During my Year of Historical Reading in 2020, I did a monthly recap of the books I read the previous month. Many readers let me know they loved this reading recap, so in 2021, I plan to write a quarterly blog post about my reading, only focusing on the books I loved. I do let my monthly newsletter subscribers know what my favorite books are each month so sign up here if you’d like to find out before these quarterly recaps! Plus in my newsletter, I also list corresponding historical sites with the books to help you plan a (future) trip to walk in the characters’ footsteps!
My reading in 2021 has been at a fast clip. I’ve completed 46 books this year, with 4 additional books in progress or partially read. Looks like I’m well on my pace to reach my goal of 125 books read this year! Many of the books I read are history nonfiction pertaining to my just completed first novel about Richmond during the Civil War. Once I’m done with editing, I’ll do a blog post listing all of the books I used for research – there are dozens!
Out of the 46 books I completed, about 65% were fiction and 35% were nonfiction. Most were books for adults (30) but thanks to #middlegrademarch, I also read 14 middle grade novels! My least favorite reading level is Young Adult (YA) but I did sneak in two of those this quarter.
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Favorite Historical Fiction Books for Adults
All five of my favorite books from this category were listed in my Most Anticipated Historical Fiction Releases of 2021 blog post.
I know many readers are tired of World War II books but I can’t get enough! Especially books with strong female protagonists who go against all odds to defeat the Nazis. Four of my favorite books this quarter were WWII novels:
Under the Light of the Italian Moon by Jennifer Anton
This book by a debut author is a searing tale of love, loss, and survival in World War II-era Italy, based on the author’s own family history.
Our Darkest Night by Jennifer Robson
Another 5 star read about World War II in Italy, this book is an epic tale about the power of love and kindness during some of the most brutal times in Italy’s history.
The Invisible Woman by Erika Robuck
Based on a true story, this book is a heart-stopping tale of an American female spy in Nazi France. I loved her intereactions with the women of France!
Send for Me by Lauren Fox
Unlike many historical novels, this book doesn’t rely on a fast-moving plot but instead focuses on the intense internal diagloue of 4 Jewish women in one family as they deal with the long-lasting consequences of the Holocaust. Beautiful writing!
And one favorite historical fiction book not set in World War II:
The Nature of Fragile Things by Susan Meissner
I love all of Meissner’s novels, and this book is no exception! Set in San Francisco during the massive 1906 earthquake, Messiner has written another fantastic novel – and this one has a thriller/mystery vibe to it that is unique!
Favorite History Nonfiction Books for Adults
Libby Prison Breakout by Joseph Wheelan
I read this for research on my book but I think anyone (especially teen boys!) would be interested in this tale of over 100 Union prisoners who tunnel their way out of the notorious Confederate prison in Richmond. It is so unbelievable, it reads like a novel!
Richmond Burning by Nelson Lankford
Another book I read for my book research that I think most people would find interesting! It tells the story of Richmond’s last days as the capital of the Confederacy, from the fleeing Confederates to the raging fire which destroyed the commercial heart of the city.
Favorite Middle Grade Historical Fiction
Rescue by Jennifer A. Nielsen
If you loved The Invisible Woman mentioned above, you can hand this book to your middle grader as a read alike! This story follows a 12-year-old girl who becomes an unofficial spy in Nazi France and leads 3 Germans to safety. It has some heart-stopping moments, and it was so engrossing, I read its 400 pages in one sitting!
I put these together because they are very similar. Both are about siblings who flee London during the Blitz and who find a forever family in the English countryside. Bradley’s book is a sequel to The War That Saved My Life, which I also read and liked except for a few harsh scenes. The Albus book is truly lovely and a library and books play a prominent role in the story!
Stella by Starlight by Sharon M. Draper
Stella is a delightful young girl in Depression-era North Carolina, and she and her community have to deal with discrimation and racism on a daily basis.
Favorite History Nonfiction for Children
Sit-In: How Four Friends Stood Up By Sitting Down by Andrea Davis Pinkney
My son loved this book so much, he did a school project on it! It’s a picture book with more heft and tells the story of the brave young Black people in Greensboro, NC who started the sit-in movement for Civil Rights.
This Promise of Change: One Girl’s Story in the Fight for School Equality by Jo Ann Allen Boyce and Debbie Levy
Teenagers will love this book in verse written by one of the Clinton 12, who integrated a high school in Tennessee in 1956. It’s written in an uplifting voice but details the pain and suffering these brave young people went through.
I read this book so I could understand some of the more complicated issues of disease and injuries in the Civil War. I think older middle grade and teens would find this book fascinating, especially with all of the real stories and pictures the author includes.
I have to mention a few books outside of the historical genre that are worth reading!
Gift From the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh
One of my favorite books about the seasons of life, I reread it in January and decided I’m going to read it on January 1st going forward as a contemplative way to start a new year. It’s a lovely and lyrical read about marriage, motherhood, and what it means to be a woman.
Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times by Katherine May
A beautiful look at slowing down and examining your life when challenges arise. Put on your TBR to read beginning in October!
Good Apple: Tales of a Southern Evangelical in New York by Elizabeth Passarella
This was funny and had many laugh out loud moments about parenthood, living in New York City, and dealing with the folks back home.
Mary Angela’s Kitchen by Karen A. Chase
Karen is a good friend, and one of my favorite books of 2019 was her fantastic historical fiction novel, Carrying Independence. Her new novella is a sweet story about the power of love in food. It’s a quick read that will make you smile – and want to cook the amazing recipes found at the end of the book!
I already know some of these favorites are going to make my top books of the year! What did you read this quarter? Give me some recommendations in the comments!