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Best Historical Fiction Novels for Book Clubs to Read Now

From classics to contemporary hits, this diverse selection of 10 historical fiction books is a crowd-pleasing menu for any book club. Served up with reading discussion guides on the side.
Aviv Gijsbers van Wijk •
Mar 15th, 2024

One of the biggest joys of a book club is sharing the experience of discovering an amazing book together, and comparing notes on each reader's unique perspective and emotional reactions. But coming up with what to read, and what to discuss, can be daunting.

From multigenerational family sagas to coming-of-age stories set in an exciting historical backdrop, historical fiction is an especially accessible choice for getting book clubs to fire up discussion. We've rounded up some of the best historical fiction for book clubs to read right now. With each selection, we link to a reading guide that features facts, discussion questions, and even some illustrations, that will help spark discussion and deepen connections at your next book club meet-up.

From The Mayor of Maxwell Street, a debut novel set in the 1920s during Prohibition, to the long-lasting impact of Toni Morrison's mesmerizing and painful Beloved, you'll surely find something to spark conversation.

The Mayor of Maxwell Street by Avery Cunningham

If you're looking for an escape to the smoke and glamour of the Jazz Age

This debut novel of intrigue and class warfare is set against the glamorous, gritty background of 1920s Chicago. Nelly Sawyer, the daughter of the "wealthiest Negro in America," is catapulted to the heights of Black society by her family's affluence. But Nelly aspires to more than debutante life, especially after the death of her only brother–she's secretly an undercover journalist. When she enlists the help of a biracial man named Jay to cover a dangerous crime syndicate, Nelly enters a whole new world.

>> Reading guide available on NetGalley

Beloved by Toni Morrison

If you're ready to read or reread an astonishing American classic that reckons with the haunting legacy of slavery

In Morrison’s 1987 novel, no one has entered 124 Bluestone Lane except its residents. Outside Cincinnati, Ohio, Sethe, an escaped slave, her daughter Denver, and Baby Suggs, Sethe’s mother-in-law, live together, haunted by a mysterious presence in the house that no one dares name. One day, Paul D, a friend from Sethe’s time in bondage, arrives and offers to dispel the ghost. Lyrical, moving, and unforgettable, Beloved is a book, and a story, that leaves no one unchanged.

>> Reading guide available from the publisher

Weyward by Emilie Hart

If you are entranced by witchcraft and magic sprinkled through multiple timelines

In 2019, Kate leaves an abusive partner in London for the safety of a ramshackle cottage left to her by her great-aunt. There, she discovers bones that may be linked to witch trials in the 17th century. In 1619, Altha is waiting trial for using witchcraft to murder a farmer in her town. And in 1942, Violet tries to educate herself and learn about her deceased mother, rumored to have gone mad, in a crumbling estate. A magical, moving story of resilience, perfect for fans of Kate Morton.

>> Reading guide available from the publisher

Hamnet by Maggie O'Farrell

If you get sucked in by stories of marriage, grief and passion set in the Shakespearean era

It's 1580. The Black Death tears across England. The end of days is near, they say. A young Latin tutor meets an extaordinary young woman named Agnes, who is known through the countryside as a healer with plants and potions. When she and her husband settle in Stratford-upon-Avon, her husband's career on the stage begins to take off as their young son becomes suddenly ill.

>> Reading guide available from the publisher

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

If you're ready for a page-turning generational tale of family, the power of our roots, and the profound impact of race on our identities

The Vignes twins are identical. Growing up in a small, Southern Black community rife with colorism, they run away together at 16. But from there, their identical lives thus far take a turn. Many years later, one sister lives with her Black daughter in the same town she sought to flee. The other secretly passes for a White woman amidst the California upper class. As the next generation of Vignes women grow up, their lives begin to intersect again, moving from the 1950s to the 1990s.

>> Reading guide available from the publisher

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

If you want a timeless and transporting story that helps you understand - emotionally, not academically - the profound impact of Western colonization in Africa

Often compared to the great Greek tragedies, Chinua Achebe’s first novel, published in 1958, has sold eight million copies and has been translated in 50 different languages. It follows Okonkwo, a leader of the Ibo clan (a fictional clan based on the Nigerian Igbo people). A feared warrior and wrestling champion, Okonkwo has a violent exterior, but he and his community have been impacted by the influence of Christian missionaries and European colonialism.

>> Reading guide available from the publisher

Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus

If you want to break the glass ceiling of science in 1950s America with your high heel

In the 1960s, Elizabeth Zott is expelled from her doctoral program after stabbing her rapist. Thankfully, she gets a job at Hastings Research Institute as a chemist as the only woman in an all-male team. Despite being treated as the group’s secretary, she meets, and falls in love, with Calvin Evans, a Nobel-prize nominated scientist. But, years later, Zott finds herself a single mother and the reluctant host of a chemistry-through-cooking show, Supper at Six.

>> Reading guide available from the publisher

Lady Tan's Circle of Women by Lisa See

If you love to root for strong female characters and are intrigued by time traveling to the Ming Dynasty

Inspired by the true story of a woman physician in 15th-century China, Lisa Yee’s latest follows Tan Yunxian, an elite young woman raised by her grandparents. Her grandmother is one of only a handful of Chinese medicine doctors in the land, and she teaches Yunxian. Yunxian befriends a midwife-in-training, and the two share each other’s joy, adversity, and become fast friends. As Yunxian’s sent into an arranged marriage, she must balance her desires and her societal and familial expectations.

>> Reading guide available from the author's website

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

If you are ready to lose yourself in a magical realism trip full of love and adventure, set against the backdrop of 20th century Latin America

The first translated work in Spanish to become a North American bestseller, One Hundred Years of Solitude is set in the fictional town of Macondo, founded by the patriarch of the Buendia family. Following seven generations of the family in the town, the novel is a sweeping tale of passion, family, love, and history.

>> Reading guide available from

The Signal Flame by Andrew Krivák

If you want to sink into a thoughtful exploration of the cycles of war and family survival

From a National Book Award finalist comes a captivating story about a family awaiting their son's return from the Vietnam War. Hanna and her son, Bo, are grieving the loss of the family patriarch, Jozef, who fought in the Austro-Hungarian army in World War I. A son-in-law, Bexhet, fought in World War II but dies in a hunting accident. And Bo and Hannah await the return of Sam, the youngest son. Spanning April to December of 1972, the novel explores the cycles of the earth and body amidst the shadows of war.

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