TV & Books

People frequently ask for recommendations on TV programs and books – I’m happy to share my favorites. All links are external to this site and will open in a new window or tab.

TV SERIES FAVORITES (links are to the IMDB.com page)

  • HISTORICAL FICTION (in chronological order)
    • Troy: Fall of a City (Netflix) – Based loosely on Homer’s ancient Greek epic poem ‘Iliad’, this tells the story of the 10 year siege of the ancient city, in the 12th or 13th century BC, of Troy by the Greeks, after Paris, the young prince of Troy falls in love with the wife of a Greek king and elopes with her.
    • Vikings (History) – Historical fiction based on the Viking, Ragnar Lothbrok, and his quest to conquer England in the 800’s.
    • The Last Kingdom (Netflix) – Another perspective on the Vikings and their quest to conquer England in the 800’s.
    • Medici: Masters of Florence (Netflix) – Historical fiction based in Florence, Italy in the 1400’s.
    • The White Princess (Starz) – Elizabeth of York, the White Queen’s daughter, and her marriage to the Lancaster victor, Henry VII in the late 1400’s.
    • The Tudors (Netflix) – Historical fiction based on King Henry VIII of England in the early 1500’s.
    • Reign (CW/Netflix) – Historical fiction based on Mary, Queen of Scots in the mid 1500’s.
    • Gunpowder (Netflix) – Historical fiction based on the Gunpowder Plot of 1605 to kill King James I, who has been persecuting Catholics. Kit Harrington (Jon Snow, from Game of Thrones) is one of the creators and star of this 3 episode series.
    • Outlander (Starz) – Historical fiction, with a love story around the main characters. Based in America and Scotland in the 1940’s-1960’s as well as 1740’s-1760’s.
    • TURN: Washington’s Spies (ABC / Netflix) – Historical fiction in America in the late 1770’s. Focuses on the spy network during the American Revolution.
      The Frankenstein Chronicles (Netflix) – Re-imaging of Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel Frankenstein.
    • Downton Abbey (Amazon Prime) – Historical fiction based on a well-to-do family and their servants in the early 1900’s.
    • The Crown (Netflix) – Historical fiction based on Queen Elizabeth II in early to mid 1900’s.
    • The Americans (FX) – Historical fiction based on the Russian spy network in America in the 1980’s.
  • FICTION – some history thrown in, but no definitive historical storyline
    • Game of Thrones (HBO) – If you haven’t heard of this one, you’ve been living in a cave on a deserted island. Fiction based on various families and their quests to rule the kingdom. Experts have determined, based on clothing, weapons, etc., that the timeframe is in the 1400’s-1500’s.
    • Frontier (Netflix) – Fiction (with a little history thrown in) based on the fur trade in Canada and America in the 1770’s.
    • Poldark (PBS/Masterpiece) – Fiction based on a British soldier who has returned home to England, after his time fighting in the American Revolution in the last 1700’s.
    • Godless (Netflix) – 1880’s American West story about outlaws, cowboys, and a town made up almost entirely of women.
    • The Americans (FX) – Early 1980’s cold war drama starring 2 Russian spies who are living in America, under cover.
  • SCI-FI
    • Star Trek Discovery (CBS – All Access, not available on regular cable) – Newest Star Trek series; if you don’t watch this, you don’t belong in the nerd club with us cool kids. Timeframe is 2 years before Kirk, Spock and the rest of the originals.
    • The Orville (Fox) – Satirical take off on Star Trek. Much goofier than Star Trek, but entertaining enough.
    • Stranger Things (Netflix) – When a young boy disappears, his mother, a police chief, and his friends must confront terrifying forces in order to get him back. NOTE: The Duffer brothers who created this are from Durham, NC (they went to Jordan High) and have a number of Durham references in the show.
    • Once Upon a Time (ABC/Netflix) – Total fiction, with appearances by every fairy tale character you’ve ever heard of – definitely some twists on their personalities. Interesting for a couple seasons, then seemed like they were just recycling story lines.
  • GENERAL INTEREST, current timeframe
    • Breaking Bad (Netflix) – Fiction based on a high school teacher who has been diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer. He turns to making meth as a way to secure his family’s finances. Might sound bad, but it’s a riveting story.
    • Better Call Saul (AMC/Netflix) – Made after Breaking Bad, but the story line is a prequel to that one, based on Saul Goodman, the attorney.
    • Ozark (Netflix) – Things go bad for a Chicago financial advisor, who launders money for a drug cartel, and he moves his family to the Missouri Ozarks.
    • This is Us (NBC) – Rebecca Pearson had a difficult pregnancy with triplets. The resulting births occurred on the same day as her husband Jack’s thirty-sixth birthday. The lives of Rebecca, Jack and their three offspring – Kevin, Kate and Randall – are presented at different points in time.
    • The Good Doctor (ABC) – Shaun Murphy, a young surgeon with autism and savant syndrome, relocates from a quiet country life to join a prestigious hospital surgical unit. Alone in the world and unable to personally connect with those around him, Shaun uses his extraordinary medical gifts to save lives and challenge the skepticism of his colleagues.
    • Broadchurch (Netflix) – A young boy is murdered in an England town – everybody is a suspect. Good story with twists and turns.
    • House of Cards (Netflix) – A Congressman works with his equally conniving wife to exact revenge on the people who betrayed him. Probably close to the way things really work in the government.

BOOKS SERIES FAVORITES (links are to the Goodreads.com page)

  • HISTORICAL FICTION (in chronological order)
    • Earth’s Children Series (first book is “Clan of the Cave Bear”) by Jean Auel – As the first modern humans are separating from the caveman, a young  girls is forced to cross the line between both worlds.
    • Outlander by Diana Gabaldon – Historical fiction, with a love story around the main characters. Based in America and Scotland in the 1940’s-1960’s as well as 1740’s-1760’s. Definitely captivating – currently 8 books in the series, with 2 more to come; Outlander is the first in the series. Also, look at some of the companion stories – Goodreads gives you the sequence where they fit in the story line.
    • Wilderness Series (first book is “Into the Wilderness”) by Sara Donati – Historical fiction, starts in the 1790’s. Main characters are an English woman who moves to a remote New York town and meets a white man, dressed like a Native American.
    • The Bronze Horseman Series by Paullina Simons – Historical fiction, with a love story around the main characters. Based in 1940’s Russia, during WWII. Gives a great perspective of the everyday people who were just trying to get by. 3 books in the series.
  • FICTION – some history thrown in, but no definitive historical storyline
    • A Song of Ice and Fire (first book is “Game of Thrones”) by George R. R. Martin – Fiction based on various families and their quests to rule the kingdom. Currently 5 books in the series, with 2 more to come.
    • The Poldark Saga (first book is “Ross Poldark”) by Winston Graham – Fiction based on a British soldier who has returned home to England, after his time fighting in the American Revolution. 12 books in the series.
    • The Shattered Sea Series  (first book is “Half a King”) by Joe Abercrombie – Fictional story about kings, adventure, betrayal, etc. Easy to read and would be good for teens. 3 books in the series.
  • SCI-FI
    • The Inheritance Cycle (first book is “Eragon”) by Christopher Paolini – When Eragon finds a polished blue stone in the forest, he thinks it is the lucky discovery of a poor farm boy; perhaps it will buy his family meat for the winter. But when the stone brings a dragon hatchling, Eragon realizes he has stumbled upon a legacy nearly as old as the Empire itself. Fantastic series of 4 books.
    • All Souls Trilogy (first book is “A Discovery of Witches”) by Deborah Harkness – Witches, daemons, vampires, and humans all coexist – the author makes it seem very realistic. 3 books in the series.
    • The Time Traveler’s Wife (not a series, but a good story) by Audrey Niffenegger – A man, with a genetic disorder that causes him to travel through time, and his wife, an artist, who he met when he was 36 and she was 6. Interesting story – also a movie.
    • Black Dagger Brotherhood (first book is “Dark Lover”) by J. R. Ward – Vampires are the good guys, but they are being hunted by the Lessers, which are pure evil. There is a lot of sex and violence, and this is officially listed as a “paranormal romance” series – 19 books, so far, as well as some off-shoot stories.
  • GENERAL INTEREST, current timeframe
    • The Clifton Chronicles (first book is “Only Time Will Tell”) by Jeffrey Archer – The series chronicles the life of Harry Clifton, born on the docks and raised by a single mother. The adventure begins when he learns that his father (who he was told died in the war) may not have been his father after all.