Sometimes the best way to escape is through a really good book. The best way to escape to another era? A really good historical fiction book.
Ever since Jenna chose two historical fiction reads for her February Read With Jenna picks — "Send for Me," by Lauren Fox and "The Four Winds," by Kristin Hannah — Read With Jenna fans have been buzzing over the genre. They've mentioned popular titles, authors and series that are worth reading, so we rounded up some of the popular historical fiction reads below.
From novels that will transport you to the realities of the World War II era to a Dark Age read that reimagines what a ninth-century woman could be, read on for the page turners that Read With Jenna fans recommend.
This novel tells the legend of a woman who disguised herself as a man in order to assume St. Peter's throne. The first woman Pope, she must go against the social rules of the time — including the rule that women are forbidden to learn. As she rises to the top under the pseudonym Brother John Anglicus, she soon learns that power comes with a price.
Anna Schlemmer did not want to speak about her life in World War II Germany. That's until her daughter, Trudy, uncovers a photograph that forces her to reckon with her heritage. As she digs deep, she learns of her mother's heartbreaking story and what she endured in order to survive. This mother-daughter drama was the winner of the 2005 Ribalow Prize.
Letters between Juliet Ashton and a man she's never met pull her deeper into his world — until she eventually sets sail for it. In this story about human connection, Juliet learns of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and the impact the German occupation has on their lives and what she discovers changes her forever.
Elliot Rosenzweig is a wealthy philanthropist who has his world turned upside down when he is accused of being a former Nazi SS officer. His accuser, convinced that Rosenzweig is in the wrong, refuses to give up the case, despite Rosenzweig's pleas that the accusations are false. This tale of two men who once were as close as brothers is one that speaks to the true cruelty of the Holocaust.
The Panama Hotel in Seattle's Japantown has been boarded up for decades. Its new owner is just discovering the belongings of Japanese families who were forced to evacuate to internment camps, and has caught Henry Lee's attention. Seeing one item in particular — a Japanese parasol — takes Henry back to a time when he befriended Keiko Okabe, a young Japanese American student. However, Keiko and her family are soon taken away to internment camps. They made a promise back then, and now Henry is using it as inspiration to bridge the gap between himself and his own son.
Set in the 1940s as England prepares to fight the Nazis, this New York Times bestseller tells the tale of three women — Osla, Mab and Beth — who join forces early on to crack German military codes. Seven years later, the royal wedding of Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip turns these friends into enemies, but a mysterious letter forces them to reunite. There's one last code to crack — and they'll have to work together to figure it out, before the traitor gets any closer.
This story is based on an actual historical event, but it is told through the fictional diary entries of May Dodd. She is sent to an insane asylum "by her blue-blood family" and her only hopes of redeeming herself is by participating in a secret government program where she must marry a Cheyenne warrior. As she travels to the West to marry the great chief, Little Wolf, she finds herself caught up in a different romance. Her two worlds eventually catch up to her, and she must face the the two different lives she is living head on.
You might have heard the story of Jacob and his 12 sons, but the Bible doesn't explore much of the life of Dinah, aside from a brief stint in the Book of Genesis. "The Red Tent" explores the life of Dinah, from her childhood to her adult life as a midwife. This read gives a new life to the stories of Biblical women in a brand new way.
Jacob Janowski is down on his luck, until he finds himself as the caregiver for the circus menagerie. Set in the Great Depression, Jacob, an orphan without a penny to his name, finds himself in a group of misfits who are all just trying to survive in the world. This story of love, trust and hope was also transformed into a 2011 major motion picture featuring Robert Pattinson and Reese Witherspoon.
It's 1942 and 10-year-old Sarah and her family have been brutally arrested by the French police. Just before, Sarah locked her younger brother in the family cupboard, as she thought she'd return soon. Sixty years later, Sarah's story is unearthed when journalist Julia Jarmond conducts an investigation into the Vel’ d’Hiv’ roundup. While she learns more about Sarah's story, she's forced to think about her own, questioning her life and marriage as she goes along.
Set in France in 1939, this New York Times bestseller centers on the life of Parisian Vianne Mauriac, who doesn't believe that the Nazis will occupy her country. Soon, she finds her home requisitioned by a German captain and without food, money or hope. Meanwhile, her sister, a reckless youth, is fighting her own battles and eventually joins the Resistance. Although the sisters are in their own worlds, "The Nightingale" tells the tale of the similarity between the two women: They're just trying to survive.
Colorado, known as the Centennial State, only became a state in 1876. Before it became a part of the Union, it was a settlement full of people from all walks of life. In this novel, ranchers, homesteaders, hunters, trappers and more are brought together by a conflict that highlights the rich history of the West and the shaping of the United States.
Nineteen-year-old Elisa Perez was long sheltered from the political unrest in Cuba, since she was part of high society. That all changes when she has an affair with a revolutionary. Fast forward to 2017, when Marisol Ferrera, after listening to the stories of her grandmother Elisa, must return to the island to scatter her ashes. She soon encounters her family history beyond Elisa's stories and finds herself in a love story of her own.
For more book recommendations, check out:
- 6 page-turners you need to add to your summer reading list, according to authors
- Jenna Bush Hager shares her top 10 not-so-typical vacation reads
- All of Jenna Bush Hager's book club picks