Historical Musings #21: My year in historical fiction

Historical Musings December is always a busy time in the book blogging world, with people reflecting on their year’s reading, choosing their favourite books of the year and announcing plans for the year to come. For this month’s Historical Musings post, then, I thought this would be a good opportunity to look back at my year in historical fiction.

I know the year isn’t quite over yet and I will finish more books before 2016 comes to an end, but not enough to significantly affect the statistics below. I’ve had fun putting these charts, graphs and lists together – I hope you’ll find them interesting!


Time periods read about in 2016


As you can see, most of the books I’ve read are set between the 14th century and the modern day (the 16th, 17th and 19th centuries being particularly popular), with very few set earlier than that.

My favourite book read this year set pre-1300: Dictator by Robert Harris (set in Ancient Rome)


26.4% of the historical fiction authors I read this year were new to me

Three books I enjoyed by new-to-me historical fiction authors this year:
The Rider of the White Horse by Rosemary Sutcliff
Prince of Foxes by Samuel Shellabarger
Succession by Livi Michael


Publication dates of books read in 2016


Perhaps not surprisingly, I have read a lot of books that were published in the last few years, with most of the others having publication dates spread across the 20th century.

Here are four historical novels I’ve read this year that were published before 1900:
Lorna Doone by RD Blackmore
Louise de la Vallière by Alexandre Dumas
Redgauntlet by Sir Walter Scott
Rupert, by the Grace of God by Dora Greenwell McChesney


12.5% of my historical reads in 2016 were historical mysteries

Three of the best historical mysteries I’ve read this year:
Revelation by CJ Sansom
The Strangler Vine by MJ Carter
The Revelations of Carey Ravine by Debra Daley.


I’ve read historical fiction set in 13 different countries this year.


About half of the historical fiction I’ve read this year has been set in my own country, England. I do love reading about the history of other countries, though, and have been collecting recommendations of books set in other parts of the world (see Historical Musings #7: Exploring Africa, #16: Exploring Europe and #20 – Exploring Japan).

Three books read in 2016 set in a country other than my own:
Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset (Norway)
The Shogun’s Queen by Lesley Downer (Japan)
The Viper of Milan by Marjorie Bowen (Italy).


Francesco de' Medici

Francesco de’ Medici

Five historical men I’ve read about this year:

Francesco de’ Medici (The Red Lily Crown by Elizabeth Loupas)
John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester (Alathea by Pamela Belle)
St Patrick (The Lion and the Cross by Joan Lesley Hamilton)
Thomas Chippendale (Gilded Splendour by Rosalind Laker)
Geoffrey Chaucer (The People’s Queen by Vanora Bennett).


Lizzie Burns

Lizzie Burns

Five historical women I’ve read about this year:

Joanna of Navarre (The Queen’s Choice by Anne O’Brien)
Julia Pastrana (Orphans of the Carnival by Carol Birch)
Penelope Devereux (Watch the Lady by Elizabeth Fremantle)
Sappho (Burning Sappho by Martha Rofheart)
Lizzie Burns (Mrs Engels by Gavin McCrea).


Now it’s your turn! Have you read any of the books or authors I’ve mentioned here? What are the best historical fiction novels you’ve read this year?

19 thoughts on “Historical Musings #21: My year in historical fiction

  1. piningforthewest says:

    I’ve read Lorna Doone, Rosemary Sutcliff and Walter Scott, I intend getting round to Redgauntlet soon. This year I’ve enjoyed the first two books of Dorothy Dunnet’s Lymond series and also Blood and Beauty by Sarah Dunant.

    • Helen says:

      Redgauntlet is a great book – my thoughts will be coming soon! I’m so glad you’ve been enjoying Lymond (the book you’ll be reading next, The Disorderly Knights, is one of my favourites).

  2. FictionFan says:

    Gosh, well done! I’m impressed by the way you’ve ranged, both across time and geographically – and by your charts! I don’t think I’ve read a lot of historical fiction this year, but I’ve liked a few set in the mid-twentieth century – The Girls by Emma Cline, Three-Martini Lunch by Suzanne Rindell, and the always wonderful Robert Harris’s Enigma.

    • Helen says:

      Thanks! I had fun putting this post together. I haven’t read any of the books you’ve mentioned, but I do want to read Enigma as I love Robert Harris.

  3. Lory @ Emerald City Book Review says:

    Two of the best novels I read this year were The Summer Guest by Alison Anderson (a modern/historical mix, about Anton Chekhov’s summers in the Ukraine), and A Man of Genius by Janet Todd (a writer of gothic fiction gets into some gothic trouble herself in Venice). I have not read any of yours! I think I should try some Dumas at some point – I met Louise de la Valliere through The Sun King Conspiracy, which gave me some perspective on the period but was not a successful novel in my opinion.

    • Helen says:

      I have a copy of A Man of Genius which I’m hoping to read soon, but I haven’t heard of The Summer Guest so I’ll have to investigate! Dumas is one of my favourite authors, so I would definitely recommend giving him a try. 🙂

  4. Judy Krueger says:

    I read about 10% historical fiction so far this year. Three of them were set in the early 20th century which by now is historical. My favorites were older ranging from Ancient Greece to the 19th century. Three of the best were Epitaph by Mary Doria Russell, The Last Days of Night by Graham Moore (both set in America) and The King Must Die by Mary Renault (my first by her but it won’t be my last.)

  5. jessicabookworm says:

    I too enjoyed reading about Joanna of Navarre in The Queen’s Choice by Anne O’Brien. I also loved travelling back to 16th century Scotland in Turn of the Tide and A House Divided by Margaret Skea.

    • Helen says:

      I haven’t read Margaret Skea’s books yet but I’ve wanted to for a while, especially after reading your positive reviews of them. I’m glad you enjoyed getting to know Joanna of Navarre too!

  6. whatmeread says:

    I know you read more historical fiction than I do, although I read a lot of it, but surprisingly I haven’t read many of the books you mention. I think I’ve read only Lorna Doone, Revelation, Dictator, and Kristin Lavransdattar.

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