Droughtlander Reading Recommendations: What's On Our Nightstands?

Written by: Nikki Gastineau


Droughtlander. Sigh. Will it ever be over? How does an Outlander-obsessed fan pass the seemingly endless days until September? The writers of the Outlander Cast Blog put our heads together to compile a reading list of our favorite books. As you might imagine, there is a pronounced bias toward history and the supernatural, but I was actually a bit surprised at the breadth of the recommendations. If you’re looking for some titles to add to your summer (or winter depending on your hemispherical status) reading list, I think you’ll find something that appeals to you. (We've included links in case you're inspired to buy and get going.) Without further delay, I give you the Outlander Cast Blog Writers' Droughtlander Reading List.

Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy. The world that Pullman creates is parallel to ours, simultaneously similar but different. The stories include great characters (human, animal, and supernatural), great adventures, and gripping stories. The series consists of Northern Lights (published as The Golden Compass in North America), The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass.


Anything written by Juliet Marillier. She writes wonderful stories of people, family sagas, trials against adversity, and fantastic happenings. The books are magical and engrossing. Popular titles are Den of Wolves, Tower of Thorns, and Dreamer’s Pool.

Jean Auel's Earth's Children series. This is a saga about another time with an amazing couple at the center. Ayla and Jondalar are like a prehistoric Claire and Jamie. They have fabulous adventures and plenty of hot sex. 

I’m not sure what Andree’s talking about it. I love Outlander for the history. I wasn’t even aware that there was sex. I’ll have to reread Outlander and Dragonfly in Amber to see what she’s talking about. While I’m doing that, check out the rest of our book recommendations.

The Lymond Chronicles by Dorothy Dunnett. These are wonderfully written historical novels set in mid-1500s Scotland and France, Belgium, Italy, Byzantium, Russia and North Africa. Dunnett weaves together an intricate story of betrayal, loyalty, loss, friendship and family dynamics that never loses its grip through the six novels in the series. Anyone who loves Outlander should read these as they give you an insight into the world of the Renaissance with a panoply of Knights of St John's, popes, kings, emperors and tsars along with queens, mistresses, harems and the women of that era. I love all her books and re-read them with the greatest enjoyment, each time finding something new. She also wrote a fascinating novel of Macbeth, King Hereafter, set in the Orkneys with Macbeth as the king who united Scotland.

Sharon Penman's trilogy of Here Be Dragons, Falls The Shadow, and The Reckoning. This would be a great series for anyone who enjoys historical fiction with strong writing and historical accuracy. Here be Dragons focuses on Prince Llewellyn The Great of Gwynedd and the story of his wife Joanna, illegitimate daughter of King John. The author draws the people and scenery of Wales, and the culture and politics of the period with a deft hand. The second book in the trilogy is Falls The Shadow which tells some of the story of Simon de Montfort, leader of the Albigensian Crusade against the Cathars, Duke of Leicester and prime mover of the Magna Carta. The third of the trilogy is The Reckoning, which tells the story of the conflict between the last true Prince of Wales Llywelyn ap Gruffydd and England's King Henry III. Anyone who watched the episode "The Reckoning" in Outlander should read it.

Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley. This book is essential reading for anyone with an interest in Arthurian legend. Its retelling of the Arthurian story from the perspective of the Lady of the Lake and Morgaine as well as the women in Arthur's court is fascinating, especially as it is set within the conflict between the original British pagan world and newly Christianized Britain. Her women are strong, intelligent and a force to be reckoned with, much like Claire Randall Fraser. The world of the Dark Ages is brought to life and Bradley's handling of the magical aspects of the story of Arthur is intriguing as well as seemingly possible. This is another book I regularly re-read, along with Mary Stewart's Merlin Trilogy of The Crystal Cave, The Hollow Hills, and The Last Enchantment.

Sara Donati's Into the Wilderness series (SIX BOOKS!) is the closest I've come to loving a historical fiction series since discovering Outlander. I mean you have to have something else to read in between your Outlander re-reads, right? It's set in 18th century upstate New York and Scotland, has wonderful strong women characters and a well-crafted couple at the center, and has a fun Outlander reference in the first book. DG has this series on her Methadone list for those looking for other books. This series fits the bill 100 percent. You won't be sorry once you dive in. 

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead. Still fairly new, this is one of the most gripping books I've read recently about a part of U.S. history that remains one of our saddest legacies. This book follows a slave as she tries to escape, the people who help her, and the people obsessed with returning her to slavery. It is beautifully, gut-wrenchingly written. I can't recommend it enough.


The Poldark Saga by Winston Graham is another series I've reread a couple of times. A fellow historical fiction buff turned me on to this one and I fell hard. It was the first series I was obsessed about before Outlander. The series has 12 books, and I literally had to have the next book in my possession so I could move seamlessly from one to the other. I called my friend at midnight one night to scream into the phone, "I can't believe what Ross just did to Demelza!!" Graham portrays 18th century Cornwall, England and the people there beautifully with an epic love story in the center and plenty of drama and stories unfolding around that couple, Ross and Demelza.

Look for Poldark to come around again in our show recommendation post. Yes, it’s that good.

Ashley Crawley
The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan is an easy, modern-day story for all your pining Anglophile needs. These witty masterminds behind the Go Fug Yourself blog (worth checking out, and they cover Outlander as only they can) offer a fictionalized version of the Prince William/Kate Middleton love story, and it's oh so deliciously enjoyable. While the real-life story breathes life into the novel, I got so sucked into the gals' original take on it (for one, "Kate" is now an American commoner) that I found myself dropping the comparisons to actual events very quickly because I was so enamored with the original couple in the story. This book is basically what happens when your Downton Abbey, Outlander, Poldark, The Crown, Victoria-loving self is headed out on a vacation (mental or physical), and in desperate need of a light-hearted read and escape from reality.

One of my favorite dives into small-town life and its larger-than-life residents is Adriana Trigiani's Big Stone Gap series. Admittedly, I might be biased—Trigiani found inspiration for the series from her Italian-American upbringing amidst the backdrop of the Blue Ridge Mountains (where these books are set). My family all hails from this gorgeous region of the U.S., and my dad was raised in a Lebanese-American household in the middle of West Virginia. The synopsis on the book jacket hit a little too close to home, so I picked up the first book. But the merit of the book itself drove me to continue in the lives of the characters through the years over the course of three more books. Oh, and should you come across the 2014 movie adaptation of the book starring Ashley Judd, pass. You're welcome.

Charles Edward Stuart—A Tragedy in Many Acts by Frank McLynn. Known to be the most extensive and best researched book about the life of the Bonnie Prince, it was the book that actor Andrew Gower chose to read to prepare for his portrayal of Bonnie Prince Charlie in Outlander Season 2.

The Wee Mad Road—A Midlife Escape to the Scottish Highlands by Jack and Barbara Maloney. It’s the real life story of a middle-aged couple who sold their house and moved to Scotland for several years chasing their dreams. I mean who wouldn't want to do that—or at least read about it???

I think we all know where Anne’s next house will be. It’s the only moving party that people might actually volunteer for!

Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling because it was the first first book series that I fell in love with.

Anything by Philippa Gregory. There is some debate on the level of historical accuracy in these books. Ms. Gregory insists that she is a thorough researcher but some historians disagree. At any rate, I find her stories engaging; they are the only books that I read with any regularity before finding Outlander. She gives life and personality to the women of the Plantagenets and Tudors. My personal favorites are The Other Boleyn Girl, The Constant Princess, The Red Queen, The Lady of the Rivers, and the White Princess. The King’s Curse is next on my reading list.


Every single word ever published by Maya Angelou. I was introduced to Ms. Angelou in high school where I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings was required reading. Years later I stumbled onto her poetry and it spoke to my heart and soul in ways that I found disconcerting. It felt, in many ways, as if she was speaking directly to me. Any half-attempt that I make at poetry is a direct result of reading Maya Angelou (and Emily Dickinson but that’s another story for another day). A copy of Maya Angelou: The Complete Poetry sits on a shelf beside my home writing desk and I read from it whenever I need a little inspiration.

Janice Holt Giles was born in Arkansas but moved to Kentucky with her Kentucky-born husband after World War II. They settled on land owned by her husband’s ancestors and Janice began writing extensively about those first settlers in Appalachia (wink wink). Her stories are windows into the past. My favorites among her works are The Kentuckians, The Enduring Hills, and Tara’s Healing.

Visual Intelligence by Amy E. Herman. I'm in love with the "pop-up" mini-library near me so I have this and other actual books on my nightstand right now along with my oh-so-convenient Kindle. Visual Intelligence is greatly improving my observation skills so I can better appreciate what I know will be Season 3's spectacularity (yup, I checked, that's a real word). 

Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway by Susan Jeffers. I'm using My Peak Challenge to improve my physical health. The techniques in this book are helping me improve my mental health. Severely agoraphobic and claustrophobic, I finally got fed up with the limits these phobias impose on my enjoyment of life. I’ve conquered the zip line but am still working on other challenges. I highly recommend this book if you have something you want to conquer!

ANYthing and EVERYthing by Diana Gabaldon I know the instructions said "not written by Diana Gabaldon" but please indulge me, as this recommendation is aimed at the TV show purists out there. I was one of those who found the show first and was hesitant to read, especially to read ahead. Through posts and tweets from those who found Gabaldon's written world first, including Herself, I was kindly (and, in some instances, firmly) encouraged to expand my horizons. I’m working on that and loving it! I have finished the first three Outlander gems and am halfway through Drums of Autumn; also reading novellas, back stories, side stories, etc. They are providing days and miles of bliss. Trust me. Read_all_the_books.

Karen didn’t follow the rules, but I’m glad that she didn’t. She’s right. If you adore the relationship between Jamie and Claire and you haven’t read the books, then you're missing out on half the story.

Have you read any of these books? Are there books that you would add to the list? We want to hear from you!

7 comments

  1. Here is a series that should be on this list .. it is my second most favorite book series.

    All Souls Trilogy by Deborah Harkness
    There are 3 books in the series ..
    A Discovery of Witches
    Shadow of Night
    The Book of Life

    Love Diana and Matthew, they remind me in some ways of Claire and Jamie. Diana is a time traveler, she also is a witch and Matthew just adores her and would (and almost does) dies for her. The books about love, lost, discovering who you are and a search for a lost manuscript.

    There are fairly big books and if you enjoy audiobooks Jennifer Ikeda is amazing as the narrator. The series is being develop of TV.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for this suggestion. I had never heard of this series before yesterday but I've since had a couple of conversations about it. Everyone seems to be in agreement that it's every bit as good as you say it is. It's now on MY reading list!

      Delete
    2. I never read anything witchy or vampire based before this series and I was hooked from the first chapter. The author is a renowned authority of the period and that shows...especially when the characters travel back to Shakespearean England.

      Delete
  2. OMG you guys need to read this new series The Pirate Captain, Chronicles of a Legend by Kerry Lynne (Amazon) Bustle listed it as one of the Books to Read if you Like Outlander, a gloring review; https://www.bustle.com/articles/130107-9-books-to-read-if-you-like-outlander , DG has the first book on her worktable and it was listed in What to read after Outlander,

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thanks a lot Dear Nikki & all the rest who provided me with new authors to read,read all of Phillipa Gregory's Diana Gabaldon's&Graham Winston's,but You All have given me some wonderful sounding new books etc to look into.I'm into James Patterson,Grisham&Patricia Cronwell books as well as the historical ones,but this is great into the library I go,I live in OZ so hope to get some of the American authors here!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah! I'm glad that you got some ideas for your reading list. I did too!

      Delete

Back to Top