Historical Fiction books out there. If you would like to read something not on the list, please ask

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World Civilizations Reading List

Students should select two books (one per semester) from this list to read both in class and at home. There will be activities attached to these books. There are many other great Historical Fiction books out there. If you would like to read something not on the list, please ask.

**Please note I have not read all the books on the list. Parent approval/guidance picking a book is recommended.**





 adventures of ibn battuta

The Adventures of Ibn Battuta: A Muslim Traveler of the 14th Centurty

 Dunn, Ross E.

 Details the life and extensive travels of Ibn Battuta, an Islamic scholar of the fourteenth century, interpreting his career as a diplomatic envoy within the cultural and social context of Islamic society


The Adventures of Robin Hood

Green, Roger Lancelyn

Robin Hood, champion of the poor and opponent of the Sheriff of Nottingham, takes refuge in the Sherwood Forest and outwits his enemies with daring and panache.

Adventures on the Ancient Silk Road

Galloway, Priscilla

This book provides accounts of journeys undertaken by three men along the Silk Road, including seventh-century Buddhist pilgrim Xuanzang, Mongolian warrior Genghis Khan, and thirteenth-century merchant Marco Polo.


African Folktales

Abrahams, Roger

Nearly 100 stories from over 40 tribe-related myths of creation, tales of epic deeds, ghost stories and tales set in both the animal and human realms.


After the Black Death: A social History of Early Modern Europe

Huppert, George

This book leads the reader into the real villages and cities of European society after the Black Death.


All Quiet on the Western Front

Remarque, Erich

Paul Baumer enlisted with his classmates in the German army of World War I. Youthful, enthusiastic, they become soldiers. But despite what they have learned, they break into pieces under the first bombardment in the trenches. And as horrible war plods on year after year, Paul holds fast to a single vow: to fight against the principles of hate that meaninglessly pits young men of the same generation but different uniforms against each other--if only he can come out of the war alive.


An Edible History of Humanity

Standage, Tom

More than simply sustenance, food historically has been a kind of technology, changing the course of human progress by helping to build empires, promote industrialization, and decide the outcomes of wars. Reveals how food has helped shape and transform societies around the world, from the emergence of farming in China by 7500 BCE to the use of sugar cane and corn to make ethanol today.


Animal Farm

Orwell, George

An allegory of a downtrodden society of overworked, mistreated animals and their quest to create a paradise of progress, justice, and equality is one of the most scathing satires ever published. As readers witness the rise and bloody fall of the revolutionary animals, they begin to recognize the seeds of totalitarianism in the most idealistic organization—and in the most charismatic leaders, the souls of the cruelest oppressors.

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Angela’s Ashes

McCourt, Frank

An uminous memoir of Frank McCourt, born in Depression-era Brooklyn to recent Irish immigrants and raised in the slums of Limerick, Ireland. Frank’s mother, Angela, has no money to feed the children since Frank’s father, Malachy, rarely works, and when he does he drinks his wages.


Arab and Jew: Wounded Spirits in a Promised Land

Shipler, David K.

Focusing on the diverse cultures that exist side by side in Israel and Israeli-controlled territories, Shipler examines the process of indoctrination that begins in schools; he discusses the far-ranging effects of socioeconomic differences, historical conflicts between Islam and Judaism, attitudes about the Holocaust, and much more. And he writes of the people: the Arab woman in love with a Jew, the retired Israeli military officer, the Palestinian guerilla, the handsome actor whose father is Arab and whose mother is Jewish.


Ben Hur

Wallace, Lew

A thoroughly exhilarating tale of betrayal, revenge and salvation, it is the only novel that ranks with Uncle Tom's Cabin as a genuine American folk possession. Wallace writes with a freshness and immediacy that brings every action-packed scene to life and illuminates the geography, ethnology and customs of the ancient world.


Beowulf: A New Verse Translation

Heaney, Seamus

The national bestseller and winner of the Whitbread Award. Composed toward the end of the first millennium, Beowulf is the classic Northern epic of a hero’s triumphs as a young warrior and his fated death as a defender of his people. The poem is about encountering the monstrous, defeating it, and then having to live on, physically and psychically exposed in the exhausted aftermath. It is not hard to draw parallels in this story to the historical curve of consciousness in the twentieth century, but the poem also transcends such considerations, telling us psychological and spiritual truths that are permanent and liberating.


The Bonesetter’s Daughter

Tan, Amy

Ruth Young and her widowed mother, LuLing, have always had a tumultuous relationship. Now, before she succumbs to forgetfulness, LuLing gives Ruth some of her writings, which reveal a side of LuLing that Ruth has never known. . . .

 the broken spears

 The Broken Spears: The Aztec Account of the Conquest of Mexico

 Leon-Portilla, Miguel

 Describes ancient Aztec civilization and presents Native American accounts of the persecution and slaughter that accompanied Cortes' conquest of Mexico.


Brunelleschi’s Dome

King, Ross

How a Renaissance genius re-invented architecture in Florence. At first denounced as a madman, Brunelleschi literally reinvented the field of architecture amid plagues, wars, and political feuds to raise seventy million pounds of metal, wood, and marble hundreds of feet in the air. Excellent reading for anyone who plans to be an engineer or architect.

 buddha: a story of enlightenment

 Buddha: A Story of Enlightenment

 Chopra, Deepak

 An account of the life of the Buddha, written for western readers, traces his spiritual journey while explaining how his experiences and teachings have changed the world and continue to influence every facet of life.


Chinese Fairy Tales and Fantasies

Roberts, Moss

This fresh and elegant translation of 100 tales from 25 centuries of Chinese literature opens up a magical world far from our customary haunts. Illustrated with woodcuts.


Cleopatra: A Life

Schiff, Stacy

Cleopatra was a shrewd strategist and an ingenious negotiator. She was married twice, each time to a brother. She waged a brutal civil war against the first and poisoned the second; incest and assassination were family specialties. She had children by Julius Caesar and Mark Antony, two of the most prominent Romans of the day. With Antony she would attempt to forge a new empire, in an alliance that spelled both their ends. Famous long before she was notorious, Cleopatra has gone down in history for all the wrong reasons. Her supple personality and the drama of her circumstances have been lost


 Cod: A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World

 Kurlansky, Mark

 A history of the fish that has led to wars, stirred revolutions, sustained economies and diets, and helped in the settlement of North America features photographs, drawings, and recipes, as well as the natural history of this much sought after fish.


 Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed

 Diamond, Jared

 A study of the downfall of some of history's greatest civilizations discusses the Anasazi, the Maya, and the Viking colony on Greenland, tracing patterns of environmental damage, poor political choices, and other factors in their demise.


A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court

Twain, Mark

Hank Morgan finds himself transported back to England's Dark Ages — where he is immediately captured and sentenced to death at Camelot. Fortunately, he's quick-witted, and in the process of saving his life he turns himself into a celebrity — winning himself the position of prime minister as well as the lasting enmity of Merlin.

 cortes and montezuma

 Cortes and Montezuma

 Collis, Maurice

 Chronicles the Spanish exploration of Central America, beginning with Cortes' 1519 landing in Mexico, providing a view of the clash of two men and two worlds, one eventually doomed to extinction.

 cows pigs wars witches

 Cows, Pigs, Wars, and Witches: The Riddles of Culture

 Harris, Marvin

  An anthropologist speculates on the origins of bizarre and mysterious human lifestyles, customs, and institutions throughout history.


Crossing the Line: A Year in the Land of Apartheid

Finnegan, William

This seminal piece of cross-cultural journalism is an account of a white American's experience teaching black students in South Africa—an account essential for its incisive coverage of the student anti-apartheid movement, as well as for the unpretentious charms of its prose.


Cry the Beloved Country

Paton, Alan

Impassioned novel about a black man’s country under white man’s law – deeply moving story of a Zulu pastor and his son and racial injustice in Southern Africa in the 1940s.


Dance of the Tiger: A Novel of the Ice Age

Kurten, Bjorn

A detailed picture of life 35,000 years ago in Western Europe. One of the world's leading scholars of Ice Age fauna, Kurtén fuses extraordinary knowledge and imagination in this vivid evocation of our deepest past. This novel illuminates the lives of the humans who left us magnificent paintings in the caves of France and Spain.


The Dark Child: The Autobiography of an African Boy

Laye, Camara

Author’s childhood memories: his father's work as a goldsmith and his position in society, his parent's magic, village life, the rice harvest, elementary Koranic education, circumcision and young men's secret society, secondary education in Conakry, girls and courtship, and departure to study in France. After almost half a century in print, this deserves to be called a classic.


David Copperfield

Dickens, Charles

Based on the author's own tumultuous journey from boy to man, this epic traces young David's progress from his mother's sheltering arms to the miseries of boarding-school and sweatshop and the rewards of friendship, romance, and self-discovery in his vocation as a writer.


The Day the Universe Changed

Burke, James

When humans understood that the earth was flat and it was the center of the universe, all life revolved around that truth. Then, Galileo introduced his telescope. And with that single innovation, architecture, music, literature, science, politics--all of it changed, mirroring the new view of truth. Examination of the moments in history when a change in knowledge radically altered man's understanding of himself and the world around him.


the death of woman wang

 The Death Of Woman Wang

 Spence, Jonathan D.

Life in the northeastern county of T'an-ch'eng emerges here as an endless cycle of floods, plagues, crop failures, banditry, and heavy taxation. Against this turbulent background a tenacious tax collector, an irascible farmer, and an unhappy wife act out a poignant drama.


Diary of Lady Muraski

Shikibu, Murasaki

The Diary recorded by Lady Murasaki (c. 973 c. 1020), author of The Tale of Genji, is an intimate picture of her life as tutor and companion to the young Empress Shoshi. Told in a series of vignettes, it offers revealing glimpses of the Japanese imperial palace the auspicious birth of a prince, rivalries between the Emperor's consorts, with sharp criticism of Murasaki's fellow ladies-in-waiting and drunken courtiers, and telling remarks about the timid Empress and her powerful father, Michinaga. The Diary is also a work of great subtlety and intense personal reflection, as Murasaki makes penetrating insights into human psychology her pragmatic observations always balanced by an exquisite and pensive melancholy.


Don Quixote

Cervantes, Miguel

Chronicles the adventures of the self-created knight-errant Don Quixote of La Mancha and his faithful squire, Sancho Panza, as they travel through sixteenth-century Spain.


The Endurance

Alexander, Caroline

In August 1914, days before the outbreak of the First World War, the renowned explorer Ernest Shackleton and a crew of twenty-seven set sail for the South Atlantic in pursuit of the last unclaimed prize in the history of exploration: the first crossing on foot of the Antarctic continent. Weaving a treacherous path through the freezing Weddell Sea, they had come within eighty-five miles of their destination when their ship, Endurance, was trapped fast in the ice pack. Soon the ship was crushed like matchwood, leaving the crew stranded on the floes. Their ordeal would last for twenty months, and they would make two near-fatal attempts to escape by open boat before their final rescue.



Uris, Leon

The birth of a new nation in the midst of enemies--the beginning of an earthshaking struggle for power.  Here is the tale that swept the world with its fury: the story of an American nurse, an Israeli freedom fighter caught up in a glorious, heartbreaking, triumphant era.


First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers

Ung, Loung

One of seven children of a high-ranking government official, Loung Ung lived a privileged life in the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh until the age of five. Then, in April 1975, Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge army stormed into the city, forcing Ung's family to flee and, eventually, to disperse. Loung was trained as a child soldier in a work camp for orphans, her siblings were sent to labor camps, and those who survived the horrors would not be reunited until the Khmer Rouge was destroyed.

Harrowing yet hopeful, Loung's powerful story is an unforgettable account of a family shaken and shattered, yet miraculously sustained by courage and love in the face of unspeakable brutality.

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