Historical Fiction

A Guide to the Genre

by Sarah L. Johnson


A complete guide to one of today's hottest genres, organizing more than 3,800 titles according to reading preferences.

Print Flyer
Cover image for Historical Fiction

April 2005

Libraries Unlimited

Pages 836
Volumes 1
Size 7x10
Topics Reference and Information Services and Tools/Readers' Advisory and Leisure Reading
  Reference and Information Services and Tools/Arts and Humanities Literature Reference Tools

Unlike guides that take a simple geographic-chronological approach to listing historical fiction, this book takes a genre approach, with chapters devoted to historical romances, mysteries, adventures, etc. By grouping titles by subgenre and theme, and describing their features and plots, it guides users to similar titles and read-alikes. Focusing on English-language novels published since the mid '90s, plus the perennial favorites commonly available in libraries, it details 3,800 books set in times prior to the mid-20th century. Appendices contain lists of award-winning titles and targeted reading lists. Detailed indexes are available for authors, titles, subjects, time/place, and character names. An essential guide for readers' advisors and other professionals who guide readers in book selection, this book will also aid in collection development.

Recent burgeoning reader interest in historical fiction has created a tremendous outpouring of historical novels from the publishing world. While there are several guides devoted to historical novels, they take a simple geographic-chronological approach, and do not organize titles in a way that effectively matches reading preferences. In contrast, this book takes a genre approach to historical fiction, with chapters devoted to historical romances, historical mysteries, historical adventures, and so forth. By grouping titles by subgenre and theme, and describing their features and plots, the book will guide users to similar titles and read-alikes. Focusing on English-language novels published since the mid '90s plus the perennial favorites commonly available in libraries, this book guides you and your patrons to more than 3,800 books set in times prior to the mid-20th century and in which historical events play an integral role. Chapters are organized according to subgenre and type, i.e., traditional, epics, romance, sagas, westerns, crime, adventure, thrillers, literary, inspirational, time-slip, alternate histories, and fantasy. Within chapters, Johnson further groups the titles according to sub-subgenres and time/place. In addition to bibliographic information and brief plot summaries, you'll find information on award winners, biographical novels, classics, and indications of titles appropriate for young adults and book groups. Appendixes contain lists of award-winning titles and targeted reading lists (e.g., historical fiction featuring Latinos). Further access to the titles is provided by detailed indexes for authors, titles, subjects, time/place, and character names. This guide will give you a deeper understanding of the historical fiction genre, update you on new titles, reacquaint you with classics, and help you easily identify read-alikes and book club selections for your patrons. It will also help you find fiction titles set in particular times and places to complement curriculum needs or meet specific areas of interest. An essential guide for readers' advisors and other professionals who guide readers in their book selections, this book will also aid collection development specialists and educators. Young adult and adult. Grades 10 and up.

Series Description

Genreflecting Advisory Series

Significantly expanded and updated, the titles in this highly acclaimed series are designed to help you quickly locate the kind of fiction your library patrons are looking for. Each title includes the latest reads and reading trends within a genre and identifies subgenres, similar titles, read-alikes, and relevant online resources. Annotations describe and evaluate the best, the most popular, and the most representative books in a genre, noting special features of the works and referencing or comparing them to related publications. Brief historical overviews, award information, section tabs for quick reference, and practical guidelines for advising readers are just some of the features you will find in these useful guides. Designed for easy access, these books are compact enough to be carried into the stacks and simple enough to be used by general readers. Essential for readers' advisory and ready-reference, they are also excellent tools for acquisitions and collection development.
Table of Contents

AcknowledgmentsIntroductionThe Appeal of the PastTraditional Historical NovelsMulti-Period EpicsRomancing the PastSagasWestern Historical NovelsHistorical MysteriesAdventures in HistoryHistorical ThrillersLiterary Historical NovelsChristian Historical FictionTime-Slip NovelsAlternate HistoryHistorical FantasyResources for Librarians and ReadersAppendix A: Award Winning Historical NovelsAppendix B: Reading Lists by Plot Pattern or Theme



"Johnson provides a well-researched, exhaustive guide to recent historical fiction, a genre popular with both scholars and casual readers.... Johnson's work covers 3,800 annotated and cross-referenced entries arranged by specifically defined subgenres. Each category, e.g., Traditional Historical Novels, Historical Thrillers, Time-Slip Novels, is subdivided further by world region and historical era. An introductory essay traces the literary significance of historical fiction from its beginnings with Sir Walter Scott in the early 19th century. The annotations also indicate benchmarks of the genre, award winners, and titles recommended for young adults and reading groups. Appendixes include suggested online resources, information on writers' associations, lists of award winners, and indexes by author, setting, and historical character. Overall, this is an excellent resource.... Highly recommended. All levels."—Choice

"This welcome addition to the readers' advisor's reference shelf by Johnson, reference librarian at Eastern Illinois University and historical fiction editor, is an excellent, detailed reference tool for readers' advisors to use with patrons, in collection development, and in expanding personal genre knowledge. Like other titles in the Genreflecting Advisory series, this resource is organized by subgenre, explains the appeal factors of each, and includes brief, well-written plot summaries of every title. Unlike other historical fiction references usually organized by time period and geographic setting, this tool groups titles on the basis of style and similarity of theme. This makes sense, as readers often choose historical fiction primarily by these attributes....Abundant title suggestions from a wide range of perspectives and topics will please readers, and up-to-date entries ensure success in finding books on the shelves. Librarians will find the Resources for Librarians section most useful, and a strong index provides traditional access points for those seeking fictional treatment of specific time periods or historical figures, geographic coverage, and particular authors or titles. Highly recommended for public libraries."—Library Journal

"Its primary audience is collection development and reader's advisory librarians; however, readers and genre fans will enjoy scanning this book. I recommend the Historical Fiction: A Guide to the Genre as a necessary addition for public libraries. Many college and university libraries will also want to purchase this title. I also recommend that, if funds permit, a second copy of this book be purchased for the circulating collection. Then historical fiction readers can spend a delightful time selecting their next titles to read."—Collection Management

"For libraries seeking a single guide for the genre, with a substantial number of recent books, this excellent addition to the series works."—Reference Reviews

"The whole work is clearly and consistently laid out, very well constructed and signposted, and so helps any reader or reader's adviser not only unlock the likely works they might seek but also, and probably more importantly, find a lot of subject matter they were not seeking but will now want to read.... Put all this together with an informed and informative discussion of the whole genre in the book's introduction and you have a model of a work of its kind, where contents and layout combine with a clarity and convenience that yet again show a book as matching any web site for accessibility and user friendliness.... This is a guide that will serve just about any library that can afford it: for once I would suggest that its price is not so high as to put it out of the reach of many smaller libraries where it will prove an invaluable resource for a wide range of readers looking for new titles.... An invaluable resource guide."—VOYA

"Libraries unlimited has added another outstanding reader's advisory reference work to its Genreflecting Advisory Series. This new entry covers historical fiction in all its many forms, defining the genre and analyzing its appeal to help librarians better understand what draws readers.... A must-have for public and high-school librarians, who will find it an essential tool for understanding this genre, developing collections, and advising patrons."—Booklist, Starred Review

"A marvelous achievement.... An impressive work."—The Historical Novels Review


Booklist Editors' Choice 2005

Product Search

Product Search

Publication Year



Need Help? Try our Search Tips