The 10 Best Short Historical Fiction Books You Should Read

Historical fiction has a way of transporting readers to times long past, offering glimpses into the lives and events that shaped our world. Short historical fiction novels condense these experiences into a format that can be enjoyed in just a few hours. In this article, we’ve compiled a list of ten must-read short historical fiction books, spanning from ancient times to modern history. They’re guaranteed to give you an engaging and enjoyable reading experience.

The 10 Best Short Historical Fiction Books You Should Read

Why Short Historical Fiction Books are Worth Your Time

The Appeal of Historical Fiction

Historical fiction is a popular genre because it allows readers to explore unfamiliar territories, experience diverse cultures, and gain a deeper understanding of historical events. It opens a window into the past, revealing the human side of history that often gets lost in retelling. Moreover, historical fiction lets us see the world through the eyes of its characters, making it easier for readers to connect with the narrative.

For example, reading a short historical fiction book about the American Civil War can provide a unique perspective on the conflict. The reader can see how the war affected the lives of everyday citizens, soldiers, and families. They can experience the emotions and struggles of characters caught up in the conflict, gaining a deeper understanding of the war’s impact on society.

Historical fiction can also shed light on lesser-known events or cultures. For instance, a short novel set in ancient Egypt can introduce readers to the customs, beliefs, and daily life of people from that era. It can transport readers to a different time and place, broadening their horizons and deepening their appreciation for the richness of human history.

The Benefits of Short Books

Short books provide a more manageable and accessible reading experience, particularly for those with busy schedules. They can be enjoyed in one sitting or over a weekend, making them the perfect choice for readers seeking a quick escape. Additionally, short novels often present more focused and concise storytelling that leaves a lasting impression.

For example, a short historical fiction book about the life of Marie Curie can offer a glimpse into her groundbreaking scientific discoveries and the challenges she faced as a woman in a male-dominated field. The reader can gain a sense of her determination, intelligence, and passion for her work, all in a compact and impactful format.

Short books can also be a great way to introduce readers to new authors or genres. They provide a low-risk opportunity to try something new without committing to a lengthy read. If a reader enjoys a short historical fiction book, they may be inspired to explore more works by the same author or delve deeper into the historical period or culture depicted in the book.

In conclusion, short historical fiction books are a valuable and worthwhile addition to any reader’s bookshelf. They offer a unique perspective on history, provide a manageable reading experience, and can introduce readers to new authors and genres. So why not give one a try?

The Criteria for Choosing the Best Short Historical Fiction Books

Historical Accuracy

One of the primary criteria for selecting the best short historical fiction books is historical accuracy. The authors must possess a deep understanding of the time period in which their stories are set and depict events, customs, language, and settings accurately. This attention to detail adds layers of authenticity and helps readers immerse themselves in the story.

For example, in a book set during the American Civil War, the author must accurately portray the political climate, the social customs of the time, and the language used by people during that era. This historical accuracy allows readers to feel as though they are truly experiencing that time period, and it can also educate them about historical events and cultural practices.

Engaging Storylines

Another critical factor is the presence of engaging storylines. The best short historical fiction novels offer readers complex and captivating plots that keep them turning the pages. Clarity, pacing, and suspense are essential for maintaining the reader’s interest throughout the story.

For instance, a book set during the French Revolution could follow the story of a young woman who becomes involved in the revolution and must navigate the dangers of the time period while also dealing with personal struggles. The storyline should be well-crafted and intriguing, with unexpected twists and turns that keep readers engaged and invested in the characters’ fates.

Memorable Characters

Finally, a great short historical fiction book features memorable characters that readers can relate to or find intriguing. Well-developed characters bring stories to life and enable readers to form emotional connections with the narrative. These characters should be multi-dimensional and evolve throughout the story, reflecting the challenges they face and the lessons they learn.

For example, a book set in ancient Rome could feature a protagonist who starts out as a brash and arrogant young man but must learn to overcome his flaws and become a better person as he faces challenges and makes difficult choices. The character’s growth and development throughout the story should be believable and compelling, allowing readers to feel invested in his journey.

In conclusion, the best short historical fiction books combine historical accuracy, engaging storylines, and memorable characters to create a rich and immersive reading experience. By meeting these criteria, authors can transport readers to different times and places, educating and entertaining them along the way.

Top 5 Short Historical Fiction Books Set in Ancient Times

Historical fiction is a genre that has the power to transport readers to different eras and immerse them in the lives of fascinating characters. Ancient times are particularly intriguing, as they offer a glimpse into the customs, beliefs, and struggles of civilizations that have shaped our world. Here are five short historical fiction books set in ancient times that are sure to captivate and inspire:

“I, Claudius” by Robert Graves

I, Claudius

I, Claudius” is a gripping account of the first four Roman emperors, narrated by the reluctant and unassuming Emperor Claudius. In his detailed retelling, we bear witness to the political machinations and intrigues that defined the early Roman Empire. Graves masterfully weaves together historical facts with fictional elements to create an enthralling read.

Readers will be transported back to ancient Rome, where they will witness the rise and fall of some of the most powerful figures in history. From the scheming Livia to the ruthless Caligula, “I, Claudius” offers a vivid portrait of a society where power was everything and alliances were constantly shifting.

“The Red Tent” by Anita Diamant

The Red Tent - 20th Anniversary Edition: A Novel

This beautifully written novel brings the stories of the women in the Old Testament to life, focusing on Dinah, the daughter of Jacob and Leah. “The Red Tent” tells the seldom-heard stories of women’s roles, relationships, and resilience during biblical times, offering a fresh perspective on a familiar narrative.

Through Dinah’s eyes, readers will discover the customs and traditions of ancient Israel, as well as the challenges faced by women in a patriarchal society. The novel also explores the bonds between mothers and daughters, sisters, and friends, highlighting the importance of female solidarity.

“The Song of Achilles” by Madeline Miller

The Song of Achilles: A Novel

A stunning retelling of the legend of Achilles and the Trojan War, “The Song of Achilles” blends history, mythology, and romance effortlessly. The novel narrates the story of the Greek hero Achilles and his companion Patroclus, allowing readers to explore the complexities of their relationship and the tragic events that unfold.

Miller’s prose is lyrical and evocative, transporting readers to the ancient world of gods and heroes. “The Song of Achilles” offers a fresh perspective on a classic tale, delving into the emotions and motivations of its characters and exploring themes of love, loyalty, and sacrifice.

“Circe” by Madeline Miller


Another masterpiece by Madeline Miller, “Circe” is a captivating and immersive tale centered on the life of the infamous witch and goddess from Homer’s Odyssey. Through vivid and lyrical prose, Miller reimagines Circe’s story and invites readers to delve deeper into her isolated existence on the island of Aiaia.

Circe is a complex and compelling character, whose struggles with identity, power, and love will resonate with readers. The novel also explores themes of feminism, self-discovery, and redemption, offering a fresh perspective on a character who has long been misunderstood.

“The Penelopiad” by Margaret Atwood

The Penelopiad: The Myth of Penelope and Odysseus (Canongate Myths series Book 2)

The Penelopiad” provides a unique and thought-provoking take on Homer’s Odyssey, retelling the story from the perspective of Penelope, Odysseus’s faithful wife. Atwood skillfully examines the role of women in ancient Greek society and challenges the traditional narrative in a fascinating and engaging read.

Through Penelope’s eyes, readers will discover the challenges faced by women in a society where their voices were often silenced. The novel also explores the power dynamics between men and women, as well as the importance of storytelling and mythmaking in shaping our understanding of history.

These five short historical fiction books set in ancient times offer a glimpse into the lives of fascinating characters and the customs and beliefs of civilizations that have shaped our world. Whether you are a history buff or simply looking for a captivating read, these novels are sure to entertain and inspire.

Top 5 Short Historical Fiction Books Set in Modern History

“The Nightingale” by Kristin Hannah

The Nightingale: A Novel

Following the lives of two sisters in Nazi-occupied France during World War II, “The Nightingale” explores the complexities of love, friendship, and the choices we face in times of immense hardship. The novel highlights the heroism of ordinary people throughout one of history’s darkest chapters.

“Girl with a Pearl Earring” by Tracy Chevalier

Girl with a Pearl Earring, The: A Novel

Inspired by the iconic painting by Johannes Vermeer, “Girl with a Pearl Earring” tells the story of Griet, a young servant girl who becomes the muse of the renowned painter. This enchanting novel offers a captivating blend of art, romance, and historical detail, giving readers a glimpse into 17th-century Dutch society.

“Code Name Verity” by Elizabeth Wein

Code Name Verity

Set during World War II, “Code Name Verity” is a heart-wrenching tale of courage, friendship, and sacrifice. The novel follows two young women, one a British spy captured by the Gestapo, and the other a pilot with the Allied forces. This compelling story intrigues and inspires as it examines the strength of friendship amid the devastation of war.

“A Tale of Two Cities” by Charles Dickens

A Tale of Two Cities

One of the most famous works of historical fiction, “A Tale of Two Cities” is set in the tumultuous years leading up to the French Revolution. Dickens weaves a tale of love, betrayal, and sacrifice, demonstrating the depths of human emotion in the face of overwhelming societal change.

“Bitter Greens” by Kate Forsyth

Bitter Greens: A Novel

Inspired by the French fairy tale “Rapunzel,” “Bitter Greens” tells the story of three women whose lives intersect within the confines of a 17th-century Parisian nunnery. The novel explores themes of desire, obsession, and the resilience of women throughout history, all the while weaving an unforgettable tale of suspense and intrigue.

Whether it’s a story set in ancient times or a more modern chapter of history, these ten short historical fiction books offer readers an unforgettable reading experience. Choose one or more of these captivating novels and embark on your journey into the past.


Why do people enjoy reading short books?

Some people love the feeling of reading a book in one sitting. Others struggle to stay focused on a longer book and enjoy the sense of achievement at the end of a shorter novel.

What are some examples of short historical fiction books?

Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney, Stars Over Clear Lake by Loretta Elsworth, and The Orphan Mother by Robert Hicks are all good examples.

What counts as a short novel?

Novels that contain between 40,000 and 50,000 words are typically known as short books. This is the equivalent of approximately 200 pages.

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