I saw this tag on Callum’s blog and it looked fun, so let’s get started!
What is your favourite genre?
I was actually having a hard time coming up with an answer to this because my gut reaction is ‘literary fiction’ but that’s not even technically a genre, and I’d say the same goes for ‘classics,’ so, limiting myself to strictly ‘genre fiction,’ I’m deciding to go with historical fiction. Especially because I feel like I don’t talk about my love for it as much as I should on here, so this is a good excuse to do so!
Who is your favourite author from that genre?
John Boyne is one of those authors I envy who has the magical ability to across multiple genres, but I’d say he’s primarily a historical fiction author – even his horror novel This House is Haunted is a gothic tale set in the 1800s. So, John Boyne. His way with words is so clever and his characters are all so flawed and vivid they practically leap off the page. The Heart’s Invisible Furies is one of those books I recommend to literally everyone because it’s just that good.
What is it about the genre that keeps pulling you back?
So much! I love history but I don’t necessarily have the drive or patience to wade through a several hundred page long nonfiction book about a historical subject, so it’s a great way to learn about certain subjects in a more accessible format. I also love that epic, sweeping family sagas are so common to this genre – so many of my favorite books are 500+ page monsters and quite a lot of them are historical fiction. And I just love getting sucked into a good story and feeling immersed in a setting, and when historical fiction achieves that it’s so excellent.
What is the book that started your love for that genre?
I don’t know if there was any one in particular, but Lisa See was one of my first favorite historical fiction writers. I’d still highly recommend any of her novels, but my favorites are probably these three: Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, Shanghai Girls, and its sequel Dreams of Joy. All of her books focus on female characters from different regions and periods throughout Chinese history; I always end up learning quite a lot from her.
If you had to recommend at least one book from your favourite genre to a non-reader/someone looking to start reading that genre, what book would you choose and why?
I couldn’t narrow it down, so I’m going to give recs based off your preferred genre:
If you mostly read thrillers, I’d recommend: Burial Rites by Hannah Kent. This tells the fictionalized story of a real person, the last woman to ever be sentenced to death in Iceland in 1829. The rural Icelandic setting that Kent evokes is so vivid it’s stayed with me years after reading this, and this is one of the best examples I can think of when I think about historical fiction novels that make me feel truly immersed in the time period. But it’s also quite a gripping story and getting to the heart of the crime that Agnes supposedly committed is a steady source of intrigue, so I’d highly recommend this one to just about everyone (if you have a strong stomach).
If you mostly read literary fiction, I’d recommend: Human Acts by Han Kang. This is a flawlessly written novel about the Gwangju Uprising of 1980 in South Korea, where hundreds of civilians were killed by government troops. This book is brutal and harrowing but also succinct and unsentimental and just flawlessly composed.
If you mostly read bestsellers, I’d recommend: Pachinko by Min Jin Lee. I’d honestly recommend this book to everyone. It’s compelling, lyrical, heartbreaking, moving, etc. etc. etc. It’s a multigenerational family saga that spans the 20th century which begins in Korea and ends in Japan, and it explores Japanese-Korean relations in such a candid way. This is easily one of the most informative historical novels I’ve ever read about the time period and countries it’s depicting, but none of that bogs down the narrative, which is effortlessly engaging throughout.
If you mostly read sci-fi, I’d recommend: Kindred by Octavia Butler. This is a really interesting historical/sci-fi hybrid, which essentially uses time travel as a tool to explore slavery and racism from a contemporary perspective (contemporary at the time Butler was writing this, in the 1970s). The main character Dana, a black woman, is transported back in time for reasons she doesn’t understand to the Civil War era, and upon her arrival the first thing she does is save a white boy from drowning. She then discovers that he’s going to grow up to be one of her ancestors, and the two characters’ fates become intertwined and it’s just a fascinating story.
If you mostly read YA, I’d recommend: Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rivka Brunt. Set in the 1980s, this is a sort of YA/adult crossover that follows a teenage girl, June, struggling to cope with the death of her favorite uncle who’s just died of AIDS. It’s moving and heartfelt but never corny or trite, and it’s not only a fantastic coming of age novel but a really incisive look at the AIDS crisis during the time when it still wasn’t fully understood.
Why do you read?
To learn, to think, to challenge myself, to relax… my reasons change with each book!
Tagging Chelsea and Steph because they’re my fellow historical fiction lovers (not that you guys need to choose historical fiction). And Hannah because she’s definitely not going to choose historical fiction.