The Most Popular Historical Fiction Book: A Ranking of Timeless Tales

Choose the historical fiction book you think is the most popular!

Author: Gregor Krambs
Updated on Feb 22, 2024 06:11
Step right into the pages of history and immerse yourself in the stories that have captivated readers for generations! StrawPoll proudly presents our latest ranking: "What is the most popular historical fiction book?" We've gathered an impressive collection of timeless tales, where heroes and heroines come to life and embark on daring adventures through the ages. But we need your help to crown the ultimate champion! Cast your vote for your favorite historical fiction masterpiece or, if you think we've missed a worthy contender, suggest an addition to our list. Let's embark on a literary journey together and discover which epic tale will reign supreme in the annals of historical fiction!

What Is the Most Popular Historical Fiction Book?

  1. 1
    Set in the 12th century, it tells the story of the building of a cathedral in a small town in England. It's widely regarded as one of the best historical fiction novels ever written.
    The Pillars of the Earth is a bestselling historical fiction novel by Ken Follett. It is set in 12th-century England and tells the story of the construction of a cathedral in the fictional town of Kingsbridge. The book spans several decades and follows the lives of various characters, including Tom Builder, a master builder, and Prior Philip, a devout monk. The novel explores themes of power, politics, love, and survival in a turbulent medieval society.
    • Genre: Historical fiction
    • Setting: 12th-century England
    • Main Characters: Tom Builder, Prior Philip, Aliena, William Hamleigh
    • Length: Approximately 1,000 pages
    • Publication Year: 1989
  2. 2
    "Gone with the Wind" by Margaret Mitchell
    Employee(s) of MGM · Public domain
    Set during the American Civil War, it tells the story of a southern belle named Scarlett O'Hara and her struggles to survive in the aftermath of the war. It won the Pulitzer Prize in 1937 and has sold over 30 million copies worldwide.
    Gone with the Wind is an epic historical romance novel written by Margaret Mitchell. Set in the American South during the Civil War and Reconstruction era, it tells the story of Scarlett O'Hara, a headstrong Southern belle, and her tumultuous relationships with Ashley Wilkes and Rhett Butler.
    • Publication Date: June 30, 1936
    • Number of Pages: 1,037
    • Genre: Romance, Historical Fiction
    • Setting: Atlanta and plantation life in Georgia
    • Main Characters: Scarlett O'Hara, Rhett Butler, Ashley Wilkes
    "Gone with the Wind" by Margaret Mitchell in other rankings
  3. 3
    Set in a 14th-century Italian monastery, it follows the investigation of a series of murders by a Franciscan friar and his apprentice. It's considered a masterpiece of historical fiction and has been translated into over 30 languages.
    The Name of the Rose is a historical mystery novel written by Umberto Eco. Set in the 14th century, it tells the story of a Franciscan friar, William of Baskerville, who is called to a Benedictine monastery to investigate a mysterious series of deaths. The novel is not just a thrilling murder mystery, but also a detailed exploration of medieval philosophy, religious conflicts, and political intrigues.
    • Genre: Historical fiction, Mystery
    • Publication Date: 1980
    • Setting: Abbey of Melk, Italy, 1327
    • Main Characters: William of Baskerville, Adso of Melk
    • Themes: Religion, Knowledge, Power
    "The Name of the Rose" by Umberto Eco in other rankings
  4. 4
    Set in 16th-century England, it tells the story of Thomas Cromwell, a lawyer and advisor to King Henry VIII. It won the Man Booker Prize in 2009 and has been adapted into a successful TV series.
    "Wolf Hall" is a historical fiction novel written by Hilary Mantel. It is set in the 16th-century and revolves around the life of Thomas Cromwell, a political advisor to King Henry VIII of England. The book primarily focuses on Cromwell's rise to power and his interactions with the royal court. Mantel's vivid storytelling brings to life the intrigue, drama, and complex relationships of this transformative period in English history.
    • Genre: Historical fiction
    • Setting: 16th-century England
    • Main character: Thomas Cromwell
    • Themes: Power, politics, religion
    • Historical accuracy: Extensively researched
  5. 5
    Set in biblical times, it tells the story of Dinah, the only daughter of Jacob and Leah. It's a retelling of the story of Dinah from the Bible and has been praised for its feminist perspective.
    The Red Tent is a historical fiction book written by Anita Diamant. It provides a reimagined story of the biblical character Dinah, the daughter of Jacob and Leah. Through Dinah's perspective, the book explores the lives of women in ancient Mesopotamia, their relationships, rituals, and experiences within the red tent, a sacred space for women during their menstrual cycles and childbirth.
    • Genre: Historical fiction
    • Setting: Ancient Mesopotamia
    • Main Character: Dinah
    • Themes: Femininity, sisterhood, motherhood, spirituality
    • Time Period: Biblical times
  6. 6
    Set in the early 20th century, it tells the story of a young girl named Chiyo who is sold into slavery and trained as a geisha. It's a beautifully written novel that provides a fascinating insight into the world of geishas.
    Memoirs of a Geisha is a historical fiction novel written by Arthur Golden. The book tells the captivating story of a young Japanese girl named Chiyo who is sold into geisha training and eventually becomes the renowned geisha known as Sayuri. Set against the backdrop of the pre and post-war era in Japan, the book delves into the intricate world of geishas, their customs, hardships, and the power dynamics within this secretive profession. It explores themes of love, resilience, and the struggle for personal identity.
    • Publication Date: 1997
    • Genre: Historical Fiction
    • Setting: Japan
    • Main Characters: Chiyo/Sayuri, Chairman Ken Iwamura, Hatsumomo
    • Page Count: 434 pages
  7. 7
    Set in 16th-century England, it tells the story of Mary Boleyn, the lesser-known sister of Anne Boleyn, who became the second wife of King Henry VIII. It's a gripping and scandalous tale of love, ambition, and betrayal.
    The Other Boleyn Girl is a historical fiction novel written by Philippa Gregory. Set in the 16th century, the book tells the captivating story of Anne and Mary Boleyn, two sisters who become entangled in the political and romantic turmoil of the Tudor court. As Henry VIII's interest in Anne grows, she begins to challenge the established order, causing rifts within the Boleyn family and altering the course of English history.
    • Publication Date: 2001
    • Genre: Historical Fiction
    • Setting: 16th Century Tudor Court
    • Main Characters: Anne Boleyn, Mary Boleyn, Henry VIII
    • Themes: Ambition, Love, Power, Betrayal
  8. 8
    Set during World War II, it tells the story of a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths cross in occupied France. It won the Pulitzer Prize in 2015 and has been a bestseller since its publication.
    All the Light We Cannot See is a historical fiction novel written by Anthony Doerr. It tells the story of two young individuals, a blind French girl named Marie-Laure and a German boy named Werner, whose lives intersect during World War II. Set in occupied France and Germany, the novel explores themes of morality, survival, and the power of human connection.
    • Publication Year: 2014
    • Genre: Historical Fiction
    • Pages: 544
    • Set in: France and Germany during World War II
    • Main Characters: Marie-Laure LeBlanc, Werner Pfennig
  9. 9
    Set in Afghanistan, it tells the story of Amir, a young boy from Kabul, and his best friend Hassan, who is a Hazara. It's a powerful and emotional novel that deals with themes of friendship, betrayal, and redemption.
    The Kite Runner is a popular historical fiction book written by Khaled Hosseini. It tells the story of Amir, a young boy from Kabul, Afghanistan, and his journey of redemption. The novel spans several decades, from the 1970s to the early 2000s, and explores themes of friendship, betrayal, guilt, and resilience amidst the backdrop of Afghanistan's political turmoil. The Kite Runner is a powerful and emotionally captivating tale that provides insight into the complex relationship between fathers and sons, the consequences of past mistakes, and the search for personal redemption.
    • Genre: Historical Fiction
    • Publication Year: 2003
    • Setting: Kabul, Afghanistan
    • Main Protagonist: Amir
    • Themes: Friendship, Betrayal, Guilt, Redemption
  10. 10
    Set in 17th-century Japan, it tells the story of an Englishman named John Blackthorne who becomes embroiled in the politics and power struggles of the feudal lords. It's a sweeping epic that provides a detailed and immersive look at Japanese culture and history.
    Shogun is a historical fiction novel written by James Clavell. Set in 17th-century Japan, the book follows the story of an Englishman named John Blackthorne who becomes a pivotal figure in the power struggle between warlords. As he navigates the intricate Japanese political landscape, Blackthorne must learn the ways of the samurai and adapt to the unfamiliar customs and traditions of feudal Japan.
    • Genre: Historical Fiction
    • Publication Year: 1975
    • Setting: 17th-century Japan
    • Themes: Power struggle, cultural clash, adaptation
    • Main Character: John Blackthorne

Missing your favorite historical fiction book?


Ranking factors for popular historical fiction book

  1. Sales figures
    A popular historical fiction book typically has high sales numbers. Keep track of the number of copies sold as it reflects the book's popularity and the audience's interest in the story.
  2. Critical acclaim
    Consider the reviews and ratings from both professional critics and readers. Positive reviews and high ratings can indicate the book's quality and how it resonates with the target audience.
  3. Awards and recognition
    Winning or being nominated for prestigious literary awards like the Man Booker Prize or the National Book Award can boost a book's popularity and credibility.
  4. Influence and impact
    Determine if the book has made a lasting impact on the historical fiction genre or inspired other authors and works. A popular book often sets trends and influences future literature.
  5. Longevity
    Consider how long the book has been popular and if it is still being read and discussed widely today. A book that maintains its relevance and popularity over time is a strong indicator of its quality.
  6. Adaptations
    Books that have been adapted into successful movies or TV series can gain wider recognition and new audiences, increasing their overall popularity.
  7. Cultural significance
    Analyze if the book has impacted the cultural narrative or contributed to discussions and debates beyond the genre. A book with cultural significance often remains popular for longer periods.
  8. Author's reputation
    The popularity of an author can influence the books' ranking. If the author is known for writing quality historical fiction, this may reflect well on the book.
  9. Engaging plot and characters
    Strong characters and a captivating plot can capture readers' attention, making the book more popular among its target audience.
  10. Historical accuracy and research
    An important aspect of historical fiction is the depth and accuracy of the historical context. Books that demonstrate careful research and a dedication to historical accuracy can gain a strong following in the genre.

About this ranking

This is a community-based ranking of the most popular historical fiction book. We do our best to provide fair voting, but it is not intended to be exhaustive. So if you notice something or novel is missing, feel free to help improve the ranking!


  • 153 votes
  • 10 ranked items

Voting Rules

A participant may cast an up or down vote for each novel once every 24 hours. The rank of each novel is then calculated from the weighted sum of all up and down votes.

More information on most popular historical fiction book

Historical fiction is a literary genre that blends elements of historical events and figures with fictional characters and storylines. It offers readers a unique opportunity to immerse themselves in different time periods and cultures, while also enjoying the creativity of the author's imagination. Historical fiction has been a popular genre among readers for centuries, with many classic works still enjoyed today. From epic sagas to intimate character studies, the genre has something to offer for every type of reader. In this article, we will explore some of the most popular historical fiction books of all time, as voted by the StrawPoll community.

Share this article