15 Historical-Fiction Books as Compelling as Kristin Hannah's The Four Winds
Kristin Hannah's The Four Winds is a beautifully written historical-fiction novel that follows Elsa Wolcott's journey to make a life for herself and her family during the Great Depression. Set against the backdrop of the Dust Bowl, The Four Winds is a gripping tale that paints a heartbreaking picture of life in America during the 1920s and '30s. First-time Hannah readers and devoted fans alike have already devoured The Four Winds, so what should you read next? Ahead, we rounded up 15 historical-fiction books that are just as exciting, immersive, and emotional as the bestselling tale. Your TBR list is about to get an upgrade!
The Great Alone
If The Four Winds was your first Kristin Hannah book, try The Great Alone, one of her other novels. Set in Alaska in 1974, The Great Alone chronicles the Albright family's struggle to live off the grid in some of the harshest American wilderness. As winter approaches and darkness overtakes the family's cabin for 18 hours a day, Mother Cora and daughter Leni must rely on each other to make it through.
This Tender Land
If The Four Winds got you hooked on American historical fiction, then you'll love This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger. Also set during the Great Depression in the Midwest, This Tender Land tells the story of four orphans who band together and travel to Mississippi to start over. As you read about the many misfits they meet along the way, you'll gain a better understanding of the struggles that connected ordinary people across the American landscape.
All the Light We Cannot See
Anthony Doerr's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel All the Light We Cannot See was an instant New York Times bestseller for a reason. Set in France during World War II, the novel follows Marie-Laure, a blind French girl, and Werner, a German orphan. As the two navigate through Europe, attempting to survive the widespread devastation, they somehow find each other at just the right time.
West With Giraffes
A perfect balance between history and fiction, West With Giraffes chronicles Woodrow Wilson Nickel's mission to deliver Southern California's first giraffes to the San Diego Zoo. Author Lydia Rutledge blends fictional characters with real historical personalities to create a story that is equal parts educational, quirky, and romantic.
Where the Crawdads Sing
If you haven't read Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens, now is the time. Kya Clark is a local outcast nicknamed the "Marsh Girl" by the residents of Barkley Cove, a small town in North Carolina. When a young man turns up dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya, but all Kya wants is to be understood. She starts to get her wish when two young men find her and help her open up — until everything changes. Read this acclaimed novel now before the movie comes out!
All Things Left Wild
It's the early 1900s, and Caleb Bentley and his brother are running from the law across the American Southwest. Chased by wealthy Randall Dawson and his partner in crime, Charlotte, the two must navigate through the harsh terrain before their past catches up with them. All Things Left Wild by James Wade is a fast-paced, thrilling trip through the West you won't want to put down.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
A beautiful story told entirely through letters, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is a well-loved book that follows writer Juliet Ashton as she learns about the tiny island of Guernsey and the community that lives there. Written by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows and recently made into a movie starring Lily James, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is filled with that vintage wanderlust that marks a truly great historical read.
The Kitchen Boy
In The Kitchen Boy, author Robert Alexander reconstructs the final days of Alexandra and Nicholas Romanov through the eyes of their kitchen boy, Leonka. When the pair are murdered, Leonka may be the only person who truly knows what happened. Could he be the key to the mysterious circumstances surrounding Alexandra and Nicholas's deaths?
The Stars Are Fire
The year is 1947. Grace Holland lives in Maine with her husband, Gene, and their two toddlers. Stuck in a loveless marriage during a drought, Grace has accepted her fate as a lonely housewife devoted to her chores. But when a wildfire burns everything Grace knows to the ground, she will finally have the chance to take control of her own destiny. The Stars Are Fire, written by Anita Shreve, will be difficult to put down.
Allow Laila Ibrahim to tell you the fascinating history behind paper wives in her book Paper Wife. Paper wives were Chinese women who immigrated to the US by pretending to be married to American citizens. After the main character, Mei Ling, embarks on the treacherous journey overseas, she finds that her arranged husband isn't the man she believed him to be. Nevertheless, to save herself and the children she brought with her, Mei Ling must try to build a family — even if it's as fragile as a piece of paper.
Tommy Orange's book There There follows 12 characters from Native communities who are all traveling to the same powwow. Each has his or her own complicated motives for performing, and as their lives intersect, Orange creates a vivid depiction of the Native American experience. If you're looking to expand your horizons and read about narratives that are often forgotten, this book is a perfect place to start.
What the Wind Knows
Amy Harmon's What the Wind Knows puts a creative spin on the historical-fiction genre. As Anne Gallagher tries to honor her deceased grandfather by spreading his ashes in his home of Ireland, she is transported back in time to 1921 Ireland. Quickly assuming the identity of a boy's missing mother, Anne soon finds herself drawn into the impending conflict for Ireland's independence. Fans of Outlander will love this gripping tale.
If Little Women holds a special place in your heart, then get ready to make some room for March by Geraldine Brooks. March explains what happened to the father from Little Women while he was fighting the Civil War away from home. Reread Louisa May Alcott's classic novel or give your favorite version of the movie another watch before you dive into this continuation of one of America's favorite coming-of-age stories.
Written by Charles Frazier and later made into a movie starring Nicole Kidman and Jude Law, Cold Mountain is a book about a soldier's journey back to his wife after the Civil War has ended. This story might be older, but it's captivated audiences for decades — so much so that it was even made into an opera.
A Splendid Ruin
In A Splendid Ruin, destitute May Kimble travels to San Francisco to start a new life with her wealthy aunt. As she adjusts to her lavish surroundings, May notices there might be more to the Sullivan mansion and its inhabitants than meets the eye. Suddenly, San Francisco is devastated by a massive earthquake, and May must both survive and endure what comes next. This novel by Megan Chance is another excellent interpretation of classic American history.