Ten Historical Fiction Novels Worth Reading (more than once)

In these days I’m utterly enjoying Mantel’s Wolf Hall, a novel based on the life of Thomas Cromwell, which is one of the best historical novels I’ve read in a long, long time. The point is, I’m generally disappointed; as it often happens, otherwise good books in terms of plots fail in their historical accuracy or even plausibility. Not the case with Hilary Mantel, but she’s the exception, not the rule. I’ve decided to compile a list of my all-time favourites in this difficult genre.

So, I’ve decided to compile a list of my all-time favourites in this difficult genre. Here they are, not in a particular order.

  1. The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco
  2. The Accursed Kings by Maurice Dubron
  3. Q by Wu-Ming
  4. The Abyss (original title: L’Ouvre au Noir) by Marguerite Yourcenar
  5. The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
  6. Romola by George Eliot
  7. Taipan by James Clavell
  8. The Betrothed by Alessandro Manzoni
  9. The History of the Wandering Jew by Jean d’Ormesson
  10. The Kindly Ones by Jonathan Littell

I’d also add The Years of Rice and Salt by Kim Stanley Robinson except for the fact that is actually alternate history, and not a historical novel tout-court. Said that, it’s a great book, by any standard.

In the following weeks, I’m going to talk about these novels in more details, since all of them have some quite interesting facts that add to the exquisite quality of their narrative.


  1. S. C. Flynn

    I have only read 3 of these. I have too few books, evidently.

    1. Steph P. Bianchini (Post author)

      Somehow, I don’t think so… 😀 But sure enough, life is too short for all great books out there!

  2. Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum

    I have only read The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett – Historical Fiction is a genre I would love to explore more, but I am so particular about the era and subject 🙂

    1. Steph P. Bianchini (Post author)

      Have you read the sequel – Worlds without End? It’s certainly worth a reading, too!

  3. sjhigbee

    I’ve read several on your list – some of them a long time ago. Have you read any of the Matthew Shardlake novels by C.J. Sansom? They are murder mysteries set during the reign of Henry VIII and are very well written and researched. The Name of the Rose is a particular favourite. Thank you for sharing such a great list. On the subject of Hilary Mantel – have you been listening to the Reith Lectures she has been giving on the business of writing historical novels? They are worth tracking down…

    1. Steph P. Bianchini (Post author)

      Wow, I knew that I was going to get excellent suggestions from a true historian…! Actually no, and I took good notice of them. Thanks so much for it 🙂

      1. sjhigbee

        I hope you manage to track down those talks, Steph:). I think they are excellent.


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