The Gilead books by Marilynne Robinson primarily follow generations of two families in the rural town of Gilead, Iowa. This historical fiction series takes place during the twentieth century, but harkens back to the legacy of the Civil War.
Robinson is well-known for her portrayal of rural American life. She is also well-known for her depiction of faith and the relationship between religion and science.
Her most popular book is Gilead, followed by her novel Housekeeping. Gilead won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2005 as well as the Ambassador Book Award for Fiction and the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction.
Gilead, the first book in this series, tells the story of John Ames and his family. While the next book in the series, Home, came out four years after Gilead, it takes place concurrently. However, this time readers see the small town of Gilead through the perspective of Reverend Robert Boughton, who is Ames’s closest friend.
The books are intimate portrayals of families, family secrets, and the passing of generations.
Gilead Books in Order of Publication
As is often the case with multi-generational series, it is best to read the Gilead books in order of publication. Each book is from the perspective of a new character and their personal journey. However, their ties to those around them and their community are integral for the plot.
Therefore, there will be spoilers for the previous books if you read the books out of order. That is particularly true for the first book, where some of the suspense surrounding the characters will be ruined if you’ve read the later books.
As well, the later books are written with the assumption that the reader has read the previous novels, so you will lose some of the nuance by reading the books out of order.
If you’d like to read more historical fiction novels, check out our recommendations for the Best Historical Fiction Books.