From famous book clubs to film adaptations, historical fiction has been increasingly popular recently. This means that you shouldn’t have a problem finding a book to fulfill this month’s #RogersReads challenge to read a fictional retelling of a historical event. While “Historical Fiction” may seem like a restrictive genre, there’s a wide range of options since there has been a lot of history already and there’s plenty of different ways to tell stories. For example, you can choose a realistic tale from the Renaissance or an outlandish reimagining of an alternate history. Any event in the past that has been retold will do. We can’t wait to see what books you choose to fulfill this month’s prompt. We hope it’s a blast (from the past)!
World War II is a popular topic for historical fiction. It’s so popular in fact that you can probably think of several right off the top of your head. The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah, The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, and The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris are all titles that may be familiar to you. The Only Woman in the Room by Marie Benedict is a story about Hedy Lamar being an informant against the third reich.
Similarly, the Civil War has proven to be a fertile topic. Conjure Women by Afia Atakora, The Widow of the South by Robert Hicks, and My Name is Mary Sutter by Robin Oliveira tell the story of women on different sides of the Civil War. Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders and Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier are both emotional retellings of the effects of the war.
Every major era in American history has been thoroughly fictionalized. My Dear Hamilton by Stephanie Dray is set during the Revolution, and Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen is a love story that takes place at a depression-era circus.
Some events in European history have proven especially interesting to fiction fans. For example, the many wives of Henry the 8th and their many unhappy endings have captivated the attention of American readers for years. The Other Boleyn Girl by Phillipa Gregory was published about 20 years ago, and Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel is already over 10 years old. Some authors, like Alison Weir, have a whole series dedicated to this topic.
Just because we are talking about historical events does not mean that they have to be historically accurate. Most of these novels don’t promise historical accuracy, but the ones that get very creative with the story can be a nice break from reality. If you are interested in alternate histories, you can check out 11/22/63 by Stephen King, in which a time traveler tries to prevent the death of JFK. Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith is…well…exactly what it sounds like. Napoleon Bonaparte is a favorite topic, inspiring books like His Majesty’s Dragon by Naomi Novik and Battlesaurus: Rampage at Waterloo by Brian Falkner.
In many cases, authors have used alternate history to reframe tragic stories and situations. For example, topics like racism and hate have been approached creatively by authors like P. Djèlí Clark, the author of Ring Shout, who reimagines the KKK as literal demons to wage war against. The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead replaces the famous path of escape for enslaved people in the south as a literal train and railroad. In Dread Nation, Justina Ireland imagines a world in which the Civil War was interrupted by a zombie apocalypse.
If you haven’t already, you can join the #RogersReads reading challenge by registering and entering the books you read at rpl.readsquared.com under “missions.” Each month, prizes will be awarded to two readers who complete a mission online by the end of the month. If you complete all twelve missions by December 31, 2021, you will be entered for the grand prize that will be awarded at the end of the challenge. You can finish the challenges in any order over the course of the year with eBooks, audiobooks, or print copies of a title.
We are looking forward to a year full of challenging new reads with you!
#RogersReads Reading Challenges for 2021
1. Read a book that makes you laugh.
2. Read a book that is about food or has food in the title.
3. Read a book set in or about space.
4. Read a book that is about or based on mythology or folklore.
5. Read a book whose author is known for something other than writing.
6. Read a book, fiction or non-fiction, about nature.
7. Read a fictional retelling of a historical event.
8. Read a book you meant to read in 2020.
9. Read a book with an animal on the cover.
10. Read a book from your least favorite genre.
11. Read a book that, for better or worse, you judged by its cover.
12. Read a book with a body of water on the cover or in the title.