Best Alternate History Novels

Updated Fall 2018

Alternate history is a subgenre of sci-fi with strong historical elements. In alternative fiction the author presents a “what if” scenario at a critical juncture in history and presents an outcome other than that in the actual historical record. The stories are conjectural but are sometimes based on fact. Here are our picks for the top 10 Alternate History books.


The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick

Shelfbuzz Score: 9.5 (out of 10)

Genre(s): Sci-fi, Historical

It’s America in 1962. Slavery is legal once again. The few Jews who still survive hide under assumed names. In San Francisco, the I Ching is as common as the Yellow Pages. All because some twenty years earlier the United States lost a war — and is now occupied by Nazi Germany and Japan. This harrowing, Hugo Award-winning novel is the work that established Philip K. Dick as an innovator in science fiction while breaking the barrier between science fiction and the serious novel of ideas. In it Dick offers a haunting vision of history as a nightmare from which… (more)



11/22/63: A Novel by Stephen King

Shelfbuzz Score: 9.5 (out of 10)

Genre(s): Historical, Sci-fi

On November 22, 1963, three shots rang out in Dallas, President Kennedy died, and the world changed. What if you could change it back? Stephen King’s heart-stoppingly dramatic new novel is about a man who travels back in time to prevent the JFK assassination — a thousand page tour de force. Following his massively successful novel Under the Dome, King sweeps readers back in time to another moment — a real life moment — when everything went wrong: the JFK assassination. And he introduces readers to a character who has the power to change the course of history. Jake Epping is a… (more)



Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld

Shelfbuzz Score: 9.2 (out of 10)

Genre(s): Fantasy, Historical

It is the cusp of World War I. The Austro-Hungarians and Germans have their Clankers, steam-driven iron machines loaded with guns and ammunition. The British Darwinists employ genetically fabricated animals as their weaponry. Their Leviathan is a whale airship, and the most masterful beast in the British fleet. Aleksandar Ferdinand, a Clanker, and Deryn Sharp, a Darwinist, are on opposite sides of the war. But their paths cross in the most unexpected way, taking them both aboard the Leviathan on a fantastical, around-the-world adventure… One that will change both their lives forever… (more)



1632 by Eric Flint

Shelfbuzz Score: 9 (out of 10)

Genre(s): Sci-fi, Free

In the year 1632 in northern Germany a reasonable person might conclude that things couldnt get much worse. There was no food. Disease was rampant. For over a decade religious war had ravaged the land and the people. Catholic and Protestant armies marched and countermarched across the northern plains, laying waste the cities and slaughtering everywhere. In many rural areas population plummeted toward zero. Only the aristocrats remained relatively unscathed; for the peasants, death was a mercy.In the year 2000 things are going okay in Grantville, West Virginia. The mines are working, the buck are plentiful (its deer season… (more)



The Eyre Affair: A Thursday Next Novel by Jasper Fforde

Shelfbuzz Score: 9 (out of 10)

Genre(s): Historical, Mystery

Fans of Douglas Adams and P. G. Wodehouse will love visiting Jasper Fforde’s Great Britain, circa 1985, when time travel is routine, cloning is a reality (dodos are the resurrected pet of choice), and literature is taken very, very seriously: it’s a bibliophile’s dream. England is a virtual police state where an aunt can get lost (literally) in a Wordsworth poem and forging Byronic verse is a punishable offense. All this is business as usual for Thursday Next, renowned Special Operative in literary detection. But when someone begins kidnapping characters from works of literature and plucks Jane Eyre from the… (more)



The Handmaids Tale by Margaret Atwood

Shelfbuzz Score: 9 (out of 10)

Genre(s): Historical, Sci-fi

The Handmaid’s Tale is a novel of such power that the reader will be unable to forget its images and its forecast. Set in the near future, it describes life in what was once the United States and is now called the Republic of Gilead, a monotheocracy that has reacted to social unrest and a sharply declining birthrate by reverting to, and going beyond, the repressive intolerance of the original Puritans. The regime takes the Book of Genesis absolutely at its word, with bizarre consequences for the women and men in its population. The story is told through the eyes… (more)



1945: A Novel by Robert Conroy

Shelfbuzz Score: 8.7 (out of 10)

Genre(s): Historical, Sci-fi

America has dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. But Japan has only begun to fight… In 1945, history has reached a turning point. A terrible new weapon has been unleashed. Japan has no choice but to surrender. But instead, the unthinkable occurs. With their nation burned and shattered, Japanese fanatics set in motion a horrifying endgame-their aim: to take America down with them. In Robert Conroy’s brilliantly imagined epic tale of World War II, Emperor Hirohito’s capitulation is hijacked by extremists and a weary United States is forced to invade Japan as a last step in a war… (more)



Lest Darkness Fall by L. Sprague de Camp

Shelfbuzz Score: 8.4 (out of 10)

Genre(s): Historical, Fantasy

Lest Darkness Fall is an alternate history science fiction novel written in 1939 by author L. Sprague de Camp. The book is often considered one of the best examples of the alternate history genre; it is certainly one of the earliest and most influential. Prominent alternate history author Harry Turtledove has said it sparked his interest in the genre as well as his desire to study Byzantine… (more)



Dominion by C.J. Sansom

Shelfbuzz Score: 8.2 (out of 10)

Genre(s): Historical

Twelve years have passed since Churchill lost to the appeasers and Britain surrendered to Nazi Germany. The global economy strains against the weight of the long German war against Russia still raging in the east. The British people find themselves under increasingly authoritarian rule–the press, radio, and television tightly controlled, the British Jews facing ever greater constraints. But Churchill’s Resistance soldiers on. As defiance grows, whispers circulate of a secret that could forever alter the balance of the global struggle. The keeper of that secret? Scientist Frank Muncaster, who languishes in a Birmingham mental hospital. Civil Servant David Fitzgerald… (more)



The City & The City: A Novel by China Miville

Shelfbuzz Score: 8.2 (out of 10)

Genre(s): Historical, Mystery, Sci-fi

When a murdered woman is found in the city of Beszel, somewhere at the edge of Europe, it looks to be a routine case for Inspector Tyador Borl of the Extreme Crime Squad. To investigate, Borl must travel from the decaying Beszel to its equal, rival, and intimate neighbor, the vibrant city of Ul Qoma. But this is a border crossing like no other, a journey as psychic as it is physical, a seeing of the unseen. With Ul Qoman detective Qussim Dhatt, Borl is enmeshed in a sordid underworld of nationalists intent on destroying their neighboring city, and unificationists… (more)