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Some Favorite Living History Authors

Our family reads so many living history books!  In some ways, you could say we are shaped by them….  Here are some of our favourite history authors for all ages:

Laura Ingalls Wilder.  Of course!  Her books have probably changed the face of North America.  As you probably know, there’s a recipe book, a song book, and many derivatives such as prequels and sequels (not nearly as good, and occasionally containing ‘modern’ attitudes), board books, chapter books, and the TV series (inaccurate and full of ‘modern’ attitudes).  I know many people love the TV series, but if you’ve never read the books, try them.  They are much, much more worthwhile.  There’s even a year-long homeschool study called Prairie Primer based on the Little House books, although we found that reading the books themselves is more worthwhile.

Barbara GreenwoodPioneer Story and its companion volumes tell an 1840’s Canadian backwoods story, complete with background information and craft stories.  I’ve read Pioneer Story aloud twice. Although ths book is modern, the attitudes it presents are realistic but not negative. In a similar style, Barbara Greenwood has also written about the Underground Railroad, the gold rush, and garment factories.

G.A. Henty. Approximately 100 history novels by this author have influenced generations of teens. In fact, Lester Pearson, Canada’s Nobel-Prize-winning Prime Minister, once reputedly said that all the history he knew was learned from Mr. Henty’s books.  These books all start off slow and then hurry on to exciting, historically accurate adventure.  Often they are about war, but they contain no gratuitous violence and the war scenes do not emphasize the horror.  The memories I’m left with are about courage, historical people, historical events, and geography… and those memories really stick. Our children enjoy both the written books and the audiobooks.

Captain Marryat. Children of the New Forest, a royalist tale set during the time of Cromwell, is apparently one of the first children’s novels ever written in English.  It is superb, an excellent read-aloud, and should not be missed by anyone.  Note that the movie is not for sensitive viewers; I am still haunted by one particular scene.  Marryat also wrote other novels, but they are more suitable for older readers and not nearly as appealing as Children of the New Forest.

Piet Prins. Although this popular Dutch author has written about modern days, his best novels are about Dutch history during World War II (The Shadow Series and The Secret of the Swamp) and during Reformation times (the Struggle for Freedom Series).

Ralph Moody.  Little Britches, Father and I Were Ranchers, and others.  These heart-warming stories of pioneer ranch life are, unfortunately, full of questionable language.  Some, not all of them.  Therefore I cannot recommend them for children to read on their own, but as read-alouds with frequent editing, the first two are mesmerizing and memorable.  Life was hard in the past, and both the characters and the events of this semi-autobiographical series show this.  Note that I have read only three of the books, and each one was fascinating.

Marjorie Bowen.  When I was a little girl, my mother had three beloved, fat, Dutch books by Marjorie Bowen on her shelf.  The Dutch was far beyond me at the time, although I tried.  Many years later I was thrilled to discover that Bowen had written in English, not Dutch, and that her books were being republished.  I now understand why my mother loved the books!  I’ve reviewed three of Bowen’s biographies: The Governor of England, The Soldier of Virginia, and a two-volume set on William the Silent.

Others who wrote living history books include Rosemary Sutcliffe (usually, but not always, wonderful), Deborah Alcock (Reformed author), and R.M. Ballantyne (exciting, realistic, and violent; inspiration for R.L Stevenson).

A library and/or google search will help you find these authors’ books easily.  Enjoy!

Please let me know in the comments if I’ve missed your favorite historical authors.


  1. Lisa says:

    We love the Little House Books here! 🙂 Even my boys enjoy them, as the father is a good, hardworking Christian man who makes everything by hand, lol! 🙂 And, of course, my daughter just loves Laura.

    I realized that, although, I loved the series growing up, that it was not very true to the books, at all!

    Many blessings,

    1. Annie Kate says:

      Yes, the Little House books are for the whole family. I found that they mean a lot more to me now that I’m old enough to understand Ma a bit better. What a remarkable woman she was!

      Annie Kate

  2. JoAnn says:

    I’ve only heard of Laura Ingalls. I’ll have to check out the other ones. Thanks for the list.

    1. Annie Kate says:

      You’re welcome! 🙂

  3. Ritsumei says:

    What a treasure-trove! I think that I’ll suggest we look at some of these authors in my book club. This would be a great post for the Classical Homeschooling Carnival as well, if you want to submit it.

    1. Annie Kate says:

      I’m glad you like the list! I’m sure that your bookclub will really enjoy the authors that suit the age range.

      Thanks for the suggestion to link up. I think I will.

      Annie Kate

    1. Annie Kate says:

      Thanks for the suggestion!
      Annie Kate

  4. Sally says:

    We just loved Little Britches, and I had to search high and low for each succeeding book in the series. You are right about the language — in places it is raw, and edited read-aloud is best. I was constantly amazed at the family’s work ethic, character, and ingenuity. Thanks for the reminder. I think we will read these again! 🙂

    Thanks, too, for your other recommendations. I now have Piet Prins and Captain Marryat on order thru our library.

    1. Annie Kate says:

      Yes, they can be difficult to find. But the work ethic and the incredible integrity of the family is astounding. I am still in awe about the ending of Man of the Family.

      I only know of one supplier that sells the Little Britches books, Tree of Life booksellers at http://www.treeoflifeathome.com/

      You’ll enjoy the ones you have on order. 🙂

      Annie Kate

  5. Angie says:

    Thank you for the list; I’ve devoured everything Little House, but haven’t read anything else you’ve mentioned. Living history is definitely the way to go.

    1. Annie Kate says:

      You’ve got so many happy hours of reading ahead of you! 🙂

      Annie Kate

  6. This is such a lovely list – great authors! I am especially thrilled about the Dutch authors. I am Dutch, too, and love to have my children read about part of their heritage. Off to find some of these…

    Admiration, Hope and Love


  7. I keep hearing how good the G. A. Henty books are. I’m going to have to check to see if our library carries them.

    Stopping by from the Carnival of Homeschooling 300th Edition.

    Stop by and say hi sometime.

  8. What a great list! We have just started reading The Little House in the Big Woods with out 4 and 5 year old daughters and they just love them. Interested in checking out some of the other authors listed. Thanks!

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