I've spent most of my reading life with historical novels--all periods, everywhere. My earliest memories of childhood reading include novels about boys who travelled with Caesar and Vercingetorix. I can't possibly name more than a few of the best authors--Mary Renault on ancient Greece, Edith Pargeter on Wales, Morgan Llewellen on Ireland, Douglas C. Jones on the U.S. Civil War, Susan Vreeland on the Italian painter Artemesia. There are hundreds of them.
Then there is the mystery set in earlier times. Recently I've been reading Charles Todd's Bess series, dealing with a nurse in WWI, and Charles Finch's books on England around 1865. Both are outstanding.
I'm sure that historical novels shaped my life. I read them from childhood on, and ended up getting a Ph.D. in history from the U. of Chicago. Not only are such novels fascinating in themselves, they are a painless way of learning about the lives of people in other places in other eras. Want to know about Aaron Burr or Abraham Lincoln? Read Gore Vidal's novels about them.
Biographies are one thing—novels are something different. Needless to say, some of the novels are more accurate than others, but the best of them are based on solid research.
Right now I'm in the middle of Katherine Webb's The Legacy, which jumps back and forth between now and 1900. Gotta go now and see how it comes out!
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Carter Jefferson can be found hanging out here.