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Books Set in the 1920s

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Whether you’re participating in our Decades Reading Challenge or you’ve stumbled upon this post looking for books about the Roaring Twenties, we know you’ll love the choices.

Literary Themes in Books About the 1920s

We’ve compiled a great list with some of the best historical fiction novels set in the 1920s, as well as several non-fiction 1920s books centered around fascinating, lesser-known events.

The 1920s literature themes represented on our book recommendations reflect a decade that began with a roar and ended with a crash. Among the historical fiction on the list, you’ll find many vibrant jazz age books that capture the essence of the roaring twenties and the prohibition era. However, you’ll also find 1920s novels about individuals and families still struggling to recover from the impacts of WWI.

Major World Events of the 1920s

Before choosing a book, it’s helpful to have some context of the significant events during this decade. If you’d prefer, you can skip straight to our 1920s booklist.

  • American troops returned home at the end of WWI, but for many, their experiences in Europe made them want some of the finer things in life for their families.
  • For the first time in the 1920s, more Americans lived in cities than on farms. For the young people in America’s big cities, the 1920s were a roaring time, but many other Americans were uncomfortable with this new urban lifestyle, leading to what some historians referred to as a “cultural civil war.”
  • Two amendments to the US Constitution helped defined the 1920s. The 18th Amendment, which was ratified at the end of 1919 ushered in the Prohibition Era of the Roaring Twenties, and the 19th Amendment, ratified in August of 1920, gave women the right to vote.
  • The Anti-Communist “Red Scare” of 1919 and 1920 led to the National Origins Act of 1924, a very restrictive immigration law that set quotas and excluded people from some countries in favor of others.
  • A familiar symbol of the Roaring Twenties, flappers were young women with bobbed hair and short skirts who drank, smoked, and were more sexually free than women in previous generations.
  • Following the first commercially licensed radio broadcast in 1920, radio quickly became a family experience with everyone gathering around to listen to the news, comedy shows, and music. By 1926, there were over 700 commercial radio stations.
  • The Great Migration of African Americas from the south to northern cities led to rising social tensions in the 1920s. With this Great Migration came increased visibility of Black culture, including jazz and blues music.
  • Radio stations and phonograph records also helped usher in the Jazz Age. Across the country, Jazz bands played at dance halls and young people were dancing the Charleston.
  • The 1920s were a time of rising crime. In 1924, J. Edgar Hoover is appointed the head of the FBI to reform the Bureau, and FBI investigated Al Capone and other famous gangsters of the era. The Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre in Chicago in 1929 was the culmination of the gang war between Al Capone and Bugs Moran.
  • At the beginning of the decade cars were deemed luxuries, but by the end of the decade they were necessities. By 1929, there was one car on the road for every five Americans, leading to a rise in businesses like service stations and motels.
  • Charles Lindbergh completed the first solo transatlantic flight across the Atlantic in the Spirit of St. Louis in 1927.
  • Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse appeared for the first time in Steamboat Willie in 1928.
  • The Wall Street Crash of 1929 started the period of The Great Depression in the United States.

Must Read Books Set in the 1920s

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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.

Members of our email list and Facebook group, Read with the Book Girls can log ratings for their monthly challenge reads. The logs provide us with data for the “BGG Reader Ratings” that are added to descriptions for future years. We’d love you to contribute your rating after you’ve finished your read this month.

Join the Decades Reading Challenge

Photo of the decades reading challenge printable with text about how to join the challenge. Clicking the image takes you to the challenge home page iwth text instructions

Book Recommendations for Other Decades

Can you send me a printable list with the book titles but not descriptions?

This was a big request last year that we weren’t able to add to our plates in 2022. New for 2023, readers who support Book Girls Guide through our Buy Me a Coffee membership site will receive special monthly printable journal pages as a thank you bonus. The voluntary members (we call them our BFFs) help cover the cost of running the challenges so we can keep them free for everyone.

We’re so excited to be able to offer this fun perk this year!

The new pages will be pre-filled with every book title for the month, and include space for you to mark your interest level, make notes about whether you’ve requested the book from the library (or any other notes you’d like), and then fill in your rating. We’ll also include blank lines in case you have other books on your TBR (to be read) list that meet the prompt. We’d love you to sign up here!

That said, you’ll always find the most updated version of our recommendations with descriptions each month at no cost on our website. We do update the list and descriptions regularly based on reader feedback. But, we know some of you wanted to print the list to take to the library or bookstore, and we hope this helps.

Cover of Radium Girls and In a Field of Blue under text - Best Books Set in the 1920s

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Monday 27th of February 2023

I would add a book to this 1920's area genre. The Girls in the Stilt House by Kelly Mustian. It was great! I just finished it. Great story about 2 girls living with their different burdens of that time in Mississippi, bound together by an unexpected event. Would definitely recommend!


Saturday 18th of February 2023

I highly recommend The Radium Girls! I learned of this book after our local high school theater group performed the play some years ago. I didn’t see it, but had to get the book. Also, The Light Between Oceans is very good. Heartbreaking at times.

Amy Driver

Friday 17th of February 2023

Call Your Daughter Home is one of the best audio books I've ever listened to!

Mystery Books Set in the 1920s - Book Girls' Guide

Friday 10th of February 2023

[…] you’re participating in the Decades Challenge, this list is a great supplement to our main Books Set in the 1920s list, which covers all […]

Nikki Matthews

Tuesday 25th of January 2022

Great list. I have read a few: Radium Girls, The Paris Wife. Going to try out The Light Between Oceans, The Second Life of Mirielle West and The Masterpiece. (Lions of 5th Ave also by Fiona Davis was incredible)