The Spanish philosopher George Santayana once said: “Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it.” That’s a good reason to read history books – they teach us about the past! And under the umbrella of history books fall historical fiction books. Just because they’re fiction doesn’t mean they don’t contain information about real times, places, and events. Historical fiction can be a rich and exciting way to learn about history. That’s why history and fiction fans should check out this list of ten best historical fiction books of 2022!
Historical fiction doesn’t have to mean a book is set decades ago. I am painfully aware that books set in my childhood are now considered historical fiction. (Just like I listen to songs I loved in high school on the oldies station these days. Ouch.) To a 20-year-old, a book set in the 1980s is definitely historical fiction, since he isn’t has experienced . On this list you will find amazing historical novels set at the dawn of the AIDS crisis, the American Civil War, the Jazz Age and more. Whether you’re 20 or 120, there are books on this list everyone will love!
Beautiful Little Fools by Jillian Cantor
Do you love the great gatsby? I have to admit I don’t. But it hasn’t stopped me from loving this retelling in which — brace yourself for century-old spoilers — the murder of Jay Gatsby is still an open investigation. When a diamond hairpin is found at the scene of a murder/suicide, the case may not be as simple as it seems. It’s up to a detective to uncover the truth from his three prime suspects: Daisy Buchanan, her boyfriend Jordan Baker, and Catherine McCoy, sister of the late Myrtle Wilson.
Confidence by Hernan Diaz
This one made a lot of the big lists at the end of the year. Diaz’s last book, In the Distance, was a Pulitzer finalist, and he followed it up with the story of a Wall Street tycoon and his wife in the 1920s. Well, actually, it’s the real couple’s story that this couple is based on. But wait, it’s also a reminder. And even more. Are you confused? Don’t be: just read the book. Diaz’s tale of wealth, greed and privilege is a masterpiece.
Woman of Light by Kali Fajardo-Anstine
Three years ago, Fajardo-Anstine stunned readers with her first collection of stories, Sabrina & Corina, which was a National Book Award finalist. This year, she surprised readers with her debut novel about five generations of an indigenous Chicano family in the American West. It’s a compelling read about the power of stories and who tells them.
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Booth by Karen Joy Fowler
Fowler’s ambitious novel successfully captures the story of a complicated family at a complicated time. Booth covers the family history of John Wilkes Booth, the assassin of Abraham Lincoln. Many people don’t know that his father was one of the most famous Shakespearean actors of his time. And his parents’ marriage in England and moving to America was a scandal long before JWB came along.
Peach Blossom Spring by Melissa Fu
This excellent debut novel is about three generations of a Chinese family. It ranges from 1938 China, when the Japanese army is approaching and a young mother has to make a difficult decision, to the present, when a daughter wants to know about her origins from her father, who refuses to speak. It is a powerful story about family, war and history.
They’ll Love You by Meg Howrey
This is a breathtaking, heartbreaking book about dance, family and forgiveness. When Carlisle Martin receives the news that her father is dying, she is conflicted. After all, she hasn’t spoken to him in almost 20 years. As the book unfolds, we learn about Carlisle’s childhood and her time visiting her father and his partner in NYC, beginning in the early 1980’s during the AIDS crisis. By becoming a dancer like herself, she hopes to earn a permanent place in their home, but betrayal will destroy their relationship.
Everywhere You Run by Wanda M. Morris
One of the best crime novels of the year is also historical fiction! It’s the story of Violet and Marigold Richards in the summer of 1964 in Mississippi. Violet has always been the wild sister, while Marigold was a “good girl”. When Violet kills the white man who attacked her, she flees her town, knowing there will be no justice for her as a black woman. Marigold already has her own problems: she just found out she’s pregnant, which is scandalous for an unmarried woman at this time. But Violet’s actions also force Marigold to flee to avoid being found guilty by association. Will they be able to stay one step ahead of the law and find peace in their new lives?
Marriage portrait of Maggie O’Farrell
At this point, it’s safe to say that Maggie O’Farrell is an expert at writing historical novels. Instructions for a Heatwave was a great family drama about a family in Ireland in the hot July of 1976. Her latest novel, Hamnet, about Shakespeare, his wife and their son, won the Booker Prize in 2021. And this year she takes readers on a fascinating journey back to 1550s Florence to tell the story of the young Duchess Lucrezia de’ Medici and her very brief life and death.
The Whalebone Theater by Joanna Quinn
This is a wildly imaginative story about a whale carcass that washes ashore in a small village on the English Channel. A young orphan and several members of her household turn it into a theater and spend hours and hours escaping the reality of life. But years later, World War II makes it impossible to escape danger when two of the children become secret agents.
Four Treasures of Heaven by Jenny Tinghui Zhang
Finally, the fourth incredible debut novel on this list is set in the American West in the 1880s. Daiyu is a young woman kidnapped from China and brought to America. As Daiyu moves from place to place trying to make her own life and find peace, anti-Chinese sentiment spreads across the country and she faces even greater dangers. It’s a beautiful, annoying novel about historical injustices that are often left out of the history books.
For more suggestions of books to read if you love historical fiction, see Underrated Historical Novels, 50 Best Historical Fiction Books, and Some of the Most Popular Historical Fiction of 2022.