The Definition of Historical Fiction
What is historical fiction? I’m so glad you asked! At its most basic, historical fiction is defined as fiction set in the past. Easy peasy, right? Wrong. No one agrees on how far “in the past” historical fiction should be set or whether books like “The Great Gatsby,” which were set in the present when they were written, count as historical fiction.
As a general rule, historical fiction is defined as fiction that is set fifty or more years before the work was written, and books like “The Great Gatsby” really aren’t historical fiction at all.
How Picking Books Defines Historical Fiction
In the interest serving the mission of Picking Books (to promote appreciation of books, history, and culture through cross-disciplinary book reviews and articles that help you make sense of both the books you read and the world we live in) I’ve broadened the definition of historical fiction for Picking Books.
The books reviewed on Picking Books include historical fiction as well as historical nonfiction. To be reviewed on Picking Books, books in both genres must be written at least five years before the majority of the events described, and they can either be written from research or personal experience (a big no-no for historical fiction purists).
Additionally, Picking Books includes reviews of books, that have themselves become historical. This includes not only books like “The Great Gatsby” and “The Master and Margarita” but also classics from any genre, regardless of whether they are set in the past, the future, or another world. Picking Books includes these novels because, as with historical fiction, there is so much to learn from them.
You’ll notice that this is a slight shift from the way Picking Books has been operating for the past year or so, but don’t worry, you can still find most of my not-so-historically-relevant reviews either in the archive or in bookish musings.