May 18, 2018

10 Fun Historical Fiction Books to Add to Your Summer Reading List

  • By: Carson Bear

What’s more fun than sitting back in the shade of an umbrella or under a great big tree, and disappearing into a good book? At the National Trust, we think few things can beat summers spent reading, so of course we created the perfect book list for lovers of contemporary historical fiction (because as much as we love hard-hitting nonfiction tomes, they can be a little exhausting on a hot day). Check out the list below—see if you’ve read them all.

White Houses, Amy Bloom

White Houses explores the rumored relationship between first lady Eleanor Roosevelt and journalist Lorena Hickok, traveling from the White House in Washington, D.C., to a small white house on Long Island and beyond. Author Amy Bloom sheds light on an often ignored aspect of the Roosevelt family and paints a picture of the places behind a long-lasting love affair.

The Atomic City Girls, Janet Beard

Based on the lives of the lesser-known employees stationed at Manhattan Project sites across the United States, Janet Beard’s The Atomic City Girls follows 18-year-old June Walker to Oak Ridge, Tennessee, where she begins her work operating a mysterious machine. While June is at first focused on learning more about her assignment, she must confront her own ideals after the bombing of Hiroshima.

The Great Alone, Kristin Hannah

The Great Alone is an intimate look into the destruction of a family who moves to Alaska after the end of the Vietnam War, but Kristin Hannah’s novel is also about the state itself—both its beauty and its inherent dangers.

Ahab's Wife: Or, the Star-Gazer, Sena Jeter Naslund

We all know the story of Captain Ahab, but what do we know of his wife? Author Sena Jeter Naslund asks this question in Ahab’s Wife: Or, the Star-Gazer. The novel is a family drama, historical fiction, and romance all rolled into one—and its focus exposes a different side of the historic American experience.

Lincoln in the Bardo, George Saunders

Lincoln in the Bardo tells a lesser-known tale of President Lincoln, just after the outset of the Civil War. George Saunders makes the death of Lincoln’s 11-year-old son, Willie, into a supernatural take on familial love and the grief that accompanies loss in the Tibetan “bardo,” where ghosts begin a fight over Willie’s very soul.

Fever 1793, Laurie Halse Anderson

When a fever affects the family of young Mattie Cook in 1793, she must leave her beloved Philadelphia with her grandfather. But, once Mattie escapes the city, she realizes that the fever is everywhere. In Fever 1793, Laurie Halse Anderson portrays the implications of surviving a real-life epidemic.

Love and Other Consolation Prizes, Jamie Ford

The bestselling author of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, Jamie Ford has crafted a new novel, Love and Other Consolation Prizes. The story follows Ernest, a half-Chinese orphan who is unwillingly raffled off to become a houseboy at a high-class brothel. Ernest finds love and ambition at the brothel, but 50 years later must keep his family intact when faced with his past.

Josephine, Beverly Jenkins

Josephine, a sweet romance about 17-year-old JoJo’s love triangle with handsome George Brooks and annoyingly charming Adam Morgan, is USA Today bestseller Beverly Jenkins’ most recent novel. The book takes place during the Civil War; when Adam is wounded, he suddenly falls for JoJo—and try as she might to resist it, she finds herself falling for Adam, too.

The Tea Girl and Hummingbird Lane, Lisa See

National Trust board member Lisa See’s The Tea Girl and Hummingbird Lane travels from Li-yan’s story in a remote mountain village with the Akha people to her daughter’s in California. The two women, separated but longing deeply for each other, find meaning in the study of Pu’er tea, which has shaped their history and their destiny for generations.

The Cherokee Rose: A Novel of Gardens and Ghosts, Tiya Miles

After researching the Chief Vann House Historic Site in Chatsworth, Georgia, author Tiya Miles wrote The Cherokee Rose: A Novel of Gardens and Ghosts. The novel follows a large cast of characters, exploring their roots and the Moravian mission sponsored at the site in the early 1800s.

Did we miss your favorite summer reading list book? Let us know on Facebook or Twitter.

By purchasing any of these products using the links on this page, you'll be supporting the National Trust. A small portion of the sales comes back to us to support our work. Looking for other ways to support preservation? Consider giving a gift membership to the place-lover in your life.

Carson Bear is an Editorial Coordinator at the National Trust. She’s passionate about combining popular culture with historic places, and loves her 200-year-old childhood farmhouse in Pennsylvania.

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