Historical Musings #77: My year in historical fiction – 2022

Welcome to my monthly post on all things historical fiction. For my first Musings post of the year, I am looking back at the historical fiction I read in 2022 and have put together my usual selection of charts and lists! I have kept most of the same categories I’ve used for the previous six years so that it should be easy to make comparisons and to see if there have been any interesting changes in my reading patterns and choices (here are my posts for 2021, 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017 and 2016).

Before I begin, just a reminder that I do actually read other genres but haven’t included those books in these stats!

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Time periods read about in 2022:

No big changes here – the 19th and 20th centuries are nearly always the most popular settings for my historical reading and the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries usually do well too. Earlier time periods never feature as strongly, but I was pleased to find two books set in the Roman period that I enjoyed last year (The Wolf Den by Elodie Harper and The Eagle of the Ninth by Rosemary Sutcliff).

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43% of the historical fiction authors I read in 2022 were new to me. This is more than the last few years (39% in 2021 and 32% in 2020) and I think that’s a good balance of new authors and old favourites.

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I read 3 historical novels in translationThe Reindeer Hunters by Lars Mytting (Norwegian, transl. Deborah Dawkin), Ashes in the Snow by Oriana Rammuno (Italian, transl. Katherine Gregor) and Nights of Plague by Orhan Pamuk (Turkish, transl. Ekin Oklap). I must try to do better in 2023!

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Sources of historical fiction novels read in 2022:

NetGalley – 41
Books from TBR – 15
Other review copies – 7

As I mentioned in my 2023 Reading Resolutions post, I have been making an effort to get up to date with my NetGalley shelf and I expect to be requesting and reading fewer NetGalley books this year. This will allow me to get on with reading books from my own TBR, including the older books that tend to be the ones I enjoy most. Which brings me to the next category…

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Publication dates of books read in 2022:

Following on from my comments on NetGalley above, you can see in this chart that my 2022 historical reading was dominated by newly published books. I only read four books published in the 20th century, but I expect these figures to look quite different in next year’s charts as I focus on picking up more books from my own shelves.

The oldest historical fiction novel I read in 2022 was Cup of Gold by John Steinbeck, published in 1929. It tells the story of the Welsh pirate, Henry Morgan.

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9% of my historical reads in 2022 were historical mysteries.

This is about the same as in previous years. Here are three I enjoyed reading in 2022:

Traitor in the Ice by KJ Maitland
Death and the Conjuror by Tom Mead
The Blood Flower by Alex Reeve.

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I read historical fiction set in 17 different countries in 2022:

As you can see, I still read far more historical fiction set in England than anywhere else, which is mainly a reflection of the books that are being published and coming to my attention rather than a deliberate choice of mine. I’m happy with the range of other countries I read about in 2022, which is more than the previous year – and I’m almost certain that Fortune by Amanda Smyth is the first book I’ve ever read set in Trinidad.

In addition, I read a book set almost entirely at sea (Blue Water by Leonora Nattrass) and one on a fictional Mediterranean island (Nights of Plague by Orhan Pamuk).

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Four historical men I read about in 2022:

Edward Whalley (Act of Oblivion by Robert Harris)
Varian Fry (The Flight Portfolio by Julie Orringer)
Mahmood Mattan (The Fortune Men by Nadifa Mohamed)
Giorgio Barbarelli (The Colour Storm by Damian Dibben)

Four historical women I read about in 2022:

Alice Samuel (The Bewitching by Jill Dawson)
Joan of Arc (Joan by Katherine J Chen)
Bridget Cromwell (The Rebel Daughter by Miranda Malins)
Lyudmila Pavlichenko (The Diamond Eye by Kate Quinn)

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What about you? Did you read any good historical fiction last year? Have you read any of the books or authors I’ve mentioned here and have you noticed any patterns or trends in your own reading?

21 thoughts on “Historical Musings #77: My year in historical fiction – 2022

  1. Janette says:

    I think my historical fiction is dominated by English history but that’s partly because I enjoy reading about periods of History that I know something about. I did love Acts of Oblivion and The Wolf Den and have the sequel to read from the library. Hope you enjoy lots more historical books during 2023

  2. margaret21 says:

    Like you, Joan of Arc featured in my reading last year. It was in 2021 that I met Mahmood Mattan and Lyudmila Pavlichenko. Other than that, the only book on both our lists was The Wolf Den. My first historical novel this year was Jo Browning Wroe’s A Terrible Kindness, which centres on the Aberfan Disaster. I suppose it counts as history even though this is a tragedy I remember well? Very highly recommended.

    • Helen says:

      I read A Terrible Kindness last year and found it quite moving. I thought she handled the Aberfan sections very well, considering it’s something that’s within living memory for many readers.

  3. whatmeread says:

    I think also on the settings issue that the recent centuries are by far the most popular ones for authors to write about, although Ancient Rome and Greece are getting a lot more attention recently. It looks like you read a lot more recent books than I do; however, I read both The Flight Portfolio and The Fortune Men last year. I also read Booth, which I thought was good. The most interesting historical novels I read this year were based on the lives of the authors’ ancestors: The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer (survivors of the Holocaust), The Land Breakers by John Ehle (early settlers of the remote Appalachians), and The Unseen by Roy Jacobsen (occupants of a tiny island). I also read a really good mystery set in 1930’s Russia: Punishment of a Hunter by Yulia Yakovleva.

    • Helen says:

      Yes, there are a lot more books set in the 19th and 20th centuries than other periods. I loved The Invisible Bridge but haven’t read The Land Breakers or The Unseen. I’ll look out for them – thanks.

  4. Shellie says:

    I love your stats! Great work in keeping up with this. I liked how you said you were needing to read some older books only selfishly because I do not care as much for newer books and feel like in order to be a “real” book blogger I can’t read and review older books. It was just nice to see I’m not alone in thinking we don’t HAVE to only review new books to stay relevant! It is interesting to see you mainly read 20th century. That is my least read, lol. I read more English history set in the 12th or 15th centuries. So much fun to see all these different tidbits of information you gathered.

    • Helen says:

      Thank you! You can definitely review older books on your blog and still be relevant! I used to review mainly old books until I started to get a lot of new ones through NetGalley. As for the time periods, I love medieval settings but read a lot of WWI and WWII books too.

  5. FictionFan says:

    Very impressed by the number of countries you visited and also by the time range. NetGalley is wonderful, isn’t it, but it’s so easy to get sucked into a constant diet of new releases, and often there are other older books waiting that actually appeal more. Good luck with trying to read more from your existing TBR!

    • Helen says:

      It’s nice to have new releases to read, but I really want to read some of the older books on my shelves this year. And yes, I’m pleased with the number of countries I read about, some for the first time!

  6. Cyberkitten says:

    I too seem to be stuck/overly attached to the 19th/20th centuries. Then of course I go to the other extreme with Greco/Roman! I need to find some middle ground [grin] Likewise my historical reading is mostly UK, US and a bit of Europe. Need to get out of my (obvious) comfort zones a *bit* more… [lol]

    LOVE the pie charts. What did you produce them with?

    • Helen says:

      I enjoy books set in the 19th and 20th centuries, but I do love medieval history as well and seem to have been neglecting it recently!
      For the pie charts, I just use a website called Meta-Chart – quick, easy and free to use!

    • Helen says:

      Don’t worry, I’ve deleted the duplicates! Yes, I enjoy putting these statistics together every year so I can see whether there have been any trends or changes in my reading.

    • Helen says:

      My favourite historical fiction book of the year was definitely The Romantic by William Boyd. I just need to go back and read the rest of his books now!

      I’m glad you were enjoying The Foundling – I hope you’re able to finish it soon.

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