11 Best Books Based on True Stories 2021 – TownandCountrymag.com

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From novels to historical fiction, sometimes the best stories are based on reality.
While literature can bring readers to a faraway galaxy or a disturbing dystopia, sometimes the best writing stems from reality. From time to time, historical fiction authors incorporate real-life people and stories into their works, extending the genre beyond just fiction set in the past. Other writers base their books around a true news story or mystery, lending their imagination to a nonfiction event. And, some authors employ one of the oldest tricks in the book—”write what you know.” Famed writers like Jack Keuroac, Ben Lerner, and Norah Ephron fictionalize (either entirely or quite loosely) their own lives, making many of their works at least semi-autobiographical.
Here, we’ve gathered a few of our favorite fiction books, inspired by real-life events. Travel from Shakespearean England to 1960s California to modern day New York with the help of the works below.
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Everyone knows Shakespeare, but little information survived about the playwright’s wife. O’Farrell’s novel fictionalizes the couple, but is based on their relationship and grief after the death of their 11-year-old son, Hamnet. 
The Girls focuses on Evie Boyd, a teenager in 1960s Northern California who falls prey to an infamous cult, which includes a slew of young women and their mysterious male leader. The cult in question is based on the Manson family, whose members infamously murdered actress Sharon Tate and four others. 
The first novel in Hilary Mantel’s famous trilogy, Wolf Hall reimagines life in 16th century England. The book focuses on the tumultuous relationship between King Henry VIII and astute charmer and strategist Thomas Cromwell, though takes liberties with the story itself. 
Based on a real reform school that existed for over a century, Whitehead’s bestselling novel follows two boys sent to an abusive juvenile reformatory in the Jim Crow South. Set in the 1960s, The Nickel Boys won the 2020 Pulitzer Prize for fiction. 
Emma Donoghue’s Room served as the basis for the critically acclaimed movie by the same name, starring Brie Larson. The book, however, was based loosely on the true story of Josef Fritzl, an Austrian man who kept his daughter in his basement for 24 years, which makes the plot all the more shocking.
Though technically fiction, Heartburn is heavily inspired by Nora Ephron’s own marriage to Carl BernsteinIt’s the perfect novel about a breakup, filled with Ephron’s trademark wit. Afterwards, watch Ephron’s movie by the same name, starring Meryl Streep and Jack Nicholson. 
East of Eden is often considered Steinbeck’s greatest work—one he even called “the book I have always wanted and have worked and prayed to be able to write.” One of the families in the work, the Hamiltons, are said to be based off of the family of Steinbeck’s own maternal grandfather, Samuel Hamilton.
In her novel, Meg Waite Clayton reimagines the real-life love story of journalist Martha Gellhorn and the married author Ernest Hemingway. Throughout the book, the pair travels the globe as their careers thrive and their relationship evolves. 
If you haven’t read On the Road yet, now is the perfect opportunity. The premise is simple—two best friends traveling the country by car—but there’s a certain Beat Generation magic to it all. Main character Sal Paradise acts as stand-in for Kerouac, while best friend Dean Moriarty closely resembles Kerouac’s real-life friend, writer Neal Cassady.
Most of Ben Lerner’s works, including Leaving the Atocha Station and The Topeka School, are semi-autobiographical. However, 10:04 is believed to be the most so, as its narrator (named Ben) has roughly Lerner’s exact biography. The novel follows a young writer in “a New York of increasingly frequent superstorms and social unrest,” grappling with his newfound success and conceptions of mortality. 
Based on his own experiences as a soldier in the Vietnam War, Tim O’Brien’s collection of linked short stories is one of the preeminent pieces of literature on this devastating and not too distant war. The stories shoot straight to the heart and reckon with the complicated emotions and postwar trauma experienced by so many veterans. 

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