2021 Staff Picks: Historical Fiction

By Skokie Staff Advisory Services

Our expert staff members look back at the year and share their favorite titles.

  • The Personal Librarian

    2021 by Benedict, Marie

    Benedict and Murray envision the stranger-than-fiction life of Belle Da Costa Greene, who "passed" for white while building what became New York's Pierpont Morgan Library. The novel mines considerable suspense from Greene's decades-long deception, hiding in plain sight in the midst of Gilded Age high society. Greene's relationship with her father, a man unwilling to accept America's betrayal of the promise of Reconstruction, is heartbreaking. Recommended by Marjorie and Andrew.

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  • Harlem Shuffle

    2021 by Whitehead, Colson

    We enjoyed the vivid descriptions of Harlem in the 1950s and 1960s. Although this book was more light-hearted than Colson's previous novels, it still dealt with questions of character, culture, and corruption. Recommended by Michelle and Andrew.

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  • The Prophets

    2021 by Jones, Robert

    This a beautiful love story about two young enslaved individuals living on a southern plantation. The balance that the author strikes between tenderness and brutality, spirituality and physicality, celebration and grief is simply breathtaking. Even the author's dedication at the end of the book was incredibly touching and original. Recommended by Megan.

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  • Of Women and Salt

    2021 by Garcia, Gabriela

    The reverberations of the past haunt the women of a Cuban immigrant family in this riveting debut novel. The past and present storylines were equally interesting, and what seemed like separate storylines came nicely together in the end. Recommended by Rummanah.

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  • Libertie

    2021 by Greenidge, Kaitlyn

    A coming-of-age tale as well as a tale of mothers and daughters, Libertie is historical fiction at its best. Libertie’s voice is so strong, even when she herself is uncertain of her path or when she regrets her decisions. The audio is especially good. Recommended by Lynnanne.

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  • In the Country of Others

    2021 by Slimani, Leïla

    In this first book in a planned trilogy, loosely inspired by her own family's history, Leila Slimani crafts a sweeping, character-driven historical saga spotlighting the personal, political, and social aspects of post World War II Morocco. I loved how the author parallels the various strong female characters and their struggle for independence with that of Morocco's resistance to shake off French colonialism. I am looking forward to seeing how the characters progress in future books. Recommended by Rummanah.

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  • Matrix

    2021 by Groff, Lauren

    We love this book for its strong female characters. The writing is so good that you get lost in the action and suspense that unfolds. Recommended by Katie and Megan.

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  • In All Good Faith

    2021 by Taylor, Liza Nash

    I read a lot of historical fiction novels, so I am always excited to find a historical fiction novel about a time period not usually covered in the genre. The main characters May and Dorrit both pop off the page, and their dual narratives shine a light on the struggles women faced during the Great Depression. Recommended by Lynnanne.

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  • Outlawed

    2021 by North, Anna

    A historical western with a speculative twist about a band of outlaw women. Adventurous, original, and heartbreaking. Yay to cowgirls and healing witches! Recommended by Megan.

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