15 Compelling Historical Fiction Audiobooks
Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres to listen to on audiobook. I’m fairly new to the genre as a whole and historical fiction audiobooks have been an excellent way to introduce these stories into my repertoire. Treat your ears to some amazing narrators and equally amazing stories.
15 Great Historical Fiction Audiobooks
The Animals of Lockwood Manor by Jane Healey
Backdrop: World War II
In order to protect a natural history museum collection during the war, Hetty is sent to Lockwood Manor to oversee the contents as they wait it out. Hetty isn’t prepared for the hostile Major Lockwood, who is not thrilled with her presence, and she is equally unprepared for his daughter and her enthralling presence. But when parts of the collection start to go missing, Hetty must start confronting the Lockwoods.
City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert
Backdrop: 1940s New York City
When Vivian Morris is kicked out of Vassar College due to her poor grades, her parents send her to Manhattan to live with her Aunt Peg, who owns the Lily Playhouse, a struggling midtown theater. Among the eccentric cast of characters who call the Lily Playhouse home, Vivian finds a group where she feels like she belongs, in a world where being sexually promiscuous is still considered to be improper for a woman. But when Vivian brings a scandal upon the Playhouse and her new friends, it upends her life and it is only as a 95-year-old woman that she begins to see the implications it had on the course of her life.
Daisy Jones & the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Backdrop: 1970s Rock ‘n Roll era Los Angeles
Told through a series of interviews with band members and others in the music industry, this book recounts the formation of one of the biggest rock bands of the ’70s. Starting with the discovery of Daisy Jones, the charismatic front woman and the band The Six, led by the brooding Billy Dunne. The two seem to be as different as can be, but when these two explosive personalities came together to form Daisy Jones & the Six, they took the scene completely by storm.
The Dutch House by Ann Patchett
Backdrop: Post–World War II
When real estate investor Cyril Conroy makes an offhand decision, it creates an enormous empire and propels his family from poverty to overwhelming wealth. His first purchasing decision with his newfound riches is to purchase the Dutch House, a large estate in the Philly suburbs, as a surprise for his wife. But what seemed to be a harmless decision has devastating effects for his entire family for decades to come.
The Forty Rules of Love by Elif Shafak
Backdrop: 13th century
Following two timelines, we first meet the poet Rumi in the 13th century as he first meets his spiritual mentor, the Shams of Tabriz. Upon their meeting, Rumi creates his now timeless message and philosophy of love. In modern times, we meet Ella Rubenstein, who works for a literary agent. She reads a submission about a man’s search for Rumi and his message of love, written by Aziz Z. Zahara. As she reads the manuscript and becomes more intrigued with Zahara, Ella comes to consider him as her own personal Shams on her own journey of discovering love.
The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah
Backdrop: 1970s Alaska
When Leni’s father Ernt, a former POW, returns from the Vietnam War with severe PTSD, he decides that the best thing for the family is a fresh start. Which is how the Allbright family ends up in rural Alaska, out of their element and completely fending for themselves. The excitement of a new place quickly turns to panic and the strain has the potential to tear the Allbrights apart. When winter arrives, Leni and her mother come to the conclusion that they are completely isolated and stuck in a house with someone whose temper and moods they cannot control.
Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
Time Period: 18th Century Ghana
Homegoing tells the story of two half-sisters, Effia and Esi, and how their lives take on completely different paths. Effia marries a wealthy Englishman and is whisked off to Cape Coast Castle to live in comfort. Effia is unaware of the fact that Esi is imprisoned in her castle’s dungeon and is eventually sold into the slave trade and sent to America, where her future family will be raised in slavery.
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
Time Period: 1975 Afghanistan
Amir is the son of a rich man in Kabul who forms a deep and meaningful connection with Hassan, the Hazaran son of one of his father’s servants. Although Hassan is a slave, Amir’s father cares deeply for him—something that Amir has felt a sense of jealousy about. But one day Amir witnesses bullies attacking Hassan and does nothing, forcing him to end their relationship. Amir goes through the rest of his life constantly seeking redemption for his immense guilt of not helping Hassan. Amir decides to devote his life to helping Sohrab, Hassan’s son, in order to appease his conscience.
Little Gods by Meng Lin
Time Period: Late 20th century China
When her mother Su Lan unexpectedly dies, Liya inherits a lifetime of secrets that her successful physicist mother has kept from her. She has grown up in America, but Liya takes her mother’s ashes back to China and meets Zhu Wen, a friend of her mother and her long-estranged father, Yongzong. We never get to meet Su Lan in person, but through Liya and these pivotal people in her life we begin to get a portrait of this woman and why she erased her past.
The Mountains Sing by Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai
Time Period: Vietnam War
Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai is a celebrated Vietnamese poet, and this book is her first in English. This story spans generations of the Tran family, starting with Tran Dieu Lan who was forced to flee her family farm with her six children as the Communist government gained control and ending with her granddaughter, Hương, who is coming to age as her family sets off along the Ho Chí Minh Trail.
The Nickel boys by Colson Whitehead
Time Period: Jim Crow–era Florida
Elwood Curtis has grown up on the words of Dr. Martin Luther King and the belief that he is as good as anyone. Although abandoned by his parents, Elwood was raised by his grandmother and is about to enroll at the local black college. But one simple mistake is enough to destroy the promise of his future, and he is sent to the juvenile reformatory institute called the Nickel Academy. The academy, based on a true story, is nothing but a place of horrors, and the evil that Elwood and the other boys experience will markedly effect the rest of their lives.
Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson
Time Period: 1980s Brooklyn
Sixteen-year-old Melody and her family are celebrating her coming-of-age ceremony. Little does Melody know that the beautifully custom-made dress she is wearing was originally created for her mother’s own ceremony, but the ceremony tragically never took place. Woodson tells the story of both Melody’s parents and her grandparents and the events that led them to his moment and how their individual struggles and decisions impacted the family at large.
She Would Be King by Wayétu Moore
Sub-genre: Magical realism retelling
Time Period: 1822’s formation of Liberia
Through the eyes of three characters—Gbessa, an exile from the West African Village of Lai; June Dey, a slave in Virginia; and Norman Aragon, the child of a white British colonizer and a Maroon slave—Moore weaves fantastical elements with real-history moments to create a beautiful retelling of the formation of Liberia.
The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris
Time Period: World War II
Lale Sokolov, a Slovakian Jew, is given the harrowing job of permanently marking his fellow prisoners at Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. Over the course of his imprisonment, Lale witnesses horrific things but decides to risk his life to try to help his fellow prisoners by exchanging goods from murdered Jews to keep them alive. But when Gita, AKA prisoner 32407, arrives for her tattoo, Lale is immediately drawn to her and vows to ensure both of their survival and to eventually marry her.
The Winter Soldier by Daniel Mason
Time Period: World War I
Lucius is an ambitious young medical students who enthusiastically enlists to help out at the frontlines of World War I. His initial excitement is quickly stifled when he’s instead placed at a remote outpost in the mountains, where its inhabitants have been plagued by typhus. It’s there that he meets Sister Margarete, the nurse he must now learn from in the heat of the moment. But there’s something there that neither of them can explain and it threatens to effect their work.
Want more historical fiction audiobooks? Check out this list of the best historical fiction!