This should come as no surprise to any with whom I share even the briefest acquaintance: My favorite non-fiction reading is history. My favorite novels tend to be historical fiction.
When I was researching my WWII book, In Enemy Hands, I devoured the works of John Toland and Stephen Ambrose and a host of others. I marveled at the true experiences of women spies in the conflict and loved the “first person” accounts written by military men on both sides. I’m still very enthusiastic about that period and just read an enjoyable novel by David John, Flight from Berlin, which deals with the 1936 Olympics and the Hindenberg. (I know they sound totally unrelated, but John makes the story work.) Oh! And if you’ve not read The Book Thief, hie thee to a library or bookstore immediately!
For historical eras prior to the 20th Century, I like the diaries kept by women who traveled the Oregon Trail and dozens of other accounts of pioneers, including some only slightly fictionalized, like Honore Morrow’s On to Oregon. And going back even farther in the human journey, I love the eleven-volume
Series on western civilization by Will and Ariel Durant. Unfortunately, it ends with The Age of Napoleon. Their work is so well researched and so well written that it is truly a shame they died before getting into the industrial revolution and beyond. Their work is sometimes disparaged as “popular history,” but not many want to muck around in old archives with original documents, and the Durants give us marvelous portraits of the people who made history. Would that someone could pick up where they left off and bring us up to date. . . .
Many writers have tried to give us sequels to famous novels such as Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. In that instance, they have mostly failed to live up to the standards of the original (but I admit to being something of a purist where JA is concerned). Ditto with that sequel to Gone with the Wind that garnered so much attention several years ago. However, I would very much have liked to see what Austen and Mitchell themselves might have done with the characters they created. I would also like to see the books Dostoyevsky had planned to follow The Brothers Karamazov. Or a Hawthorne prequel to The Scarlet Letter. Don’t you think the love triangle between the sensual Hester, her cold, scientific husband, and her devoutly spiritual lover would be a great read?
I would be willing to bet that J.K. Rowling did not originally plan that many books for Harry Potter, but she just fell in love with the characters. I’ve heard many of a writer saying, “I thought I was finished with thus-and-such, but so-and-so just had to have his or her own book.”
Did I mention I am in the throes of writing a series???