Do You Have a Gold Standard?

When it comes to historical fiction, do you have a gold standard? My gold standard for ancient Egyptian fiction is the young adult novel Mara: Daughter of the Nile by Eloise Jarvis McGraw, first published in 1953. McGraw's descriptions of Egypt and ancient Egyptian life are masterful. She makes you feel as if you are present in ancient Egypt.

A year or two after I bought my copy of Mara, I bought Pharaoh's Daughter by Julius Lester. Lester's novel has joined Mara as a standard by which I judge all other novels about ancient Egypt. Like McGraw, Lester also immerses you in the language, culture, religion, and climate of the ancient civilization.

In one way, Lester's novel is even more impressive: he uses original Egyptian and Hebrew terms and concepts. Thus, Egypt becomes Khemet, Moses becomes Mosis, Hebrew becomes Habiru, and so on.

What are your favorite time periods to read about? Do you have a favorite novel or novels by which you measure other books about that period?

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