Book Reviews, Education

The role of fiction in the understanding of history: Why everyone should read more historical novels

The Book of Night Women by Marlon James
The Book of Night Women by Marlon James provides a graphic view of the life of a slave.

History has always fascinated me. I enjoy historical novels that allow me to immerse myself in other times and places and understand how people lived “back then.” However, history classes have always bored me. I have learned far more about history from historical novels than I ever learned in any history class.

Every history course I have ever taken has focused on dry facts – dates, names of battles, lists of names on important historical documents – that students were required to memorize and then regurgitate on that next test. Most of these details immediately flew out of my brain as soon as I turned in my final exam.

Ask me when the U.S. Constitution was signed. I can’t remember, but I can Google it for you if you like.

While these factual elements are important to setting a story in time and place, they never quite tell the entire story. Unfortunately, the “story” part of history seems to be missing from many American history classrooms. (Although, we do seem to get the “his” part right in most cases.) Continue reading “The role of fiction in the understanding of history: Why everyone should read more historical novels”