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For Readers: Blog

History doesn't have to repeat itself

by Book Geniuses on 2021-11-23T14:45:36-06:00 in Fiction, Books & Reading | Comments

As the saying goes, history repeats itself. When it comes to historical reads though, you never have to get bored with the same old setting. If you need a palate cleanser in between your go-to historical fiction reads or want to learn about a new time period, we’ve got a great selection of fiction and nonfiction to take us back in time and expand our horizons beyond the usual narratives and places. Take your pick from this list — the literary equivalent of spinning the globe and seeing where your finger lands!

Covers of Passage West by Rishi Reddi; Anticipation by Melodie Winawer; The Mercies by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

Passage West by Rishi Reddi is a well-researched and captivating look at life in America on the cusp of World War I, introducing readers to a lesser-known immigrant experience. Hoping to earn money to send to his young family in India, Ram arrives in southern California in 1913 to work on his friend’s cantaloupe farm as a sharecropper. Ram’s plans to return home are constantly shaped by obstacles that will resonate with immigrant communities today: immigration laws limiting family reunification, xenophobic attitudes from locals, restrictions on land ownership, and explosive tensions in a post-war economic slump. [print | e-book]

Melodie Winawer weaves together history, romance, thriller, and a little of the fantastical in Anticipation, a sweeping story with broad appeal. Retreating to Greece with her son for a vacation, scientist Helen finds herself entranced by the ruins of Mystras. The ancient city’s enigmatic guide, Elias, is actually from the 1200s, stuck in a cycle of death and rebirth in exchange for surviving a mysterious illness. As the past and present combine, Helen’s scientific expertise becomes vital to protecting Elias from a family that has hunted him for generations, believing his blood will finally cure their lineage of a devastating disease. The flashbacks to Elias’s journey through time create a mesmerizing historical atmosphere, while Winawer’s background as a physician-scientist helps to flesh out the motivations behind the contemporary plotlines. [print | e-book]

Next, we’re off to the remote coast of Norway in The Mercies by Kiran Millwood Hargrave. After a devastating storm wipes out the fishing village’s male population, the remaining women start to forge new roles in society for themselves, practically unheard of in 1617. Several years later an outsider named Absalom is summoned from Scotland to bring order to the independent community, but under the guise of godliness he brings fear and accusations that threaten to tear the village apart. Inspired by real events, this window into a feminist episode from history is filled with historical detail and writing that will stay with you long after you’re done reading. [print | e-book | audiobook]

Covers of Enchanted Islands by Allison Amend; Moon and the Mars by Kia Corthron; Madhouse at the End of the Earth by Julian Sancton

Not your typical World War II fiction, Enchanted Islands by Allison Amend takes readers on an unexpected journey to the Galápagos Islands. Frances Conway lives a life on the move, running away from home at the age of 15 with her mesmerizing friend Rosie, bouncing around the country as their paths diverge and eventually reuniting decades later in San Francisco. Working as a secretary for the Navy, Frances is convinced that posing as the wife of an intelligence officer will be her next great adventure, and she soon finds herself married and off to the Galápagos Islands where her husband will monitor German spy activity. Lush descriptions of island life, compelling personal struggles, and a keen understanding of the intricacies of powerful friendships make for a memorable read. [print | e-book]

Even diehard nonfiction readers will appreciate the well-researched and vivid depiction of 19th century New York City in Moon and the Mars by Kia Corthron. In the infamous Five Points district, orphaned Theo is raised by her Black and Irish grandparents and gets a front row seat to major events leading up to the Civil War. From the Dred Scott case to the iron fist of Tammany Hall to the draft riots, Theo’s insightful commentary and contemporary news clippings bring to life a tumultuous historical era that often is overshadowed by the war that follows. As Theo comes of age, readers get a glimpse of a nation undergoing its own transition as attitudes about slavery and racial discrimination start to evolve. [print | e-book]

For the ultimate long-distance journey, Madhouse at the End of the Earth by Julian Sancton is a mix of history and adventure writing so engrossing that it reads like fiction. Sancton shares the riveting real-life story of the 1897 Belgian Antarctic expedition and their efforts to survive a winter trapped by the ice. Tormented by setbacks and misfortunes even before reaching the coast of Antarctica, the Belgica and its crew (including the soon-to-be-famous explorer Roald Amundsen) experienced firsthand the cost of hubris in the quest to discover new lands. Using the ship logbook and crew diaries, Sancton recreates the drama and suspense of the endless Antarctic night on the Belgica, resulting in a fast-paced read that will have you hooked. [print | e-book]


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