robert sharenow

A Historically Based Reading List (For History Buffs and Haters Alike!)

Hello! I love history and I love books so LEGGO

(Btw, this is a VERY SHORT LIST. I intend to read a lot more historical fiction and nonfiction this year, but these are some of my favorites of what I have read.)

MIDDLE GRADE

  • The Missing by Margaret Peterson Haddix (series)
    • This was the first main series that REALLY got me into history as a kid. I knew way too much about the lost Roanoke colony way too early because of this series. Awesome if you’re interested in sci-fi and time travel (and mysteries!) along with history.
  • 39 Clues by Various Authors (series)
    • Another one of my first favorite series. This one doesn’t delve into history quite as deeply (or accurately) as The Missing, but it does cover a wide variety of topics. And of course, it’s thrilling to keep younger readers invested. I can’t say I recommend the spin-off series, though.
  • Little House on the Prarie by Laura Ingalls Wilder (series)
    • Okay, so a classic but not bad if you’re interested in the old Midwest. The TV show works too. I still haven’t read the Almonzo book because my mother said she never read it either. Whoops.
  • Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink
    • On the back of the copy I read, one of the reviews said, “You take Little House, I’ll take Caddie Woodlawn any day.” As Little House’s No. 1 fan as a fifth grader, I was properly offended. But that guy was kind of right. It’s pretty dang good.
  • Jefferson’s Sons by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
    • This one kind of teeters into the YA category, just because Thomas Jefferson Is An Awful Person. This book is good for all ages, in my opinion, especially if you’re interested in the era that Thomas Jefferson was alive, or if you have any small knowledge on the Sally Hemmings affair.
  • Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan
    • Okay, this one might not be super historical overall, but the first part of the three definitely is. Three different stories all take place with different people during different times in different places, but they all involve one harmonica made by a Jewish family in Nazi Germany (this may not be completely correct; it’s been awhile since I read it, but more or less.) Also sort of YA, also one of my favorites because it involves music.

YA HISTORICAL FICTION

  • Trouble by Gary D. Schmidt
    • If you’ve ever heard me talk about books, you’ve heard me mention GDS one of five million times. Both Trouble, The Wednesday Wars, and Okay For Now take place during the Vietnam War, but Trouble specifically focuses on the impact Vietnam immigrants made in America and how they were treated by the white communities. I love these books gosh.
  • Uprising by Margaret Peterson Haddix 
    • This is the second book I mention by this author, and this is probably my favorite out of her 20 some books that I read. Shirtwaist factory strikes and fires. Immigrants. Girl Power. Amazing.
  • The Diviners by Libba Bray
    • Alright, this is primarily a fantasy series, but it is DANG GOOD on all accounts. Takes place during the 1920s, with prohibition, eugenics, and flappers being all the rage. Pretty horror influenced, but absolutely phenomenal.
  • The Passion of Dolssa by Julie Berry
    • I never thought I’d read a book like this. This is about the miracle woman, or “heretics” as the Catholic church called them, during the 1000-1300s. Really interesting read, as it’s also strongly influenced by Shakespeare and (in my opinion) fantasy as well as legitimate historical events and places. There’s even a reading list in the back. How nice.
  • The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
    • WWII. Do I even have to explain this one?
  • The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick
    • Read any and every book by Brian Selznick, please. My personal favorite is the Marvels, but Hugo captivated me first and introduced me to early filmmaking and how cool that all is.
  • Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
    • WWII. Lady pilots. Friendship. It’s great, I swear. A bit technical at the beginning, but it gets so intense guys. So good. 
  • Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein
    • This is basically cheating, since RUF is more or less a continuation of CNV, but it’s far less technical than CNV. It also takes place in a concentration camp and introduces new kickass characters while keeping tabs on the old favorites. Also incorporates poetry, which led my jaw to dropping more than once.
  • Audacity by Melanie Crowder
    • Written in verse. If you read any of these, read this.
  • The Berlin Boxing Club by Robert Sharenow
    • Yet another WWII, because YA can’t get enough of that. But seriously, this was just an interesting, cool read about the different perspectives of the persecuted people in Nazi Germany. Also based on true events? Cool.
  • Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys
    • YES IT’S ANOTHER WWII BOOK DON’T THROW THINGS AT ME. This one, however, does not take place in Germany, but in the Soviet gulags. This book is so important. And SO good.

MEMOIR & NONFICTION

  • The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
    • Another classic, and really good to bring this one up during Bi-Pride Week.
  • Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
    • I’m a sucker for anything about the Olympics tbh. Very good. Very important. The movie is also good btw.
  • The Boys In The Boat by Daniel Brown James 
    • I repeat: I’M A SUCKER FOR ANYTHING ABOUT THE OLYMPICS. I don’t know if you’ll believe me when I say that I tore through this one, but I did.
  • Night by Elie Wiesel 
    • I might just be including this because it’s short and Mr. Wiesel won a Nobel Peace Prize. Hm.
  • Boxers & Saints by Gene Luen Yang
    • We’re out of the WWII section thank god. But guys, as someone who has very little understanding of Asian history, these graphic novels are super important and super interesting. They may lean more towards YA, but they’re pretty dark in some parts, and they’re definitely fact based. But yeah. Super quick, super important stuff to know.
  • Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow
    • This 800 page book took me literally six months to read, but it was worth it. And as a musical fan, I’d basically be betraying myself to not include this.
  • Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi 
    • This is another “if you read any of these” book. It’s a graphic novel guys, so it’s fast, and it’s fantastic. Iranian/Islamic Revolution. Read this.

OTHER

The Great Comet Characters as Books They Should Read
  • Pierre: The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway, The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater, Trouble by Gary D. Schmidt
  • Natasha: A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray, The Princess Saves Herself In This One by Amanda Lovelace, The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater, Between the Lines by Jodi Picoult and Samantha VanLeer
  • Sonya: I Was Here by Gayle Forman, Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein, The Tragedy Paper by Elizabeth LaBan, Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier
  • Marya: Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn, I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
  • Anatole: We Know It Was You by Maggie Thrash, As You Like it by Shakespeare, Carrie by Stephen King
  • Helene: Beauty Queens by Libba Bray, The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh, Delirium by Lauren Oliver
  • Dolokov: The Berlin Boxing Club by Robert Sharenow, Saga by Brian K. Vaughan, Illuminae by Jay Kristoff and Aimee Kaufman
  • Mary: The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness, Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella, The Infernal Devices by Cassandra Clare
  • Andrey/Bolkonsky: Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetrys, The Lord of The Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
  • Balaga: Is Everyone Hanging Out With Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling