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Books Set in the 1900s and 1910s

Whether you’re participating in our Decades Reading Challenge or you’ve stumbled upon this post looking for books about women’s suffrage, books about the Spanish Flu, WW1 historical fiction recommendations, or stories of life in the 1900s & 1910s, we hope you’ll love the choices.

Literary Themes In Books Set at the Turn of the Century

From the moment you crack open a novel set in the early 1900s, you can’t help but be transported to a world of turn-of-the-century fashion, etiquette, and societal norms. The books on our list present a unique opportunity to explore a culture that hasn’t existed for over a hundred years. In this age of technology, reading is a great way to slow down and experience the legacy of the past.

Our curated book list includes some of the highest-rated and best-loved books set in the early 1900s. The list includes a variety of historical fiction, non-fiction, and even a few classics that remain popular today. We’ve focused on selecting books that really give you an insight into the culture and history of the era.

For additional historical context, be sure to check out the timeline of major world events that we’ve included at the end of the post.

The Best Books Set in the Early 1900s

You are welcome to choose any book that you’d like to read for the challenge, but we hope that this list of books has given you a good starting point.

The Bookbinder book cover

Book Summary

Twin sisters Peggy and Maude work in Oxford’s university press book bindery. While Maude is very content spending her days folding the pages of books with her fellow bindery girls, Peggy dreams of more. As Peggy works, she wishes she was instead across Walton Street at Oxford’s Somerville College, where female students have a huge library at their fingertips.

When Oxford is filled with Belgian war refugees, the sister’s lives are impacted in surprising ways. Peggy becomes more determined to find a career that uses her intellect instead of her hands. But, the responsibility that comes with falling in love with a Belgian soldier may hold her back.

The Book Girls Say…

This book has an alternate title of “The Bookbinder of Jericho” outside of the US.

Book Girls’ Readers Rate This Book

97% Would Recommend to a Friend

Book Summary

This historical fiction novel is based on the remarkable true story of J.P. Morgan’s personal librarian, a Black woman who became one of the most powerful women in NYC at the turn of the century.

Belle da Costa Greene was working at Princeton University Library when J.P. Morgan’s nephew recommended her for a position curating a collection of rare manuscripts, books, and artbooks for his uncle’s newly built Pierpont Morgan Library. This position of prominence made her one of the most influential people in the art and book world. She became a fixture on the New York social scene.

But Belle had a secret that could change everything. She led people to believe that her dark complexion was the result of her alleged Portuguese heritage. In truth, however, she was born Bella Marion Greener – the daughter of Richard Greener, the first Black graduate of Harvard University.

The Book Girls Say…

We both rated The Personal Librarian five stars! The writing duo of Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray put together a seamless story that educates and entertains. From learning about the progress and recession of the civil rights movement in the decades surrounding the turn of the century to literary and art history, the book introduces several aspects that left us eager to do more research. However, that education was wrapped in a page-turning story full of romance and intrigue.

The book manages to move gracefully between lighter and heavier storylines. We were always on the edge of our seats, wondering if Belle’s secret would be revealed.

If you ever find yourself in NYC, be sure to plan time for The Morgan Library! Angela had a chance to visit back in March, and she was awed by the architecture and grandeur of each and every room, including Belle’s private office.

Also Featured on These Book Lists:

The Personal Librarian Book Club Guide with Discussion Questions
The Best Gilded Age Books
Our 23 Favorite Reads of 2023

PS: We also have a printable Personal Librarian book club guide available on Etsy, including discussion questions, 7 pages of bonus contextual information and photos, a printable bookmark, and more!

Outrun the Moon book cover

Book Summary

Mercy Wong lives in the poverty of Chinatown within San Francisco in 1906. She knows the best hope for her future is to get into St. Clare’s School for Girls, but admittance to the top school is limited to only the wealthist white girls. But Mercy is determined and finds a cunning way in, only to find out that admittance was the easiest part. Unfortunately, her classmates are less than welcoming.

But then, on April 18th, a historic earthquake destroys the school. The students are forced into an encampment at a park as fires rage around them. Mercy’s determination, bravery, and leadership skills are all needed to help her classmates and herself.

The Book Girls Say…

This YA novel is perfect for those who love a fiery, strong female heroine.

Silent Came the Monster  book cover

Book Summary

In 1916, swimming at the Jersey Shore was a relatively new activity. When a swimmer dies and a prominent surgeon, Dr. Halsey, examines the body, he concludes that there has been a shark attack and warns that it will likely happen again. However, no one else believes him. Dr. Halsey finds himself fighting widespread confusion, conspiracy theories, defiance, and outright denial of the shark.

As WW1 rages overseas and an unprecedented outbreak of polio strikes fear into the nation, shark-deniers theories range from a huge mackerel to a giant sea turtle or even a German submarine. Local fishermen and the Lenape tribe also have beliefs about what looms under the water.

The Book Girls Say…

This historical fiction thriller is based on the true story of the Jersey Shore shark attacks of 1916. We recommend waiting until after reading to look into the real events to retain the suspenseful nature of not knowing what is going to happen next.

Scarlet Carnation book cover

Book Summary

May and Naomi are young women connected through their grandmothers, whose lives became intertwined while living on a Virginia plantation in the years leading up to the Civil War. Half a century later, the grandaughters’ lives are filled with the promise of equal opportunity.

May is a young white woman building the life of independence she’s always dreamed of. Naomi is a young Black nurse, a mother, and a leader of the NAACP. She has also achieved her dream of buying a home for her family.

But for both women in 1915, their dreams are about to be upended. May is forced once again to rely on her mother, and Naomi is faced with white neighbors who don’t want her there, even while her sons are away fighting for their country.

Kindle Unlimited as of: 01/15/2024
Nature of Fragile Things book cover

Book Girls’ Readers Rate This Book

100% Would Recommend to a Friend

Book Summary

In the early 1900s, Irish immigrant Sophie was desperate to get out of a New York tenement. She answered a mail-order bride ad and agreed to marry a man named Martin Hocking in San Francisco. Martin is an aloof but handsome widower with a silent five-year-old daughter.

One evening, a young pregnant woman arrives at their doorstep. Sophie also learns of another woman, hundreds of miles away in Arizona, grieving the loss of everything she once loved. The fates of these three women become intertwined on the eve of the devastating San Francisco earthquake.

Little Souls book cover

Book Girls’ Readers Rate This Book

95% Would Recommend to a Friend

Book Summary

While the First World War raged in 1918, the world was also fighting a second battle against the Spanish Flu. In Denver, schools were turned into hospitals, and horse-drawn wagons must continually collect corpses from the streets. Sisters Helen and Lutie are new Denver residents, moving after the death of their parents in Iowa.

Nurse Helen has found a new beau who is a doctor, and Lutie works in advertising at a chic store. To help make ends meet, they have a tenant in the basement of their tidy home. However, when she passes from the flu, they find themselves unexpected caretakers for her young daughter, Dorothy. Their lives take another turn when Lutie arrives home from work to see Dorothy’s father dead in their kitchen. Worse, Helen is standing over him with an ice pick. 

The sisters devise a plan to leave him in the street and hope he’s mistaken for yet another flu victim.

The Book Girls Say…

Reviewers say the author transports you directly to 1918 Denver and the constant challenges women of the time endured. This historical fiction also has threads of mystery and romance.

Canary Girls book cover

Book Summary

As British men left to fight in WWI, women stepped up to work in the arsenals, making weapons for the military. Thousands of former housewives, shop girls, cooks, and maids became “munitionettes” and worked grueling shifts with little protective gear.

April is 19 years old and was a housemaid before hearing about the higher wages she could earn at Thornshire Arsenal near London. Lucy is married to an Olympic gold medalist & star forward of the Tottenham Hotspur football team. She joins Thornshire to do her part in shortening the war. When her coworkers learn she is a footballer’s wife, they invite her to join the arsenal ladies’ football club, the Thornshire Canaries.

When the women begin having unexplained health problems, including yellowing skin, the boss’s wife, Helen, becomes their biggest advocate. Helen suspects the chemicals are to blame for the health issues and became a staunch advocate for the workers who became known as “canary girls.”

The Book Girls Say…

If you love stories based on what women were doing for the war effort and also enjoy sports, this is a great option based on the true story of the “canary girls” and the Munitionettes Cup.

Also Featured on These Book Lists:

Best WW1 Historical Fiction

Secret Life of Winnie Cox book cover

Book Summary

Winnie lives a privileged life on her father’s sugar cane plantation in British Guiana on the northeastern coast of South America. Life is very easy when Winnie follows society’s rules. However, she can’t help falling in love with George, the black post office boy from the other side of town.

Winnie begins living a double life and then fights to prove her love for George in a world determined to keep them apart.

The Book Girls Say…

British Guiana is now the independent nation of Guyana. This book is the first in a series called the Quint Chronicles. Book 2 is The Sugar Planter’s Daughter.

Kindle Unlimited as of: 01/15/2024

Also Featured on These Book Lists:

Books Set in South America

The Phoenix Crown book cover

Book Summary

By 1906, San Francisco was full of new wealth and those dreaming of new wealth. Two of those dreamers were Gemma, who was trying to rekindle her singing career, and Suling, a Chinese seamstress trying to escape an arranged marriage. The women meet through the acquaintance of Henry Thornton, a charming railroad magnate and collector of Chinese antiques, including the fabled Phoenix Crown, a legendary relic of Beijing’s fallen Summer Palace.

However, before the women can benefit from Thornton’s patronage, the 1906 earthquake rips through the city and Thornton disappears. Then, five years later, the Phoenix Crown reappears at a Paris costume ball. Gemma and Suling must join forces to figure out what really happened to Thornton.

The Book Girls Say…

While this book isn’t being released until February 13th, if you’re as excited about a new Kate Quinn book as we are, we wanted to give you the option to pick it up as a new release just in time for the challenge.

If you haven’t read The Alice Network by Kate Quinn, it’s another great option set in this time period!

Orphan Collector book cover

Book Girls’ Readers Rate This Book

100% Would Recommend to a Friend

Book Summary

As the US celebrated the end of WWI in 1918, the Spanish flu brought a new threat to American cities. In Philadelphia, 13-year-old Pia, a German immigrant, is forced to venture out into the quarantined city in search of food for her and her younger brothers.

Amid anti-immigrant sentiment in her city and the grief of losing her baby to the Spanish flu, Bernice Groves formulates a plot to transform the city’s orphans and immigrant children into “true Americans.”

After collapsing on the street, Pia wakes up days later in a hospital, desperate to return to her brothers, but instead, she is taken to an orphan asylum.

The Book Girls Say…

Some readers find this book a bit slow to start and difficult to read because of the parallels to the recent global pandemic, but most find themselves drawn into the story and invested in the characters.

For another historical fiction perspective on the impacts of the Spanish flu epidemic in Philadelphia, you might want to read As Bright as Heaven, by Susan Meissner. This book – about a couple that takes in a baby that has been orphaned by the disease – is both heartbreaking and uplifting.

Kindle Unlimited as of: 01/15/2024
River of Doubt book cover

Book Summary

This narrative non-fiction lets you travel with Theodore Roosevelt on a dangerous adventure down the Amazon River. The territory he covered with his crew, including son Kermit and Brazil’s most famous explorer, Cândido Mariano da Silva Rondon, was previously uncharted.

The river’s rough rapids were only the beginning of the challenges. Indigenous groups hunted the rafters with poisonous arrows from the shores, and the water was filled with its natural dangers, including piranhas and disease. Along the journey, three men died, including one murdered by someone in their group. Roosevelt himself was driven to the brink of suicide.

But the group endured and changed the map of South America forever.

The Book Girls Say…

Many readers enjoyed this author’s book Destiny of the Republic about James Garfield from our 1880-1890s book list.

Magnolia Palace book cover

Book Girls’ Readers Rate This Book

98% Would Recommend to a Friend

Book Summary

Lillian was one of the most sought-after artist models in New York City, with statues based on her figure gracing famous landmarks throughout the city – from the Plaza Hotel to the Brooklyn Bridge. After losing her mother to the Spanish Flu outbreak, however, Lillian feels lost in the world.

Her work has mostly dried up, so when she’s offered a job as a personal secretary at the Frick mansion—a building that, ironically, bears her own visage—Lillian is eager to accept the opportunity. Working closely with Helen Frick, daughter of industrialist and art patron Henry Clay Frick, pulls Lillian into a privileged world and a tangled web of romantic trysts, stolen jewels, and family drama that might prove to be life or death.

Five decades later, in the 1960s, Veronica, an English model, is working in the former Frick residence, which has since been converted into one of New York City’s most impressive museums. After being dismissed from a Vogue shoot, she finds herself snowed into the mansion. When she and a young art curator stumble upon a series of hidden messages in the museum, they might discover the truth behind a decades-old murder.

Haddix book cover

Book Girls’ Readers Rate This Book

100% Would Recommend to a Friend

Book Summary

Uprising tells the story of three women. Bella arrived in New York from Italy and was one of the hundreds of immigrants hired to work at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory. The hours are long, and the conditions are grueling. Her coworker, Yetta, is crusading for a union and convinces the workers to strike. Jane is a young, wealthy socialite who learns the plight of the factory workers and becomes invested in their cause.

On March 25, 1911, Bella and Yetta were both at work, and Jane was visiting the factory when a spark ignited some cloth. The building was quickly engulfed in flames. This historical fiction novel draws on extensive research to bring the tragedy of the Triangle Shirtwaist fire to life.

The First Emma book cover

Book Summary

When Emma marries Otto, she dreams of a simple and happy life. However, Otto’s obsession with his businesses, including beer, mining, and hospitality, makes them one of the wealthiest couples in the nation. Despite the wealth, Emma is lonely and unhappy. Then, an accident brings her an unexpected choice – should she choose loyalty or independence?

In 1943, a dying woman issues an ad for someone to write her life story. Mabel is fleeing her old life in Baltimore after the war and is eager to escape to San Antonio for this unique position. As she learns Emma’s story, she’s surprised to find a women who experienced both devastation and astonishing success as she navigated a brewery through Texas prohibition.

The Book Girls Say…

Watch our interview with author Camille Di Maio! This book is based on the real-life of Emma Koehler & history of Pearl Brewing. After reading, check out the Hotel Emma in San Antonio, which was formerly the Pearl Brewhouse.

Kindle Unlimited as of: 01/15/2024
Dead Wake book cover

Book Girls’ Readers Rate This Book

100% Would Recommend to a Friend

Book Summary

In May of 1915, the Lusitania, a luxury ocean liner, sailed out of New York bound for Liverpool, England. The ship had the feel of a well-appointed English country house. On this crossing, it was carrying a record number of children and infants traveling with their parents.

As the ship set sail, the passengers were anxious because German U-boats had been terrorizing the waters of the North Atlantic. Still, the Captain and others were confident that the centuries-old unwritten rules of warfare would keep a civilian ship safe from attack. Additionally, the speed of the Lusitania made it likely that it could outrun any threat. Unfortunately, Germany decided to change the rules of the game.

This narrative non-fiction places you aboard the ship with a cast of real-life characters and tells a story of glamour, mystery, suspense, and, ultimately, tragedy.

The Book Girls Say…

If you enjoy history and non-fiction, Erik Larson’s books are a wonderful choice because of his detailed research. Because he shares many details, some readers find his books enthralling page-turners, while others find them slow.

If you’d prefer to read a historical fiction novel about the sinking of the Lusitania, consider The Glass Oceanor Seven Days in May.

Way of Beauty book cover

Book Girls’ Readers Rate This Book

98% Would Recommend to a Friend

Book Summary

Vera, the daughter of German immigrants in New York City, finds her life upended when the man she loves becomes engaged to another woman. But Angelo has also inadvertently opened up Vera’s life to unexpected possibilities. Angelo’s new wife, Pearl, the wealthy daughter of a clothing manufacturer, has defied her family’s expectations by devoting herself to the women’s suffrage movement.

In Pearl, Vera finds an unexpected dear friend…and a stirring new cause of her own. But when Pearl’s selfless work pulls her away from Angelo and their son, the life Vera craved is suddenly within her reach—if her conscience will allow her to take it.

The Book Girls Say…

Watch our interview with author Camille Di Maio! Melissa rated this book 4 stars and Angela gave it 4.5 stars. We both enjoyed looking into the suffrage movement in New York City and learning about the work that went into constructing the tunnels under NYC, all woven into an easy-to-read historical romance.

Kindle Unlimited as of: 01/15/2024
Tree Grows in Brooklyn book cover

Book Girls’ Readers Rate This Book

94% Would Recommend to a Friend

Book Summary

This beloved American classic brilliantly captures a unique time and place and deeply resonant moments of universal experience.

Francie Nolan needed to be made of stern stuff from her earliest days. Growing up in the Williamsburg slums of Brooklyn, New York demanded fortitude, precocity, and strength of spirit – and Francie has each of these in spades. Neighbors often scorn her for her family’s erratic and eccentric behavior, including her father’s taste for alcohol and her Aunt Sissy’s habit of marrying serially without the formality of divorce. No one, least of all Francie, would say that the Nolans’ life lacked drama.

The Book Girls Say…

This book isn’t a plot-driven page-turner, but instead provides a poignant, and at times meandering, look at life in the 1910s.

Pull of the Stars book cover

Book Girls’ Readers Rate This Book

89% Would Recommend to a Friend

Book Summary

In 1918, Ireland was ravaged by both war and disease. Julia is a nurse working in an understaffed hospital caring for pregnant women who have been quarantined after contracting a terrible new flu that would come to be known as the Spanish Flu.

Two newcomers to the hospital ward will change everything over the course of three days. One is Doctor Katleen Lynn, who is rumored to be a Rebel on the run from the police. The other is Bridie, a young volunteer.

The Book Girls Say…

For another look at the Spanish Flu set against the backdrop of the Mexican Revolution, consider reading Murmur of Bees by Sofía Segovia. For insight into the Spanish Flu in New York, try A Beautiful Poison, which would also be great for fans of Radium Girls, as some characters are employed in a watch factory painting dials with radium.

Secret Life of Violet Grant book cover

Book Summary

It was not easy to be a female scientist in 1914, so Violet Schuyler Grant endures her much older, philandering husband because he makes her role as a physicist in prewar Germany possible. When Lionel, a captain in the British Army, meets Violet, he encourages her to escape her husband’s hold. However, with WW1 on the horizon, Lionel’s motives are suspect.

Fifty years later, Vivian Schuyler is a recent Bryn Mawr grad in New York City but not content to be a socialite. Instead, she’s trying to break into the glamorous world of magazine publishing. She puts her investigative skills to use when she receives a package of information about a mysterious aunt she never knew.

Where Coyotes Howl book cover

Book Summary

Iowa teacher Ellen is looking for a new adventure when she accepts a job as the only teacher in the tiny western town of Wallace, Wyoming. When she arrives, it’s more barren and poverty-stricken than Ellen anticipated. It quickly becomes clear why the previous teachers never lasted more than a year.

However, by the end of Ellen’s first year, she’s fallen in love with the High Plains and with a cowboy named Charlie. However, their love can’t stop the harsh conditions of the Wild West, from winter blizzards to unrelenting summer heat. To survive, the women of the town must look out for each other.

The Book Girls Say…

While this book is ultimately about enduring love, the characters encounter endless struggles, which help transport you to the isolated Wyoming town. However, if you’re in a season of struggles of your own, reviewers recommend waiting on this emotional read.

Orphans of the Storm book cover

Book Girls’ Readers Rate This Book

100% Would Recommend to a Friend

Book Summary

Marcella has been married for three years and has two young children. Her once charming husband. Michael has revealed his true, cruel nature, and she’s determined to divorce him. While Michael’s waiting for a judge in France to award custody of their children, he receives shocking news.

Margaret is a fun-loving New York socialite who is touring Europe with friends. When she begins to feel restless, she decides to return home aboard a celebrated new steamer ship, the Titanic.

As the ship sets sail for America, the paths of Marcella, Michael, and Margaret become forever intertwined. This historical fiction novel is based on a true story.

Gilded Mountain book cover

Book Summary

The Padgett family’s marble-mining company dominates the town of Moonstone. Sylvie’s father works for them, and she knows the workers are discontent with how they are treated. When she leaves her mountain cabin to work for the Padgetts in their manor, she’s in awe of the luxury they live in.

While the Padgetts express lofty philosophical ideals, Sylvie notices the contrast between the talk and the real-life labor practices that created the Padgett fortune. Their servants, the Gradys, are formerly enslaved people who are also aware of the hypocrisy. The Gradys plan to leave the Padgetts and form a new utopian community on the Colorado prairie.

Outside the manor, labor leader Mary Harris “Mother” Jones, is stirring up the quarry workers. The newspaper editor is also involved and regularly publishes unflattering accounts of the Padgett Company. Sylvie is stuck in the middle, with conflicting loyalties, until she is forced to choose sides.

The Book Girls Say…

This historical fiction is filled with true stories of Colorado in the early 1900s, including tales of the real labor activist “Mother Jones”. The Financial Panic of 1907 is also covered.

Book Girls’ Readers Rate This Book

100% Would Recommend to a Friend

Book Summary

It’s 1913, and Laura’s husband is the superintendent of the NY Public Library. The job comes with an apartment in the grand building for the couple and their two children. Laura seems to have it all, but after she enters journalism school at Columbia and has her worldview rocked, she starts to question if the things she has are the things she wants.

Eighty years later, in 1993, Sadie landed her dream job as a curator at the NY Public Library, but her grandmother Laura’s legacy looms over her until she can no longer ignore it.

The Book Girls Say…

Fiona Davis is one of our favorite historical fiction writers because of her strong female characters. Her novels are each set in a famous NYC building and combine history, a little romance, and a mystery.

Bluebird book cover

Book Girls’ Readers Rate This Book

100% Would Recommend to a Friend

Book Summary

Detroit museum curator Cassie loves solving mysteries from the past, especially when the stories involve the Detroit River rumrunners from the Prohibition days. When a home renovation uncovers a cache of Bailey Brothers Best whisky, she hopes it’s the missing piece she needs to understand the truth about the bootleggers.

In 1918, Corporal Jeremiah Bailey was wounded as part of his job planting mines under enemy trenches. As he recovers at a Belgium hospital, he’s cared for by nurse Adele, one of the Canadian “Bluebirds.” The connection between Jerry and Adele is strong as they’re from a similar area along the Detroit River. But when Jerry is sent back to the front, he’s not sure he’ll ever see Adele again.

When Jerry and Adele unexpectedly cross paths after the war, they have a chance for a fresh start, but both carry baggage from what they saw overseas. Prohibition is in full swing, bringing them both opportunity and the threat of destroying everything they’ve worked for.

Also Featured on These Book Lists:

Best WW1 Historical Fiction

Book Girls’ Readers Rate This Book

94% Would Recommend to a Friend

Book Summary

September 1911. On Ellis Island in New York Harbor, nurse Clara Wood cannot face returning to Manhattan, where the man she loved fell to his death in the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire. Then, while caring for a fevered immigrant whose own loss mirrors hers, she becomes intrigued by a name embroidered onto the scarf he carries…and finds herself caught in a dilemma that compels her to confront the truth about the assumptions she’s made.

September 2011. On Manhattan’s Upper West Side, widow Taryn Michaels has convinced herself that she is living fully, working in a charming specialty fabric store and raising her daughter alone. Then a long-lost photograph appears in a national magazine, and she is forced to relive the terrible day her husband died in the collapse of the World Trade Center Towers, which was the same day a stranger reached out and saved her. But a chance reconnection and a century-old scarf may open Taryn’s eyes to the larger forces at work in her life.

The Book Girls Say…

Melissa chose this book during the first year of our Decades Reading Challenge, and since that time, nearly 100 of our readers have read it, with nearly all rating it highly. One reader states, “I really appreciated the juxtaposition of the fire in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory and the 9/11 attack on the Twin Towers.”

Also Featured on These Book Lists:

The Best Fall Books to Read

Memory of Violets book cover

Book Girls’ Readers Rate This Book

100% Would Recommend to a Friend

Book Summary

For years, Mr. Shaw’s Home for Watercress and Flower Girls in London has watched over London’s flower girls, as they are known. These orphaned and disabled children survive on the streets by selling violets and watercress. In 1912, Twenty-year-old Tilly Harper left her native Lake District and moved to London to become an assistant housemother at the home.

Tilly discovers the diary of a young woman named Florrie with dried flowers pressed between the pages and a heartbreaking tale of her separation from her sister, Rosie. Drawn into their story from the 1870s, Tilly hopes to discover what happened to Rosie.

Stories from Suffragette City book cover

Book Girls’ Readers Rate This Book

90% Would Recommend to a Friend

Book Summary

On October 23, 1915, tens of thousands marched in NYC for the right to vote. Each woman was there for her own reasons and with her own story. This collection of historical fiction short stories all take place on that day, and together, they form a portrait of a very important moment in history.

These stories come from some of the biggest names in historical fiction, including Fiona Davis, Paula McLain, and Lisa Wingate, with an introduction by Kristin Hannah.

The Book Girls Say…

While the stories in this book all take place on the same day, they are not connected in plot or character. Each is written as a stand-alone story by a different well-known author.

Girl Waits With Gun book cover

Book Girls’ Readers Rate This Book

88% Would Recommend to a Friend

Book Summary

This historical fiction novel is based on the real-life events of one of America’s first female deputy sheriffs. Constance Kopp doesn’t fit the mold of a woman in the 1910s – she towers over most men and has no interest in marriage or domestic affairs. She has isolated herself from the world for the past years, ever since a family secret sent her and her sisters into hiding.

When a belligerent and powerful silk factory owner runs down their buggy and refuses to cover the damages, he threatens her family and their farm with violence. But Constance refuses to be intimidated. When the sheriff enlists her help in convicting the men, she is forced to confront her past to defend her family.

The Book Girls Say…

This book is the first of seven in the Kopp Sisters series. One of our readers described this book as “a fascinating look into small-town New Jersey society.”

Next Ship Home book cover

Book Summary

Francesca arrived in America from Italy with dreams of a better life than the one she left behind. She arrived at Ellis Island on Alma’s first work day at the immigrant processing center.

However, both soon discover that Ellis is not the refuge it appears to be. President Roosevelt put in new measures to deter crime, which led to a new kind of crime and corruption.

Based on historical events, this novel explores the prejudice and exclusion that happened within Ellis Island. But, it’s also a story of friendship and the resilience needed to secure a better future.

The Book Girls Say…

Don’t miss the author’s notes at the end as Heather Webb shares details about her research and which characters are based on real people. At some points, the book’s pacing is slower in this character-driven story. One reviewer found the audio version distracting as the narrator’s Italian accent wasn’t consistent, so this one may be better in print or Kindle.

Kindle Unlimited as of: 01/16/2024

Book Girls’ Readers Rate This Book

95% Would Recommend to a Friend

Book Summary

A Night to Remember is still considered the best book written about the Titanic. It’s a riveting non-fiction account of Titanic’s fatal collision – including what was happening to passengers and staff before, during, and after the iceberg.

While this book is a true account written based on interviews and news reports, it reads like a historical fiction novel.

The Book Girls Say…

Melissa and Angela both rate this one a solid four stars and recommend it to anyone with even a slight interest in the Titanic. Although it’s an older book, it’s a page-turner full of interesting tidbits, and at under 200 pages, it’s a very quick read.

If you are looking for recently published historical fiction stories about the Titanic, consider: Women and Children First, by Gill Paul (which begins on the Titanic and then follows some of the survivors as they arrive in New York), and The Titanic Affair by Amanda Grange (at under 200 pages, this is also a very quick read; it’s also currently available with Kindle Unlimited).

Kindle Unlimited as of: 08/15/2023

Also Featured on These Book Lists:

Books Set on a Form of Transportation

Saturday Evening Girls Club book cover

Book Girls’ Readers Rate This Book

91% Would Recommend to a Friend

Book Summary

The Saturday Evening Girls Club is a pottery-making group in Boston’s North End. It provides four young immigrant women a respite from the struggles in their daily lives.

Sicilian Caprice wants to open a hat shop, but her parents have different plans for her future. Ada wants to take college classes, but her Russian-Jewish father disapproves. Maria is stunning and has plenty of prospects for a husband, but she fears ending up miserable like her Italian Catholic mother. Thea is shy and torn between speaking up for herself or falling in line with an antiquated Jewish tradition.

Despite their cultural differences, the friends draw strength from each other as they fight to transform their immigrant stories into fulfilled American dreams.

Kindle Unlimited as of: 01/15/2024

Printable Book Lists

Readers who support The Book Girls’ Guide through our Buy Me a Coffee (BMAC) membership site have access to two different printable versions of this book list.

New for 2024, members can print a single page containing all the book titles from each guided challenge list. We will also continue providing the journal page format, which has space to indicate your interest level in each book, jot down notes, and rate the books once you have read them.

Printable pages showing book titles

Our BMAC members (we call them our BFFs) help cover the cost of running the challenges so we can keep them free for everyone. You can read more about why our members are essential and learn about the perks of membership.

Sign Up for the Decades Challenge

Sign up for our email list below to receive a free printable tracker for the Decades Challenge. Our weekly email newsletter helps you stay on track with friendly reminders while still allowing you the flexibility to read at your own pace. Additionally, challenge participants have an opportunity to discuss the books on this list and to provide ratings and reviews via our book logs.

Bonus Content- Major World Events of the 1900s & 1910s

We compiled this list of major events of the early 20th century to provide some historical context for your reading. We hope you enjoy learning a bit more about this period in history.

  • Immigration hit an all-time peak with over 8.8 million immigrants in the 10 years from 1901-1910.
  • Construction began on the New York Subway in 1900.
  • US President William McKinley was shot at point-blank range in September of 1901, and he died of gangrene eight days later. Theodore Roosevelt was sworn in as his successor. That same year, England’s Queen Victoria died at the age of 81 after ruling for 64 years.
  • The Ford Motor Company began manufacturing vehicles in 1903, and in 1908 Ford introduced the Model T, which cost $850 – a mere 1/3 the price of other cars on the market, but still too expensive for the masses. Over the coming decade, Ford perfected assembly line production, bringing down the cost of the car to $368 by 1916.
  • The Boston Red Sox defeated the Pittsburgh Pirates in the first MLB World Series in 1903.
  • In December of 1903, the Wright brothers made the first successful man-powered flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.
  • On April 18, 1906, the 7.9 magnitude San Francisco earthquake partially or fully destroyed 30,000 homes and caused a massive fire that ripped through the city, leveling more than 500 blocks.
  • A financial crisis, known as The Panic of 1907, was set off by a series of bad banking decisions and created a frenzy of withdrawals that sowed public distrust in the banking system. J.P. Morgan and other wealthy Wall Street bankers lent their own funds to prevent a more severe crisis.
  • The NAACP – The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People – was founded in 1909 by a group of prominent Black and White intellectuals in New York, led by W.E.B. DuBois.
  • In 1909, American explorers became the first to reach the North Pole.
  • In the winter of 1910, the Great Flood of Paris plunged the City of Lights into darkness.
  • The sweatshop fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist Company in Manhattan in 1911 killed 500 workers and eventually led to the establishment of building, fire, and safety codes.
  • In 1912, the Titanic struck an iceberg and sank, killing over 1,500 passengers and crew.
  • WWI (also known as the Great War) began in 1914. In 1917, the US joined WWI as an ally of Britain, France, and Russia. The war officially ended in November of 1918 with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles.
  • In 1914, Charlie Chaplin first appeared in movie theaters as the Little Tramp in “Kid Auto Races at Venice.”
  • The first transcontinental phone call was made in 1915. Four years later, the invention of the rotary phone allowed people to begin direct dialing numbers themselves rather than requiring every call to go through an operator.
  • The British ocean liner, the Lusitania, was torpedoed by a German U-boat in 1915 and sunk off the Irish coast, killing nearly 1,200 people.
  • The Spanish flu pandemic of 1918, the deadliest in history, infected an estimated 500 million people worldwide—about one-third of the planet’s population—and killed an estimated 20 million to 50 million victims, including some 675,000 Americans.
  • The Women’s Suffrage Movement was in full swing in 1915 when 25,000 women marched up Fifth Avenue in New York City. In 1919, Congress passed the 19th Amendment granting women the right to vote, which was then ratified by all the states in 1920.
The best books set in the early 1900s

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The Book Girls are best friends who jointly read over 200 books per year. We started Book Girls' Guide in 2019 to help others de-stress and find joy through the power of a great book. We do in-depth research on thousands of novels and non-fiction titles each year to provide curated book lists covering a variety of genres.

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