Historical Fiction Reading Challenge – 2014

By Carol / January 1, 2014 /

January 1 is a time for resolutions and I just made one I know I’ll have no trouble sticking with throughout the year.  This afternoon, I learned about the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge, and since impulse serves me best in situations like this, I signed up on the spot.2014hf1 

The challenge seems particularly appropriate since I will publish my WWI-era novel Go Away Home later this spring. You’ll hear lots about that from me in other posts. For now, here’s the scoop on the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge sponsored by Historical Tapestry.

During the next 12 months, you can choose to read one of the different reading levels:

20th century reader – 2 books
Victorian reader – 5 books
Renaissance Reader – 10 booksI read across a range of genres, so this sounds like a good level of historical fiction for me.
Medieval – 15 books
Ancient History – 25 books

Prehistoric – 50+ books

The first book on my list is the one I chose for our book club to read this month: Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier. This is the story of the real person Mary Anning, an English girl who has a particular talent for finding fossils, and her spinster friend Elizabeth Philpot. While I’ve read other books by Chevalier, the next book on my stack is Orphan Train: A Novel by an author new to me – Christina Baker Kline.

What challenges are you taking on this year? Do you have books or authors you’re particularly interested in reading?


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  1. Elfrieda Schroeder on January 2, 2014 at 10:52 am

    Last year I read Robert K. Massie’s “Catherine the Great” : Portrait of a Woman. Massie specializes in writing about the Russian royals. He himself has a son with hemophilia and that inspired him to write “Nicholas and Alexandra” (1967) whose son was also stricken with the disease. Going on from there he wrote “Peter the Great” (1980), “The Romanovs” (2011) and “Catherine the Great” (2012) for which he won the Pulitzer prize. When I read this historical account I thought to myself, “the story of her life reads like a novel. This should be written as a novel.” Not long after that I came across “The Winter Palace” a novel of Catherine the Great (2012) by Eva Stachniak. I could not put it down. Reading Massie’s historical account and then Stachniak’s historical novel was an amazing experience, especially just after a trip to Poland and Ukraine. My Mennonite ancestors were invited by Catherine the Great to move to Ukraine from Poland in the late 1700s to use their farming skills and remained there until Stalin’s purges in the 1930s and 1940s, so there was personal interest involved as well.
    This year I hope to read “Wise Counsel: John Newton’s Letters to John Ryland Jr.” written and published by my friend Dr. Grant Gordon in 2009 and “Madiba A to Z: The many faces of Nelson Mandela by Danny Schlechter (2013). These are not historical novels but will perhaps lead to reading novels about these famous people, all the more enriching because I’ve read their history.

    • Carol Bodensteiner on January 2, 2014 at 2:49 pm

      I have found myself doing the reverse of what you’ve done, Elfrieda. I read the novel and then seek out books to tell me the facts. Anita Diamant’s “The Red Tent” led me to reread the book of Genesis in the Bible, for instance. That’s one of the reasons I find author’s notes at the end of novels so interesting – and important. Going in knowing the factual account, as you do, would lead to quite a different reading experience, I would imagine.

  2. Paulette Mahurin on January 2, 2014 at 10:54 am

    That’s a great idea. I am midway finishing my second and working through a stack of promised reads. Once done with that, I’ll see where I’m at. But, this one really sounds inviting. Happy New Year!

    • Carol Bodensteiner on January 2, 2014 at 2:50 pm

      If you take up the challenge, let me know, Paulette. I’m interested in the books and authors people find – and those reads they find most rewarding.

      Happy New Year to you, too!

  3. Shirley Hershey Showalter on January 2, 2014 at 12:46 pm

    Great idea to focus on your genre as you write and launch, Carol.

    You will LOVE Orphan Train. And I know the author, Christina Baker Kline. I was lucky enough to be one of the members of a group coaching experience in Manhattan 2011-2012. She was an excellent coach. She’s also a model of how to land on the NYTBL. For one thing, she had a group of rabid fans among the Orphan Train descendents. Can you find any similar group for your novel?

    All best in 2014!

  4. Carol Bodensteiner on January 2, 2014 at 2:56 pm

    You have a group of rabid fans in the Mennonite community, Shirley. I’ve watched you target that built in base with interest and I must admit, some envy. My target audience is not quite so clear, but I will be working with the State Historical Society of Iowa for events and audiences.

    How fun that you’ve met Christina Baker Kline, Shirley. I’m fascinated by the Orphan Trains. I wrote an article about them for The Iowan magazine and have included an Orphan Train thread in my novel.

    Here’s to an exciting 2014!

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