The Greatest "Historical fiction, Nonfiction" Books of All Time

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This list represents a comprehensive and trusted collection of the greatest books. Developed through a specialized algorithm, it brings together 313 'best of' book lists to form a definitive guide to the world's most acclaimed books. For those interested in how these books are chosen, additional details can be found on the rankings page.

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Historical fiction

Historical fiction is a genre of literature that combines fictional stories with real historical events, settings, and characters. These books often take place in a specific time period and are based on research and factual information, but also include imaginative elements to create a compelling narrative. Historical fiction allows readers to experience the past in a unique and engaging way, while also providing insight into the social, cultural, and political issues of the time.


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  1. 1. Schindler's List by Thomas Keneally

    The book tells the true story of a German businessman who saves more than a thousand Polish Jews during the Holocaust by employing them in his factories. The protagonist's transformation from a greedy high living war profiteer to a savior of lives forms the crux of the narrative. It offers a chilling yet inspiring account of the horrors of the Holocaust, human resilience, and the power of one individual to make a significant difference.

    The 586th Greatest Book of All Time
  2. 2. The Book of the City of Ladies by Christine De Pizan

    "The Book of the City of Ladies" is a classical work in which the author, through allegorical characters, builds an imaginary city for women to illustrate their significant contributions to society. The book is a defense of women, arguing against the popular notion of the time that women were inferior to men. It showcases the author's deep knowledge of the past, referencing numerous notable women from history and mythology, emphasizing their virtues, intelligence, and moral fiber.

    The 635th Greatest Book of All Time
  3. 3. Rebellion In The Backlands by Euclides da Cunha

    This book offers a detailed and vivid account of the War of Canudos, a significant peasant revolt that took place in the late 19th century in the Brazilian backlands. Through a blend of historical documentation and narrative, the text explores the socio-political conditions that led to the uprising, the charismatic leadership of Antônio Conselheiro, and the brutal suppression of the rebellion by the Brazilian government. The author delves into the geography, culture, and lives of the backland inhabitants, providing a deep analysis of the conflict as a reflection of the broader struggles within Brazilian society. This work is not only a historical account but also a profound commentary on the themes of civilization versus barbarism, social injustice, and the complexities of national identity.

    The 1463rd Greatest Book of All Time
  4. 4. The Forty Days Of Musa Dagh by Franz Werfel

    This novel is a gripping historical fiction that recounts the harrowing tale of Armenian villagers who resist their deportation by the Ottoman Empire during the Armenian Genocide of 1915. Centered around the heroic stand of the people of Musa Dagh, the narrative delves into the struggle for survival, unity, and defiance against overwhelming odds. Through the lens of this resistance, the book explores themes of identity, resilience, and the human spirit's capacity to fight for freedom and justice. It serves as a poignant reminder of a dark chapter in history, highlighting the courage and determination of those who fought against their oppressors.

    The 2133rd Greatest Book of All Time
  5. 5. What Is the What by Dave Eggers

    The novel is a fictionalized account of a real-life Sudanese refugee, Valentino Achak Deng, who was forced to flee from his village during the Second Sudanese Civil War. The story follows his harrowing journey as a child through Ethiopia and Kenya, his life in various refugee camps, and his eventual resettlement in the United States. The book explores themes of survival, identity, and the power of storytelling, while shedding light on the tragic history and ongoing humanitarian crisis in Sudan.

    The 2439th Greatest Book of All Time
  6. 6. The Cavalry Maiden by Nadezhda Durova

    "The Cavalry Maiden" is a vivid memoir of a young Russian woman who defies the conventions of her time by disguising herself as a man to join the Russian cavalry during the Napoleonic Wars. The narrative recounts her extraordinary experiences on the battlefield, her struggles with her secret identity, and her observations of military life during a tumultuous period in history. The author's passion for military service and her quest for personal freedom and adventure shine through as she provides a unique perspective on the roles of gender and social expectations in the early 19th century.

    The 2983rd Greatest Book of All Time
  7. 7. The Moccasin Maker by E. Pauline Johnson

    "The Moccasin Maker" is a collection of short stories and essays that delve into the lives and experiences of Indigenous people at the turn of the 20th century. Through a blend of fiction and autobiographical elements, the work explores themes of identity, cultural conflict, and the impact of colonization on Indigenous communities in Canada. The author, herself of mixed heritage, provides a nuanced portrayal of the struggles and resilience of her characters, often challenging the prevailing stereotypes and offering a unique perspective on the complexities of living between two worlds. The stories are notable for their rich characterizations and the author's lyrical prose, which captures the beauty and sorrow of the cultural landscape she describes.

    The 2983rd Greatest Book of All Time
  8. 8. Mountain Charley by Elsa Jane Guerin

    "Mountain Charley" is the true account of a woman's remarkable adventures in the American West during the mid-19th century. After a series of personal tragedies, including the loss of her husband, she assumes the identity of a man named Charley to navigate the perils and prejudices of the era. Disguised as a male, she works various jobs, from miner to stagecoach driver, and even becomes a bounty hunter, all while seeking vengeance for her husband's death. Her story is one of resilience and defiance, challenging the gender norms of her time and showcasing the untold grit of pioneer women.

    The 2983rd Greatest Book of All Time
  9. 9. Naples 44 by Norman Lewis

    This book is a vivid personal diary of a British intelligence officer stationed in Naples during the aftermath of the city's liberation in World War II. The narrative captures the chaotic and harrowing conditions of a city under military occupation, as the author meticulously documents the daily struggles of the local population amidst ruins, as well as the rampant corruption, black market dealings, and the complex interplay of cultures brought together by the war. His keen observations offer a poignant and deeply human portrayal of the resilience of civilians and soldiers alike, trying to navigate the moral ambiguities and the physical devastation of wartime Naples.

    The 3055th Greatest Book of All Time
  10. 10. Fifth Chinese Daughter by Jade Snow Wong

    This autobiographical account provides a vivid portrayal of Chinese-American life in the early 20th century through the eyes of a young girl growing up in San Francisco's Chinatown. The narrative follows her journey as she navigates the complexities of traditional Chinese family values and the American way of life, striving for educational and personal independence. The protagonist's struggle to reconcile her dual cultural heritage is compounded by her ambitions, as she seeks to assert her identity and pursue her dreams amidst the expectations of her family and community. Her story is one of resilience and self-discovery, offering insight into the immigrant experience and the challenges of cultural assimilation.

    The 3085th Greatest Book of All Time
  11. 11. Out Of The Fire by Ales Adamovich, Yanka Bryl, Vladimir Kolesnik

    "Out Of The Fire" is a powerful collection of stories that vividly depict the horrors and resilience of the human spirit during World War II. Through the eyes of various characters, the book explores the devastating impact of war on individuals and communities, capturing their struggles, sacrifices, and moments of hope amidst the chaos. With hauntingly beautiful prose, the authors bring to life the unimaginable atrocities of the war, reminding us of the importance of remembrance and the enduring strength of the human soul.

    The 3631st Greatest Book of All Time
  12. 12. Soundjata Ou L'épopée Mandingue by Djibril Tamsir Niane

    "Soundjata Ou L'épopée Mandingue" is a historical novel that tells the captivating story of Soundjata Keita, the legendary founder of the Mali Empire. Set in 13th-century West Africa, the book follows Soundjata's journey from a crippled and exiled prince to a powerful warrior king. Through battles, alliances, and encounters with mystical beings, Soundjata's determination and leadership skills are tested as he strives to unite the Mandinka people and reclaim his rightful throne. This epic tale explores themes of courage, destiny, and the enduring power of legends.

    The 3880th Greatest Book of All Time
  13. 13. The Flame Trees Of Thika by Elspeth Huxley

    The book is a vivid memoir that recounts the author's childhood experiences in colonial Kenya during the early 20th century. Through the eyes of a young girl, it captures the pioneering spirit of her parents as they establish a coffee farm in the untamed highlands of East Africa. The narrative is rich with descriptions of the stunning landscapes, the diverse cultures of the local tribes, and the various colonial characters who are trying to make their fortunes on the frontier. The memoir is both a coming-of-age story and a portrayal of a bygone era, marked by challenges, adventures, and the complexities of cultural interactions during the period of British colonial rule.

    The 4089th Greatest Book of All Time
  14. 14. I Am Fifteen--and I Don't Want To Die by Arnothy Christine

    The book is a poignant memoir of a young girl's harrowing experiences during World War II. At the age of fifteen, she finds herself caught in the siege of Budapest, facing the horrors of war firsthand. With a blend of youthful innocence and a will to survive, she navigates the dangers of bombings, starvation, and the threat of death. Her narrative captures the resilience of the human spirit in the face of destruction, as she clings to life and the hope for a future beyond the devastation of conflict.

    The 4248th Greatest Book of All Time
  15. 15. Egy polgár vallomásai by Sándor Márai

    "The Confessions of a Haut Bourgeois" is a memoir that delves into the life and reflections of a man born into the Hungarian upper middle class at the turn of the 20th century. The narrative explores the author's formative years, education, and experiences that shaped his worldview, set against the backdrop of a fading Austro-Hungarian Empire and the tumultuous changes sweeping through Europe. It is a poignant examination of the cultural and social mores of the time, as well as a personal reckoning with the loss of the author's own privileged world and the search for identity in a society undergoing profound transformation.

    The 4404th Greatest Book of All Time
  16. 16. For Those I Loved by Martin Gray

    The book is a harrowing memoir of survival and resilience, chronicling the author's experiences during the Holocaust. As a young Jewish boy in Poland, he witnesses the brutal murder of his family by the Nazis and endures the horrors of the Warsaw Ghetto and Treblinka extermination camp. Against all odds, he manages to escape and join the resistance, fighting for freedom and justice. After the war, he rebuilds his life, only to face tragedy again when his wife and children are killed in a fire. The narrative is a testament to the human spirit's capacity to endure and find meaning in the face of unimaginable suffering.

    The 5768th Greatest Book of All Time
  17. 17. Tisha by Robert Specht

    "Tisha" is a biographical novel based on the true story of a young woman who moves to the Alaskan wilderness in the 1920s to become a teacher. The protagonist faces numerous challenges including harsh weather, isolation, and cultural differences, but remains steadfast in her commitment to educate the children in her care. The story also explores her fight against racial prejudice in the community, as well as her love affair with a half-Native man.

    The 6052nd Greatest Book of All Time
  18. 18. A Journal Of The Plague Year by Daniel Defoe

    This book provides a detailed account of one man's experiences during the year 1665, when the bubonic plague ravaged London. Written in the form of a journal, it blends fiction with historical fact, offering a vivid portrayal of the city's atmosphere as the disease took hold. The narrative captures the fear, confusion, and chaos of the time, as well as the various responses of the populace, from those who fled to those who stayed to face the epidemic. The author delves into the social and economic impacts of the plague, including the efforts of authorities to contain it, the plight of the poor, and the moral and religious interpretations of the calamity, providing a compelling and immersive glimpse into one of the darkest periods of London's history.

    The 6195th Greatest Book of All Time
  19. 19. The Lisbon Earthquake by Voltaire

    The book in question is a philosophical exploration of the problem of evil, prompted by the catastrophic 1755 earthquake that devastated Lisbon. Through a series of poetic verses, the author grapples with the theological and moral questions raised by such natural disasters, challenging the optimistic belief that this is the best of all possible worlds and questioning the justice of a benevolent deity allowing such suffering. The work is a profound meditation on human suffering, divine providence, and the limits of philosophical and religious consolation in the face of overwhelming disaster.

    The 6195th Greatest Book of All Time
  20. 20. Killers Of The Flower Moon by David Grann

    The book investigates a series of murders in the 1920s targeting the Osage Nation, whose members became immensely wealthy after oil was discovered beneath their land in Oklahoma. As the death toll climbed, the newly formed FBI took up the case and uncovered a chilling conspiracy. The narrative reveals the depths of corruption and the racial injustices that allowed the murderers to operate with impunity, shedding light on a largely forgotten chapter in American history where greed and prejudice led to the systemic exploitation and killing of Osage people.

    The 6759th Greatest Book of All Time
  21. 21. A Bridge Through Time by Laila Abou-Saif

    "A Bridge Through Time" is a poignant memoir that chronicles the author's life journey, weaving together the rich tapestry of her Egyptian heritage with her experiences in the Western world. The narrative delves into the complexities of identity, culture, and the sense of belonging as the author navigates the challenges of assimilation and the preservation of her roots. Through a series of reflective anecdotes and personal insights, the book offers a unique perspective on the universal quest for self-discovery and the reconciliation of disparate worlds, ultimately serving as a metaphorical bridge connecting the past with the present.

    The 7095th Greatest Book of All Time
  22. 22. Isaac's Storm by Erik Larson

    "Isaac's Storm" is a gripping narrative that chronicles the devastating 1900 Galveston hurricane, the deadliest natural disaster in American history, through the eyes of Isaac Cline, a senior meteorologist for the U.S. Weather Bureau. The book delves into Cline's personal and professional life, exploring his initial underestimation of the storm's severity and the tragic consequences that followed. It combines meticulous research with vivid storytelling to capture the human drama and the meteorological turmoil of the event, highlighting the limitations of early 20th-century weather forecasting and the impact of human error and hubris on disaster response and preparedness.

    The 7639th Greatest Book of All Time
  23. 23. Ring Of Bright Water by Gavin Maxwell

    "Ring of Bright Water" is a captivating memoir that chronicles the life of the author in the remote Scottish Highlands, where he develops a profound bond with a trio of otters. The narrative beautifully captures the idyllic, yet challenging, life in nature, detailing the playful antics and emotional intelligence of the otters, which bring immense joy and companionship. The book is a poignant exploration of the relationship between humans and wildlife, highlighting both the serene and harsh realities of living closely with nature.

    The 7652nd Greatest Book of All Time
  24. 24. Ill Met By Moonlight by W. Stanley Moss

    "Ill Met By Moonlight" is a thrilling World War II memoir that recounts the daring mission of British Special Operations officers who infiltrated occupied Crete to kidnap a German general. The narrative, based on the author's own experiences, vividly details the planning and execution of the operation, the challenges faced by the team as they evaded enemy forces, and the strong bonds formed with the local Cretan resistance fighters. This gripping account not only highlights the audacity and bravery of the mission but also showcases the strategic importance of Crete and the complexities of guerrilla warfare.

    The 7652nd Greatest Book of All Time
  25. 25. Dumba Nengue, Run For Your Life by Lina Magaia

    The book is a harrowing account of the Mozambican people's suffering during the civil war that followed the country's independence from Portugal. It compiles testimonies and personal stories that reveal the atrocities committed by the Renamo guerrillas, who were backed by foreign powers. Through the eyes of the survivors, the narrative exposes the brutalities of war, including the destruction of villages, the murder of innocent civilians, and the resilience of those who were forced to flee their homes. The work serves as both a poignant reminder of the cost of conflict and a tribute to the spirit of the Mozambican people who endured and survived amidst such terror.

    The 7895th Greatest Book of All Time

Reading Statistics

Click the button below to see how many of these books you've read!


If you're interested in downloading this list as a CSV file for use in a spreadsheet application, you can easily do so by clicking the button below. Please note that to ensure a manageable file size and faster download, the CSV will include details for only the first 500 books.