nature. At any given moment you’re as old as you’ve ever been, which is why an adolescent, lost in unfolding maturity, seldom has the sense of a zygote—nor does a twenty-something, thirty-something, and on up the line (sixty-six and counting). A backward glance is your best bet at gleaning pearls of wisdom. Passing from one life-phase into another is awkward at best. Its navigation, something humans share regardless of time or place, lends to humor. Oh, there’s heartache. Often suffering. But in laughter lies hope.

Micki's book list on heart-tugging coming-of-age for aging readers

Micki R. Pettit Why did Micki love this book?

Never would I expect to fall in love with a book whose anchor is boxing, but that’s exactly what happened when I read The Power of One. Possibly because Peekay—an abandoned boy of English heritage growing up in South Africa after the Boer War and during the rise of Nazi Germany—is so damn loveable. Possibly because the author is adept at weaving audacious characters, cultural clash, and mysticism into a delightful yet thought-provoking yarn. The Power of One had me at chapter one when Peekay’s Zulu nanny, a medicine man, and a chicken named Granpa Chook cure his “night water.” It takes some fancy footwork for Peekay to go from bed-wetter to welterweight champion of the world, and I was in the ring with him every step of the way.

By Bryce Courtenay,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked The Power of One as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 12, 13, 14, and 15.

What is this book about?

“The Power of One has everything: suspense, the exotic, violence; mysticism, psychology and magic; schoolboy adventures, drama.”
–The New York Times

“Unabashedly uplifting . . . asserts forcefully what all of us would like to believe: that the individual, armed with the spirit of independence–‘the power of one’–can prevail.”
–Cleveland Plain Dealer

In 1939, as Hitler casts his enormous, cruel shadow across the world, the seeds of apartheid take root in South Africa. There, a boy called Peekay is born. His childhood is marked by humiliation and abandonment, yet he vows to survive and conceives heroic dreams–which are nothing compared…


Book cover of Lifeboat 12

Nancy McDonald Author Of One Boy's War

From my list on historical middle grade exceptional child heroes.

Who am I?

A longtime student of history, particularly WW2 and the Cold War, my interest was personally piqued when I started to discover more about how my husband’s family narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo – and certain death in a concentration camp. I’m driven to write novels set in this era for middle grade kids – featuring brave young heroes faced with moral dilemmas– so they can learn about the horrors of antisemitism, tyrants, and war because “those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.”

Nancy's book list on historical middle grade exceptional child heroes

Nancy McDonald Why did Nancy love this book?

A page-turning, true-life adventure! The story is told in first-person verse by 13-year-old Ken Sparks whose parents send him from England to Canada at the start of the Blitz as part of the British government’s ill-fated child evacuee program. Five days into the crossing, his ship, the SS Benares, is torpedoed by a German U-Boat, and as it sinks fast, Ken finds himself in a lifeboat with five other boys fighting for their lives. I read this book and loved it from page one. Although they come from very different backgrounds, Ken and Käfer share endearing qualities: pluck, resourcefulness, and a child’s optimistic view of the world. All of which stand them in good stead.

By Susan Hood,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Lifeboat 12 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 8, 9, 10, and 11.

What is this book about?

"This page-turning true-life adventure is filled with rich and riveting details and a timeless understanding of the things that matter most."-Dashka Slater, author of The 57 Bus
"Brilliantly told in verse, readers will love Ken Sparks." -Patricia Reilly Giff, two-time Newbery Honor winner
"Lyrical, terrifying, and even at times funny. A richly detailed account of a little-known event in World War II." -Kirkus Reviews
"Middle grade Titanic fans, here's your next read." -BCCB
"An edge-of-your seat survival tale." -School Library Journal (starred review)

A Junior Library Guild Selection
The 2019 Golden Kite Middle Grade Fiction Award Winner
A 2019 ALSC…


Book cover of Camp X

Nancy McDonald Author Of One Boy's War

From my list on historical middle grade exceptional child heroes.

Who am I?

A longtime student of history, particularly WW2 and the Cold War, my interest was personally piqued when I started to discover more about how my husband’s family narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo – and certain death in a concentration camp. I’m driven to write novels set in this era for middle grade kids – featuring brave young heroes faced with moral dilemmas– so they can learn about the horrors of antisemitism, tyrants, and war because “those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.”

Nancy's book list on historical middle grade exceptional child heroes

Nancy McDonald Why did Nancy love this book?

It’s summer 1943 and brothers George and Jack Braun have moved to Whitby, Ontario where their mother has a job in a munitions factory while their father is off fighting the Nazis. Bored, they’re playing make-believe war games one day when they stumble on a highly secret training school for spies. When they learn of a German plan to invade it, they're determined to thwart it – whatever it takes. Inspired by the real Camp X, it’s an entertaining read – I like the relationship between the brothers, it rings true – and, in a nice touch, there’s a cameo appearance by a real-life person, in this case, spymaster William Stephenson, best known as the inspiration for James Bond! 

By Eric Walters,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Camp X as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 10, 11, 12, and 13.

What is this book about?

It's 1943, and nearly-12-year-old George and his older brother Jack are spending a restless wartime summer in Whitby, Ontario, where their mom is working at a munitions plant while their dad is off fighting the Germans. One afternoon, the boys stumble across Canada's top-secret spy camp-and so begins an exciting and terrifying adventure as George and Jack get caught up in the covert activities of Camp X.

Fascinated by Camp X and its secrets, the boys begin to suspect local townspeople of being spies. Is the police chief keeping tabs on people for enemy purposes? Is Jack's boss at the…


Book cover of A Night Divided

A.L. Sowards Author Of A Waltz with Traitors

From my list on immersing you in the struggle for freedom.

Who am I?

I have always loved history—in both fiction and nonfiction forms. The events from history that tend to stick with me the most are stories of individuals or groups who face enormous odds in their quest to live a life of freedom. History is full of oppression, tyranny, and tragedy, but it’s also full of individuals and groups that have stood against evil, even when it’s dangerous or difficult or unlikely to succeed. Immersing myself in those stories is one of the ways I honor those who have struggled and sacrificed.

A.L.'s book list on immersing you in the struggle for freedom

A.L. Sowards Why did A.L. love this book?

When the Berlin Wall goes up, Gerta’s family is divided.

Her father and one brother are in the west. Gerta, her mother, and her brother Fritz are in the east. Four years later, the Statsi has their eye on Gerta’s family, Fritz is due to be drafted, and then Gerta catches sight of her father on the other side of the wall, signaling something about digging.

If they’re ever going to be free, they must do something daring, and do it soon. Though written for young readers, the excellent pacing, realistic characters, and powerful themes about freedom and family make this book a great read for all ages. 

By Jennifer A. Nielsen,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked A Night Divided as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 8, 9, 10, and 11.

What is this book about?

A stunning thriller from NYT bestselling author Jennifer A. Nielsen about a girl who must escape to freedom after the Berlin Wall divides her family between east and west.

A Night Divided joins the Scholastic Gold line, which features award-winning and beloved novels. Includes exclusive bonus content!With the rise of the Berlin Wall, Gerta finds her family suddenly divided. She, her mother, and her brother Fritz live on the eastern side, controlled by the Soviets. Her father and middle brother, who had gone west in search of work, cannot return home. Gerta knows it is dangerous to watch the wall,…


Book cover of The Burning Shore

Emma Lombard Author Of Discerning Grace

From my list on unforgettable characters who stay with you.

Who am I?

I’ve been described as ‘the Energizer bunny,’ so it’s no surprise that I’m drawn to colorful and passionate fictional characters—especially historical ones who have not only life’s circumstances to deal with but societal limitations too. My personality is such that if I’m told I can’t achieve something, I grit my teeth and say, ‘Watch me!’ So, it’s only natural that I draw on this sheer bloody-mindedness to breathe life into my own historical fiction ensembles. Creating characters who are as limp as wet lettuces is one of my biggest challenges. I want everyone to have gumption, but I also understand that good balance in a story is important.

Emma's book list on unforgettable characters who stay with you

Emma Lombard Why did Emma love this book?

With immersive descriptions of lush French landscapes against the backdrop of WWI to skin-blistering scenes in the African Kalahari Desert, the settings are characters themselves. Smith’s writing is like a love letter to the Africa of yesteryear.

What follows is a tale of all-consuming love, wincing brutality, and Smith’s signature romanticized adventure. Centaine de Thiry—my first literary heroine. She survives incredible odds against mother nature, but also holds her own in the even harsher world designed by men. She is also perfectly flawed. Her misjudgment even makes me, her greatest admirer, gasp and do a double take—every read.

And don’t even get me started on that narrow-minded, scheming wretch, Manfred de la Ray!

Romantic adventure at its finest!

By Wilbur Smith,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'Centaine screamed and drove the point of her stave down into the jaws with all her strength. She felt the sharpened end bite into the soft pink mucous membrane in the back of its throat, saw the spurt of scarlet blood, and then the lion locked its jaws on the stave and with a toss of its flying mane ripped it out of her hands and sent it windmilling out and down to hit the earth below.'

The passionate love of a beautiful French aristocrat for a courageous South African aviator is begun and extinguished in the blazing skies of…


Book cover of Orphan Island

Jenny Hubbard Author Of And We Stay

From my list on girls on islands.

Who am I?

Good question. I’ve always found equilibrium in quiet, unpopulated spaces—woods, gardens, and, of course, books. Now, at 56, even though I am happily married and close to friends and family I love, I seek the solitude that nurtured me in childhood. I wonder why. Did the pandemic nudge me to embrace my most essential self? This is why I chose the theme “Girls on Islands” because even if it’s not our natural state, don’t we all experience isolation? Yet, as John Donne reminds us, no girl is an island; she is “a piece of the continent, a part of the main.” The following works of fiction embody this duality.

Jenny's book list on girls on islands

Jenny Hubbard Why did Jenny love this book?

Long-listed for the National Book Award in 2017, this fable may have been written for kids, but it has haunted me for four years. A green wooden boat delivers one child per year to a magical, adult-free island. But the boat does not depart empty; an older child must climb aboard. This elegant allegory invites readers of any age to contemplate what childhood is and what it means to have to leave it behind.

By Laurel Snyder,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Orphan Island as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 8, 9, 10, and 11.

What is this book about?

A National Book Award Longlist title!

"A wondrous book, wise and wild and deeply true." —Kelly Barnhill, Newbery Medal-winning author of The Girl Who Drank the Moon

"This is one of those books that haunts you long after you read it. Thought-provoking and magical." —Rick Riordan, author of the Percy Jackson series

In the tradition of modern-day classics like Sara Pennypacker's Pax and Lois Lowry's The Giver comes a deep, compelling, heartbreaking, and completely one-of-a-kind novel about nine children who live on a mysterious island.

On the island, everything is perfect. The sun rises in a sky filled with dancing…


Book cover of The Culling

B.F. Moorman-Fuzi Author Of Beautiful Night

From my list on sending you into an action-packed adventure.

Who am I?

In order to read, I need fast-paced action, adventure, compelling characters with depthful backstories and motives, and a way of challenging and commentating on the most controversial morals of the present day. To write, I need the exact same thing. Every world I create is filled with action in every chapter, characters with invincible will-strength, and situations that bend the very borders of moral thinking.

B.F.'s book list on sending you into an action-packed adventure

B.F. Moorman-Fuzi Why did B.F. love this book?

The Culling, The Sowing, and The Raising by Steven Dos Santos provides one of the most compelling stories of conflicting choices I have ever encountered. My strongest love for this story is the main protagonist, Lucky, and his stoicism through the hardships that he is forced to endure. This story taught me to always search for the best option in life, and that there is always a choice, even when it seems that there isn’t. From this story, I will always take with me the ability to love fiercely and do what I must for that love.

By Steven dos Santos,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Recruitment Day is here...if you fail, a loved one will die For Lucian “Lucky” Spark, Recruitment Day means the Establishment, a totalitarian government, will force him to become one of five Recruits competing to join the ruthless Imposer task force. Each Recruit participates in increasingly difficult and violent military training for a chance to advance to the next level. Those who fail must choose an “Incentive”—a family member—to be brutally killed. If Lucky fails, he’ll have to choose death for his only living relative: Cole, his four-year-old brother. Lucky will do everything he can to keep his brother alive, even…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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