Since Social Studies has been relegated to the back burner in public schools – and, perhaps, even in colleges, many public figures have shown a striking ignorance of ‘the way things were’ or how people lived in earlier eras, even our own US 1920s. An easy, pleasant anecdote to this plague is available – the well-researched historical novel. Many of these works come in downloadable form, so you can learn anywhere and anytime – and enjoy it. Below is a list of popular novelists who can give a new perspective on history. They are graded in order of reading difficulty.
AMANDA QUICK – This is the pen name used by Jayne Ann Krentz for her novels set in the Victorian period. In addition to one or two graphic sex scenes per novel, you will also find good descriptions of women’s lives, occupations, and restrictions in Victorian England. Also, these books are a credible guide to the spiritualist interests that occupied the late Victorians.
ANDREW M. GREELEY – This Catholic Father always has a surprising amount of sex mixed in with his religion. In addition to being a great tail-spinner, Greeley also did valid research on Nineteenth Century history in his native Chicago and in Ireland. These books are very readable and full of fun.
ROBERT van GULIK – This Dutch diplomat who died some years ago seems an odd choice for a fun or sexy read, but he became enamored of 17th Century Chinese murder mystery puzzles after having read many in the original language. Convinced these could be adapted to Western taste, he also listened to his publisher, who insisted that nudes sell books. Van Gulik’s Judge Dee mysteries all contain his own version of Chinese erotic art. The mysteries reveal a great deal about 17th Century Chinese culture, but are still light and fun to read.
CAROLA DUNN – This author’s well-researched 1920s British mysteries truly reflect what was going on in England during that period, with customs and styles changing as a result of World War I. Dunn even brings her protagonists to the United States for a couple of books, including information on the airplane ‘barn stormers’ of the period. These are light-hearted, fun reads.
LINDSEY DAVIS – This author is best known for what might be called her ‘Sam Spade in Ancient Rome’ series. Her Marcus Didius Falco novels, set in Rome in the 1st Century AD, are full of wise-cracks, Roman style, plus a great deal of everyday information about Roman life.
GARY CORBY – This author is a relative newcomer to the field, but he writes novels that make the Greece of Pericles come alive. Each book includes a cast of characters including asterisks marking real historical figures, and the stories tell things you would never have guessed about the everyday life in ancient Greece.
LAUREN HANEY – Haney wrote only a short series of Egyptian mysteries set in the time of Hatshepsut, the female pharaoh. Her detective is Lieutenant Bak of the Medjays (a tribal group the Egyptians used for police). If you want to learn how people lived in Ancient Egypt, this is the place to go.
A short search on the Barnes & Noble website or Amazon site will show you a huge variety of works by these and similar authors. There is no need for history to be impenetrable or dull, and no excuse for so many Americans to be uneducated in history.