Books You Should Consider Reading Before You Die (Just a Glimpse)

Ancient & Prehistoric

The Penelopaid: The Penelopaid offers a rewriting of the Odyssey, Odysseus, Helen, and life in Hades.
Death Comes as the End: Agatha Christie’s novel is set in Thebes in 2000 BC.
The Clan of the Cave Bear: The Clan of the Cave Bear is about the interactions between Neanderthals and Cro-Magnons.
Centennial: Read Centennial to trace the history of northeast Colorado from prehistoric times to the 1970s.
The Secret Magdalene: The Secret Magdalene challenges views of historical events in the New Testament.
The Red Tent: In The Red Tent, you’ll find a retelling of the story of Dinah from the Bible.
Earth’s Children: The Earth’s Children series is set in Europe during the Upper Paleolithic era, discussing the co-existence of Cro-Magnons and Neanderthals.
London: Edward Rutherfurd’s novel begins with the birth of the River Thames to present time.
Sarum: Sarum follows the story of England from prehistoric times to the creation of the country of England.
The Bull from the Sea: The Bull From the Sea follows the story of the mythological hero Theseus in Ancient Greece.
Pharaoh: See the stresses and threats that culminate in the fall of Egypt’s Twentieth Dynasty and the New Kingdom in this novel.
The Egyptian: This classic recreates Egypt in the 14th century.

Roman Empire

I, Claudius: I, Claudius covers the life of Claudius and the Julio-Claudian Dynasty of the Roman Empire.
The First Man in Rome: Colleen McCullough’s novel shares the history of important figures in the late Roman republic.
Masters of Rome: Masters of Rome is set during the last days of the old Roman Republic.

Medieval & Middle Ages

The Deryni Novels: Katherine Kurtz’s series is set in a medieval kingdom similar to the British Isles of the 10th and 12th centuries.
The Mists of Avalon: The Mists of Avalon follows the life of a priestess working to save her culture.

1000s to 1400s

The Physician: Noah Gordon’s novel is about a Christian boy on a journey across Europe to study medicine with the Muslims in the 11th century.
Ivanhoe: Ivanhoe is responsible for an increase in interest in the Middle Ages during the Romanticism era.
Pope Joan: This novel follows the life of medieval legend Pope Joan, who dresses as a man and eventually becomes the pope.
The Pillars of the Earth: Ken Follet’s popular novel, The Pillars of the Earth, is about the building of a 12th century cathedral’s construction in Kingsbridge, England.
The Journeyer: Study the life of Marco Polo in this historical novel.
The Name of the Rose: Italian author Umberto Eco’s murder mystery combines learning in an Italian monastery in 1327.
Katherine: Anya Seton’s novel tells the story of Katherine Swynford and John of Gaunt.
The Sunne in Splendor: Follow King Richard III from his time as a young boy to his defeat at the Battle of Bosworth Field.
The Agony and the Ecstasy: Irving Stone shares this biographical novel about the sculptor Michelangelo.
Princess Mononoke: This period drama follows fantastical Japanese elements.
The Historian: Check out The Historian, by Elizabeth Kostova for the folklore of 15th century Vlad the Impaler. (Absolutely love this author!)


The Constant Princess: Philippa Gregory’s historical novel follows a fictionalized story of Catherine of Aragon’s life.
The Queen’s Fool: The Queen’s Fool discusses the lives of Mary I of England and Elizabeth.
The Boleyn Inheritance: The Boleyn Inheritance is all about the fourth and fifth marriages of King Henry VIII.
The Other Boleyn Girl: Learn about the life of 16th century aristocrat Mary Boleyn.

1500s and 1600s

The Last Light of the Sun: This fantasy novel draws heavily on the Viking invasions of Saxon England.
The Drawing of the Dark: A 16th century Irish mercenary soldier is the focus of Tim Powers’ book.
The Scarlet Letter: Nathaniel Hawthorne’s work tells the story of an adulteress who gives birth in 17th century Puritan Boston.
Forever Amber: In this novel, Amber St. Clare sleeps her way up through the ranks of 17th century English society.
Year of Wonders: Year of Wonders is based on a small village in Derbyshire trying to survive the Plague. Ending was weird!
Shadows on the Rock: 17th century Quebec is discussed in this novel by American writer Willa Cather.
City of Dreams: City of Dreams tells the story of early Manhattan. Lots of action!
The Three Musketeers: Alexander Dumas wrote this novel about inseparable friends in the 17th century. The movie starring Charlie Sheen and other stars was the best!

American Frontier

Mr. Tucket: Gary Paulsen’s novel is about Francis Tucket, who strays from his family’s wagon on the Oregon Trail.
My Antonia: See life from the perspective of an immigrant girl on the Nebraska plains in this novel.
Conceit: Conceit shares the story of Peggy Donne, who is the daughter of poet John Donne.
Silence: Silence is a historical fiction novel about a Jesuit missionary in 17th century Japan.
Girl with a Pearl Earring: Girl with a Pearl Earring recreates the setting in which the famous Vermeer painting was created.

1700s and 1800s

Rob Roy: Rob Roy takes place in the time of the Jacobite Rising in Scotland.
Roots: Study Kunta Kinte’s life (a slave) and resulting family in Roots.
Where We Belong: Lynn Austin explores the lives of two sisters not considered typical, who go off on many adventures during a time when women were not suppose to  exert themselves, become too over-educated (blue stockings), and go places alone without a chaperone. A book about sisterly bonds and faith.  If you had all the money you needed, what would you do with it?
The Talisman Ring: The Talisman Ring is a historical romance novel set in the Georgian era.
Little Women: A family of sisters surviving in the post-civil war era. One of Louisa-May Alcott’s best!
Henry Paget Flashman: Flashman is a an antihero of the 19th century. Subject matter is questionable at times…
Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell: In this novel, you’ll find an alternative history to 19th century England. Put some time aside for it though… it’s HUGE!
Snow Flower and the Secret Fan: See the lives of women in 19th century China in Snow Flower and the Secret Fan. Such an interesting premise!
Wuthering Heights: Wuthering Heights is set in northern England’s Yorkshire moors in the 1800s. Great Expectations was better.
Alias Grace: Alias Grace discusses the 1843 murders of Thomas Kinnear and his housekeeper Nancy Montgomery in Canada.
Lonesome Dove: Follow retired Texas Rangers from Texas to Montana in Lonesome Dove.  Dad read this one and so did my grandmother.
Les Miserables: Victor Hugo’s novel depicts the lives of poor French characters in the early 19th century.
The Count of Monte Cristo: The Count of Monte Cristo takes place in Europe during the 1800s.
The Last Empress: Anchee Min’s novel shares an account of Empress Dowager Cixi’s life.
City of Glory: City of Glory discusses New York during the War of 1812.
Death Comes for the Archbishop: In this novel, Willa Cather writes about a Catholic bishop and priest establishing a diocese in New Mexico Territory.
One Thousand White Women: One Thousand White Women writes the story of May Dodd and other pioneer women who intermarried among the Cheyenne Indians.
The Alienist: Caleb Carr’s novel studies murder in 1896 New York City.
The Angel of Darkness: The Angel of Darkness is a sequel to The Alienist, sharing the mystery of Senora Linares’s missing child.

1900s and 2000s

Teito Monogatari: Read this book to see the history of Edo from an occultist perspective.
The Good Earth: Pearl S. Buck won the Pulitzer Prize for this book about the family life of a Chinese village before the 1949 Revolution.
The Color Purple: The Color Purple shares female black life in the South during the 1930s. Watched the Color Purple with my mom… riveting!
Ragtime: Ragtime is a mix of American families and historical figures in important American events, set from 1900 until 1917.
Middlesex: Middlesex tells the story of Greek immigration to the United States.
A Thousand Splendid Suns: Learn about the lives of Afghan women living from the 1960s to 2003.
Snow Falling on Cedars: Study a murder case on the Washington coast in 1954 on Snow Falling on Cedars.
The Grapes of Wrath: John Steinbeck’s award winning novel tells the story of sharecroppers in the Great Depression.
The Joy Luck Club: The Joy Luck Club looks into the lives of immigrant Chinese women in the United States.
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn follows three generations of an American family beginning in 1912.
Water for Elephants: Water for Elephants focuses on a traveling circus in the time of the Great Depression. It’s so very sad… *sniff*
The Thorn Birds: The Thorn Birds follows the Cleary family in the Australian outback from 1915 to 1969. Watched the mini-series with my mom. Richard Chamberlain was naugh…..ty!


Captain Alatriste: Arturo Perez-Reverte’s novel series follows the adventures of a Spanish soldier in the 17th century.
Gone with the Wind: This romantic novel is set in Civil War and Reconstruction Georgia. Another classic! The movie was epic!
Slaughterhouse-Five: Slaughterhouse-Five is a World War II-era science fiction novel by Kurt Vonnegut.
Sharpe: Bernard Cornwell’s Sharpe series is all about Sharpe in the Napoleonic Wars.
A Tale of Two Cities: Charles Dickens set this novel in London and Paris during the time of the French Revolution. Movie was good too.
The Corps: WEB Griffin’s series wrote this series about the Marine Corps in the years surrounding World War II and the Korean Conflict.
Horatio Hornblower: Horatio Hornblower’s series follows a junior Royal Navy Captain on a mission in Central America during the Napoleonic Wars. Quick reads and very enticing.
War and Peace: The epic novel War and Peace discusses the details of the events leading up to Napoleon’s invasion of Russia.
The Book Thief: The Book Thief explores Death in WWII Germany. Written from Death’s perspective. Unique concept but I struggled with this book.
Memoirs of a Geisha: Arthur Golden’s book tells the story of a Kyoto geisha during the time of World War II. Movie was outstanding too.
Tales of the Otori: Lian Hearn’s historical novel series is based on feudal Japan. The covers alone are something to see.
King Rat: King Rat is set in a Japanese POW camp in 1945.
Doctor Zhivago: See the story of a man torn between two women in the Russian Revolution of 1917 and the Russian Civil War.
The English Patient: You will learn about the histories of a series of men living out World War II in an Italian villa.
The Killer Angels: The Killer Angels is a Pulitzer Prize winning novel about the Battle of Gettysburg.
Number the Stars: Number the Stars is a historical fiction about the Holocaust in WWII.
Cold Mountain: Charles Frazier’s story discusses a wounded deserter from the Confederate army.
All Quiet on the Western Front: German veteran Erich Maria Remarque shares the stress of World War I in this novel.
The Shadow of the Wind: Just after the Spanish Civil War in Barcelona, a young writer is mysteriously approached to write a book. One of my favourites!
The Outlander Series: Diana Gabaldon creates an amazing series surrounding life and conflict during the American Revolution period. The Fiery Cross features the politics and turmoil of the American Revolution. Part of the Outlander series and one of the books that stands out from all the rest.
Like Water for Chocolate: See love, longing, and magical realism in this Mexican Revolution novel. Another one that I read years ago that I would like to revisit.
World Without End: Check out Ken Follet’s novel with a plot incorporating the Hundred Years’ War and the Black Death.
Tales of the South Pacific: James A. Michener’s collection of short stories about World War II won a Pulitzer Prize.


Some text was taken from “The Adventures of An Intrepid Reader” found at:

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