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Books that Span Multiple Decades

Whether you are participating in the final month of the Decades Reading Challenge or found this booklist searching for multigenerational novels that span decades, we know you’re sure to love these expansive stories. Rather than providing just a snapshot in time, the fiction and non-fiction titles we recommend below provide a panoramic view of life from the late 19th century until now.

What Kind of Books Are Included on This List?

We’ve heard from many of you that, throughout the challenge, you’ve loved diving into specific decades. This in-depth reading has allowed us to discover fascinating historical events we didn’t learn about in school. There’s also a lot to learn by reading long-view novels, non-fiction, or memoirs that span multiple decades or generations.

Some of the recommended books are expansive stories that span years. These books allow us to observe how things change over time. Others are books set in two or three different time periods, allowing us to compare the decades side by side.

As always, you can read any book you’d like for the Decades Challenge. But to get you started, we’ve compiled a list of novels and non-fiction titles that each span some of the decades we’ve covered throughout our year-long challenge, the 1880s through the 2010s.

Novels that Span Decades

Horse book cover

Book Girls’ Readers Rate This Book

100% Would Recommend to a Friend

Book Summary

Through the true story of a racehorse named Lexington, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Geraldine Brooks manages to weave a tale of spirit and injustice over 150 years of American history.

The book has three timelines. In 1850, you’ll meet an enslaved horse groomer, Jarrett, in Kentucky, who has a special bond with Lexington. There is also a young artist who paints images of the horse. When the Civil War erupts, the artist fights for the union and runs into the young groom and stallion again far from the track.

In 1954, a gallery owner on Martha’s Vineyard takes a special interest in a 19th-century equestrian oil painting, even though the artist and provenance are unknown.

In 2019, a Smithsonian scientist from Australia and a Nigerian-American art historian unexpectedly connect through a common interest in the painting as they look for clues to the origin.

The Book Girls Say…

This story goes well beyond horse racing and art. The page-turning storytelling has detailed descriptions and depth that will stick with you long after you finish the book. It’s one of the best audiobooks Angela has listened to this year!

The First Ladies book cover

Book Summary

This historical fiction novel tells the story of the friendship between two powerful and influential women in American history.

Mary McLeod Bethune, the daughter of formerly enslaved parents, was one of the first black female activists. Through her work as both an activist and an educator, she helped lay a foundation for the civil rights movement. Eleanor Roosevelt shared Mary’s passion for education and women’s rights and was eager to make her acquaintance. The two became fast friends and confidantes.

After Eleanor’s husband, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, was elected president in 1932, the two women began to collaborate even more closely. She became quite a controversial First Lady for pursuing her own agenda, separate from FDR, and particularly for her outspoken stance on civil rights.

When Elanor begins to receive threats as a result of her close relationship with Mary, both women use it as motivation to fight even harder for equality.

The Book Girls Say…

After reading and loving The Personal Librarian, we were so excited to see the writing duo of Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray collaborating again on this novel.

The Boston Girl book cover

Book Girls’ Readers Rate This Book

97% Would Recommend to a Friend

Book Summary

Addie Baum was born to a Jewish family at the turn of the 20th century. Her immigrant parents were very concerned about America’s effect on their three daughters. Growing up in Boston’s North End, Addie is introduced to a progressive world of short skirts, movies, and celebrity culture. She also sees a new world of opportunities for young women and dreams of college and a career.

At 85 years old, Addie Baum’s 22-year-old granddaughter asks her how she became the woman she is. Her story begins in 1915 when teenage Addie lived in a one-room tenement apartment that she shared with her family.

The Book Girls Say…

The story of Addie’s life is told with compassion, a wicked sense of humor, and great attention to historical detail. Over 100 of our readers selected this book as their Massachusetts book for our Read Around the USA Challenge this year, and it received rave reviews. Numerous readers specifically mentioned how much they enjoyed the audio version of the book, and said that the narration and the accents added to the story.

Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street book cover

Book Girls’ Readers Rate This Book

90% Would Recommend to a Friend

Book Summary

While fleeing Russia in 1913, young Malka Treynovsky is determined to get her family to the United States – the land of opportunity and dreams. After arriving via Ellis Island, her visions of a better life are quickly tattered when the Lower East Side isn’t easy to survive as a Russian Jewish family.

Over the next 70 years, Malka transforms herself into Lillian Dunkle, “The Ice Cream Queen.” She creates her own empire, and her story involves notable moments throughout American history.

While her public persona as the Ice Cream Queen seems endearing, it’s largely a facade for a more complex, less-likable woman who was shaped by the challenges of her childhood.

The Book Girls Say…

Melissa loves stories that span a lifetime because you can see the evolution of characters and how decisions are impacted by past events. This book is no exception. It’s also a realistic look at immigration in the 1910s and daily life for new immigrants in Manhattan during that period.

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Books Spanning a Character’s Lifetime

Memphis book cover

Book Girls’ Readers Rate This Book

95% Would Recommend to a Friend

Book Summary

This novel spans over seventy years while tracing three generations of a Southern Black family.

In the summer of 1995, 10-year-old Joan, her mother, and her younger sister escaped her father’s explosive temper by fleeing to her mother’s hometown of Memphis. Here, half a century earlier, Joan’s grandfather built a majestic house in the historic Black neighborhood of Douglass. He was then lynched just days after becoming the city’s first Black detective.

As she gets older, Joan finds comfort in art and begins painting portraits of the community in Memphis. One of her subjects is their mysterious neighbor, Miss Dawn, who holds secrets to the past. Her stories will help Joan discover how her passion, imagination, and relentless hope are part of a long family tradition. With a paintbrush in her hand, Joan comes to understand that her mother, her grandmother, and the women before them made impossible choices to allow her more choices of her own.

The Book Girls Say…

Reviewers say that the city of Memphis is described in such detail that it becomes a character in the novel. Told in a non-linear timeline, this story blends real historical events into the fictional narrative. It’s described as heartbreaking and engrossing.

The Magnificent Lives of Marjorie Post

Book Girls’ Readers Rate This Book

94% Would Recommend to a Friend

Book Summary

Although this book is classified as historical fiction, it’s based on a larger-than-life real woman with an equally large heart. In her childhood, Majorie worked on gluing cereal boxes together for her father, the creator of Grape-Nuts, followed by the successful Post cereal empire. His company led the family to extreme wealth, but Majorie wasn’t content to sit at home as American royalty.

While entertaining the rich and famous was part of her life, she also wasn’t afraid to get her hands dirty. Her extraordinary life included everything from outrunning Nazis to serving the homeless during the Great Depression. She was also married four times and built impressive real estate along the way, including now-infamous Mar-a-Lago.

The Book Girls Say…

Because she was born in 1887 and lived through 1973, this book includes highlights of world history throughout that formative era. Everything is told chronologically from a first-person perspective, so you’ll quickly feel a part of Marjorie’s life. And you’ll undoubtedly recognize the many ways in which her life has touched your own through General Foods.

Atomic Weight of Love book cover

Book Girls’ Readers Rate This Book

94% Would Recommend to a Friend

Book Summary

Meridian is smart and ambitious, which isn’t the expectation of young women in her time. She’s obsessed with birds and is pursuing her PhD to become an ornithologist. However, her brilliant physics professor, Allen, becomes quite a distraction from her plans when they fall in love.

When Allen is recruited to Los Alamos for a secret wartime project, Meridian reluctantly gives up her goals to join him. Before long, she’s unwillingly taken on the role of traditional housewife. Years later, Meridian meets a Vietnam Vet who opens her eyes to how much she has given up. But is it too late to pursue her dreams now?

The Book Girls Say…

Our readers who selected this book as their New Mexico title for the Read Around the USA Challenge call it beautifully written and thought-provoking. They also say you’ll need to keep the tissues within reach.

Hidden Figures book cover

Book Girls’ Readers Rate This Book

92% Would Recommend to a Friend

Book Summary

This remarkable non-fiction account of a group of Black female mathematicians – known as “human computers.” They enabled some of America’s most outstanding space achievements, like launching the first unmanned rockets, followed by astronauts.

While brilliant Black women were originally relegated to teaching math in segregated public schools, many of these women suddenly found new opportunities open to them when the aeronautics industry suffered labor shortages during WWII. As a result, NASA was in dire need of anyone who possessed high-level math skills. This book interweaves the stories of four African American women who answered the call over three decades. These women participated in some of NASA’s greatest successes from WWII through the Cold War, the Civil Rights Movement, and the Space Race.

The Book Girls Say…

While we always proclaim The Book is Better, in this case we recommend you watch the movie after reading Hidden Figures. While the film covers only the slice of time leading up to NASA’s Mercury 7 launch, it does an excellent job of portraying the challenges these brilliant women faced. They crossed gender and racial barriers in an era where their field was dominated by men and Jim Crow laws also enforced segregation and discrimination against African Americans.

Book Girls’ Readers Rate This Book

100% Would Recommend to a Friend

Book Summary

Kerala, on India’s southern coast, is a slender, coastal state with almost 373 miles of Arabian Sea coast and beaches. Being surrounded by water makes this a popular tourist destination. But for the family at the heart of this novel, being surrounded by water has plagued three generations. In every generation, at least one person dies by drowning.

This new literary fiction epic is a tale of love, faith, and medicine in which the family is seeking answers to this strange secret. The family is part of a Christian community that traces itself to the time of the apostles, but times are shifting, and the matriarch of this family, known as Big Ammachi—literally “Big Mother”—will witness unthinkable changes at home and at large over the span of her extraordinary life.

The Book Girls Say…

This new release is a hefty book, at over 700 pages, but. like Verghese’s past work, it receives rave reviews! With elements of magical realism and straddles myth and reality. You’ll be transported Kerala, where you’ll experience all of the sights and sounds, including clothing, dance, music, architecture, customs, food, and so much more.

A tip, though – keep your dictionary handy if you’re a little rusty on your Latin or anatomy. The author, Abraham Verghese, is a doctor and a professor at the Stanford University School of Medicine. His medical expertise is apparent throughout the book. But, as was the case with Cutting for Stone, some readers may find the descriptions of surgical procedures a bit too graphic.

Palisades Park book cover

Book Girls’ Readers Rate This Book

94% Would Recommend to a Friend

Book Summary

The Palisades Amusement Park was magical in the 1930s, especially for seven-year-old Toni. She helps out with her parent’s french fry stand along with her brother, Jack. Toni is especially fascinated by the high diver act, even though her mom tells her girls can’t be high divers.

Over the years, the family endures the world’s hard times – from the Great Depression and Pearl Harbor to race riots in the park. Each summer, they came back together at the park until it closed in 1971. The publisher says, “Palisades Park takes us back to a time when life seemed simpler—except, of course, it wasn’t.”

The Book Girls Say…

This historical fiction read was written by the author of Molaka’i, so if you’ve enjoyed that popular title, this would be a great pick!

Mademoiselle Chanel Book Cover

Book Girls’ Readers Rate This Book

96% Would Recommend to a Friend

Book Summary

Few names are as synonymous with chic glamour as Coco Chanel. However, all your opinions of the woman who created the classic little black dress could change after reading this historical fiction account of her entire life.

From her humble beginnings as an orphan to her determination to keep her atelier afloat during WW2, this book details the decisions that led to her lasting name recognition. 

The Book Girls Say…

Melissa was fascinated by Coco Chanel’s changing position in life throughout this book, along with several other surprising aspects, like her relationship with the Nazis as they invaded Paris. It’s well-researched and largely biographical but told in novel form.

Paper Names book cover

Book Girls’ Readers Rate This Book

100% Would Recommend to a Friend

Book Summary

This unique novel shares an immigrant story in a whole new way, exploring what it means to be American in New York City from three perspectives over thirty years.

Tony is a Chinese-born engineer who immigrated to the US and took a job as a doorman in hopes of providing more opportunities for his family. Daughter Tammy is nine at the start of the book, and this is in part a coming-of-age story of her upbringing in Queens, New York. As she grows up and enters adulthood, you’ll see the weight of expectations so many first-generations carry, along with how those expectations interact with her personal desires.

The final point of view is from Oliver, who lives in the building where Tony works. He’s a wealthy white lawyer with a dark secret. An unexpected act of violence brings Oliver together with Tony’s family. As the book progresses, you’ll see the ripple effects of decisions along with ways that love can overcome differences.

The Book Girls Say…

This literary fiction novel is highly praised by those who enjoy reflective, generational, character-driven stories.

Vanderbilt: The Rise and Fall of an American Dynasty book cover

Book Girls’ Readers Rate This Book

100% Would Recommend to a Friend

Book Summary

Journalist Anderson Cooper, whose mother was Gloria Vanderbilt, teamed up with New York Times bestselling historian and novelist Katherine Howe to write this in-depth account of the triumphs and tragedies of one of America’s most legendary dynasties from an insider’s point of view.

It all began with Cornelius Vanderbilt, who was known as The Commodore. Throughout the 1800s, he built two empires – one in shipping and one in railroads, becoming the wealthiest man in America. When he died in 1877, his heirs began fighting over his fortune, fracturing the family in ways that would never fully heal.

This book traces the family’s history, and their influence on American capitalism, from the hardscrabble wharves of old Manhattan to the lavish drawing rooms of the Gilded Age, and from their ornate 72-room summer estate in Rhode Island to Europe.

The Book Girls Say…

This book focuses more on the family and less on the business side, and the authors don’t shy away from hard truths. Be aware that this book is not written in a chronological timeline, but most readers say it flows nicely.

Also Featured on These Book Lists:

Gilded Age Books

The Dearly Beloved book cover

Book Girls’ Readers Rate This Book

95% Would Recommend to a Friend

Book Summary

It’s 1963 in Greenwich Village when Charles, Lily, James, and Nan meet. Charles was destined to follow in his father’s footsteps – a history professor at Harvard – until a lecture about faith led him instead into ministry. James comes from a challenging Chicago family with an alcoholic father and an anxious mother. Charles and James cross paths when they are both hired to lead the historic Third Presbyterian Church through turbulent times. Their personal differences make it challenging for them to work together.

Charles meets Lily, a fiercely intelligent woman who tells him she’ll never believe in God. Although they don’t make any sense together, he can’t help falling in love. James is drawn to Nan, who grew up in a devout Mississippi family as the daughter of a minister and debutante. James is full of skepticism, and Nan’s constant faith helps to guide him.

The Dearly Beloved follows these two couples through many years of love, friendship, jealousy, and forgiveness. Together, these couples face life’s many challenges, from marriage and parenthood to death and grieving and everything in between. The novel explores faith, motherhood, women’s liberation, friendship, and even autism. You’ll initially be immersed in the early 1960s – a time caught between conservatism and revolution – and then, as the story progresses, you’ll see the four main characters set against the backdrop of major changes in New York City.

The Book Girls Say…

Readers say that although this book includes a philosophical exploration of faith, it is not a book about theology or religion. At its core, this is the story of four people and their lives, failures, struggles, and successes.

If you’re looking for another book that follows two couples throughout several decades of marriage, friendship, and life’s challenges – but without the religious undertones – we recommend Good Company by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney. This book gets lower reviews, but Angela really enjoyed it and especially recommends it for theater lovers.

Also Featured on These Book Lists:

Books Spanning a Character’s Lifetime

A Gentleman in Moscow book cover

Book Girls’ Readers Rate This Book

90% Would Recommend to a Friend

Book Summary

Count Alexander Rostov is sentenced to house arrest in the Metropol, a grand luxury hotel across the street from the Kremlin.

Deemed an unrepentant aristocrat, Rostov has never worked a day in his life and must now live in an attic room while some of the most tumultuous decades in Russian history unfold outside the hotel’s doors.

The Book Girls Say…

This one is high on our want-to-read list because the reviews all rave about the gorgeously descriptive language and the extremely satisfying ending.

Peach Blossom Spring Book Cover

Book Girls’ Readers Rate This Book

100% Would Recommend to a Friend

Book Summary

This novel follows three generations of a Chinese family searching for a place to call home. In 1938, Meilin is a young wife with a bright future in China. But when the Japanese army approaches, she is forced to flee with her 4-year-old son Renshu. With nothing but an illustrated scroll that depicts ancient fables, Meilin travels from rural China to Shanghai to Taiwan. These fables are interwoven into the novel.

Years later, Renshu settled in the US under the name Henry Dao. Despite his daughter Lily’s desire to understand her heritage, he refuses to share any information about his childhood. He believes the only way to keep his family safe is to shield them from their history.

The Book Girls Say…

This multigenerational epic has been compared to Pachinko, which has been extremely popular with our readers, so we have a good feeling that you’ll love Peach Blossom Spring.

Also Featured on These Book Lists:

Books Set in Asia: Northern Countries

Black Cake book cover

Book Girls’ Readers Rate This Book

93% Would Recommend to a Friend

Book Summary

This novel opens in present-day California shortly after Eleanor’s death. She has left behind a voice recording for her two adult children – Byron and Benny. She’s also left them a traditional Caribbean black cake that she tells them to share “when the time is right.”

Her children, it turns out, only know a small part of their mom’s life story. Posthumously, Eleanor is finally ready to share her truth so that Byron and Benny can truly know and understand their family history.

As the story unfolds, everything that her children thought they knew about their lineage and themselves will be rocked to the core, and by the time they finally share the black cake, another person will be joining them at the table.

The Book Girls Say…

Although Eleanor has already died when this novel begins, through her voice recordings, this novel traces the story of her life and shows how the choices she made over the years impacted not only her future but also those of everyone in her family.

Angela rated this book five stars and highly recommends the audiobook version because the accents really bring the story to life.

Black Cake has been adapted into a steaming television series on Hulu.

The Aviator's Wife Book Cover

Book Girls’ Readers Rate This Book

100% Would Recommend to a Friend

Book Summary

This historical fiction novel traces the life of Anne Morrow, who was a shy college senior the first time she met Colonel Charles Lindbergh shortly after his famed 1927 solo flight across the Atlantic. Their wedding made headlines, but that was just the beginning. In the following years, Anne was the first woman in the US to become a licensed glider pilot and one of the first licensed radio operators. Still, despite her intelligence and accomplishments, she remained known as just the “aviator’s wife.”

Throughout the decades, the Lindberghs’ marriage took them to new highs and devastating lows, including the tragic kidnapping of their first son and Charles’ affairs. Through it all, the Lindberghs became fodder for the earliest paparazzi.

In West Mills book cover

Book Girls’ Readers Rate This Book

95% Would Recommend to a Friend

Book Summary

Azalea “Knot” Centre loves moonshine, literature, and the company of men. But living in the rural African American town of West Mills, North Carolina, in the early 1940s, this lifestyle is not held in high regard. In her 20s, Knot discovers that she’s pregnant and the father has left town for the military.

Ostracized by her relatives and cut off from her hometown, Knot is determined to go it alone. But her neighbor, Otis Lee, is committed to helping Knot because he could not help his own sister.

This is a story of family, friendship, love, and redemption spanning four decades.

Book Girls’ Readers Rate This Book

98% Would Recommend to a Friend

Book Summary

Evelyn Hugo lived a glamorous and scandalous life, but doesn’t like to talk about it and has become reclusive after leaving her career. When the movie icon is finally ready to talk about her time in show business, she picks an unknown reporter to log her personal history, but why?

You’ll slowly unwrap Evelyn’s life from the 1950s – 1980s as she chronicles her past life and relationships, including the seven husbands she had along the way. As the book covers so much of her life, it moves quickly and will keep you engaged and entertained for hours.

28 Summers book cover

Book Girls’ Readers Rate This Book

94% Would Recommend to a Friend

Book Summary

In 1993, Mallory inherited a beach cottage in Nantucket and decided to embrace the unexpected gift and move to the island full-time. Shortly after, she hosts a bachelor party for her brother and meets his friend from college, Jake.

After things go wrong for other attendees, Mallory and Jake are left alone for the rest of the weekend. They have undeniable chemistry. After watching the classic movie, Same Time Next Year, they decide to continue getting together one weekend every summer, no matter what.

As the title suggests, the book spans 28 years of these secret meetings, one chapter per year from 1993-2020. You’ll keep the pages turning to find out how their lives change individually and together each year as Mallory and Jake go from college through career, love, and loss.

The chapters start with a fun recap of what was happening in the world each year, and you’ll be transported through time as their lives move forward.

The Book Girls Say…

This was a 5-star read for both of us, and our readers rated it their second favorite of all of Elin Hilderbrand’s popular beach reads. Be aware that this book does deal with infidelity.

Keep the Kleenex ready for the ending. Then, pick up the novella sequel, The Sixth Wedding. This 76-page follow-up takes place during the Labor Day weekend of 2023, providing answers to lingering questions about some of the main characters and wrapping up storylines for some of the secondary characters.

If you loved the yearly updates in 28 Summers, you may also like One Day by David Nicholls. On their graduation day in Edinburgh, July 15th, 1988, Emma and Dexter meet for the first time. Although they set out in different directions the next day, each chapter checks in on their friendship on July 15th each subsequent year for the next two decades.

Five Presidents book cover

Book Girls’ Readers Rate This Book

98% Would Recommend to a Friend

Book Summary

In this memoir, Clint Hill reflects on his seventeen years on the White House Secret Service detail under Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, and Ford, shedding light on the personalities of five of the most powerful men in the world, and giving a unique insider perspective on many historical events of the 50s, 60s, and 70s.

Clint Hill also wrote another memoir – Ms. Kennedy and Me – about his time as Jackie Kennedy’s personal secret service agent throughout her years as First Lady.

Both of Hill’s memoirs are vivid and insightful without feeling gossipy, and he provides an in-depth look at the politics of the day without feeling political.

The Book Girls Say…

While Clint Hill does not narrate his own memoirs, the audio versions are very well done and make you feel as if you’ve been transported back in time to witness all of the events firsthand. Both Angela and her husband really enjoyed the history in this book.

Also Featured on These Book Lists:

Must-Listen Memoirs
Best Audiobooks for Road Trips

Book Girls’ Readers Rate This Book

95% Would Recommend to a Friend

Book Summary

Korea’s Jeju Island has a fascinating real-life history of female deep-sea free divers called Haenyeo, who collect seaweed, clams, and abalone. Inspired by this history, this novel tells the story of Mi-ja and Young-sook – two best friends from very different backgrounds despite both growing up on Jeju island. As soon as they are old enough, they take their place as “baby divers” in the village’s all-female diving operation, led by Young-sook’s mom. This is the beginning of a life of excitement and responsibility for the two friends but also a life filled with danger.

The Island of Sea Women takes place over many decades, beginning in the 1930s, throughout WWII and the Korean War, and all the way up to the era of cell phones.

Over the years, the residents of Jeju are caught between warring empires, which often makes it difficult for Mi-ja and Young-soon to ignore their differences – especially when Mi-ja’s father becomes a Japanese collaborator. As the years go on, forces beyond their control will drive their friendship to a breaking point.

The Book Girls Say…

Before picking up this book, be aware that this is a very heavy read that includes some prolonged scenes of graphic violence. Despite being heart-wrenching, most readers find it to be a worthwhile story that is ultimately about strength and forgiveness.

Also Featured on These Book Lists:

Books Set in Asia: Northern Countries

Roses book cover

Book Girls’ Readers Rate This Book

100% Would Recommend to a Friend

Book Summary

This epic novel is set in a small town in eastern Texas against the backdrop of the powerful timber and cotton industries controlled by the town’s founding families. Cotton tycoon Mary Toliver and timber magnate Percy Warwick should have married, but they did not. That choice leads to deceit, secrets, and tragedies for future generations. This is an immersive family saga covering a hundred years and three generations.

The Book Girls Say…

This book was first recommended to us by author Camille Di Maio when we interviewed her about one of her historical fiction novels. She mentioned that she is from Texas, and one of our readers asked her to recommend her favorite books set there. She said that she first picked up Roses to support a fellow Texas author, but didn’t expect to like it. Instead, it became one of her all-time favorite novels.

Clocking in at over 600 pages, this book requires an investment of time, but Camille and most reviewers assure us it’s well worth it. Meacham published Roses in 2010 and then wrote a prequel titled Somerset, in 2013.

All the Ways We Said Goodbye Book Cover

Book Girls’ Readers Rate This Book

100% Would Recommend to a Friend

Book Summary

This historical fiction moves from the dark days of WWI and WWII to the turbulent years of the 1960s. In each era, the women with bruised hearts – an heiress, a Resistance fighter, and a widow – find refuge at the legendary Ritz Hotel in Paris.

Dutch House book cover

Book Girls’ Readers Rate This Book

83% Would Recommend to a Friend

Book Summary

Cyril grew up in poverty, but after WW2, an investment changed the course of his future. With his enormous new wealth, he buys a lavish estate named the Dutch House in a Philly suburb. While he buys it with the best intentions as a surprise for his wife, the home is also the beginning of his family’s downfall.

The book’s narrator is his son Danny as he and his beloved sister Maeve are exiled from the grand house by their stepmother. For five decades after being thrown back into poverty, Danny and Maeve return to look at the home from beyond the gates, like checking in on a relative. The only thing keeping the siblings moving forward in life is their bond with each other.

The Book Girls Say…

The audiobook is narrated by Tom Hanks, so this is a fabulous listen for anyone who loves a literary family drama! This novel was a Pulitzer Prize finalist as well as a Goodreads Choice Award nominee for Best Historical Fiction in 2019.

Lady in Waiting Book Cover

Book Girls’ Readers Rate This Book

96% Would Recommend to a Friend

Book Summary

Even the juiciest Hollywood tell-alls have nothing on this royal memoir from Anne Glenconner, who was a friend and official Lady in Waiting to Princess Margaret.

The book covers her full life to date, from teenage years through her late 80s. While Princess Margaret is involved in some of the stories, the book is not directly focused on the royal family. Instead, it’s all about Anne’s unbelievable life, which was marked by both incredible privilege and extreme tragedy that overlaps some of the major events of the 20th century, including the war on drugs and the AIDs epidemic.

The Book Girls Say…

This book is perfect for fans of The Crown, but if that’s not your thing, then this book probably won’t be, either.

We highly recommend listening to this one as an audiobook because Anne Glenconner narrates it herself and her proper British voice adds magic to the unbelievable stories.

HEADS UP: Don’t listen with your kiddos around. Some of the stories go from innocent to risqué with no warning.

The Supremes at Earl's All-You-Can-Eat book cover

Book Girls’ Readers Rate This Book

95% Would Recommend to a Friend

Book Summary

Three friends – dubbed “The Supremes” by pals – have been meeting at Earl’s All-You-Can-Eat diner in Plainview, Indiana since their high school days in the tumultuous 1960s.

For more than four decades, they’ve been by each other’s side through life’s ups and downs and the book follows their evolving friendships over the years. Now, Clarice struggles to keep up appearances as she deals with her husband’s humiliating infidelities. Barbara Jean is rocked by the tragic reverberations of a youthful love affair. And fearless Odette is about to embark on the most terrifying battle of her life.

The Book Girls Say…

This book has been described as The Help meets Fried Green Tomatoes with a dash of Steel Magnolias.

Also Featured on These Book Lists:

Books Spanning a Character’s Lifetime

Mrs. Everything book cover

Book Girls’ Readers Rate This Book

87% Would Recommend to a Friend

Book Summary

Growing up in a picture-perfect house in Detroit in the 1950s, Jo and Bethie are Jewish sisters who each have a clearly defined role in their family.

Jo is the bookish tomboy with a strong sense of fairness, and Bethie is the good girl who enjoys the power that comes from her beauty. The sisters come of age in the 1960s against the backdrop of free love, Vietnam, Woodstock, and feminism.

Good-girl Bethie becomes a wild child who is drawn to all things counterculture. On the other hand, Jo follows the expected path and becomes a young wife living in Connecticut – no part of which is true to herself. Through the decades, neither woman has been leading the life she really wants. Jo sees the world changing, but she’s a witness rather than a participant. Bethie endures many traumas and struggles with how the world sees her versus how she sees herself.

It will take many more years for both sisters to become their true selves finally, and even longer for them to find their way back to one another.

The Book Girls Say…

Jo and Bethie are the author’s take on Little Woman’s sisters, Jo and Beth, and the character of Jo is also based loosely on the author’s mother.

As the title implies, this book has a little of everything, from the fashion and design trends of the times to the most significant topics in American society, including race, religion, politics, and more.

This novel also examines much more personal issues like the loss of a parent, sexual orientation, and body image. Because it covers so much ground, some readers will love joining Jo and Bethie’s world, while others may feel like the 460-page book gets too detailed and goes on a bit too long in parts.

Heads Up: This book includes some scenes of molestation and consensual sex.

Kindle Unlimited as of: 11/03/2023

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.

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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.

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FIND YOUR PERFECT BOOK LIST

Angela & Melissa

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.

Teri

Friday 17th of November 2023

this was my first year doing a challenge and the Decades Challenge was a great way to start. I have loved all the books I've chosen from your wonderfully curated lists. And now this December list, well, there is not enough time in the month to read all the books that piqued my interest -- for me, it's the best list of the year! Thank you so much; I'm looking forward to next year's challenges.

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