The best Gilded Age books 📚

Browse the best books on the Gilded Age as recommended by authors, experts, and creators. Along with notes on why they recommend those books.

Coming Fall 2022: The ability to sort this list by genre (signup here to follow our story as we build a better way to discover books).

Book cover of The Upswing: How America Came Together a Century Ago and How We Can Do It

The Upswing: How America Came Together a Century Ago and How We Can Do It

By Robert D. Putnam

Why this book?

The Upswing is the culminating triumph of Robert Putnam’s work on ‘social capital’, - the glue that binds people into a community. Although his book charts the trajectory of an American tragedy – the erosion of community in America over the past 60 years, it comes with an uplifting message. He shows that America has climbed out of a society rabid in self-obsession before. That upswing began around 1900 and was build bottom-up, as people came together, community-by-community. What happened then – an ‘inflection point’ in which new ideas and brute shocks combined to change the downward trajectory, is underway…

From the list:

The best books on how to renew our divided societies

When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

Book cover of Amusing the Million: Coney Island at the Turn of the Century

Amusing the Million: Coney Island at the Turn of the Century

By John F. Kasson

Why this book?

This short book, filled with delightful illustrations, is so much fun that you don’t immediately notice that it’s a powerful history of how urbanization and industrialization led to a new mass culture. The particular focus is on the rise of the amusement park, and the controversies that arose over how people “should” spend their leisure time and discretionary income. When the Russian revolutionary Maxim Gory toured Coney Island in 1907, he concluded that in America, amusement (rather than religion) had become the opiate of the masses. This book, a classic, remains relevant, inspiring thoughtful analysis concerning the ongoing power of…

From the list:

The best books on the Gilded Age and Progressive Era (1877-1920) in U.S. history

When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

Book cover of Consumers' Imperium: The Global Production of American Domesticity, 1865-1920

Consumers' Imperium: The Global Production of American Domesticity, 1865-1920

By Kristin L. Hoganson

Why this book?

We are all aware of how modern homes are filled with goods from around the world, but have you ever wondered what this looked like for nineteenth-century Americans? This is the book for you. It’s a tour de force of synthesis and imaginative research. Join Hoganson on a tour of middle-class homes in the Gilded Age and see how decoration, cooking, fictive travel, dinner parties, and other household objects were all part of a strenuous effort to appear “cosmopolitan” and to exert power through consumption of the non-western world. This is the kind of book that makes you proclaim time…

From the list:

The best books on the USA and the world in the nineteenth century

When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

Book cover of America Reformed: Progressives and Progressivisms, 1890s-1920s

America Reformed: Progressives and Progressivisms, 1890s-1920s

By Maureen A. Flanagan

Why this book?

There are many books on the reforms of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era—this one is the best.  Flanagan, who writes clearly and engagingly, centers this work on four themes: politics, social justice, economics, and foreign policy. Every chapter features lively stories and helpful illustrations. While Flanagan certainly includes excellent coverage of vital federal and state reforms, she is particularly effective in her coverage of how every day Americans, including women and various minority groups, responded to the problems confronting society.

From the list:

The best books on the Gilded Age and Progressive Era (1877-1920) in U.S. history

When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

Book cover of Gilded Age and Progressive Era

Gilded Age and Progressive Era

By William A. Link, Susannah J. Link

Why this book?

If you’re tired of historians spoon-feeding you their interpretations of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era, this great selection of the period’s documents provides an unfiltered look at what people were thinking and doing at the time in their own words. The documents are arranged thematically with four or five per section: The New South; The New West; Native Americans; Big Business; Gilded Age Society; Working People, Immigrants in the Industrial Age; Populism; The Coming of Jim Crow; Labor Protest Rebuilding American Institutions; The Political System; Imperialism and Anti-imperialism, and the Debate about World War I. This is a user-friendly…

From the list:

The best books on the Gilded Age and Progressive Era (1877-1920) in U.S. history

When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

Book cover of Ida: A Sword Among Lions

Ida: A Sword Among Lions

By Paula J. Giddings

Why this book?

To understand American race relations today, the history of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era is a vital starting point. In the wake of the Reconstruction, legalized segregation formalized institutional racism. With no federal lynch law, many states and municipalities refused to prosecute lynchings, striving instead to perpetuate myths of lynching as the only appropriate response to naturally lascivious Black men who desired inherently pure and virtuous white women. This exceptional biography traces the fascinating life of journalist and women’s suffrage advocate Ida Wells, who fearlessly fought against racism, segregation, and, especially, lynching. She was a leader in progressive era…

From the list:

The best books on the Gilded Age and Progressive Era (1877-1920) in U.S. history

When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

Or, view all 36 books about the Gilded Age

New book lists about the Gilded Age

All book lists about the Gilded Age

Bookshelves related to the Gilded Age

Browse books by…