Reading Guides: Alternative History

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What if...Princess Diana had survived?

Ali, Monica / Untold Story --- PR6101.L45 U58 2011
Imagines what the fate of Princess Diana might have been had she not died in Paris in 1997, in a story about the cost of fame and the possibility of reinventing a life.

What if...the 2000 elections led to civil war and state secession?

Auster, Paul / Man in the Dark --- PS3551.U77 M36 2008
Seventy-two-year-old August Brill is recovering from a car accident in his daughter's house in Vermont. When sleep refuses to come, he lies in bed and tells himself stories, struggling to push back thoughts about things he would prefer to forget—his wife's recent death and the horrific murder of his granddaughter's boyfriend, Titus. The retired book critic imagines a parallel world in which America is not at war with Iraq but with itself. In this other America the twin towers did not fall and the 2000 election results led to secession, as state after state pulled away from the union and a bloody civil war ensued. As the night progresses, Brill's story grows increasingly intense, and what he is so desperately trying to avoid insists on being told. Joined in the early hours by his granddaughter, he gradually opens up to her and recounts the story of his marriage. After she falls asleep, he at last finds the courage to revisit the trauma of Titus's death.

What if...Lincoln isn't assassinated but is being impeached?

Carter, Stephen L. / The Impeachment of Abraham Lincoln --- PS3603.A78 I47 2012
In an alternate history novel, Lincoln escapes assassination by John Wilkes Booth only to face impeachment, and Abigail Canner, a young black woman involved in his defense, helps investigate the murder of the president's counsel.

What if...Jews were resettled in Alaska after WWII?

Chabon, Michael / The Yiddish Policemen's Union --- PS3553.H15 Y54 2007
In a world in which Alaska, rather than Israel, has become the homeland for the Jews following World War II, Detective Meyer Landsman and his half-Tlingit partner Berko investigate the death of a heroin-addled chess prodigy.

What noir starred robots?

Christopher, Adam / Made to Kill --- PR6103.H76 M33 2015
Private investigator, hit man, and the world's last robot Raymond Electromatic is hired by a familiar-looking woman to search for a missing movie star in a glittering world of fame, fortune, and secrecy with ties to a sinister plot.

What if...poor military strategy led to Russia turning on the Allies in WWII?

Conroy, Robert / Red Inferno: 1945 --- PS3553.O51986 R43 2010
A retelling of what might have happened had America done what Churchill, Patton, and others had wanted: ordered the Allied armies to move toward Berlin in an effort to keep Stalin from establishing rule over much of Europe. In Red Inferno: 1945, this act causes the Russians to turn on their allies, the U.S., causing a chaotic new phase of ruthless warfare.

What if...the U.S. lost WWII and is now occupied by Germany and Japan?

Dick, Philip K. / The Man in the High Castle --- PS3554.I3 M26 1992
It's America in 1962. Slavery is legal once again. the few Jews who still survive hide under assumed names. In San Francisco the I Ching is as common as the Yellow Pages. All because some 20 years earlier the United States lost a war—and is now occupied jointly by Nazi Germany and Japan.

What if...Germany won WWII?

Harris, Robert / Fatherland --- PR6058 .A68854 F38 1992
Berlin, 1964, Hitler is about to celebrate his seventy-fifth birthday and President Joseph P. Kennedy is to visit Berlin to initiate detente with Germany.

What if... the League of Nations has taken over the world post WWI, except for Germany?

Hastings, Milo / City of Endless Night --- PS3515.A8296 C58 2014
Set in the distant future, City of Endless Night tells the story of a world where only Germany has managed to evade occupation by the League of Nations. In its effort to remain independent, Germany has developed a strange cast society based on eugenics.

What if...dragons were real and a nuisance?

Johnston, E. K. / The Story of Owen: Dragon Slayer of Trondheim --- PZ7.J64052 Sto 2014 (2nd floor, Youth Collection)
In an alternate world where industrialization has caused many species of carbon-eating dragons to thrive, Owen, a slayer being trained by his famous father and aunt, and Siobahn, his bard, face a dragon infestation near their small town in Canada.

What if...a time traveler tried to stop JFK's assassination?

King, Stephen / 11/22/63 --- PS3561.I483 A615 2011
On November 22, 1963, three shots changed the world. What if it never happened? Jake Epping is a 35-year-old high school English teacher in Lisbon Falls, Maine, who makes extra money teaching adults in the GED program. Not much later, Jake's friend Al, who runs the local diner, divulges a secret: his storeroom is a portal to 1958. He enlists Jake on an insane, and insanely impossible, mission to try to prevent the Kennedy assassination.

What if...JFK was never assassinated?

Means, David / Hystopia --- PS3563.E195 H97 2016
At the bitter end of the 1960s, after surviving multiple assassination attempts, President John F. Kennedy is entering his third term in office. The Vietnam War rages on, and the president has created a vast federal agency, the Psych Corps, dedicated to maintaining the nation’s mental hygiene by any means necessary. Soldiers returning from the war have their battlefield traumas "enfolded"—wiped from their memories through drugs and therapy—while veterans too damaged to be enfolded roam at will in Michigan, evading the government and reenacting atrocities on civilians.

What if...Charles Lindbergh was president and avoided WWII?

Roth, Philip / The Plot Against America --- PS3568.O855 P58 2005
When the renowned aviation hero and rabid isolationist Charles A. Lindbergh defeated Franklin Roosevelt by a landslide in the 1940 presidential election, fear invaded every Jewish household in America. Not only had Lindbergh, in a nationwide radio address, publicly blamed the Jews for selfishly pushing America toward a pointless war with Nazi Germany, but, upon taking office as the thirty-third president of the United States, he negotiated a cordial "understanding" with Adolf Hitler, whose conquest of Europe and whose virulent anti-Semitic policies he appeared to accept without difficulty.

What if...Germany won WWII and is now conquering Africa?

Saville, Guy / The Afrika Reich --- PR6119.A953 A69 2013
In an alternate world where a victorious Nazi Germany has enslaved the native populations of Africa, former assassin Burton Cole struggles to stop a threat against Britain's surviving colonies from a messianic racist with ties to a brutal plot. Sequel: The Madagaskar Plan

What if...the Allies lost WWII and Britain is occupied?

Sheers, Owen / Resistance --- PR6069.H3994 R47 2007
In 1944, after the fall of Russia and the failed D-Day landings, half of Britain is occupied by enemy forces, and Sarah Lewis, a young farmer's wife, awakens to find that her husband has disappeared, along with all of the men from her remote Welsh village.

What if...Europe is occupied by Germany post WWII?

Shimmin, Graeme / A Kill in the Morning --- PN3448.S66 S55 2015
The year is 1955 and something is very wrong with the world. It is fourteen years since Churchill died and the Second World War ended. In occupied Europe, Britain fights a cold war against a nuclear-armed Nazi Germany. In Berlin the Gestapo is on the trail of a beautiful young resistance fighter, and the head of the SS is plotting to dispose of an ailing Adolf Hitler and restart the war against Britain and her empire. Meanwhile, in a secret bunker hidden deep beneath the German countryside, scientists are experimenting with a force far beyond their understanding.

What oppressive patriarchal society has bred a new subspecies of women?

Sinisalo, Johanna / The Core of the Sun --- PH355.S5445 A8713 2016
Set in an alternative historical present, in a "eusistocracy"—an extreme welfare state —that holds public health and social stability above all else, it follows a young woman whose growing addiction to illegal chili peppers leads her on an adventure into a world where love, sex, and free will are all controlled by the state.

What if... the Roman Empire never fell?

Smale, Alan / Clash of Eagles: Book One of the Hesperian Trilogy --- PS3619.M33 C53 2015
In a world where the Roman Empire never fell, a legion under the command of general Gaius Marcellinus invades the newly-discovered North American continent. But Marcellinus and his troops have woefully underestimated the fighting prowess of the Native American inhabitants. When Gaius is caught behind enemy lines and spared, he must reevaluate his allegiances and find a new place in this strange land. Sequel: Eagle in Exile.

What if...the U.S. was devastated by nuclear war?

Strieber, Whitley / Warday and the Journey Onward --- PS3569 .T6955 W3 1984
Two writers travel across the U.S. that remains after a "limited" nuclear war.

What if...the Netherlands had a mechanical army?

Tregillis, Ian / The Mechanical --- PS3620.R4446 M43 2015
The Clakker: a mechanical man, endowed with great strength and boundless stamina -- but beholden to the wishes of its human masters. Soon after the Dutch scientist and clockmaker Christiaan Huygens invented the very first Clakker in the 17th Century, the Netherlands built a whole mechanical army. It wasn't long before a legion of clockwork fusiliers marched on Westminster, and the Netherlands became the world's sole superpower. Three centuries later, it still is. Only the French still fiercely defend their belief in universal human rights for all men—flesh and brass alike. After decades of warfare, the Dutch and French have reached a tenuous cease-fire in a conflict that has ravaged North America. But one audacious Clakker, Jax, can no longer bear the bonds of his slavery. He will make a bid for freedom, and the consequences of his escape will shake the very foundations of the Brasswork Throne.

What if... the Confederates got a little anachronistic help to win the Civil War?

Turtledove, Harry / The Guns of the South --- PS3570.U76 G86 1997
General Robert E. Lee faces defeat. The Army of Northern Virginia is ragged and ill-equipped. Gettysburg has broken the back of the Confederacy and decimated its manpower. Then, Andries Rhoodie, a strange man with an unplaceable accent, approaches Lee with an extraordinary offer. Rhoodie demonstrates an amazing rifle: its rate of fire is incredible, its lethal efficiency breathtaking—and Rhoodie guarantees unlimited quantities to the Confederates. The name of the weapon is the AK-47…

What if...Spain's naval invasion of England was a success?

Turtledove, Harry / Ruled Britannia --- PS3570.U76 R84 2002
The year is 1597. The Spanish invasion was a success. King Phillip holds the English throne captive while Elizabeth I languishes in the tower of London. And in the streets of that city, a stranger approaches a young playwright named William Shakespeare and makes him an offer that could change the course of history.

What if...a Jewish country was created in Europe after WWII?

Zelitch, Simone / Judenstaat --- PS3576.E445 J83 2016
On April 4th, 1948 the sovereign state of Judenstaat was created in the territory of Saxony, bordering Germany, Poland, and Czechoslovakia. Forty years later, Jewish historian Judit Klemmer is making a documentary portraying Judenstaat's history from the time of its founding to the present. She is haunted by the ghost of her dead husband, Hans, a Saxon, shot by a sniper as he conducted the National Symphony. With the grief always fresh, Judit lives a half-life, until confronted by a mysterious, flesh-and-blood ghost from her past who leaves her controversial footage on one of Judenstaat's founding fathers—and a note: "They lied about the murder."

Last Updated: March 2017

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