Historical Books for the Reader in Your Life for 2023

Published on March 15, 2023

Historical books can be a wonderful window into the past. They can provide not only entertainment but learning as well. Historical books make for a great gift for the reader on your list or for the history nerd in the family. Here are some of the best ones to put in your cart this holiday season.

Historical Fiction Books

The Huntress by Kate Quinn

Kate Quinn is the absolute queen of historical fiction. Every single book I’ve ever picked up of hers has been an immediate favorite. This particular novel is part mystery, part history, and part love story. It’s a truly gripping tale that will keep you frantically flipping pages until the very end.

The Alice Network by Kate Quinn

Another fabulous and unexpected work from Quinn, this novel is set in World War I. It follows a young woman as she journeys through war, with themes of trauma, heartbreak, and pure feminine strength. The female heroines in this book truly make it special. This is another gift that is perfect for absolutely everyone on your list.

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

This is a great book for anyone who loves good food, good wine, and a delightful historical tale. This book is unlike any I’ve ever read before in a great way. As the main character moves through his life exiled in a high-class hotel, the reader can almost see what he sees and taste what he tastes. It’s a great gift for anyone on your list who’s up for a difficult read.

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

If you have someone on your holiday list that loves good literature and a book that might trigger a good cry, this is a perfect choice. This book is legitimately one of the best I’ve read in the last several years, but also maybe ever. Buy this book for everyone, and also yourself.

Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler

This book is a fun and engaging, easy read. It’s a perfect light read to help relax and decompress after a long day. Any literature lovers will enjoy this fictional take on one of the favorite literary couples of the 20th century.

The Doll Factory by Elizabeth Macneal

This book is wonderfully crafted and hauntingly beautiful. Set in the 19th Century, it has creepy moments interwoven with passionate love and tales of art. It’s a delightfully unique look that fans of thrillers will love.

Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson

Okay, so it might not be great timing for this one this year since it’s about a horrible deadly illness. However, it’s still a really good book. This is an excellent entry into historical fiction for teens and preteens. It features a strong female character and a remarkable plot that makes this one a true page-turner.

Historical Non-Fiction Books

Say Nothing by Patrick Radden Keefe

This book explores one of the most interesting and tragic times in history, The Troubles in Ireland. It is well-researched, well-written, and presents both sides of this issue in a balanced light. This book at times feels like a novel because it’s written in such an engaging way,

Blitzed by Norman Ohler

Did you know Hitler did drugs? Well, Hitler did drugs. This book is the whole sordid story of how the Nazi leader came to become entirely dependent on a doctor and his “injections” and what role those substances might have played in his behavior. It is easily one of the most interesting non-fiction books I’ve

Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments: Intimate Histories of Riotous Black Girls, Troublesome Women, and Queer Radicals by Saidiya Hartman

I know they say not to judge a book by its cover, but come on, that title is just unbeatable. Think book is an incredibly well-researched work of history that is an important gift for anyone and everyone on your list. It’s deeply inspiring and amazingly educational all at once.

Magic: A History: From Alchemy to Witchcraft, from the Ice Age to the Present by Chris Gosden

Magic is a fascinating subject, and different kinds of magic and beliefs surrounding it have existed for thousands of years. This book explains in an efficient manner an enormous amount of information about the history of magic in the world. It’s fascinating and an excellent gift for that witchcraft enthusiast in your family.

The Soul of America: The Battle for Our Better Angels by Jon Meacham

This explores the history of America in the context of overcoming our past demons to find moments of hope. This is a very well-written and intellectually stimulating history that brings hope to how we can all, as Americans, work past this dark time. It might not be the most exciting Christmas gift ever, but it just might bring your loved ones a little bit of peace.

Quackery: A Brief History of the Worst Ways to Cure Everything by Lydia Kang

This is a historical book all about dubious medical treatments used by doctors past. It is weird, sometimes creepy, and utterly fascinating. There is some truly weird stuff we used to do to people back in the day.

Night by Elie Wiesel

This is a first-hand account of the horrors of World War II-era concentration camps. It’s heartbreaking, tragic, and yet deeply moving. This book is a tale of human resilience and survival. It’s at times hard to get through, but it is an essential read for anyone wishing to better understand history.

Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson

This is one of those books where as soon as it was published, it pretty much took the world by storm. Time Magazine, The New York Times, you name it, pretty much everyone was falling all over themselves over this book. With good reason. This book deals with the unspoken caste system in America, how it came to be, and how it impacts us today. It is a truly riveting read that I recommend to absolutely everyone on your list this year. Throw a copy in everyone’s stocking. Go wild.

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Olivia Smith is a Staff Writer at Grit Daily. Based in San Francisco, she covers events, entertainment, fashion, and technology. She also serves as a Voices contributor at PopSugar.

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