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Topic: 50 Essential HF Novels

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Subject: 50 Essential HF Novels
Date Posted: 12/20/2013 8:13 PM ET
Member Since: 8/17/2009
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http://www.abebooks.com/books/features/50-essential-historical-fiction-books.shtml

What do you think of the list?  How many have you read? 

 



Last Edited on: 12/20/13 8:17 PM ET - Total times edited: 3
Subject:
Date Posted: 12/20/2013 10:02 PM ET
Member Since: 7/6/2007
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I've only read 8 of those books, but many are still on my TBR list. I honestly don't understand how The Historian made the cut-that, to me, is by far the worst book I've ever read.



Last Edited on: 12/20/13 10:04 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 12/21/2013 12:26 AM ET
Member Since: 7/22/2009
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An odd list.... I've read 17, have a number of others on my shelf, and haven't heard of several. Granted, we all have our favorite authors and books, but not to include Dorothy Dunnett is inexcusable. And Mary Renault? Anya Seton? Sharon Kay Penman? James Clavell? And why would anyone consider Barnes' Arthur and George (which I liked) or The Sisters Brothers (which I didn't like) "essential" historical fiction? Like many such lists, there are some glaring omissions and some curious (if not outrightly absurd) inclusions. It would be interesting to know who Lily King (the list's author) is, what qualifies her to select essential historical fiction, and what the criteria were. I suspect that each of us could come up with a list that is just as valid, if not more so.

Just my ever so 'umble opinion.

(And why is the cover of Wolf Hall shown prominently beneath the heading, yet is not included in the 50 books?)

ETA: Carolyn -- I LOVE your avatar. Oh, that Raylan...sigh....



Last Edited on: 12/21/13 12:29 AM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 12/21/2013 5:35 AM ET
Member Since: 8/17/2009
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I think it's a good list to introduce readers to the wide diversity of what can be considered historical fiction and I like that she included a definition of the genre in the article.  She seems to be pointing out that hf is gaining critical "respect" by being included in major literary awards - thus the image of "Wolf Hall (just my guess).  I definitely don't think the title "essential hf" is appropriate though.  I wish she had chosen another title for the list and I think she could have done a much better job including some of the iconic authors that Deb mentioned. 

Carolyn, I have a love/hate relationship with "The Historian" - I loved when I finally finished reading it : )

Of the 50 books, I've read only 15 and have a few more on the self tbr. 

 



Last Edited on: 12/21/13 5:36 AM ET - Total times edited: 2
Date Posted: 12/21/2013 7:02 AM ET
Member Since: 5/31/2009
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I've read 12 of the books and have several more on my shelves to be read.  Interesting list!  It expands my research into what I should read in the year ahead.  I think that anyone who makes a list in any genre has their own favorites.

Date Posted: 12/21/2013 10:25 AM ET
Member Since: 3/23/2008
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It IS an odd list...again, some I agree with, some really aren't historical fiction and some authors on the list don't belong there and lots of great authors are totally missing.



Last Edited on: 12/21/13 10:25 AM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 12/21/2013 4:52 PM ET
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Deb - can you tell I'm excited for the new season of Justified? Lol!!

Donna - I'm amazed I was actually able to finish it. But I was young and naive when it came out and I read it. In my advanced age of 34, I've learned better. :)

Date Posted: 12/21/2013 8:37 PM ET
Member Since: 8/17/2009
Posts: 1,588
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I read The Historian a few years ago (advanced age of early 40s) and I loved it. :)  I'd give it consideration for a top 50 list, but essential?  No. I've read 10 of the 50 and a few more I intend to read some day.  Some of the authors on it, I'd put other books ahead of the one selected.  Others, I've never heard of or have no interest in.

Date Posted: 12/22/2013 7:56 AM ET
Member Since: 11/11/2005
Posts: 5,238
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I've read the following  seven books from the list.  And given that I average only about 10 historical fiction books a year, even that much surprised me.

  • Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
  • Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell
  • March by Geraldine Brooks
  • The March by E.L. Doctorow
  • The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough
  • The Historical by Elizabeth Kostova
  • Shanghai Girls by Elizabeth See

And I have The Painted Girls and Arthur & George on my TBR.    I'm far from a historical fiction purist, but I am surprised by the omission of a few books and authors that are considered some of the top authors of historical fiction - like Sharon Kay Penman (whom I haven't read yet but plan to soon).

Cheryl said "some really aren't historical fiction".   I'm curious.  which book on the list wouldn't be considered historical fiction?  As far as I can tell, they are all historical fiction.  What am I mising?  Can someone educate me?

 

Date Posted: 12/22/2013 9:53 AM ET
Member Since: 5/3/2008
Posts: 10,207
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I've read 11 on that list and have no desire to read those remaining. Looking at the comments below it, I would say that many people were disappointed/confused by the "significant" omissions!!!!

Date Posted: 12/22/2013 2:01 PM ET
Member Since: 5/27/2005
Posts: 2,390
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I almost quit reviewing the list when I came across The Other Boleyn Girl by Phillippa Gregory. 

Kelly

 

 

Date Posted: 12/22/2013 3:55 PM ET
Member Since: 7/15/2008
Posts: 4,035
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What Deb and Kelly said. Don't get me started on Pillars.

Date Posted: 12/22/2013 8:08 PM ET
Member Since: 6/1/2007
Posts: 1,891
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I've read 12 and some of these were real turds.  I can think of several HF that would be considered more essential than some of these.

 

Date Posted: 12/22/2013 9:29 PM ET
Member Since: 8/17/2009
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"I've read 12 and some of these were real turds."

  Hahahaha - tell it like it is Holly!  Please let us know which ones so we can avoid them.

Date Posted: 12/22/2013 10:12 PM ET
Member Since: 8/17/2009
Posts: 1,588
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Essential, to me, means something on the order of this:  If the world as we know it was going to end tomorrow, and it was up to YOU to decide which 50 HF books would be preserved for whatever posterity survived, which would you sellect?  Of her list of 50, I would probably include:

I, Claudius by Graves

A Tale of Two Cities by Dickens

War and Peace by Tolstoy (I haven't read it but maybe this will be the year)

Gone With the Wind by Mitchell

The Far Pavilions by MM Kaye

The Thornbirds by McCullough

Dumas certainly belongs on the list, but I'd put Count of Monte Cristo over Three Muskateers.  Michener, too, but I'm not sure which, and I doubt Caravans.  I've only read a few of Micheners and I wouldn't include any that I have read (favorite so far Poland), but The Source and The Covenant are on my TBR.



Last Edited on: 12/23/13 4:00 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Alice J. (ASJ) - ,
Date Posted: 12/23/2013 11:22 AM ET
Member Since: 5/13/2009
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I am not impressed with the list. There are some quality books (Tale of Two Cities, I Cladius) but  lot of junk that is just so so. I must admit I was glad to see a James Michner book on the list. always enjoyed them and he spent a lot of time researching them. I did read Caravan. It was good not sure it was his best. I think I like The Covenant the best my him.

Just my opinion

Alice
 

Date Posted: 12/23/2013 3:07 PM ET
Member Since: 6/5/2007
Posts: 2,507
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It is a haphazard list, but I do like the way that it isn't just English or European historical fiction.  Like others, I have more on my TBR pile, but I've read 12:
 

Kristin Lavransdatter
by Sigrid Undset

The Other Boleyn Girl
by Philippa Gregory

The Three Musketeers
by Alexandre Dumas

Waverley
by Sir Walter Scott

A Tale of Two Cities
by Charles Dickens

 

War and Peace
by Leo Tolstoy

Gone with the Wind
by Margaret Mitchell

March
by Geraldine Brooks

The Poisonwood Bible
by Barbara Kingsolver

Memoirs of a Geisha
by Arthur Golden

The Historian
by Elizabeth Kostova

Shanghai Girls
by Lisa See

Date Posted: 12/23/2013 3:37 PM ET
Member Since: 8/17/2009
Posts: 929
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Mimi, that's a pretty impressive list.  I keep trying to read War and Peace - mayber this will be my year.  What did you think of Waverly?

Date Posted: 12/23/2013 3:38 PM ET
Member Since: 8/9/2005
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Last Edited on: 2/4/15 3:54 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 12/23/2013 4:46 PM ET
Member Since: 7/6/2007
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You reeeeaaaaallllyyyy need to be in the right frame of mind to read War and Peace. To state the obvious, it's a hefty book, in every which way. I had one friend ask me what it was about, and my response was: "It's a 1300 page book-1298 pages are war and the last two pages are unsettled peace." 

Date Posted: 12/23/2013 4:58 PM ET
Member Since: 8/17/2009
Posts: 929
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My problem has beeen remaining in the right frame of mind for the time it takes to get through the book!

Date Posted: 12/23/2013 8:30 PM ET
Member Since: 6/1/2007
Posts: 1,891
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Hahahaha - tell it like it is Holly!  Please let us know which ones so we can avoid them.

Donna-I didn't think The Long Song was that great and I got about 1/2 way through The Twelve Rooms of the Nile and sent it back to the library.  Those two stuck out right away.

Date Posted: 12/23/2013 9:24 PM ET
Member Since: 9/14/2008
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I've only read six of the list:

The Other Boleyn Girl

Gone With The Wind

The Thorn Birds

The Poisonwood Bible

Memoirs of a Geisha

Shanghai Girls

Date Posted: 12/23/2013 9:40 PM ET
Member Since: 10/6/2007
Posts: 3,090
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I have read 8 of them.  Not a very awesome list to be sure.  I enjoyed reading the comments by everyone at the bottom of the list.  Clearly there was much disagreement as to what should and should not have been on the list.  I have read more of the ones included in the comments than on the list!!!!

Date Posted: 12/24/2013 2:01 PM ET
Member Since: 6/5/2007
Posts: 2,507
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Thank you, blush.  I remember enjoying, but not loving, Waverly. I also don't remember any plot details.

While I didn't think it read slowly, I admit I skimmed through War and read Peace more intently ;)

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