Historical fiction might be my favorite genre of literature. Obviously, everyone knows I really like the Harry Potter series, but aside from Rowling and Tolkien, I haven’t been able to get into much fantasy. I take that back. Children’s fantasy I really enjoy, but I tried to read Terry Brooks some years back and couldn’t get far. I don’t really care for mysteries, aside from Sherlock Holmes stories, and I don’t read much nonfiction, either. I’ve never read a Western. The only horror I’ve read is Stephen King and maybe, if you consider her horror, Anne Rice. I have read a few romances, but they don’t grab me much. Not into sci-fi, but I do like dystopian novels.
What I like about historical fiction is that I can learn a great deal about history while I am enjoying a story. My two favorite periods are the Middle Ages and the nineteenth century. In addition to reading historical fiction set during those times, I also like reading literature written during those times and reflective of that time when it was the present. For example, I am really enjoying Moby-Dick, which was both written and set in the nineteenth century. I also loved Jane Austen’s novels. Of course, Sherlock Holmes is a favorite — I think Arthur Conan Doyle really painted a fascinating picture of Victorian London.
If you were to sift through some of my book reviews, the first thing you’d notice is that I do read a lot of historical fiction, but also that I’m kind of picky about it. I don’t like it, for instance, when authors throw out the rules of grammar to a noticeable degree (and not for effect), or when they don’t try to make their characters sound “period.” Philippa Gregory is guilty of both offenses, so as much as I enjoy her plots, I can’t wade through her writing. I really enjoyed Sena Jeter Naslund’s Ahab’s Wife, and I plan to read her Sherlock Holmes story, Sherlock in Love.
I just found out that a contemporary nonfiction account of the sinking of the whaleship Essex was written by Nathaniel Philbrick (who was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize this year): In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex. I think I’m going to have to read that. I know reading all of these nineteenth century sea novels has been fun, and I’ve heard this is a fascinating book.
What genre of literature do you like? Why?
[tags]historical fiction, reading preferences[/tags]