Sunday, December 04, 2022

'Tis the season for compilations of the year's best historical fiction

The Sleeping Car Porter, Trust, Shrines of Gaiety, Haven

Many conversations I've had in the last week have begun with "Can you believe it's December already?" I haven't read as many books as I'd planned to in 2022, and all of the end-of-year compilations of the best historical fiction aren't helping to keep my TBR to a manageable size.  (Realistically, that battle was lost long ago...)

Here are the lists and sites I've found so far.

For the New York Times, Alida Becker, who reviews the genre regularly, includes ten favorites which she calls "sturdy time machines" with enduring appeal. Three are from Nobel laureates, and Suzette Mayr's The Sleeping Car Porter, the recent Scotiabank Giller Prize winner, is also on the list.  I'm a NYT subscriber and created the link as a gift article, so you should be able to read it without hitting a paywall.  See also Becker's latest roundup of historical fiction, from Dec. 2.

NPR's annual Books We Love feature (formerly called Book Concierge) presents a visual array of 35 books in their Historical Fiction category, each of which links to a short review.  You can also read their historical fiction selections as a list. What I like about NPR is how they proudly include entries from a variety of subgenres and age categories: literary fiction, thrillers, romance, dark fantasy, young adult historicals, and more. Historical graphic novels are in the mix as well (this isn't a subgenre, but a format). The settings and eras are notably diverse.

The CBC has a piece on "24 Canadian books to get the historical fiction fan." I especially enjoy seeing lists from outside the US since they introduce me to titles I haven't come across before. Many were published only in Canada. There are some favorites of mine from 2022 here also, including Eva Stachniak's The School of Mirrors and Natalie Jenner's Bloomsbury Girls.  Settings, overall, range from South Asia and Rome in ancient times to Canada in the '70s and '80s.

The Goodreads Choice Awards for 2022 are now in their last day of voting for the final round (by the time you see this, voting may have ended).  There are two novels set in the mid-1990s on the list of finalists, and while they wouldn't fit as historical fiction in my view, different platforms have different definitions for the genre.

Writing for The Times (London), critics Antonia Senior and Nick Rennison offer 14 best historical fiction books for 2022. You can read a limited number of articles per month with a free account, if you don't subscribe, and I recommend getting one, if only so you can read their ongoing reviews and roundups!  Novels mentioned here which appear in other such lists include Robert Harris's Act of Oblivion (17th c England and America), Emma Donoghue's Haven (monks on a remote Irish island, 7th century), and Anthony Marra's Mercury Pictures Presents (1940s Hollywood).

Cosmopolitan's 17 best historical fiction books of 2022 is predominantly female-focused, with the latest novels by Isabel Allende, Chanel Cleeton, and Heather Webb, among others, but also includes Marra's novel, above, as well as Hernan Diaz's Trust, which was high on my 2022 list as well.

You'll also find many historical novels on the Guardian's list of best fiction for 2022, though they aren't separated out by category as in the other lists above.

I'll update this post if I spot any more favorites lists from 2022, and please let me know about others in the comments.


  1. I need to look at these lists closely. Thank you for doing the spadework

    1. I found quite a few that I put on my list to check out. Thanks for your comments!