5 Charles Frazier Novels To Transport You to the Past

Dive into intriguing historical storytelling from a National Book Award-winner.   

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  • Photo Credit: Featured photo: Siddhesh Joshi / Alchetron

Having grown up in the mountains of North Carolina, historical fiction author Charles Frazier became enthralled by the rich history and people of his home. He was also inspired by his family’s stories of his great-great-uncle, who fought in the Civil War. Though Frazier was working as an English professor, his wife eventually convinced him to begin working full-time on the story that would become Cold Mountain—Frazier’s National Book Award-winning novel.

Frazier has a gift for highlighting the lives of ordinary people and revealing how a time and place shape their views on love, honor and sacrifice. His novels will transport you to significant moments in American history by following the journeys of vivid and complex protagonists. We’ve made it easy for you to begin your trek through the past with this list of all five of Frazier’s celebrated novels.       

Cold Mountain

Cold Mountain

By Charles Frazier

Frazier began his writing career strong with his first novel, Cold Mountain, published in 1997. This work won him the National Book Award for Fiction and was eventually adapted as the Oscar-Nominated and Academy Award-winning 2003 film of the same name starring Nicole Kidman, Jude Law, and Renée Zellweger.   

The novel chronicles the journey of Inman, a disillusioned Confederate soldier who chooses to desert his post to make the long and perilous journey through the North Carolina mountains to find his way back to Ada, the love he had left behind. 

Meanwhile, Ada is trying to revive her father’s neglected farm while learning to live in this rapidly changing landscape. A tribute to the stories that Frazier’s father told about Frazier’s great-great-uncle, William Pinkney “Pink” Inman, Cold Mountain provides “a Whitmanesque foray into America; into its hugeness, its freshness, its scope and its soul” (The New York Times Book Review).

thirteen moons, a charles frazier novel

Thirteen Moons

By Charles Frazier

A “boisterous, confident novel that draws from the epic tradition” (Boston Globe), Frazier’s second work, set in 19th-century America, follows Will Cooper, first introduced to us as a twelve-year-old boy sent alone to run a trading post as an indentured servant. Through many misadventures, we see Will transform from a child to a man who learns about the trials and tribulations of love after winning a girl named Claire in a card game against the intimidating Featherstone.

Eventually finding community with the Cherokee people, he discovers how to be entrepreneurial and independent. With great care, Frazier expresses the longing of one man’s heart throughout the years against the backdrop of the suffering faced by Native Americans during the Trail of Tears. 

The cover of Nightwoods, a novel by Charles Frazier


By Charles Frazier

Frazier’s third novel delivers mystery and suspense, a departure from his usual historical literary odysseys. New York Times Bestseller Nightwoods is set in early 1960s small-town North Carolina and follows Luce, a young woman who takes on the responsibility of caring for her murdered sister’s traumatized twins, who saw their mother killed by their former stepfather, Bud.

A memorable heroine leads this “astute and compassionate” (The Boston Globe) story, which tackles serious issues like domestic violence and family strife while also incorporating lighter themes of romance.



By Charles Frazier

In a return to the setting of his first novel, Cold Mountain, Frazier illustrates America’s disarray after the desolation caused by the Civil War. He shares the story of Varina Davis, the second wife of Jefferson Davis—the first and only president of the Confederate States of America. 

With five children in tow, Varina Davis flees Richmond hoping to elude Union soldiers and bounty hunters to reach safety in Florida. Frazier weaves a tale that explores what it means to be held accountable for the sins of others and how one’s own complicity comes at a cost.


The Trackers

By Charles Frazier

The Booklist describes this novel set during the Great Depression as “a propulsive tale of individualistic characters striving to beat the odds.” In his most recent 2023 novel, Frazier creates a new timeless classic that centers around painter Val Welch, who lands an assignment to create a mural for a rural town in Wyoming. This leads him into the mysterious lives of wealthy art lover John Long and his wife, Eve, who offer to host him while he is in town.

After Eve flees the ranch with a prized painting, Long and Welch set off to find her and uncover secrets along the way. In this novel, Frazier skillfully weaves a tale with vivid description that brings to life for readers in the present the everyday lives of individuals in the past. 

Featured photo: Siddhesh Joshi / Alchetron