5 Favorite Revolutionary Novels

Happy Yesterday-Birthday America.

Honestly I’m not feeling super celebratory this year. Over the top patriotism has bothered me for a while, but this year it feels especially off. We still ate apple pie and hotdogs, and we still went to fireworks (there is no such thing as a bad reason to set off safe, colorful explosives)*, but posting American flags made out of books on Instagram feels icky.

Still, since this year marks the 244th anniversary of signing of the document that started one of the more influential revolutions in history, I thought it might be fun to talk about some of my favorite books about revolutions. These are in no particular order. Half-assed listicles for the win!

*plus outside is apparently VERY low-risk of Covid spread, so I figured this was a good opportunity to get my kids out of the house for the first time in months

The Hunger Games Trilogy

Obviously! A good dystopia needs a good revolution, but my favorite thing about this revolution is how messy it is. Both sides are willing to do pretty terrible things in the name of victory, and in the end Katniss doles out justice on a whim. Nothing is black and white in this series, especially Katniss, which is what I think STILL separates this book from all the other YA dystopias out there. Plus the side-characters are SO COMPELLING!!!


Children of Blood and Bone

God, everything ABOUT this novel! The one-of-a-kind magic system, the dynamic characters, the real-world relevance, the romance, the no-win revolution. Like The Hunger Games, one of my favorite things about this book was how both “sides” seemed to be right about magic. But unlike The Hunger Games, I can’t imagine how this can possibly resolve. I came for the revolution, but I stayed for the magic. I’ve never read anything like it before, I love how deeply grounded it is in African traditions, and everything just fit together like puzzle pieces. THIS BOOK!


Les Misérables

Oooooo, I love a good book about the French Revolution! Les Miserables is probably my favorite romantic-era novel. The characters are what really makes this book worth the read, though certainly the revolutionary setting makes for a FABULOUS story. I love how Victor Hugo isn’t afraid to show how the French Revolution didn’t really make things better for anyone, but how the French people continued to have hope (and continued to have more revolutions!). This book is complex, and heartbreaking, and lovely, and LONG. I highly recommend the Penguin abridged version, lol!


Next Year in Havana

I’m pretty well burnt out of dual-timeline historical fiction, but I just ADORED this book in spite of all of that. It’s sexy, it’s authentically Cuban, it’s exciting, it’s glamorous. I love how strong the women in this book are, and that while they aren’t always in control of their lives they TAKE control where they can. They’re willing to take risks for love. And not just romantic love. Familial love plays a big role in this book. Plus, look at that cover. Doesn’t it just make you SWOON?!?!


Prince Caspian

Full disclosure, this is one of those rare situations where I enjoy the movie more than the book. But Prince Caspian is one of my favorite Narnia novels. This is the complete and utter opposite of EVERY OTHER BOOK on this list because it’s pretty black-and-white. Caspian and friends good, existing government bad, zero complications. But I don’t know, I just love the character development of the Pevensies, how they come slowly over the course of the book to realize that they can’t do it alone. They need Aslan. Also, Reepicheep is the best. EVER. I will fight you to the death on that one.


What are your favorite revolution books? Let me know in the comments!

39 thoughts on “5 Favorite Revolutionary Novels

      1. I prefer character driven novels heavy on dialogue and relationships. I’m not a plot person, if that makes sense. You know, like a French films where nothing really happens, but there’s a lot of nuance.

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  1. Les Misérables- heartbreaking, inspiring, and defiantly long. What helped when I read it was my knowledge of the musical. I am obsessed with Les Mis. I actually read the unabridged version, which is so much better than the abridged. Read both and found the unabridged much better.

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    1. I read Les Mis *before* I got into the musical. Actually, true story, I refused to listen to the musical because I was so pissed at my 10th grade teacher for trying to force it on us and asking questions that were more relevant to the musical than the book on our quizzes. Then I got over myself because THE MUSICAL! ❤ ❤ ❤

      Honestly, my reluctance to read the unabridged version is 100% the result of not enjoying The Hunchback of Notre Dame, which I did read unabridged. I read the abridged Les Mis because it's what they had at Half Price (or wherever I went) back in 2004. I know not all abridged versions are created equal, though.

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      1. Well: here’s my story of the musical.

        Back in high school, I told myself I will NEVER love a tragedy. Then December 2012 comes around: all I knew was that it was a musical and that “I Dreamed a Dream” was one of its. Right on the spot, realized it was a tragedy and honestly did not know how to react, feel or respond.

        But for some strange reason, a day later or a few weeks later I started researching the musical and Victor Hugo.

        Then in March 2013, for whatever reason decided to give the film a 2nd chance. This time I realized there was something special in Les Mis. The rest is history

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        1. Gosh, the 2012 film was so good, too! I mean, I know it wasn’t perfect, but Anne Hathaway was *amazing*, and Eddie Redmayne was great, and Sasha Baren Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter were hilarious as always, and I WEPT during On My Own. *sigh*

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          1. So glad I gave that film a 2nd chance. Actually have no clue why I watched it that time around. Must have been attached without knowing that first round. Actually now owning my 2nd of copy of the film-wore out the first.

            Like any version of Les Mis, the film makes me an emotional wreck. That response built up over time.

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    1. I really tried to read and enjoy a Tale of Two Cities (another great French Revolution novel!), but I got halfway through and realized I had no idea what I’d read or who any of the characters were. Dickens is just NOT my favorite.

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  2. I’ve been wanting to read Children of Blood and Bone for the research into (West?) African magic and culture. I’m a sucker for books that are anthropologically grounded. In my case, I would come for the magic, put up with the revolution.

    As a kid, I was constantly reminded that, though working class by American standards, the standard of living I enjoyed was still very high compared to the rest of the world. This was true.

    I also taught a couple of falsehoods alongside this, like the idea that any poorer person is automatically morally superior to any wealthier person, and that as a citizen of America, I was personally morally responsible for anything bad that happened anywhere in the world.

    As you might imagine, this put me off class-warfare narratives. Forever. I’ve even put down a book when a promising sci-fi novel turned into a classic class warfare account.

    My revolutionary recommendations: Animal Farm by George Orwell. My 6th-grade teacher made us read this and explained all the symbolism. If he hadn’t, I probably would never have learned anything about the Russian Revolution.

    Wild Swans, about the Communist revolution in China and the effect it had on one multi-generational family.

    If We Survive, a YA novel where some America kids get caught in the middle of a revolution in a fictional Central American country.

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    1. What I think is really great about Children of Blood and Bone is it’s kind of anti-class-warfare. The Magi were once the ruling class but they were rebelled against. Now the current ruling class is being rebelled against by the Magi. In the process EVERYONE is losing. I think it’s a really smart statement about how a lot of times revolutions are messy.

      I do like Animal Farm, though frankly I see as much criticism of America in it as I do of Communist Russia. Will have to look in to the other two!

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  3. This is such a great idea! The Hunger Games is definitely a revolutionary novel. I haven’t read the other books you’ve mentioned but they are all on my TBR! I love Les Misérables (the musical) but I haven’t read the books yet (and I live in France… but whatever)

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      1. I mean yes… I did read some poems by Victor Hugo in school but never Les Misérables. It actually depends on your teacher. It’s up to him/her to choose the books he wants us to read. Therefore, I believe that some teachers don’t pick up Les Misérables as required reading because it is a MASSIVE book. That being said, we would have to study some extracts from Les Misérables in class.

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  4. Brilliant list! I really like your choice of Prince Caspian- I wouldn’t have thought of that, but it fits perfectly (and I also like the film more than the book 😉 ) I also agree with you on les mis and hunger games. And while COBAB didn’t blow me away, I did like the world building and think it’s great for this list!

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    1. The Prince Caspian film is *so* underrated. Even though it deviates a lot from the book I think they really understood the spirit of the thing, and all the changes were perfect for the characters.

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  5. I totally agree with you about the overly patriotic posts and feeling a wee bit icky celebrating.
    I agree with you about Hunger Games and Children of Blood and Bone! I can’t remember if we talked about this yet or not, but have you read the sequel yet? I haven’t; I have seen nothing but really meh and borderline not good reviews for it, which makes me super sad…

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    1. I read it IMMEDIATELY upon receiving my pre-order and … was very meh. I didn’t like that in order to keep building tension/drama/stakes, she ended up breaking EVERY rule of magic that she established in the last book so that at each confrontation there could be a new big magic moment. Also I was super disappointed with Inan’s character, who got even more wishy washy than he was before. But I’m still hopeful for the third book!

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      1. uhg! I felt like towards the end of the first one she was starting to break her own magic rules but didn’t pay much attention to it. This is what I find so hard about Fantasy…I have a hard time figuring out what the rules are, and then you have authors who throw out those rules and just confuse me even more!
        I didn’t like Inan in the first one. Rather, I didn’t like the romance between them. I thought he was a really complex character and was kind of excited to see how he battled himself throughout the course of the story, but was super disappointed when it became a “will they or won’t they” scenario. I didn’t have high hopes for his character going into the second book…

        Man, I am so disappointed to hear that.. I’m glad you are still hopeful for the third one though. That makes me feel like maybe it won’t be a complete waste of time.

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        1. Definitely a big part of why I was so disappointed w/Inan in book 2 was that in book 1 he was VERY complex and his internal struggle was super interesting. In the second book he gets a little one-dimensional. It’s too bad, he was my favorite character not because I liked him but because he was interesting.

          That’s so funny because I was *so there* for that romance.

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          1. Ahhh I agree about Inan! I didn’t particularly like him as a person but I thought his story was the most interesting and complex.

            Yeah for some reason it wasn’t doing anything for me. I think I eye rolled. But I definitely didn’t hate it as some other people did.

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