9 Novels With Sweeping Stories That Span Generations

Some stories take place over the course of a single day, but others have a much larger scope. The wonderful novels listed here cover multiple decades, or even centuries. Whether they follow a family through the years or compare people living in the same place during different eras, they're sure to spark your imagination and hold onto your attention from start to finish. This video was made with Ezvid Wikimaker.

Books That Span Generations: Our 9 Picks

Title Author
1. Safekeeping Jessamyn Hope
2. In the Country of the Young Lisa Carey
3. The Tin Horse Janice Steinberg
4. The Key Kathryn Hughes
5. Unsheltered Barbara Kingsolver
6. The Map of Salt and Stars Zeyn Joukhadar
7. Passing Love Jacqueline E. Luckett
8. The Possible World Liese O'Halloran Schwarz
9. The Daisy Children Sofia Grant

8 Great Historical Films

  1. Schindler's List (1993)
  2. 12 Years a Slave (2013)
  3. Doctor Zhivago (1965)
  4. Milk (2008)
  5. Lincoln (2012)
  6. Hotel Rwanda (2004)
  7. Bonnie and Clyde (1967)
  8. The King's Speech (2010)

What is History For?

In Depth

Picking up a novel that spans multiple generations can be a fun way to learn more about history and how it shapes the world we live in today. These works are perfect for readers who enjoy explorations of complex family relationships and universal human emotions. So if you're a fan of historical fiction, check out these nine intriguing novels, listed here in no particular order.

In the #1 spot is "Safekeeping" by Jessamyn Hope. Adam, a drug addict, travels to a kibbutz in Israel carrying a priceless medieval brooch. Fifty years earlier, his grandfather escaped to the same community as a Holocaust refugee, where he met and fell in love with the woman who gave him the brooch. Adam hopes to track down the woman, but instead, he finds a group of ragtag strangers who are all searching for redemption. Their stories are told alongside the history of the brooch as it changes hands over the centuries.

At #2, "In the Country of the Young" by Lisa Carey is a ghost story about how memories can haunt us. Artist Oisin MacDara's twin sister died tragically when he was a child, and the memory still troubles him. One Halloween night, a girl's ghost appears, attracted by his candlelight. She died centuries earlier in a shipwreck that killed hundreds of Irish emigrants fleeing from famine. Oisin was hoping to invite the spirit of his sister, but perhaps this lost soul is who he needs to help him overcome his past.

Artist Oisin MacDara's twin sister died tragically when he was a child, and the memory still troubles him.

Coming in at #3, we have "The Tin Horse" by Janice Steinberg. As Elaine Greenstein packs to move into a retirement home, she discovers a hint about the whereabouts of her twin, who disappeared in 1939 at the age of eighteen. As Elaine revisits her troubled memories of growing up in Boyle Heights, a small Jewish community in California, she hopes she can discover what really happened to her sister. But in doing so, she'll need to relive all the disappointment and heartbreak of being an immigrant in what was supposed to be a land of hope.

#4 is "The Key" by Kathryn Hughes, which takes place in the fictional Ambergate County Lunatic Asylum. In 1956, Ellen Crosby arrives at the asylum as a student nurse. That same day, a physician commits his daughter to the institution, wanting to experiment on her with dangerous, so-called cures for mental illness. Fifty years later, Sarah explores the now-abandoned building and finds a patient's suitcase. She's drawn to its disturbing contents and decides to try and unravel the mysteries within it.

At #5, we have "Unsheltered" by Barbara Kingsolver. After losing her job, Willa Knox begins investigating her dilapidated house's history, hoping the local preservation society will pay for its repairs. In her research, she discovers the story of Greenwood Thatcher, a science teacher from the 1880s who lived in the same home. A believer in evolution who was enthralled by a woman scientist, he became an outcast both in town and at home. As the two characters struggle with societal changes, their narratives parallel.

A believer in evolution who was enthralled by a woman scientist, he became an outcast both in town and at home.

For #6 is "The Map of Salt and Stars" by Zeyn Joukhadar. As Nour grieves her father's death, her mother moves the family from New York back to their Syrian home in Homs, but they're forced to flee when the city is shelled. As refugees, they travel through the Middle East and North Africa, searching for safety. Eight hundred years earlier, a girl named Rawiya disguises herself as a boy to seek her fortune. She becomes an apprentice to a cartographer, traveling with him across the same terrain Nour traverses centuries later.

At #7 is "Passing Love" by Jacqueline E. Luckett. Struggling with the death of her best friend, Nicole-Marie Handy leaves a complicated relationship with a married man and flees to Paris. There, she finds an old photograph of her father, with an inscription to an unknown woman. In the 1950s, Ruby falls for a saxophone player in segregated Mississippi. Leaving her small town, she travels with him to Paris, falling in love with the City of Light. The lives of these women living in two very different times are connected by their shared loves and passions.

For #8 we get "The Possible World" by Liese O'Halloran Schwarz. After undergoing a horrific trauma, six-year-old Ben is rushed to the emergency room, unable to speak. ER doctor Lucy is immediately drawn to Ben and wants to help him heal. Meanwhile, in a nearby nursing home, centenarian Clare has a past full of secrets that she's finally ready to disclose. These three stories become bound together, moving from the Great Depression to the present day.

These three stories become bound together, moving from the Great Depression to the present day.

Finally, at #9, is "The Daisy Children" by Sofia Grant, inspired by a true story. When Katie Garrett's grandmother dies leaving her an inheritance, she immediately heads to Texas, eager to leave behind a failing marriage. There, she meets her cousin Scarlett, and together they explore their grandmother's possessions. Sifting through old letters and photographs, they discover a hidden truth about the 1937 New London school explosion, a truth that continues to effect the women in the family today.