Biographical Fiction Booklist

Novels about real people.

Annotations are from Advance, the Ingram Book Magazine, unless noted.


  • In the Name of Salome
    Author: Alvarez, Julia
    Publisher: Algonquin $ 23.95 ISBN: 1565122763 Date: 2000
    Based on the lives of two heroic Latin women, Alvarez's sweeping fourth novelspans more than 100 years in the tumultuous history of the Caribbean.
    Suggested Reading: Historical Fiction Stars | Latino/Latina Stars
    Updated 5/11/00.
  • According to Queeney
    Author: Bainbridge, Beryl
    Publisher: Carroll & Graf $ 22 ISBN: 0786707739 Date: 2001
    Taking her inspiration from eighteenth-century English history and literature, Bainbridge transforms meticulous research into a brilliantly imaginative portrayal of the complex relationship that the renowned literary giant Dr. Samuel Johnson enjoyed with his benefactress, Mrs. Thrale. - Publisher marketing.
    Suggested Reading: Historical Fiction Stars
    Updated 6/20/01
  • Handsome Harry
    Author: Blake, James Carlos
    Publisher: Morrow $ 24.95 ISBN: 0060554789 Date: 2004
    The renowned author pens his most commercial novel to date--a thrilling retelling of the John Dillinger story.
    Suggested Reading: Historical Fiction Stars
    Updated 11.12.03
  • The Incantation of Frida K.
    Author: Braverman, Kate
    Publisher: Conari $ 23.95 ISBN: 1583224696 Date: 2002
    starLibrary Journal
    Braverman's imagined life of Frida Kahlo begins and ends within the hallucinatory mind of the painter, at 46, on her deathbed. Reflecting on people, places, and events in her past, Frida talks of men, art, and philosophy.
    Updated 3/19/02
  • Pretty Boy
    Author: Brooks, Bill
    Publisher: Forge $ 24.95 ISBN: 0765304732 Date: 2003
    From the author of the Western classic, The Stone Garden: The Epic Life of Billy the Kid, comes the life of one of the Depression's most dangerous outlaw, Pretty Boy Floyd.
    Suggested Reading: Historical Fiction Stars
    Updated 5.29.03
  • The Stone Garden: The Epic Life of Billy the Kid
    Author: Brooks, Bill
    Publisher: Forge $ 23.95 ISBN: 0312875088 Date: 2001
    Suggested Reading: Historical Fiction Stars | Western Stars
    Updated 6/20/01
  • Jackson
    Byrd, Max
    Publisher: Bantam Doubleday Dell List Price: $23.95 ISBN: 055309632x Date: 1997
    In his critically acclaimed novel Jefferson, Byrd revealed the private life of one of American history's most beloved and elusive figures. Now, in the magnificant tradition of Gore Vidal's Lincoln and Burr, he capture the essense of Andrew Jackson, one of the nation's most feared and admired leaders.
    Suggested Reading: New Orleans
  • I Was Howard Hughes
    Author: Carter, Steven
    Publisher: Bloomsbury $ 14.95 (paper) ISBN: 1582343756 Date: 2003
    Part The Great Gatsby, part This Is Spinal Tap, Carter's hilarious debut paints a fictional portrait of a biographer, his notorious subject, and the illusions held about fame and fortune.
    Suggested Reading: Debuts | Biographical Fiction
    Updated 7.8.03
  • Girl With a Pearl Earring
    Author: Chevalier, Tracy
    Publisher: Dutton $ 23.95 ISBN: 052594527x Date: 2000
    With the precision and focus of an Old Master's painting, Girl with a Pearl Earring paints a vivid portrait of colorful 17th-century Delft, as well as the hauntingly poignant story of one young girl's rite of passage.
    Suggested Reading:
    Vermeer | Historical Fiction Stars | All Stars
  • Casanova in Bohemia
    Author: Codrescu, Andre
    Publisher: Free Press $ 25 ISBN: 0684868008 Date: 2002
    starKirkusstarLibrary Journal
    Beloved NPR commentator and popular author Codrescu makes a stunning return to historical fiction, detailing the adventurous life and erotic times of the famed illuminist Giacomo Casanova. Codrescu creates a surreal portrait of the legendary Casanova, as the old adventurer plays out his final years in a dilapidated castle in Bohemia.
    Suggested Reading: Historical Fiction Stars
    Updated 1/29/02
  • I Am Madame X
    Author: Diliberto, Gioia
    Publisher: Scribner $ 24 ISBN: 0743211553 Date: 2003
    Even before John Singer Sargent painted her portrait, Virginie Gautreau's reputation for promiscuity and showy self-display made her the subject of Paris gossip. Her scandalous portrait, unveiled in 1884, provides the inspiration for this debut novel--a compulsively readable immersion in Belle Epoque Paris.
    Suggested Reading: Historical Fiction Stars
    Updated 12.2.02
  • Slammerkin
    Author: Donoghue, Emma
    Publisher: Harcourt $ 24 ISBN: 0151006725 Date: 2001
    Inspired by a teenage girl who murdered her mistress in 1763 because she "longed for fine clothes", Slammerkin is the bestselling classic story of a lower-class Roxana, a female Tom Jones.
    Suggested Reading: Historical Fiction Stars
    Updated 5/17/01
  • Queenmaker: A Novel of David's Queen
    Author: Edgehill, India
    Publisher: St Martins $ 24.95 ISBN: 0312289189 Date: 2002
    starKirkusstarLibrary Journal
    For more than 40 years, Michal lived and reigned in David's court. Speaking as a sister, a wife, a mother, a lover, a woman both scorned and worshipped, and above all, as a friend to David's other women, Queen Michal reveals her hopes and pains, as the fire of God burns and war, passion, murder, and prophecy fill the Promised Land.
    Suggested Reading: Historical Fiction Stars | First Fiction
    Updated 11/20/01
  • Oscar Wilde Discovers America
    Author: Edwards, Louis
    Publisher: Scribner $ 24 BN: 0743236890 Date: 2003
    star KirkusstarLJ
    This compelling and unique fictional foray into American history follows a brilliantly conjured Wilde and his young black valet on a whirlwind tour across the country from high-society Newport to the deep south.
    Suggested Reading: Historical Fiction Stars
    Updated 11.20.02
  • Gould's Book of Fish: A Novel in Twelve Fish
    Author: Flanagan, Richard
    Publisher: Grove $ 27.50 ISBN: 0802117112 Date: 2002
    starKirkusstarLibrary JournalstarPWstarBooklist
    The latest novel from internationally renowned author Flanagan. A rich tragicomic saga of art, fish, and the founding of new worlds.
    Suggested Reading: All Stars
    Updated 3/26/02
  • The Old American
    Author: Hebert, Ernest
    Publisher: Univ Press of New England $ 24.95 ISBN: 1584650737 Date: 2000
    This novel is inspired by the real life story of Nathan Blake, the first frame house builder in Keene, New Hampshire who in 1746 was abducted by Algonkians and held in Canada as a slave.
    Suggested Reading: Historical Fiction Stars
    Updated 10/26/00
  • The Final Confession of Mabel Stark
    Author: Hough, Robert
    Publisher: Atlantic $ 24 ISBN: 0871138700 Date: 2003
    This finalist for the 2002 Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best First Book in Canada tells the fascinating story of the greatest female tiger trainer in history--and her one true love--spanning from golden age of the circus in the early 20th century to the 1960s.
    Suggested Reading: Circus Fiction | Historical Fiction Stars
    Updated 1.10.03
  • Creation
    Author: Govier, Katherine
    Publisher: Overlook $ 24.95 ISBN: 1585674109 Date: 2003
    In this atmospheric and enthralling novel, Govier tells the story of John James Audubon, a man torn between the lies he has lived by and the truth he now needs. Her novel recreates the summer in which "the world's greatest living bird artist" finally understood the paradox embedded in his art: that the act of creation is also an act of destruction.
    Updated 4.28.03
  • I Should Be Extremely Happy in Your Company: A Novel of Lewis and Clark
    Author: Hall, Brian
    Publisher: Viking $ 25.95 ISBN: 0670031895 Date: 2003
    Presenting the story of Lewis and Clark in an entirely new light, Hall uses the novelist's art to produce a compulsively readable book that fills the gaps and provides a new perspective on this great American story.
    Suggested Reading: Historical Fiction Stars
    Updated 11.27.02
  • The Mulberry Empire
    Author: Hensher, Philip
    Publisher: Knopf $ 26 ISBN: 0375414886 Date: 2002
    Spanning a decade and moving between London and Calcutta, The Mulberry Empire explores the doomed 1839 mission of some 50,000 forces of the British Empire as they entered Afghanistan to overthrow a hostile amir.
    Suggested Reading: Historical Fiction Stars | First Fiction Debuts
    Updated 9.7.02
  • Patrick: Son of Ireland
    Author: Lawhead, Stephen R.
    Publisher: Morrow $ 25.95 ISBN: 0060012811 Date: 2003
    A magnificent historical novel about the early life of the man who would one day be known as St. Patrick. This is the story of Patrick's "missing years"--years of calamity, defeat, and crushing disappointment that form him into a bard and advisor to the High King of Ireland, and lead to the mission for which his name will be remembered throughout history.
    Suggested Reading: Historical Fiction Stars
    Updated 3.13.03
  • Dancer
    Author: McCann, Colum
    Publisher: Holt $ 26 ISBN: 0805067922 Date: 2003
    Taking his inspiration from the biographical facts of Rudolf Nureyev's life, McCann tells the story of a famous dancer through a chorus of voices. Spanning four decades and many worlds, Dancer is peopled by a large cast of characters, obscure and famous. The result is a monumental story of love, art, and exile.
    Updated 11.18.02
  • Empress Orchid
    Author: Min, Anchee
    Publisher: Houghton Mifflin $ 24 ISBN: 0618068872 Date: 2004
    Empress Orchid is the story of a fascinating, strong-willed woman who for generations has been vilified as a grand seductress and murderer. Min draws a vivid portrait of a flawed yet utterly compelling woman and, through her life, of the world of the Chinese court and the sexual and political lives of the royal concubines.
    Suggested Reading: Historical Fiction Stars | Asian American Stars
    Updated 11.25.03
  • Becoming Madame Mao
    Author: Min, Anchee
    Publisher: Houghton $ 25 ISBN: 0681004076 Date: 2000
    starLibrary JournalstarBookliststarPW
    From the bestselling author of Red Azalea comes a strikingly original, erotically charged portrayal of Madame Mao, one of the most vilified women of the 20th century.
    Suggested Reading: Historical Fiction Stars | All Stars | Asian American Stars
    Updated 4/13/00.
  • Wintering: A Novel of Sylvia Plath
    Author: Moses, Kate
    Publisher: St Martins $ 23.95 ISBN: 031228375x Date: 2003
    This stunning literary debut captures the haunting last months of Sylvia Plath's life and the painful creation of her legendary Ariel poems. Wintering is a deeply felt novel about artistry, marriage, motherhood, and self-understanding.
    Suggested Reading: First Fiction & Mystery Debuts | Poets
    Updated 1.16.03
  • Frida
    Author: Mujica, Barbara
    Publisher: Overlook $ 26.95 ISBN: 158567074x Date: 2001
    Based on the life of artist and icon Frida Kahlo, this historical novel is told from the point of view of Frida's sister, Christine. What unfolds is both an intense tale of sibling rivalry, as both sisters vie for muralist Diego Rivera's affection, and a fascinating history of Mexico at the first half of the 20th century.
    Suggested Reading: Historical Fiction Stars
    Updated 11/29/00
  • Mrs. Shakespeare: The Complete Works
    Author: Nye, Bobert
    Publisher: Arcade $ 23.95 ISBN: 1559705523 Date: 2000
    In this humorous and bawdy fictional memoir, Shakespeare's wife Anne Hathaway reminisces about her famous husband seven years after his death.
    Suggested Reading: Historical Fiction Stars
    Updated 8/31/00
  • Bucking the Tiger
    Author: Olds, Bruce
    Publisher: Farrar Straus & Giroux $ 23 ISBN: 0374117276 Date: 2001
    starKirkusstarLibrary Journal
    Evoking Doc Holliday's checkered careers as a frontier dentist, itinerant saloon gambler, professional faro dealer, and occasional shootist (including his involvement in the fabled gunfight at the OK Corral), Bucking the Tiger displaces the popular image of the Latin-spouting serial killer with the reality of a self-afflicted human being.
    Suggested Reading: Historical Fiction Stars | Western Stars | Take a Gamble
    Updated 8/24/01
  • Double Play
    Author: Parker, Robert B.
    Publisher: Putnam $ 24.95 ISBN: 0399151885 Date: 2004
    In a brilliant novel about a very real man, Parker tells the story of the 1947 baseball season--when Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier--through the eyes of a difficult, brooding, wounded man hired to guard Robinson.
    Updated 3.29.04
  • Gunman's Rhapsody
    Author: Parker, Robert B.
    Publisher: Putnam $ 22.95 ISBN: 0399147624 Date: 2001
    This muscular yet sensitive take on the story of Wyatt Earp, the legendary late-19th-century lawman, is filled with all the danger and uncertainty of the Old West and set against the backdrop of his real-life romance with showgirl Josie Marcus. A novel of the Old West, imagined as only Robert B. Parker can.
    Suggested Reading: Western Stars | Historical Fiction Stars
    Updated 4/20/01
  • Dancing in the Dark
    Author: Phillips, Caryl
    Publisher: Knopf $ 23.95 ISBN: 1400043964 Date: 2005
    This novel reimagines the remarkable, tragic, little-known life of Bert Williams, the first black entertainer in the U.S. to reach the highest levels of fame and fortune. W.C. Fields called him "the funniest man I ever saw, and the saddest man I ever knew."
    Suggested Reading: African American Stars | Historical Fiction | All Stars
    Updated 7.11.05
  • Tides of War: A Novel of Alcibiades and the Peloponnesian War
    Author: Pressfield, Steven
    Publisher: Doubleday $ 24.95 ISBN: 0385492529 Date: 2000
    starKirkusstarPWstarLibrary JournalstarBooklist
    The internationally bestselling author of Gates of Fire returns with a stunning novel of the Peloponnesian War and Alcibiades, the man whose heroics and passions fueled the epic struggle. Narrated by the conqueror's trusted bodyguard and hired assassin in a mesmerizing death-row confession, Tides of War is historical fiction at its finest - a full-bodied, flesh-and-blood retelling of one of history's pivotal conflicts.
    Suggested Reading: Historical Fiction Stars | All Stars
    Updated 4/3/00.
  • Booth
    Author: Robertson, David
    Publisher: Anchor Price: $ 23.95 ISBN: 0385487061 Date: 1998
    A gripping novel set amidst the confusion and chaos of the Civil War, Booth tells the story of the only conspirator in the plot to kill Abraham Lincoln who was not killed or executed - a young man who falls under the spell of the charismatic and captivating world-famous stage actor, John Wilkes Booth, and is gradually sucked into the vortex of his insidious plans.
    Suggested Reading: Historical Fiction Stars | Civil War Fiction
  • As Above, So Below: A Novel of Peter Bruegel
    Author: Rucker, Rudy
    Publisher: Forge $ 23.95 ISBN: 0765304031 Date: 2002
    In 16 chapters, each headed by one of the artist's famous works, Rucker brings the painter's progress and his colorful world to vibrant life, doing for Bruegel what the bestselling Girl With a Pearl Earring did for Vermeer.
    Suggested Reading: Historical Fiction Stars
    Updated 12.2.02
  • I, Roger Williams: A Fragment of an Autobiograpy
    Author: Settle, Mary Lee
    Publisher: Norton $ 24.95 ISBN: 0393049051 Date: 2001
    Banished by his fellow colonists in the dead of winter, Roger Williams endured years of exile among the Narragansett Indians and narrates this tumultuous tale in the peaceful last years of his life. In this panorama of war and love, the reader finds the freedom of conscience is an idea worth dying for.
    Suggested Reading: Historical Fiction Stars
    Updated 4/20/01
  • Abe
    Author: Slotkin, Richard
    Publisher: Holt $ 27.50 ISBN: 0805041230 Date: 2000
    In a brilliant work of historical imagination, award-winning historian Slotkin recreates the childhood of Abe Lincoln, including a dramatic flatboat journey down the Ohio and Mississippi rivers to New Orleans.
  • God's Fool
    Author: Slouka, Mark
    Publisher: Knopf $ 24 ISBN: 0375402160 Date: 2002
    starKirkusstarLibrary Journal
    Stretching from ancient Siam to the fields of the American Civil War, Slouka's debut novel transforms the story of the first Siamese twins in recorded history into a universal tale of brotherhood.
    Suggested Reading: Historical Fiction Stars
    Updated 5/20/02
  • All Honest Men: The Story of J. Willis Newton and America's Most Successful Outlaw Gang
    Author: Stanush, Claude & Michele
    Publisher: Permanent $ 28 ISBN: 1579620841 Date: 2003
    A lyrical debut novel by a father/daughter writing team based on the true-life story of J. Willis Newton, the cagey, charismatic son of a Texas sharecropper who fled the cotton fields to America's most successful bandit leader. Bridging the Old West outlaw era and the gangster world of Al Capone, the book explores the widespread twisting of the American Dream. - Publisher marketing.
    Suggested Reading: Historical Fiction Stars | First Fiction Mystery & Debuts
    Updated 6.2.03
  • Chang and Eng
    Author: Strauss, Darin
    Publisher: Dutton $ 23.95 ISBN: 0525945121 Date: 2000
    Everyone has a story to tell. Some of us even have two. Born attached at the chest, Chang and Eng Bunker were the Siamese twins for whom the term was coined, one of the 19th century's most fabled oddities. Narrated by Eng during the final moments of his life, Chang and Eng follows the extraordinary lives of the twins from poverty to wealth, from hopeless solititude to boundless love, from the court of the King of Siam to the crowded bedroom of their North Carolina home. Chang and Eng is an unforgettable and sublimely moving story that reveals the longings and humanity of these remarkable twins. - Publisher marketing.
    Suggested Reading: Historical Fiction Stars
    Updated 4/6/00.
  • The Master
    Author: Toibin, Colm
    Publisher: Scribner $ 25 ISBN: 0743250400 Date: 2004
    "A deep, lovely, and enthralling book that engages with the disquiet and drama of a famous writing life: splendidly conceived and composed by a writer who is himself a master of his art."--Shirley Hazzard (The Great Fire).
    Suggested Reading: All Stars | Author Author
    Updated 5.4.04
  • The Book of Salt
    Author: Truong, Monique
    Publisher: Houghton Mifflin $ 24 ISBN: 0618304002 Date: 2003
    In this literary feast, the Vietnamese cook for Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas reveals his fascinating story.
    Suggested Reading: Historical Fiction Stars
    Updated 1.26.03
  • 1929
    Author: Turner, Frederick W.
    Publisher: Counterpoint $ 25 ISBN: 1582432651 Date: 2003
    In a briefly affluent and deeply disenchanted postwar America, the Jazz Age erupts in gaudy glory. It and one of its most colorful icons, Bix Beiderbecke, are celebrated in this first novel by an acclaimed nonfiction writer.
    Suggested Reading: Music & Fiction | Historical Fiction Stars
    Updated 5.29.03
  • Fanny: A Fiction
    Author: White, Edmund
    Publisher: Ecco $ 24.95 ISBN: 0060004843 Date: 2003
    This highly anticipated work is a brilliant novel based on the life of Fanny Wright--Scottish gentlewoman, early abolitionist, plantation owner, and newspaper publisher.
    Suggested Reading: Historical Fiction Stars | All Stars
    Updated 10.2.03

Seeing Stars

Annotated lists of books receiving at least one starred review from one of four major review sources: Booklist, Kirkus, LJ and PW.

2012 Lists

more stars lists...

Hotlists@ Google Docs

Crime Fiction... 2012 | 2011

Fiction... 2012 | 2011

(lists of new and notable books - lists are sortable and can be downloaded)


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