Year of Historical Reading – November Update

I thought I was having a bad reading month but after I tallied up my books, I was surprised to see it was better than I thought! This month was full of reading, including two highly anticipated sequels or series updates. I also read a couple of books to help me with a writing project that I have been working on for over 4 years. I’ve made a goal to finish my work-in-progress novel by my birthday in March so stay tuned for more information!

Here are my books for November (and one that I forgot to add to my September reads!), and I have indicated if they were pulled from my unread shelves, purchased, or borrowed from the library.  

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Historical Fiction:

Hamilton and Peggy!: A Revolutionary Friendship by L.M. Elliott (forgot to include in September update!) (own on ereader)

I read this book in September but just realized I didn’t include it in the monthly YHR update! This YA novel imagines the friendly relationship between Alexander Hamilton and Peggy Schuyler. It’s a delightful novel, perfect for teens who can’t get enough of Hamilton! Unlike some YA novels about Hamilton, this book stays true to the historical facts as we know them and gives voice to one of the pluckiest and most intelligent heroines of the Revolution – Peggy. After reading this book, you will no longer think of her as just “And Peggy!” It pairs well with reading My Dear Hamilton about Eliza for older teens. If you can recommend a book about Angelica, please let me know!

Majesty (American Royals II) by Katharine McGee (library)

The long-awaited sequel to the YA alternate history novel, American Royals, is finally here! After ending on a cliffhanger in American Royals, Majesty picks up immediately afterwards so I can’t say much about the plot of the book without giving spoilers. I can say the angsty teen/early adult romance is so good and draws you in, as well as the clever touches of alternate history such as the titles of the royals (Duke of Boston, etc.). It’s a fun and fast read, and I hope there’s another sequel coming next year. This series would make a great Christmas gift for the high schooler on your Christmas list (in fact, it’s included in my 2020 Holiday Gift Guide!).

Pictures at the Protest by Steven. K. Smith (Advanced Review Copy/purchased additional copy in early December)

As you may remember, I read all of the books in the Virginia Mysteries series several months ago, and this book is the latest installment in the series. This new book covers the closure of some Virginia schools in the 1950s due to resistance against desegregation. This book is especially relevant today as many kids are currently dealing with school closures during the pandemic although this historical event was for a much different reason. It also touches on the social justice protests from the summer of 2020 and gives parents an entry point to discuss these hard issues with their kids. As always, Smith does a fantastic job at weaving in historical facts with modern day issues, and I highly recommend all of the books in this series. Be sure to check out my Travel with Books video from November where I visit some of the locations in the other books and interview the author! 

A Shout in the Ruins by Kevin Powers (own/unread shelves)

I was inspired to read this literary historical fiction book because it takes place on the very land where I live. Set near Richmond, Virginia during several points in history before, during, and after the Civil War, this book looks at the painful legacy created by slavery that lingered into the 20th century. This is not an easy historical read but is a powerful story of evil and hope. 

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys (own/purchased through Book of the Month this year)

I was enthralled by this YA historical fiction novel about a little-known World War II event, fleeing refugees from Prussia, Lithuania, Poland, and Latvia who were desperately trying to escape the invading Russians by getting on German naval ships. Told from various points of view, this story is fast-paced and heart-stopping. It contains some very hard history, with death and destruction around every corner, but it is so important to learn about this horrific event to honor the memory of those who went through it, including the author’s own ancestors. Ruta Sepetys is fast becoming one of my favorite historical fiction authors!

Ribbons of Scarlet: A Novel of the French Revolution’s Women by various authors (own/from unread shelves)

This book is very unique with each chapter focusing on a different woman involved in the French Revolution and written by a different author. While this structure seems like it would be hard to follow, it actually works exceptionally well! The writing flows seamlessly chapter to chapter and tells a complete story of 7 women involved in the French Revolution from its inception to its eventual tragic end. I love a good story about a hidden woman from history! The authors include some of my favorite authors, Stephanie Dray, Laura Kamoie, and Kate Quinn, and introduced me to 3 new historical fiction authors as well. I can’t wait to read more from them! 

Historical Nonfiction

HRH: So Many Thoughts on Royal Style by Elizabeth Holmes (own/purchased in November)

While not technically historical nonfiction, I’m counting this book as such! This gorgeous book tells the story of royal fashion from the Queen’s earliest outfits to Diana’s 1980s excess to the most recent Kate/Meghan rivalry. It was fascinating to read the history and thought behind each fashion choice and how the Royals choose their clothes to convey their personalities, opinions, and charitable works. The pictures included in the book are fantastic and Holmes’ writing is thoughtful yet fun. It would make a great Christmas gift for the Royal watcher in your life!

Confederate Citadel: Richmond and Its People at War by Mary A. DeCredico (own/purchased in summer)

This recently released academic book by a professor at the US Naval Academy is a must-read for every Richmond-area history enthusiast and anyone interested in Civil War history. As an aspiring novelist of a book set in Richmond during the Civil War, I highlighted a phrase or fact on every page! I have always been more interested in what happened on the homefront during the war, particularly in Richmond as it was the center of government and military affairs, than what was happening on the various battlefields. Most of the time, women were left alone, with the men off fighting, and had to meet the challenges that war wrought on the civilian populations by themselves. DeCredico describes the difficulties of living in Richmond during these years, from the scarcity of food to the ever-present threat of attack. The Union’s rallying cry was always “On to Richmond!” so imagine if you were living in that target! As I work on my novel, I know I will refer to this book constantly. I also read an additional book for my novel this month and a couple in previous months, including several Richmond women’s diaries. These primary sources are some of the best ways to know what was happening in the city during such a challenging time.

I read two additional books outside of the historical genre this month, both in the personal growth category, The Sacred Enneagram and Why We Can’t Sleep. I got the chance to meet the author of Why We Can’t Sleep, Ada Calhoun, in January, and the book was spot-on for women that are in Generation X.

Only one more month in 2020, my Year of Historical Reading. I’m closing out the year catching up on my ARCs and gifted books so I can help you prepare for 2021 historical releases!

Stats for November (plus one missed book from September):

82% historical fiction and nonfiction 

9 of 119+ unread books 

2 library books (one from Kindle Unlimited)

If you enjoy following along on my Year of Historical Reading, be sure to friend The History Mom on Goodreads and to follow me on Instagram, where I post the books I am reading in real time.  

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