I am really into reading historical books and am a history buff, however historical fiction has always been my favorite to read. I enjoy books that outline a story using historical characters with a good plot, but also books that can explain history.
My favorite books I have ever read were Colleen McCoulough's "Masters in Rome" series.
The books tell about the fall of the Roman Republic and the story is simply engaging because she brings these characters to light.
I have also been reading Steven Saylor's "Novels of Ancient Rome" series
His character is a detective in ancient Rome who helps solve murder cases for people like Cicero, Pompey, and Caesar but always ends up in big trouble such as fighting in battles and meeting with important people.
I am asking for any recommendations on what books to read that are like the ones I have described. I love books with these great plots and characters, but also books that teach history. I was hoping I could find some great authors to hook onto maybe in an ancient Greece setting or the middle ages, WW2, etc. The historical time period isn't very relavent as long as it can tell a historical story.
Stephen Pressfield's Gates of Fire is a really popular one, more military themed than something like a detective story--it is a fictive account of the Battle of Thermopylae.
Spies of the Balkans by Alan Furst is a solid noir-ish detective/spy story set in WWII-Greece. I haven't read any of his other novels but he has a bunch of spy novels.
Michael and Jeffrey Shaara also wrote awesome Civil War fiction, which is definitely worth reading.
Came in here to suggest the Shaara's. Their books were the basis for the movies Gettysberg and Gods and Generals.
Newt Gingrich also coauthored a series of Civil War based alternate histories looking at what would happen if the Confederates had won the battle of Gettysberg. They're pretty good if I remember right, though it's been years since I've been a big historical fiction reader.
Another possibility is Stephen R. Lawhead. He's written a number of books which toe the line between fantasy and historical fiction. Look at the Celtic Crusades trilogy (deals with the Crusades, obviously), the King Raven trilogy (an 11th century Welsh Robin Hood fighting the Norman invaders), or the Pendragon Cycle (Arthurian legend).
I'd be interested in reading Gingrich's work, not necessarily for the story itself, but just to see the intermeshing of political agenda, current culture politics, and writing style. My bet is that it panders to southern nostalgia for their slave empire.
My bet is that it panders to southern nostalgia for their slave empire.
Don't be so sure. Keep in mind that Gingrich was a historian before he was a politician. Like I said it's been a few years since I've read them, so I couldn't comment on minute details but I don't remember getting any sense of that from the books.
It's more of a fleshed out thought experiment, speculative military history as told by a social historian. And the conclusion that he comes to is not supportive of a Southern slave empire as the Confederacy ultimately still loses the war. If I remember right, the basic progression is: Confederates win the battle of Gettysberg --> Confederates march on Washington, DC --> Grant begins marching to the East --> Washington's defenses hold, but the Army of the Potomac is destroyed in the process --> Grant arrives in time to push the Confederates back into Virginia --> Lee is ultimately forced to surrender.
G.A. Henty has written a lot of historical fiction from all eras in history. His books are great, and I would suggest that you look into them. His books fall under the more adventurous category than detective side.
If you want Historical what-if/rewrite there is Harry Turtledove. He has one stand alone on if the south won the Civil War, then he has a series that starts at WWI in a world where the south won, going through WWII
Another good one is a trilogy by Harry Harrison starting with Hammer and the Cross. It goes back to the viking raids in the British Islands and the viking Gods actually exist and work through a native who becomes a slave who becomes a king of the Vikings
I would sugget the " icelanders sage". There's a lot of it if non-fiction and fiction mixed because it was told word-of-mouth for generations. It's also very thick so you will be occupied for awile.
With fantastic tinge:
Harry Turtledove, Guns of the South: alternate history of US Civil War.
Also (with co-author): Household Gods -- LA lawyer experiences life in the Roman Empire.
Connie Willis, To Say Nothing of the Dog -- Victorian & WWII, farce; also, The Doomsday Book -- black plague
w/o fantastic elements:
Lloyd C Douglas, The Robe, and the Big Fisherman. NT times.
Jerome K Jerome, Three Men in a Boat. Victorian farce.
I forget the author. The Egyptian. Depressing, but compelling.
Octavia Butler, Kindred. SF again. 1976 woman finds out what it's like to be a slave in 1830's Maryland.
You would probably like the Flashman series by George MacDonald Fraser(RIP). The author have used the fictional Flashman to write about much of the conflicts thats called "Victorias small wars" by inserting the Flashman character in the story.
There is also three books with settings in the US:
Flash for freedom, about slaving and the underground railroad,
Flashman and the redskins, no dice to guess whats this about and it includes Little Big Horn and Custers last stand.
Flashman and the Angel of the Lord, about Harpers Ferry.
The rest of the series have a general slant towards British Empire stuff, such as India and Afghanistan. Highly recommendable and great entertainment.
The one I`ve enjoyed the most are "Flashman and the great game", about the Sepoy uprising in India.
I`m a big fan, if you havent guessed it already. :-)
Check out Bernard Cornwell...one of my favorite historical fiction authors. He does a bunch of different series. The Sharpe series is based around the Napoleonic wars. The Grail Quest series is part of the 100 years war. "Azincourt" is based around...well, the battle of Azincourt. He has a book called "The Fort" based around a battle that took place as part of the Revolutionary war. Everything I have ever read of his I have thoroughly enjoyed.
Conn Iggulden is another author I have been reading recently and am enjoying. Currently reading his series that follows the Genghis Khan history, but he has others also.
I love this one.