An alternate history reading list

An “alternate history” story is when a thing that happened in history IRL happened a different way! Like if, for example, the American colonies never broke from England in the 1700s– that’d be an alt history.

As Wikipedia says:

“Alternate History” looks at “what if” scenarios from some of history’s most pivotal turning points and presents a completely different version, sometimes based on science and fact, but often based on conjecture. The exploration of how the world would look today if various changes occurred and what these alternate worlds would be like forms the basis of this vast subject matter.

If you’ve never read an alt history book and aren’t sure where to start, here’s some of my favorites:

  • Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld, an alternate version of World War I where people fight using steampunk/biopunk machines.
  • Boneshaker by Cherie Priest, where post-Civil War Portland becomes infested with zombies. There are also steampunk elements!
  • Pandemonium by Daryl Gregory, where in the 1950s demons start possessing people on a massive scale. I suppose this isn’t a true alternate history book (as it’s not based on a specific historical event), but it’s a really good book and it does the “what if” scenario perfectly.
  • Farthing by Jo Walton, where the UK makes a treaty with Nazi Germany. I haven’t actually finished this yet (I have it on audio) because the idea of a treaty with Hitler made me SO ANGRY I had to take a break for several months. But it’s very good!
  • Witch Week by Diana Wynne Jones, where Guy Fawkes blew up Parliament, leading to crackdowns on witches (who are real). The whole of the Chrestomanci series could be said to be alt history, too, because new worlds are created when consequences of major events could end multiple ways. Each book is set on one of those alt worlds. (More info on that here.)
  • Lord Darcy by Randall Garrett, where Richard the Lionheart never died AND magic is real.
  • His Majesty’s Dragon by Naomi Novik, which is basically the Napoleonic war plus dragons.

What are your favorite alternate history books?

Other book lists: The Most Unusual Alternate History Novels Ever Published @ io9 and Uchronia: The Alternate History List, an AMAZING bibliography of almost every alt history book ever published.

REVIEW: The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey

REVIEW: The Daughter of Time by Josephine TeyThe Daughter of Time (Inspector Alan Grant #5) by Josephine Tey
Published by Touchstone Books (1951), eBook, 206pg
Filed under: Fiction, Mystery
Got my copy from: Scribd
Buy your own copy at Amazon or BookDepository (affiliate links | info) or add it to your Goodreads shelf.

four-half-starsfour-half-starsfour-half-starsfour-half-starsfour-half-stars

Voted greatest mystery novel of all time by the Crime Writers’ Association in 1990, Josephine Tey recreates one of history’s most famous—and vicious—crimes in her classic bestselling novel, a must read for connoisseurs of fiction, now with a new introduction by Robert Barnard.Inspector Alan Grant of Scotland Yard, recuperating from a broken leg, becomes fascinated with a contemporary portrait of Richard III that bears no resemblance to the Wicked Uncle of history. Could such a sensitive, noble face actually belong to one of the world’s most heinous villains—a venomous hunchback who may have killed his brother’s children to make his crown secure? Or could Richard have been the victim, turned into a monster by the usurpers of England’s throne? Grant determines to find out once and for all, with the help of the British Museum and an American scholar, what kind of man Richard Plantagenet really was and who killed the Little Princes in the Tower. The Daughter of Time is an ingeniously plotted, beautifully written, and suspenseful tale, a supreme achievement from one of mystery writing’s most gifted masters.

The only thing I knew previous to this book about Richard III was that he was maybe in some Shakespeare play somewhere. Now I know LOTS of things! And most of those things make me sad.

Kudos to Josephine Tey for making me care about a dude who died hundreds of years ago, who I’d previously never even thought of, and who now I can’t stop thinking about because it’s so UNFAIR. He wasn’t a villain! He was popular and a good king and now just because some crappy guys bad-mouthed him after he died (and because Shakespeare wrote that play), everything thinks he murdered his young nephews.

It was hard to sleep the night I finished The Daughter of Time. SO UNFAIR.

This was my first Josephine Tey book! I’ve been meaning to read one of her mysteries for ages, particularly because she gets lumped into the Christie-Marsh-Sayer set. I wasn’t sure where to start, exactly, so when Scribd’s algorithm thing recommended The Daughter of Time, I decided to go for it without even reading the summary. And then…

REVIEW: Confessions of a Prairie Bitch by Alison Arngrim

REVIEW: Confessions of a Prairie Bitch by Alison ArngrimConfessions of a Prairie Bitch: How I Survived Nellie Oleson and Learned to Love Being Hated by Alison Arngrim
Published by Harper Collins (2010), eBook, 320pg
Filed under: GLBTQ, Memoir, Non-Fiction
Got my copy from: Scribd
Buy your own copy at Amazon or BookDepository (affiliate links | info) or add it to your Goodreads shelf.

four-half-starsfour-half-starsfour-half-starsfour-half-starsfour-half-stars

For seven years, Alison Arngrim played a wretched, scheming, selfish, lying, manipulative brat on one of TV history's most beloved series. Though millions of Little House on the Prairie viewers hated Nellie Oleson and her evil antics, Arngrim grew to love her character—and the freedom and confidence Nellie inspired in her.

In Confessions of a Prairie Bitch, Arngrim describes growing up in Hollywood with her eccentric parents: Thor Arngrim, a talent manager to Liberace and others, whose appetite for publicity was insatiable, and legendary voice actress Norma MacMillan, who played both Gumby and Casper the Friendly Ghost. She recalls her most cherished and often wickedly funny moments behind the scenes of Little House: Michael Landon's "unsaintly" habit of not wearing underwear; how she and Melissa Gilbert (who played her TV nemesis, Laura Ingalls) became best friends and accidentally got drunk on rum cakes at 7-Eleven; and the only time she and Katherine MacGregor (who played Nellie's mom) appeared in public in costume, provoking a posse of elementary schoolgirls to attack them.

Arngrim relays all this and more with biting wit, but she also bravely recounts her life's challenges: her struggle to survive a history of traumatic abuse, depression, and paralyzing shyness; the "secret" her father kept from her for twenty years; and the devastating loss of her "Little House husband" and best friend, Steve Tracy, to AIDS, which inspired her second career in social and political activism. Arngrim describes how Nellie Oleson taught her to be bold, daring, and determined, and how she is eternally grateful to have had the biggest little bitch on the prairie to show her the way.

I love celebrity memoirs if they’re not just gossip about who slept with who– I don’t find that sort of stuff interesting. I’m more into behind-the-scenes and technical how-did-they-do-that, with a side order of personal life memories. Confessions of a Prairie Bitch is definitely more of the latter kind of memoir, though there is a hint of some gossip as well.

The Little House on the Prairie TV show was never part of my life in any big way, though I saw a couple of episodes on reruns when I was younger. I can appreciate how important it was to other people, though, and especially to the actors who were in it. And then…