Views on historical (Civil War) fiction

by Jessica James on August 2, 2008 · 3 comments

Since I haven’t had time to read any historical fiction lately, and therefore don’t have any reviews to write, I thought I’d post some questions to you guys out there who turn up your noses at the historical fiction genre.

Frankly, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the number of positive reviews my novel has received from male readers. On the other hand, I’ve not been the least bit shocked by the men who hear the word “fiction,” and walk away like they will somehow catch an incurable disease from it.

The latter category would include my significant other, who, after reading “Shades of Gray,” confidently told me he would give it three stars. When I asked what was wrong with it, (Translation: I yelled, “what do you mean THREE measly stars?”), he said he just doesn’t like historical fiction. I prodded, (as women have a tendency to do when they are slightly agitated), and he said the battle scenes are well written and interesting, and overall he enjoyed it… BUT he just doesn’t like historical fiction.

(Friendly tip to men: Don’t tell your girlfriend she looks fat in those jeans—and if she’s an author, don’t give her book three stars).

Anyway, back to my original reason for this post. Do you “non-fiction men” out there ever read fiction? Do you just dislike historical fiction or all fiction?

To be honest, I read more non-fiction than fiction myself, but I won’t turn a book down just because it’s fiction. Usually for me it’s a matter of finding the time to read. If I have the choice between spending a few hours with a just-released Civil War diary, or a work of fiction written in this century, I will take the diary.

Which brings me to another aspect of why I often choose non-fiction over fiction. Books are becoming increasingly easier and cheaper to print, so there are obviously some out there that are a great misuse of trees. This seems to be more prevalent in the fiction genres than non-fiction. As a whole, I prefer reading books that reflect the proper use of the English language, and that reveal the traditions and principles this country was built upon. Since these are qualities that are no longer taught and are well nigh forgotten in many publishing circles, I prefer reading books that are at least a century old. (Both fiction and non-fiction).

So what’s your reason to like or dislike fiction? (Especially you three-star-type guys out there). Is it because you only have a certain amount of time to read and you don’t want to “waste your time” on fiction? Or is it that you don’t want your mind bombarded with information you see as being someone else’s interpretation of events? Perhaps your reason is something else or “just because.”

I think it would be really interesting to hear your views. But be nice 🙂

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

admin August 3, 2008 at 10:32 am


I do read quite a bit of fiction, but usually horror novels or short stories. I’d classify this as my “light” reading where I don’t have to take notes or pay as much attention. I have avoided Civil War (and other historical) fiction up to this point mainly do to three things:

1) I’d rather spend money elsewhere since I have about 15 different hobbies

2) I simply do not have enough time to read that many books. I already try to read as many non-fiction Civil War books as possible so I can review them here at TOCWOC.

3) I’m extremely anal. I know I would not be able to enjoy Civil War historical fiction because I’d always be looking for and getting annoyed by historical errors. Even if there weren’t any, I’d still be unable to enjoy the story due to looking!



Stephen Graham August 3, 2008 at 11:41 pm


While about half of what I read is fiction, it’s rarely historical fiction per se. Generally, if I’m interested in an era, I’ll read something that’s straight history because it will better fit my motivations for reading about the period.

I do read alternate history as that scratches a slightly different itch.

I’m not opposed to reading historical fiction but there’s generally something else about the novel that draws me to it rather than the historical period.


Jay August 5, 2008 at 9:42 am

I’m thinking you might want to extend your survey to include women. Specifically, female reenactors. Since few truly historical works, fiction or otherwise focus on or ar directed toward a female audience how might they feel about historical novels that do – and I’m not talking about “romance” novels here. Although most novels contain a romance element it’s secondary to the main story in the truly good ones. Example: Cold Mountain


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