5 On My TBR #4 — Historical

5 On My TBR is a weekly meme hosted by E. @ Local Bee Hunter’s Nook. Every week, a prompt is given, and we get the opportunity to rave about 5 books on our TBRs that fit the prompt. This week’s prompt is…


I like how open-ended this prompt is; we can answer with historical fiction, fantasy, or nonfiction. I am more than ready to rec some historical books, so let’s dive right in!

Last Night at the Telegraph Club by Malinda Lo

Of all the books on this list, this one is set the closest to our time period: in the 1950s. Lily Hu is a Chinese-American lesbian living at the height of the Red Scare. She’s willing to take the risk and go with her girlfriend, Kathy, to a lesbian bar called the Telegraph Club in spite of the potential consequences. This book will be released in January of 2021, and I’m utterly excited! I’ve never read a book featuring a 1950s lesbian bar, though I’ve read about the butch/femme courting rituals of the time. With a setting like that, featuring a queer WOC… I can’t describe how ready I am for this book to be released.

Opium and Absinthe by Lydia Kang

Bram Stoker’s Dracula has just been published in the late 1800s, and Tillie Pembroke’s sister has died of what appears to be a vampire attack in New York City. Tillie begins a mad hunt for the truth, but her addiction to laudanum is clouding her mind. This will be a bonus pick for the possibility of me finishing my October TBR before the end of the month.

Above the Bay of Angels by Rhys Bowen

In Victorian-era England, a woman named Isabella obtains a position as a cook in Buckingham Palace through less than honest means. She excels in her new position and finds happiness… until she is contacted by a blackmailer who knows her secret. On top of that, Isabella prepared the last meal of a member of the Queen’s retinue who subsequently died of what appears to be poison. Isabella is a suspect, and the investigation will surely tear apart her carefully-crafted identity… and potentially send her to the gallows. I slammed this book into my TBR shelf on goodreads because 1) I love books about food and 2) I love books about life in the early to mid-1800s. I have no idea when I’ll get around to Above the Bay of Angels, but it’s very secure in its place on my TBR.

Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell

This book won the 2020 Women’s Prize for Fiction! If we’re being honest here, I would never buy this book for myself. Which means I’m in luck, because I’m going to gift a new copy to my favorite professor. Is it bad form to read and potentially damage a book that you bought for the purpose of gifting to someone else? I genuinely don’t know. Anyway, Hamnet is the name of William Shakespeare’s son, who dies at age eleven in 1596. (This isn’t a spoiler; it’s in the blurb on the back of the book). This book documents a period of Shakespeare’s life that is generally recorded as a mere footnote, and tells it from a perspective that often goes ignored in literature.

The Silence of Bones by June Hur

This book was the group pick for the 2020 koreadathon, so I heard several reviews of it from different booktubers. I’m looking forward to it! This book has the second-oldest setting of the stories on this list; it’s set in the year 1800 in Korea, and follows an indentured servant named Seol who has been assigned to help a police inspector solve a murder. When the inspector becomes a suspect, however, Seol must face the dangerous unknown and become more than a silent and mindlessly obedient servant in order to solve the case.

And that’s all five books! What are your top five historical reads?

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