Top 5 Must-Read Historical Fiction Books

Article by: Jesselyn Handoko


  1. Pachinko


“There was more to being something than just blood.”

Pachinko is a historical fiction piece written by Min Jin Lee set in 1900s’ about the Japanese colonization of Korea before it split into the North and South. The story follows a young Korean girl, Sunja, and the struggle through poverty and discrimination for Koreans during the 1900s- A review by the Guardian describes Pachinko as, “…a rich tribute to a people that history seems intent on erasing.”


  1. Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood

“One should forgive, but one should never forget”

Persepolis tells the story in the perspective of young Marjane Satrapi (the author) who grew up in Iran during the Iranian Revolution. Marjane, the great-granddaughter of one of Iran’s last emperors, illustrates her life in Iran and the new hardships she faced through growing up and adolescence during the time her country was undergoing massive social changes- the best part? It’s done in a graphic novel.


  1. This Earth of Mankind

“Only then did I realize how evil the law was.”

This Earth of Mankind is a book set in 19-century Indonesia during the Dutch-Colonial period and was banned in it’s own origin country, as the author was an Indonesian political prisoner, and follows the life of Minke, a native, who challenges the discrimination of natives, as well as the social rankings by race established by the Europeans during the colonial period that lasted 159 years.


  1. The Wrath and The Dawn

“So you would have me throw Shazi to the wolves?”

“Shazi? Honestly, I pity the wolves.”

The Wrath & The Dawn is a classic retelling of the famous One Thousand and One Nights, also called, The Arabian Nights. It is set in the kingdom of Khorasan where a king takes a new bride each night only to have her dead by dawn. After the brutal practice takes the life of a girl named Shiva, Shahrzad decides to volunteer to marry her dearest friend’s murderer, with the intent of killing him and ending his reign of terror. However, not all is as it seems and Shahrzad must find the truth behind the brutal execution of the brides before her, while also remaining alive.


  1.  The Yellow Wallpaper

“The color is hideous enough, and unreliable enough, and infuriating enough, but the pattern is torturing.”

A classic feminist piece, The Yellow Wallpaper is a short story with an unreliable narrator, the first-person perspective of a woman subjected to the inhumane, “rest cure” prescribed to women diagnosed with, “hysteria”  in the late 18-century. Isolated and without any form of recreation or escape, the narrator begins grow an obsession with the yellow wallpaper in her room, claiming that, at night, a the silhouette of a woman can be seen struggling behind it. Equally as disturbing as it is haunting, Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s work is a testament to the sexist society of her time.



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