My Favorite Historical Novel


At one point on that strange trip, with Shaara’s battle still echoing, I inexplicably stopped the car and got out momentarily unsure of where I was. Suddenly I realized that I was on the Emmitsburg Pike right up the middle of Pickett’s charge. I began to trot up the hill toward the copse of trees where the Union guns had waited. Now I was running, now I was up and over the top. Finding myself at the high-water mark of the Confederacy, on familiar ground, I wept. No book, novel or nonfiction, had ever done that to me before.

Ken Burns, film maker, The Civil War


I fear this will be the most unoriginal choice conceivable: War and Peace.

Clifton Fadimoan, writer, editor, TV commentator

In my un-American way I pass over Gone with the Wind for Tolstoy and War and Peace. Sorry about that.

John Kenneth Galbraith, Powell M. Warburg Professor of Economics Emeritus, Harvard University

Conrad Richter's Trilogy The Trees, The Fields, and The Town.  

—Richard Lingeman, managing editor, The Nation

Frederick Manfred's Lord Grizzly and Riders of Judgment.

Larry McMurtry, author, Lonesome Dove

Robert Penn Warren's All the King's Men.

William Manchester, author, The Glory and the Dream: A Narrative History of America, 1932-1972

Twain's Huckleberry Finn.

George Plimpton, editor, The Paris Review

Dickens's A Tale of Two Cities. 

Harrison Salisbury, author, Moscow Journal and The New Emperors: China in the Era of Mao and Deng

Too many fine historical novels to name one or ten or twenty. A foolish exercise in my opinion.

Page Smith, author, A People ‘s History of the American Revolution, and professor emeritus, University of California, Santa Cruz

The Bible, of course.

Joy Williams, author, Escapes and State of Grace