10 Essential Historical Fiction Audiobooks

There’s a reason we’re drawn to the past. History is inescapable. The world we live in today was shaped by past events and the lives of people before us. Historical fiction connects us to our history by telling stories set in the past, often during a significant time period. The best historical fiction audiobooks give us the chance to immerse ourselves in another time and place, and allow us not only to understand what happened but to be moved by it.

With the help of Libro.fm and their community of independent bookstores, we’ve selected ten of the best historical fiction audiobooks. Not familiar with Libro.fm? It’s actually my favorite audiobook service because, among other things, it splits its profits with independent bookstores (read my Libro.fm review). Here are ten picks for historical fiction audiobooks, with each one accompanied by a bookseller recommendation for why it is essential:


The Song of Achilles

By Madeline Miller. Read by Frazer Douglas.

Bookseller recommendation:

“A sweeping emotional tale of war, passion, and devastation. You are given insight into a hero’s life through the eyes of Patroclus in a way that has never been done before. You may think you know the story of Achilles and Patroclus but I promise you, you don’t. Miller is able to ensnare your imagination and capture the human spirit in a way few authors before have been able to do.”- Katrina, Anderson’s Bookshop

Start listening at Libro.fm.


Cloud Cuckoo Land

By Anthony Doerr. Read by Marin Ireland & Simon Jones.

Bookseller recommendation:

“Anthony Doerr’s novel Cloud Cuckoo Land is a triumph. This cautionary yet hopeful tale of five very different people obsessed with one ancient book will transport you to Constantinople 600 years ago, present-day Idaho, and to a spaceship a generation or two in the future. It’s not too late to be good stewards of Mother Earth. Cloud Cuckoo Land reminds us that the children might just save us all.” – Rachel, Avid Bookshop

Start listening at Libro.fm.


The Nickel Boys (Winner 2020 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction)

By Colson Whitehead. Read by JD Jackson & Colson Whitehead.

Bookseller recommendation:

“This is the story of boys at a reform school in Florida in the 1960s. Based on the true story of the Dozier School for Boys, and the atrocities that took place there. This isn’t for the faint of heart; the cruelty and violence are terrible. However, Whitehead is a master novelist. The haunting beauty of his prose makes this a must-read. The narrator is split between 2 main characters, Elwood and Turner, and it is through their eyes that we meet the authorities at Nickel, like Spencer, Earl and Hennepin, all terrifying in their own way. And we meet the other boys, like Griff and Harper, each warped by the horrors they see. And each one has a story which Whitehead sometimes delves into, creating complex characters whose actions make sense for who they are. Whitehead elegantly moves the reader from Elwood’s early pre-Nickel days to events, past and present, at the school and into the future where archeologists and reporters have finally uncovered the truth. Beautifully written. Wonderfully read by JD Jackson. Highly recommended.” – Kristine, Buttonwood Books and Toys

Start listening at Libro.fm.


The Four Winds

By Kristin Hannah. Read by Julia Whelan.

Bookseller recommendation:

“This is one of the best books I’ve listened to in a long time. The historical time period is the backdrop to an outstanding story about the evolution of a woman. The character development is incredibly heartfelt and the words that flow through each narration are beautifully expressed. This book, and the main character Elsa, has stayed with me for days. Definitely worth the time.” – Stephanie, Poet’s Corner Book Shop

Start listening at Libro.fm.


A Gentleman in Moscow

By Amor Towles. Read by Nicholas Guy Smith.

Bookseller recommendation:

“Through Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov’s ordinary encounters and activities within the bounds of the four walls of post-revolutionary Moscow’s Metropol Hotel, where he is under house arrest, Towles deftly guides readers across a century of Russian history, from the Bolshevik uprising to the dawn of the nuclear age under Krushchev. Grandiloquent language and drama reminiscent of Tolstoy gradually give way to action and tradecraft suggestive of le Carre in this lovely and entertaining tale of one man’s determination to maintain his dignity and passion for life, even after being stripped of his title, belongings, and freedom. Reading A Gentleman in Moscow is pure pleasure!” – Becky Dayton, The Vermont Book Shop

Start listening at Libro.fm.


The Lost Apothecary

By Sarah Penner. Read by Lorna Bennett, Lauren Anthony & Lauren Irwin.

Bookseller recommendation:

“This book was a wonderful escape and was absolutely lovely to listen to. It switches back and forth between the point of view of two women in London in the 1790s and an American woman visiting London in present day. The story unfolds quickly. I was pleasantly surprised by the twists that I hadn’t anticipated and the emotions that welled up within me. The ending was wholly satisfying and I will definitely be recommending it when it releases!” – Lauren,
Schuler Books

Start listening at Libro.fm.


The Giver of Stars

By Jojo Moyes. Read by Julia Whelan.

Bookseller recommendation:

“In the late 1930s, the Works Progress Administration developed a number of projects intended to provide employment opportunities for unemployed artists, writers, and craftsmen. One of those projects was the Pack Horse Library Initiative, in which mounted horsewomen picked their way along snowy hillsides and through muddy creeks with a simple goal: to deliver reading material to Kentucky’s isolated mountain communities. In The Giver of Stars, Moyes has brought to life the amazing, funny, adventurous stories of a few of these trailblazing women. Historical fiction lovers will devour this story of a little-known piece of U.S. history.” – Angie Tally, The Country Bookshop

Start listening at Libro.fm.


The Labyrinth of the Spirits

By Carlos Ruiz Zafon. Read by Daniel Weyman.

Bookseller recommendation:

“Zafón is one of my favorite authors of all time. I found his first book in the series, The Shadow of the Wind, years ago at an airport and was hooked forever; I have been entranced by the adventures of Daniel Sempere and Fermín and many others. In The Labyrinth of the Spirits, the horrors of the Spanish Civil War loom large over Daniel’s family and those he loves. And Alicia Gris — what a story she has to tell. In the midst of this violent time in Spanish history, the love that the characters have for each other shines bright. Through it all, Zafón shares magnificent tales about books, booksellers, authors, and life. This is a must-read!” – Stephanie Crowe, Page and Palette

Start listening at Libro.fm.


The Cold Millions

By Jess Walter. Read by multiple narrators.

Bookseller recommendation:

“The gorgeous writing, vivid setting, compelling characters, and engrossing story aren’t even the best parts of this novel. Instead, I just keep marveling at how Jess Walter takes events from history to illuminate our present while keeping them rooted in their own time, from the labor movement to class, race, and gender equality and civil rights issues, to protests and freedom of speech. The northwest in 1909 has never been so relevant. Beautiful Ruins was a hard act to follow but, amazingly, Walter manages it with aplomb.” – Ariana Paliobagis, The Country Bookshop

Start listening at Libro.fm.


A Long Petal of the Sea

By Isabel Allende. Read by Edoardo Ballerini.

Bookseller recommendation:

“A sweeping historical novel of a man’s life, in all his iterations, from Republican revolutionary in Spain, asylum in Chile, military coup and fleeing to Venezuela, and finally returning to his end days in the countryside of Chile. Throughout, Allende explores the ways in which relationships sharpen and define him, especially the great love of his life, one which is unexpected and fierce. Perfect for fans of Erik Larson, Yaa Gyasi, or Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Narrated by Edoardo Ballerini, who deftly shifted tone to match the developing identity of Victor Dalmau.” – Kim, Lark & Owl

Start listening at Libro.fm.


Have you listened to any of these historical fiction audiobooks? Do you have your own suggestions for essential historical fiction listening? Please share in the comments below.

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