I'm not a fan of nonfiction, but I'm a HUGE fan of historical fiction, and Ken Follett's companion novels fill the bill. Set in England - I LOVE England! Characters that go against the typical grain - I LOVE it when characters act like real people! Detailed descriptions of cathedral building - I felt absolutely TRANSPORTED when touring the cathedrals of England. I do have two gripes--Follett's antagonists are supremely evil (and I just have a problem with characters that have absolutely no redeeming qualities at all), and the incredible latitude given his female characters. In a time when women were more property than person, I have a hard time believing that a female openly living with her lover would attain the position of the prioress of Knightsbridge Cathedral. For those who enjoy audio books, the audio versions narrated by John Lee were a joy to listen to.
Another Audible download that I absolutely LIVED with back and forth to school for a month. As described on Follett's website, the novel "follow(s) the destinies of five interrelated families – one American, one Russian, one German, one English and one Welsh – through the earth-shaking events of the First World War and the Russian Revolution." I couldn't wait to get in the car every day and find out what was going to happen next! Follett has a style that simply places the reader (or listener!) in the middle of the story--you literally "watch" the action unfold around you! The battle scenes were gripping, the fight for women's suffrage in England was inspiring, the love stories were both romantic and realistic. I'm SO thrilled that this is part of a series!!
If you read Fall of Giants, you must read the sequel Winter of the World. There's not a lot to add to the description of the first book below, except the setting this time is World War II instead of World War I, and the story involves the next generation of characters from the first book. Follett is just an exceptional historian, and you cannot read these books without learning things about history that you didn't know before. I was especially intrigued with the view of WWII from Russia's viewpoint, as that is not something that we cover extensively in my history classes. I'll be waiting for the next installment in another year or two.