75 books like Back Then

By Justin Kaplan, Anne Bernays,

Here are 75 books that Back Then fans have personally recommended if you like Back Then. Shepherd is a community of 11,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Book cover of The Promised Land

Pamela S. Nadell Author Of America's Jewish Women: A History from Colonial Times to Today

From my list on memoirs through the voices of women.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a professor of history and Jewish studies at American University and author of America’s Jewish Women: A History from Colonial Times to Today, winner of the National Jewish Book Award – 2019 Jewish Book of the Year. Since childhood I have been reading stories of women’s lives and tales set in Jewish communities across time and space. Yet, the voices that so often best evoke the past are those captured on the pages of great memoirs.

Pamela's book list on memoirs through the voices of women

Pamela S. Nadell Why did Pamela love this book?

When we think of the memoirs, especially immigrant memoirs, contemporary literature pops out —Frank McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes, Maxine Hong Kingston’s The Woman Warrior.  But long before their families came to America, more than a hundred years ago, another immigrant family, this one Jewish, landed in Boston. In 1912, at the age of thirty, Mary Antin told their story. Her tale of flight from the land of oppression to the land of freedom has remained in print for over a century, the quintessential memoir of the world opened to a young child who thirsted to learn and to live.

By Mary Antin,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Promised Land as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Promised Land is a compelling account of one woman's journey from Polotsk to Boston and her attempts to embrace a new culture and identity. Author Mary Antin highlights the old values and contemporary views that shaped her immigrant experience.



In The Promised Land, Antin recounts the many obstacles she encountered before and after emigrating to the U.S. Arriving in 1894, she details the years in Boston where she attempted to assimilate while facing religious, political and financial challenges. Despite hidden pitfalls and social barriers, Antin continued to make strides towards her American dream.

Although it centers a specific experience,…


Book cover of Bronx Primitive: Portraits in a Childhood

Pamela S. Nadell Author Of America's Jewish Women: A History from Colonial Times to Today

From my list on memoirs through the voices of women.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a professor of history and Jewish studies at American University and author of America’s Jewish Women: A History from Colonial Times to Today, winner of the National Jewish Book Award – 2019 Jewish Book of the Year. Since childhood I have been reading stories of women’s lives and tales set in Jewish communities across time and space. Yet, the voices that so often best evoke the past are those captured on the pages of great memoirs.

Pamela's book list on memoirs through the voices of women

Pamela S. Nadell Why did Pamela love this book?

In this evocative memoir, the first in a series of three and a New York Times 1982 best book of the year, Simon, a travel writer, captures the world of an immigrant child growing up in the Bronx in the 1920s. Their fathers were harsh disciplinarians; mothers knew abortion to be the most effective birth control; and daughters saw poor scores in math crush their dreams. A story of triumph over the odds, of female rebellion, and of the many ways of learning, this memoir evokes a bygone world that also feels very contemporary.

By Kate Simon,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Bronx Primitive as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"As an account of growing up female, it is a fit companion piece to Mary McCarthy's classic Memoirs of a Catholic Girlhood." Le Anne Schreiber, The New York Times.


Book cover of All-Of-A-Kind Family

Pamela S. Nadell Author Of America's Jewish Women: A History from Colonial Times to Today

From my list on memoirs through the voices of women.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a professor of history and Jewish studies at American University and author of America’s Jewish Women: A History from Colonial Times to Today, winner of the National Jewish Book Award – 2019 Jewish Book of the Year. Since childhood I have been reading stories of women’s lives and tales set in Jewish communities across time and space. Yet, the voices that so often best evoke the past are those captured on the pages of great memoirs.

Pamela's book list on memoirs through the voices of women

Pamela S. Nadell Why did Pamela love this book?

In 1951, Sydney Taylor invented the memorable Brenners—papa, mama, five sisters, and baby brother—a Jewish family on the Lower East Side in turn-of-the-century New York. Taylor’s words and Helen John’s illustrations in this book, the first in a series, set the scene. A calendar in the parlor announced that it was 1912. Tenements lined city streets. When I read these novels as a child, I did not yet know that they were closely based on Taylor’s own life. When the entire series was republished in 2014, I quipped: I became a Jewish historian because of these books. 

By Sydney Taylor,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked All-Of-A-Kind Family as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 8, 9, 10, and 11.

What is this book about?

Meet the All-of-a-Kind  Family -- Ella, Henny, Sarah, Charlotte, and Gertie -- who live with their parents in New York City at the turn of the century.

Together they share adventures that find them searching for hidden buttons while dusting Mama's front parlor and visiting with the peddlers in Papa's shop on rainy days. The girls enjoy doing everything together, especially when it involves holidays and surprises.

But no one could have prepared them for the biggest surprise of all!


Book cover of The Ravine: A Family, a Photograph, a Holocaust Massacre Revealed

Isabel Vincent Author Of Overture of Hope: Two Sisters' Daring Plan that Saved Opera's Jewish Stars from the Third Reich

From my list on heroes and anti-heroes in WW2 and the Holocaust.

Why am I passionate about this?

I became interested in the Holocaust and the Second World War during my senior year of high school. I took a literature class entitled “Man’s Inhumanity to Man,” which focused a great deal on the literature that emerged from the Holocaust. At the end of the year, I had the great honor to meet author and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel who had actually read my essay (my teacher knew him, and gave it to him to read) and encouraged me to keep writing. I am fascinated by stories of survival and the quiet heroism that characterized women like Ida and Louise Cook.

Isabel's book list on heroes and anti-heroes in WW2 and the Holocaust

Isabel Vincent Why did Isabel love this book?

Historian Wendy Lower focuses on a single photograph taken in October 1941 that shows a group of soldiers shooting a woman who clutches the hand of a little boy just before they fall into a mass grave in Miropol, Ukraine.

This is a gripping and impeccably researched account of the killers, the victims, and the photographer who took the haunting image. Lower combs through public records and archives, and relies on interviews with local residents to reconstruct mass atrocities. Lower’s descriptions of her dogged determination to reconstruct the scene of the crime reads like a thriller.

By Wendy Lower,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Ravine as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Winner, 2022 National Jewish Book Award

Shortlist, 2022 Wingate Literary Prize

A single photograph—an exceptionally rare “action shot” documenting the horrific final moment of the murder of a family—drives a riveting process of discovery for a gifted Holocaust scholar


In 2009, the acclaimed author of Hitler’s Furies was shown a photograph just brought to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. The documentation of the Holocaust is vast, but there are virtually no images of a Jewish family at the actual moment of murder, in this case by German officials and Ukrainian collaborators. A Ukrainian shooter’s rifle is inches from a…


Book cover of Round Up the Usual Suspects: The Making of Casablanca: Bogart, Bergman, and World War II

Robert Matzen Author Of Season of the Gods

From my list on old Hollywood in general (and Warner Brothers in particular).

Why am I passionate about this?

My dad instilled in me a love of, and respect for, history and an avid interest in golden-era Hollywood. In my adult life as a professional writer, that paternal guidance has translated into eight books about various aspects of old Hollywood, with a growing focus on the intersection of Hollywood and World War II. My career to date was punctuated by the international success of Dutch Girl: Audrey Hepburn and World War II, which detailed the future star’s very hard life in the Netherlands under Nazi occupation. Dad didn’t live long enough to know I’d written anything, let alone a number of books he would have enjoyed reading. 

Robert's book list on old Hollywood in general (and Warner Brothers in particular)

Robert Matzen Why did Robert love this book?

When a New York Times correspondent and Yale Fellow sits down to write a book about the making of Casablanca for its 50th anniversary, one expects quality, and Harmetz delivers by detailing the times and people who created and marketed the timeless classic.

This book served as a primary source during the writing of my book. The extensively researched and footnoted book was repackaged in 2002 as The Making of Casablanca: Bogart, Bergman, and World War II and remains in print more than 30 years after its initial release.

Book cover of God is My Co-Pilot

Jay A. Stout Author Of Jayhawk: Love, Loss, Liberation, and Terror Over the Pacific

From my list on personal accounts of World War II air combat.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am an aviation historian and writer, a defense analyst, and a retired, combat-experienced, Marine Corps fighter pilot. I am one of the lucky ones. Since early childhood, I wanted nothing more than to become a fighter pilot. It was a combination of good fortune, hard work, and a bit of talent that made it possible for me to realize that dream. I was inspired by the memoirs and recollections of World War II fighter pilots, and I read every book on the topic that I could find.  Following my military service, I transitioned from a reader to a writer; my experience as a military pilot helps to make my books real and credible.

Jay's book list on personal accounts of World War II air combat

Jay A. Stout Why did Jay love this book?

The archetypal combat flying story, this is an easy, fun, and eye-opening book that Scott wrote only months after returning from the war. Scott clearly loved to fly and had done so since the early 1930s after graduating from West Point. Resourceful and tenacious, he received command of a fighter group in China after having been officially told the previous year that he was too old (at the ripe old age of 33) to fly fighters. This is a rollicking read that will be enjoyed by readers of all ages.

By Robert L. Scott,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked God is My Co-Pilot as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This book was issued during World War II, in conformity with all government regulations controlling the use of paper and other materials (so stated on copyright page). The author, Colonel Robert L. Scott, Jr., consistently scheduled himself as a pilot on all possible missions. He led all types of combat missions, but specialized in the most dangerous, such as long-range flights to strafe from minimum altitudes Jap airdromes, motor vehicles, and shipping deep in enemy territory. Colonel Scott’s group of fighters always operated against greatly superior numbers of the enemy. Often the odds were five to one against them. This…


Book cover of Such a Pretty Girl

Molly O'Keefe Author Of The Sunshine Girls

From my list on historical fiction NOT set during World War II.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have loved historical novels since my mom first read Anne of Green Gables to me as a kid. They are the novels I reach for first and love the most. The creative glimpse into other times and lives is, to me, the most exciting reading experience. I hope you enjoy these books as much as I do. My latest book – The Sunshine Girls is a dual narrative timeline, set in the current day and the 1960s-1980s. 

Molly's book list on historical fiction NOT set during World War II

Molly O'Keefe Why did Molly love this book?

NYC in the ’70s gets the spotlight with all of its grit and glitter in this extremely thoughtful and thought-provoking novel about a mother and daughter. It’s not just rich in fascinating detail about the time and setting, it’s a nuanced look at women’s sexuality and the price of fame and family obligations.

By T. Greenwood,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Such a Pretty Girl as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Perfect for fans of Taylor Jenkins Reid, Jodi Picoult, and Emma Cline, this vividly lyrical, evocative novel from the award-winning author transports readers to the gritty atmosphere of 1970s New York City as the precarious lines between girl and woman, art and obscenity, fetish and fame flicker and ignite for a young girl on the brink of stardom and a mother on the verge of collapse.

“A gorgeously written, emotionally resonant novel about mothers and daughters.” —Jillian Cantor, USA Today bestselling author

In 1970s New York, her innocence is seductive.
Four decades later, it’s a crime...

Living peacefully in Vermont,…


Book cover of Grand Central: Original Stories of Postwar Love and Reunion

Linda Ulleseit Author Of Unlocked: A Paper Lantern Writers Anthology

From my list on historical fiction anthologies.

Why am I passionate about this?

We are the Paper Lantern Writers, an author collective focused on historical fiction of all eras. From Medieval Europe to the Gilded Age (and beyond), in locales around the world, from romantic to tragic and back again, our books will take you on the journeys of a lifetime. There’s a story to be told every where you look and we'd love to be your tour guide. Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube, and join our Facebook group SHINE.

Linda's book list on historical fiction anthologies

Linda Ulleseit Why did Linda love this book?

This book features stories by different authors who envision the crowds of people passing through Grand Central Station in New York and choose to tell ten stories of people returning from Europe at the end of World War II. It’s a time of upheaval and great change in the world and in their lives. I love when the macrocosm of the world can be distilled down to a single person’s story.

By Melanie Benjamin, Jenna Blum, Amanda Hodgkinson , Pam Jenoff , Sarah Jio , Sarah McCoy , Kristina McMorris , Alyson Richman , Erika Robuck , Karen White

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Grand Central as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Ten bestselling authors inspired by New York City's iconic Grand Central Terminal have created their own stories, set on the same day, just after the end of World War II, in a time of hope, uncertainty, change, and renewal….

A war bride awaits the arrival of her GI husband at the platform…A Holocaust survivor works at the Oyster Bar, where a customer reminds him of his late mother…A Hollywood hopeful anticipates her first screen test and a chance at stardom in the Kissing Room…
 
On any particular day, thousands upon thousands of people pass through Grand Central, through the whispering…


Book cover of Annihilation Beach: A Story about the Horrific Marine Battle for Tarawa: Day One

Herb Marlow Author Of Gunner Hobbs: WWII in the Pacific! Tulagi! Tarawa! Saipan!

From my list on Pacific island combat World War II.

Why am I passionate about this?

Since childhood, I have been fascinated by accounts of the Second World War, particularly the war in the Pacific Theater. Perhaps because I had an uncle and a step-father (Bronze Star awarded for bravery) who fought in that theater. I joined the U.S. Navy in 1958 and traveled in the USS Bennington, CVS 20, too many of the islands captured by the Japanese in blood-soaked battles–Pearl Harbor, Guam, Okinawa, Midway, and the Philippines. Further, I was stationed at Atsugi Naval Air Station in Japan for twenty months, which allowed me to look into World War II history from the other side. 

Herb's book list on Pacific island combat World War II

Herb Marlow Why did Herb love this book?

I was and am fascinated by accounts of the Battle of Tarawa. As James Dwyer’s book relates, the battle was a brutal series of Navy and Marine mistakes by the attack leaders from day one.

I particularly like the way he uses the fictional voices of Marines and Japanese Rikosentia (basically Japanese Marines) to tell the story of the terrible battle with its ‘horrific’ casualty rates on both sides.

By James F Dwyer,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Annihilation Beach as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Before the historic battle for Iwo Jima was fought...there was Tarawa!!! Experience the incredible horrors and the distinguished heroism of the battle for Tarawa with a platoon of marines who must fight their way ashore and then battle the Japanese defenders in their hidden bunkers and foxholes! The hellacious fighting for this tiny island took place in November of 1943 and the legendary battle went on for three and a half days between the elite Japanese Rikosentai who refused to give up...and the marines of the Second Division...who refused to stop. When this bare-knuckled brawl was finally over, four Medals…


Book cover of Midnight Cowboy

Tadzio Koelb Author Of Trenton Makes

From my list on to read while American democracy implodes.

Why am I passionate about this?

As an artist whose grandparents were refugees, minorities escaping genocide, I feel driven to investigate the mechanisms of status and their relation to personal history. My work is a portrait of what I believe is the essence of the American condition—a painful cultural hangover from presumptions of privilege undermined by the collapse of exceptionalist fantasies based on race, gender, religion—and the rearguard defenses such loss triggers. I write in order to open a space where we can ask ourselves what our own roles in these mechanisms are, and to express the hope we might escape them.

Tadzio's book list on to read while American democracy implodes

Tadzio Koelb Why did Tadzio love this book?

I’m sad the brilliance of Herlihy’s novel has been overshadowed by the (admittedly also brilliant) movie it inspired. What the film can’t include is the dangerous repression of sex and sexuality, described in unrelenting detail, that defined Joe Buck’s childhood. The novel’s indictment of this tyranny and the effects it has on people, both individually and collectively, is embedded in its portrait of gay men driven to self-hatred by religion, discrimination, and social pressure. The homosocial love that develops between Buck and Ratso, Midnight Cowboy tells us, could only happen outside the boundaries—represented in the novel by middle-class economics and its accompanying pieties—of “normal” America.

By James Leo Herlihy,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Midnight Cowboy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The basis for the Oscar–winning buddy film. “There is no questioning the rampant power achieved through shriveling, shattering scenes” (Kirkus Reviews).
 
Midnight Cowboy is considered by many to be one of the best American novels published since World War II. The main story centers around Joe Buck, a naive but eager and ambitious young Texan, who decides to leave his dead-end job in search of a grand and glamorous life he believes he will find in New York City. But the city turns out to be a much more difficult place to negotiate than Joe could ever have imagined. He…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in New York City, Central Park, and the Great Depression?

11,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about New York City, Central Park, and the Great Depression.

New York City Explore 1,080 books about New York City
Central Park Explore 13 books about Central Park
The Great Depression Explore 132 books about the Great Depression