Fiction Inspired by Real Life

Read a fictional book based on real life events! All-Year Reading Challenge • 2024

January 23, 2024

In this list, you’ll find stories inspired by historical moments, offering a unique blend of imagination and historical accuracy. From war-torn landscapes to political intrigues and untold secrets, these books invite you to explore the intersection of fiction and history.

Use this booklist to fulfill a reading challenge prompt in our All-Year Reading Challenge!


Djinn Patrol On The Purple Line by Deepa Anappara

Djinn Patrol On The Purple Line

Deepa Anappara

In an award-winning debut based on true events, a 9-year-old reality-television enthusiast in India uses crime-show approaches to investigate the disappearance of a classmate, before additional abductions shatter life in his sprawling city home.

The Children's Blizzard by Melanie Benjamin

The Children’s Blizzard

Melanie Benjamin

Draws on oral histories of the Great Plains blizzard of 1888 to depict the experiences of two teachers, a servant, and a reporter who risk everything to protect the children of immigrant homesteaders.

The Postcard by Anne Berest

The Postcard

Anne Berest

Fifteen years after the arrival of an anonymous postcard with the names of her maternal great-grandparents and their children, all killed at Auschwitz, Anne Berest is moved to discover who sent it and why and embarks on a journey to learn the fate of the Rabinovitch family.

The Romantic by William Boyd

The Romantic
The Real Life Of Cashel Greville Ross

William Boyd

A 19th-century everyman, Cashel Greville Ross seeks his fortune around the world, traveling as a solider, farmer, felon, writer and father, experiencing all the vicissitudes of existence, including a once-in-a-lifetime love, and realizing his greatest accomplishment is discovering who he truly is.

The Secret Chord by Geraldine Brooks

The Secret Chord

Geraldine Brooks

A tale based on the story of King David is set against a backdrop of Second Iron Age Israel and traces his journey from an obscure shepherd to a hero and king before his fall as a murderous despot.

Horse by Geraldine Brooks


Geraldine Brooks

A scientist from Australia and a Nigerian-American art historian become connected by their shared interest in a 19th century race horse, one studying its remains, the other uncovering the history of the Black horsemen who were critical to its success.

City Of Incurable Women by Maud Casey

City Of Incurable Women

Maud Casey

In a fusion of fact and fiction, nineteenth-century women institutionalized as hysterics reveal what history ignored.

In The Full Light Of The Sun by Clare Clark

In The Full Light Of The Sun

Clare Clark

The award-winning author of The Great Stink traces the fortunes of three disparate Berliners who against a backdrop of rising Nazi power are caught up in an art scandal involving newly discovered van Goghs.

Trial By Fire by P.T. Deutermann

Trial By Fire

P.T. Deutermann

Based on a true story, this dramatic World War II novel of attack, survival and triumph on board an aircraft carrier in the Pacific follows the crew of the USS Franklin as they, against all odds, save their ship, and themselves, after being bombed.

Winter Work by Dan Fesperman

Winter Work

Dan Fesperman

When a fellow Stasi officer is murdered, Emil Grimm must finish his mission alone, and when it intersects with CIA agent Claire Saylor, he finds himself on common ground with this woman as they both fight for their lives against a powerful enemy hiding in the shadows.

Love And Other Consolation Prizes by Jamie Ford

Love And Other Consolation Prizes

Jamie Ford

A half-Chinese orphan whose mother sacrificed everything to give him a better chance is raffled off as a prize at Seattle’s 1909 World’s Fair, only to land in the ownership of the madam of a notorious brothel where he finds friendship and opportunities, in a story based on true events.

Booth by Karen Joy Fowler


Karen Joy Fowler

Describes the multiple scandals, family triumphs and disasters that took their toll on the 10 children of celebrated Shakespearean actor Junius Booth as the North and the South reached a boiling point and the Civil War broke out.

A Well-Behaved Woman by Therese Fowler

A Well-Behaved Woman
A Novel Of The Vanderbilts

Therese Fowler

Marrying into the newly rich but socially scorned Vanderbilt clan, a formerly impoverished Alva navigates society snubs and dark undercurrents in the lives of her in-laws and friends while testing the limits of her ambitious rule-breaking.

Peach Blossom Spring by Melissa Fu

Peach Blossom Spring

Melissa Fu

Settling in America years after his turbulent childhood in China, Renshu, now Henry Dao, refuses to talk to his daughter about her heritage, determined to keep her safe in this new land despite being weighed down by his history.

Button Man by Andrew Gross

Button Man

Andrew Gross

A disadvantaged but once happy Jewish immigrant family is brought together by the women’s garment trade and torn apart by the birth of organized crime in 1930s New York City.

The Siberia Job by Josh Haven

The Siberia Job

Josh Haven

Texas businessman John Mills and his Czech companion, Petr Kovac, travel to the furthest reaches of post-Soviet Russia to acquire vouchers for the country’s national oil company, Gazneft, moving town to town with suitcases full of cash, until the Russian mafia and Gazneft catch wind of their successes.

A Brief History Of Seven Killings by Marlon James

A Brief History Of Seven Killings

Marlon James

A tale inspired by the 1976 attempted assassination of Bob Marley spans decades and continents to explore the experiences of journalists, drug dealers, killers, and ghosts against a backdrop of social and political turmoil.

Fever by Mary Beth Keane


Mary Beth Keane

A story inspired by the life of the woman known as “Typhoid Mary” traces the efforts of a headstrong Irish immigrant whose tenacity and talent for cooking gains her entry into upper-class kitchens until the discovery of her status as a disease carrier forces her into an isolation that she eventually defies with horrific results.

The Dickens Boy by Thomas Keneally

The Dickens Boy

Thomas Keneally

The son of England’s most famous author, Edward Dickens, is sent to Australia to make something of himself–or at least fail out of the public eye–where he works hard to prove to his parents and himself that he can succeed in this vast and unfamiliar wilderness.

The Good People by Hannah Kent

The Good People

Hannah Kent

Three women in nineteenth-century Ireland bond over a shared effort to rescue a child from a superstitious community that believes that his trauma-related inability to speak indicates that he is a changeling responsible for a series of misfortunes.

The Radio Operator by Ulla Lenze

The Radio Operator

Ulla Lenze

When he unwittingly becomes part of a Nazi espionage network working in Manhattan, shortwave operator Josef Klein is deported to Germany where he, after witnessing the seductive power of the Nazis and the war’s terrible consequences, goes on the run to escape his past.

Under The Java Moon by Heather B Moore

Under The Java Moon

Heather B Moore

Forced to relocate to a POW camp when Holland declares war on Japan in 1941, Mary Vischer, with her husband somewhere on the Java Sea with the Dutch Navy, bravely fights to keep her family alive amidst brutal conditions of the overcrowded camp.

The Tattooist Of Auschwitz by Heather Morris

The Tattooist Of Auschwitz

Heather Morris

An international best-seller based on the true story of an Auschwitz-Birkenau survivor traces the experiences of a Jewish Slovakian who uses his position as a concentration-camp tattooist to secure food for his fellow prisoners.

Hamnet by Maggie O'Farrell

A Novel Of The Plague

Maggie O’Farrell

The award-winning author of I Am, I Am, I Am presents the evocative story of a young Shakespeare’s marriage to a talented herbalist before the ravaging death of their 11-year-old son shapes the production of his greatest play.

The Flight Portfolio by Julie Orringer

The Flight Portfolio

Julie Orringer

The award-winning author of The Invisible Bridge presents a long-anticipated latest novel based on the story of Varian Fry’s extraordinary effort to save the lives and work of Jewish artists fleeing the Holocaust.

The Revenant by Michael Punke

The Revenant
A Novel Of Revenge

Michael Punke

A story of survival on the American frontier chronicles the exploits of fur trapper Hugh Glass, who is attacked by a grizzly bear and left for dead by his fellow trappers, but survives and treks through the wilderness to seek justice.

When It's Over by Barbara Ridley

When It’s Over

Barbara Ridley

Based on a true story, When It’s Over is a moving, resonant, and timely read about the lives of war refugees, dramatic political changes, and the importance of family, love, and hope.

Cher Ami And Major Whittlesey by Kathleen Rooney

Cher Ami And Major Whittlesey

Kathleen Rooney

A tale based on true events follows the experiences of an army officer who answers the call to service during World War II before his life is astonishingly reshaped by his battlefield encounters with a messenger pigeon.

See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt

See What I Have Done

Sarah Schmidt

A reimagining of the Borden murders profiles an abusive home where the events surrounding the killing of the parents are presented from the viewpoints of Lizzie Borden, her elder sister, their housemaid, and an enigmatic stranger.

The Old Lion Of Theodore Roosevelt by Jeff Shaara

The Old Lion Of Theodore Roosevelt

Jeff Shaara

The New York Times bestselling author traces the remarkable life of one of the most consequential figures in the U.S. and the world at large, from the mid-19th century to the early 20th century, revealing a man who shaped the foundations of the modern country and world.

The Stars Are Fire by Anita Shreve

The Stars Are Fire

Anita Shreve

A novel based on the true story of the largest fire in Maine’s history follows the experiences of a pregnant woman who struggles to protect her two young children and watches her home burn while her husband joins the volunteer firefighters.

I Remember You by Yrsa Sigurdardottir

I Remember You
A Ghost Story

Yrsa Sigurdardottir

A tale based on a true story finds three friends targeted by a malevolent presence while trying to renovate an old house in the Icelandic Westfjords, while a local doctor uncovers an elderly suicide victim’s obsessions.

The Last Green Valley by Mark Sullivan

The Last Green Valley

Mark Sullivan

In late March 1944, as Stalin’s forces push into Ukraine, young Emil and Adeline Martel decide they must run in retreat from their land with murderous Nazi officers they despise to escape the Soviets and go in search of freedom.

Women Talking by Miriam Toews

Women Talking

Miriam Toews

Based on real events, Women Talking is the story of eight women in a remote Mennonite colony who face an agonizing decision in the aftermath of a series of unspeakable sexual crimes.

The King's Pleasure Of Henry Viii by Alison Weir

The King’s Pleasure Of Henry Viii

Alison Weir

Painting a stunning portrait of the idealistic monarch who expanded Parliament, founded the Royal Navy, modernized medical training and patronized the arts, this historical novel explores the private side of King Henry VIII, a passionate man in search of true love who was a legend in his own lifetime.

The Orphan Keeper by Camron Wright

The Orphan Keeper

Camron Wright

Kidnapped and adopted by an American couple, Chellamuthu learns enough English to tell his adoptive parents he has family back in India, but their efforts to find them are fruitless, until over a decade later when he meets a girl with ties to his past.