The most recommended books about the Great Depression

Who picked these books? Meet our 145 experts.

145 authors created a book list connected to the Great Depression, and here are their favorite Great Depression books.
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What type of Great Depression book?


My America 1928-1938

By Louis Adamic,

Book cover of My America 1928-1938

Dale Maharidge Author Of Fucked at Birth: Recalibrating the American Dream for the 2020s

From the list on to understand America in the 2020s.

Who am I?

How I grew up in Ohio informs my work: my raging war-ravaged father dreams of being his own boss; in our basement he grinds steel tools on massive iron machines, a side business after his day job in a factory; as a teen, I begin grinding with him; Dad is hit by a drunk driver and he cannot work for months; I am not old or skilled enough as a machinist to save the business; our mother who drives a school bus feeds our family with charity food. I fear I will grow up to be a blue-collar worker facing all the precarity that comes with this existence.

Dale's book list on to understand America in the 2020s

Why did Dale love this book?

I grew up listening to my elders about the 1930s. I’ve read dozens of books about that decade,  and this is the best in terms of the documentation of average Americans. We absolutely must understand the 1930s to deal with what faces us in the nation and world in the 2020s. Adamic was an immigrant who believed in the potential of America, and about half of this book is his reporting around America, with a focus on the working class. The other half is memoir. The reporting is deep, the writing beautiful. 

The Crack-Up

By F. Scott Fitzgerald, Edmund Wilson (editor),

Book cover of The Crack-Up

Libby Sternberg Author Of Daisy

From the list on the tragedy of F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Who am I?

I’ve loved F. Scott Fitzgerald’s stories ever since I read The Great Gatsby as a teenager. After that, I devoured all of his works, thanks to a membership in one of those book subscription services where you have to send back monthly book selections if you don’t want them. I read almost all his short stories, all his novels, including the unfinished The Last Tycoon, and everything I could find on him and his wife Zelda. When The Great Gatsby entered the public domain a couple years ago, I started daydreaming of how I'd love to revisit the story from a fresh perspective, which led me to penning Daisy.

Libby's book list on the tragedy of F. Scott Fitzgerald

Why did Libby love this book?

This collection of essays and letters, put together by F. Scott Fitzgerald’s editor Edmund Wilson after Fitzgerald’s death, touches on the author's fall from grace, losing his popularity, his sobriety, and sometimes the respect of some fellow auteurs.

It’s almost embarrassing in its frankness, but it provides a great insight into what went wrong with this artist’s life so that he was not able to enjoy the success of his literary works in later years. In many ways, it’s an allegory for the times—from the raucous Roaring Twenties to the somber years of the Great Depression.

By F. Scott Fitzgerald, Edmund Wilson (editor),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The Crack-Up tells the story of Fitzgerald's sudden descent at the age of thirty-nine from glamorous success to empty despair, and his determined recovery. Compiled and edited by Edmund Wilson shortly after F. Scott Fitzgerald's death, this revealing collection of his essays-as well as letters to and from Gertrude Stein, Edith Wharton, T.S. Eliot, John Dos Passos-tells of a man with charm and talent to burn, whose gaiety and genius made him a living symbol of the Jazz Age, and whose recklessness brought him grief and loss. "Fitzgerald's physical and spiritual exhaustion is described brilliantly," noted The New York Review…

12 Million Black Voices

By Richard Wright,

Book cover of 12 Million Black Voices

David G. Nicholls Author Of Conjuring the Folk: Forms of Modernity in African America

From the list on understanding the Great Black Migration.

Who am I?

I'm a lifelong reader and wanted to study literature from an early age. I grew up in Indianapolis, one of the cities reshaped by the Great Black Migration. I went to graduate school at the University of Chicago and found myself once again in the urban Midwest. My research for Conjuring the Folk led me to discover a trove of short stories by George Wylie Henderson, a Black writer from Alabama who migrated to Harlem. I edited the stories and published them as Harlem Calling: The Collected Stories of George Wylie Henderson. I'm a contributor to African American Review, the Journal of Modern Literature, and the Encyclopedia of the Great Black Migration

David's book list on understanding the Great Black Migration

Why did David love this book?

Richard Wright is perhaps best known for his acclaimed 1940 novel, Native Son. Following its publication, he was at work on a very different project: a photo-documentary history of the African American folk. Wright wrote the prose narrative, which describes in broad strokes the history of Black Americans from slavery to emancipation to the Jim Crow era and the Great Black Migration. The black and white photographs accompanying the narrative were selected by Edwin Rosskam from the archives of the Farm Security Administration. Taken during the Great Depression by such notable photographers as Walker Evans and Dorothea Lange, the photos provide visual documentation of the harsh conditions Blacks faced both south and north. My interpretation of 12 Million Black Voices is given in chapter six of my book

By Richard Wright,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked 12 Million Black Voices as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

12 Million Black Voices, first published in 1941, combines Wright's prose with startling photographs selected by Edwin Rosskam from the Security Farm Administration files compiled during the Great Depression. The photographs include works by such giants as Walker Evans, Dorothea Lange, and Arthur Rothstein. From crowded, rundown farm shacks to Harlem storefront churches, the photos depict the lives of black people in 1930s America--their misery and weariness under rural poverty, their spiritual strength, and their lives in northern ghettos. Wright's accompanying text eloquently narrates the story of these 90 pictures and delivers a powerful commentary on the origins and history…

Rust in the Root

By Justina Ireland,

Book cover of Rust in the Root

Judith Starkston Author Of Priestess of Ishana

From Judith's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Who am I?

Author Sorcery fan History nerd Ruin explorer Avid reader

Judith's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Why did Judith love this book?

Rust in the Root, set in 1937, builds an alternate United States with widespread, highly imaginative magic, using a nuanced blend of mythic traditions from Norse to African.

This fantastical, “far-off” America brings into stark focus the racial injustices that are the poisonous legacy of slavery and its aftermath by showing the separate and unequal treatment of “colored” mages and their magical traditions.

The two main characters, a young queer mage, Laura Ann Langston, and her mentor, the Skylark, must stop the killing of their fellow Black mages inside what is called the Great Ohio Blight.

The magic practiced by Blacks is blamed for the “Blights” and the Great Rust, a magical equivalent of the Great Depression. Sound both devastatingly familiar and intriguingly fresh? That’s what grabbed me.

By Justina Ireland,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Rust in the Root as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The author of the visionary New York Times bestseller Dread Nation returns with another spellbinding historical fantasy set at the crossroads of race and power in America.

It is 1937, and Laura Ann Langston lives in an America divided—between those who work the mystical arts and those who do not. Ever since the Great Rust, a catastrophic event that blighted the arcane force called the Dynamism and threw America into disarray, the country has been rebuilding for a better future. And everyone knows the future is industry and technology—otherwise known as Mechomancy—not the traditional mystical arts.

Laura disagrees. A talented…

Voices of Protest

By Alan Brinkley,

Book cover of Voices of Protest: Huey Long, Father Coughlin, & the Great Depression

Moshik Temkin Author Of Sacco-Vanzetti Affair: America on Trial

From the list on leadership and history.

Who am I?

Moshik Temkin is a historian of the United States and the World and has taught about leadership and history at Tsinghua University in Beijing, Harvard University in Massachusetts, the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris, and other institutions around the world. He is the author of The Sacco-Vanzetti Affair: America on Trial and is writing a book on leadership in history for PublicAffairs called Warriors, Rebels, and Saints: On Leaders and Leadership in History.

Moshik's book list on leadership and history

Why did Moshik love this book?

This groundbreaking and wonderfully written study of two “protest” leaders during the Great Depression of the 1930s in the United States shows us what happens when truly hard times hit ordinary people, and what sort of leaders they then turn to. Brinkley brilliantly chronicles the rise of Louisiana politician Huey Long, the “Kingfish”, from obscurity in the poor Jim Crow south to becoming, by the time he was assassinated in 1935, the most significant political threat to the popular President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Long’s calls for wealth redistribution, contempt for traditional elites, and disregard for democratic institutions, make him an important historical example of so-called populist leadership, and of the power and appeal of populism in times of crisis.

By Alan Brinkley,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The study of two great demagogues in American history--Huey P. Long, a first-term United States Senator from the red-clay, piney-woods country of nothern Louisiana; and Charles E. Coughlin, a Catholic priest from an industrial suburb near Detroit. Award-winning historian Alan Brinkely describes their modest origins and their parallel rise together in the early years of the Great Depression to become the two most successful leaders of national political dissidence of their era. 

*Winner of the American Book Award for History*

To Make Men Free

By Heather Cox Richardson,

Book cover of To Make Men Free: A History of the Republican Party

Lindsay M. Chervinsky Author Of The Cabinet: George Washington and the Creation of an American Institution

From the list on for Father’s Day.

Who am I?

I’ve always been fascinated by power and how people use it; from the time I was tiny, I’ve loved reading about how people left their fingerprint on history. I now make my career as a presidential historian, and I’m committed to sharing this history with a broad public audience in books, opinion editorials, podcasts, and other media. In my experience, most people find history fascinating if they can learn about it in an interesting way. That’s my goal with all my work and the goal of the books I’ve recommended below!

Lindsay's book list on for Father’s Day

Why did Lindsay love this book?

The political parties can be a bit confusing as the names Republican and Democratic have been around for centuries, but hardly resemble the original parties at their formation. To Make Men Free is the best overview of the Grand Old Party, its many evolutions, and its important role in American history. It is also my favorite of the many books written by famed historian Heather Cox Richardson. To Make Men Free would be a great gift for subscribers to Richardson’s newsletter, Letters from an American, or dads who are interested in politics.

By Heather Cox Richardson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked To Make Men Free as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

When Abraham Lincoln helped create the Republican Party on the eve of the Civil War, his goal was to promote economic opportunity for all Americans, not just the slaveholding Southern planters who steered national politics. Yet, despite the egalitarian dream at the heart of its founding, the Republican Party quickly became mired in a fundamental identity crisis. Would it be the party of democratic ideals? Or would it be the party of moneyed interests? In the century and a half since, Republicans have vacillated between these two poles, with dire economic, political, and moral repercussions for the entire nation.In To…

In a Far-Off Land

By Stephanie Landsem,

Book cover of In a Far-Off Land

Rhonda Ortiz Author Of In Pieces

From the list on historical romances for armchair Theologians.

Who am I?

I’m a writer married to a theologian. My husband and I often discuss Augustine and Aquinas, Austen and Tolstoy, Christie and Sayers, and trends in popular fiction—when we’re not discussing Frog and Toad, Elephant and Piggie, baby diapers, and what to make for dinner. Love stories have long been my favorite stories, and I’ve always enjoyed historical settings. My award-winning novel In Pieces, a 1793 Boston-set historical romance with elements of family drama, society drama, and political suspense, combines all these interests. I even managed to sneak in a diaper-changing scene.

Rhonda's book list on historical romances for armchair Theologians

Why did Rhonda love this book?

Biblical allegory is hard to do well. Bible stories themselves have infinite depths, but their allegories are often didactic, especially when author parallels the original story too closely. Stephanie Landem’s In a Far-Off Land is anything but didactic. Set in 1930s Hollywood, the novel is equal parts Prodigal Son retelling, romance, and murder mystery. By allowing the story to take on a life of its own, Landsem avoids the Sunday School vibe, and in the end, I understood the Prodigal Son archetypal characters better.

By Stephanie Landsem,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked In a Far-Off Land as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“Immersive, enchanting, and gripping, In A Far-Off Land is do-not-miss historical fiction.” —Patti Callahan, NYT Bestselling author of Becoming Mrs. Lewis

It’s 1931 in Hollywood, and Minerva Sinclaire is on the run for a murder she didn’t commit.

As the Great Depression hits the Midwest, Minerva Sinclaire runs away to Hollywood, determined to make it big and save the family farm. But beauty and moxie don’t pay the bills in Tinseltown, and she’s caught in a downward spiral of poverty, desperation, and compromise. Finally, she’s about to sign with a major studio and make up for it all. Instead, she…

Manhattan Transfer

By John Dos Passos,

Book cover of Manhattan Transfer

Scott Brooks Author Of And There We Were and Here We Are

From the list on if you love old black-and-white movies.

Who am I?

I'm a New Yorker with a background in the performing arts. Though a lifelong reader and bookstore loiterer, my early writing career was focused on the stage as well as the pursuit of a career in screenwriting. This led to many years writing and producing theatre as well as working in film and TV both as a writer and in production. The books I've chosen, I feel influenced the American language in the last century, an influence reflected in the tone of the novels and films from that period described by scholars as “Between the Wars.” It's a period that fascinates me for it exists now only in books and movies and is therein preserved.

Scott's book list on if you love old black-and-white movies

Why did Scott love this book?

I chose this book because it is, I am almost sure, the least known of the bunch, in a list that I admit champions some lesser-known giants of American literature from the last century and a style that influenced me as a writer. But what Dos Passos does with this novel stands apart. An experimental novel when it was published in 1925 Dos Passos jumps back and forth between the narratives of his disparate characters – from bankers to soldiers - creating a pastiche of life in the 1920s and in New York in particular that is raw and harsh at times in its critique of the greedy capitalistic country we were becoming.

What strikes me most about this hundred-year-old book, is how starkly modern it seems today.

By John Dos Passos,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'My literary hero is John Dos Passos' - Adam Curtis (filmmaker)

'A modernist masterpiece, capturing ... the fragmented lives it sketches, in a dazzling kaleidoscope of New York City in the 1920s' Christopher Hudson, Evening Standard

'Dos Passos has invented only one thing, an art of story-telling. But that is enough to create a universe' Jean-Paul Sartre

'The best modern book about New York'
D.H. Lawrence

A modernist masterwork that has more in common with films than traditional novels, John Dos Passos' Manhattan Transfer includes an introduction by Jay McInerney in Penguin Modern Classics.

A colourful, multi-faceted chronicle of New…

The Worst Hard Time

By Timothy Egan,

Book cover of The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl

Susan Whiting Kemp Author Of The Climate Machine

From the list on disasters where society fails suddenly.

Who am I?

I’ve written or edited thousands of science and engineering proposals, blog posts, and reports, and in the past decade, disaster resilience has become a major subject of these documents. I’ve come to realize that while it’s possible to be ready for disasters, few people truly are. In the books I’m recommending, something vital to life has been stolen and the disasters are so overpowering that mere survival is a nearly impossible goal. This forces the characters into unusual and heroic action. Their choices are sometimes surprising and always compelling, and I loved sharing their journeys.   

Susan's book list on disasters where society fails suddenly

Why did Susan love this book?

This nonfiction book is jam-packed with astonishing facts and captivating personalities from the time of the Dust Bowl.

The disasters were many and varied during the 1930s on America’s Great Plains. “The weather might display seven different moods in a year, and six of them were life-threatening. Droughts, blizzards, grass fires, hailstorms, flash floods, and tornadoes…”

Not to mention the dust storms: “thick like coarse animal hair…with an edge like steel wool.” At least two monster “black dusters” traveled 2,000 miles (3,220 kilometers), taking topsoil from the midwest all the way to Washington DC.

The impact on society was terrible, but brought about great change in the country’s approach to conservation. This book is excellent for writers. Having read it helped me write more truthfully (I hope) about disasters in my fiction.

By Timothy Egan,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Worst Hard Time as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In a tour de force of historical reportage, Timothy Egan’s National Book Award–winning story rescues an iconic chapter of American history from the shadows.

The dust storms that terrorized the High Plains in the darkest years of the Depression were like nothing ever seen before or since. Following a dozen families and their communities through the rise and fall of the region, Timothy Egan tells of their desperate attempts to carry on through blinding black dust blizzards, crop failure, and the death of loved ones. Brilliantly capturing the terrifying drama of catastrophe, he does equal justice to the human characters…

Cold Snap

By Maureen Jennings,

Book cover of Cold Snap: A Paradise Cafe Mystery

Rosemary McCracken Author Of Uncharted Waters

From Rosemary's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Who am I?

Author Wordsmith Reader Self-starter Teacher Traveller

Rosemary's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Why did Rosemary love this book?

Historical crime fiction writer Maureen Jennings is best known for her 1890s-era Detective Murdoch Mysteries, on which the Murdoch Mysteries TV series (now in its 17th season) is based.

In recent years, Jennings’ focus has been on Toronto in the late 1930s, when the world was still reeling from the War to End All Wars and in the throes of the Great Depression. The result was the Paradise Café series: Heat Wave, published in 2019, November Rain in 2020, and Cold Snap in 2022.

The settings of these mysteries are not pretty, describing the poverty and simmering racial tensions of the times. But Jennings brings the past of the city I live in to life, and I find it fascinating.

In Cold Snap, we learn more about private investigator Charlotte Frayne, the series’ protagonist. In her early 30s, unmarried and with a beau who approves of her independence, Charlotte is…

By Maureen Jennings,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

November's rain in Toronto 1936 has turned into December's cold snap. Charlotte Frayne escapes being hit by a mud-splattered car racing round the corner at Queen and Spadina. The stranger who saves her turns out to be the man her boss, Mr. Gilmore, has helped to escape Germany and is now a refugee in need of shelter.

In a world still recovering from the War to End All Wars and the Spanish Influenza pandemic that killed fifty million people worldwide, and still in the throes of the Great Depression, Stephen Lucas is not just any refugee from the Nazi regime;…

The Federal Reserve

By Robert L. Hetzel,

Book cover of The Federal Reserve: A New History

Richard Burdekin Author Of China's Monetary Challenges: Past Experiences and Future Prospects

From the list on if you didn’t think money matters.

Who am I?

Long before I studied economics, I remember being told in church that “money is the root of all evil.” Much later, when I was interviewing for my first professor-level position, I remember one of the interviewers saying, “I suppose everyone is interested in money.” We are not talking here about a fixation on accumulating money, but rather understanding the profound impact monetary policy has upon everyone in society. These readings show how pervasive the effects of bad monetary policy can be and how important it is to keep track of what is going on. Start with the first two chapters of Friedman’s Money Mischief and see if you can stop! 

Richard's book list on if you didn’t think money matters

Why did Richard love this book?

This book not only offers an authoritative account of what the Federal Reserve has been up to since its founding in 1913 but also the rationale for why they did what they did. 

One particularly telling observation is made with respect to Arthur Burns, who was the Federal Reserve Chair during 1970-1978: “Burns always attributed [inflation] to nonmonetary sources.” Paul Volcker’s actions during 1979-1987 demonstrated how the restoration of monetary stability was a sine quo non for ending the 1970s inflationary spiral. No matter how necessary the Federal Reserve’s later massive 2020 monetary expansion may have been, it was imperative that this bulge in money also be unwound. 

A worrying element, however, is that, in the midst of all this, none of today’s Federal Reserve policymakers “ever mentions money.”

By Robert L. Hetzel,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

An illuminating history of the Fed from its founding through the tumult of 2020.

In The Federal Reserve: A New History, Robert L. Hetzel draws on more than forty years of experience as an economist in the central bank to trace the influences of the Fed on the American economy. Comparing periods in which the Fed stabilized the economy to those when it did the opposite, Hetzel tells the story of a century-long pursuit of monetary rules capable of providing for economic stability.

Recast through this lens and enriched with archival materials, Hetzel's sweeping history offers a new understanding of…

Germans Into Nazis

By Peter Fritzsche,

Book cover of Germans Into Nazis

Benjamin Carter Hett Author Of The Death of Democracy: Hitler's Rise to Power and the Downfall of the Weimar Republic

From the list on the legacy of the First World War.

Who am I?

I was a law school graduate heading for my first job when, unable to think of anything better to do with my last afternoon in London, I wandered through the First World War galleries of the Imperial War Museum. I was hypnotized by a slide show of Great War propaganda posters, stunned by their clever viciousness in getting men to volunteer and wives and girlfriends to pressure them. Increasingly fascinated, I started reading about the war and its aftermath. After several years of this, I quit my job at a law firm and went back to school to become a professor. And here I am.

Benjamin's book list on the legacy of the First World War

Why did Benjamin love this book?

Fritzsche shows here how, from 1914 to 1933, middle class Germans were welded into the political block that supported Hitler. Another spellbindingly original book – among other things, Fritzsche shows very persuasively that the Great Depression had little to do with the rise of Hitler – the Nazis’ recipe of egalitarian but nationalist politics was already doing its work before 1929.

By Peter Fritzsche,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Germans Into Nazis as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Why did ordinary Germans vote for Hitler? In this dramatically plotted book, organized around crucial turning points in 1914, 1918, and 1933, Peter Fritzsche explains why the Nazis were so popular and what was behind the political choice made by the German people.

Rejecting the view that Germans voted for the Nazis simply because they hated the Jews, or had been humiliated in World War I, or had been ruined by the Great Depression, Fritzsche makes the controversial argument that Nazism was part of a larger process of democratization and political invigoration that began with the outbreak of World War…

Back Then

By Justin Kaplan, Anne Bernays,

Book cover of Back Then: Two Literary Lives in 1950s New York

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

From the list on memoirs through the voices of women.

Who am I?

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

Why did Pamela love this book?

Written in separate voices in alternating chapters, this unusual double memoir by the long-married couple, the novelist Anne Bernays and biographer Justin Kaplan, tells the stories of two privileged New Yorkers.  Growing up on opposite sides of Central Park, they came of age in the 1950s. Dreaming dreams of literary lives, they came to see them realized as their lives converged.

By Justin Kaplan, Anne Bernays,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Novelist Anne Bernays and biographer Justin Kaplan -- both native New Yorkers -- came of age in the 1950s, when the pent-up energies of the Depression years and World War II were at flood tide. Written in two separate voices, Back Then is thecandid, anecdotal account of these two children of privilege -- one from New York's East Side, the other from the West Side -- pursuing careers in publishing and eventually leaving to write their own books.

Infused with intelligence and charm, Back Then is an elegant reflection on the transformative years in the lives of two young people…

Genius and Lust

By Norman Mailer,

Book cover of Genius and Lust: A Journey Through the Major Writings of Henry Miller

Stephen Singular Author Of The Heart of Violence

From Stephen's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Who am I?

Author Curious Relentless Driven

Stephen's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Why did Stephen love this book?

One of America’s most provocative writers, Normal Mailer, critiques the work of one of America’s most original novelists, Henry Miller.

The book reveals as much about Mailer’s mentality as it does about the struggles and ultimate triumphs of Miller as he wrote in Paris in the 1930s. This is a challenging and stimulating read for anyone who loves how literature is born. 

By Norman Mailer,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Book by Miller, Henry

The Bottoms

By Joe R. Lansdale,

Book cover of The Bottoms

Jenna Kernan Author Of The Nurse

From the list on psychological thrillers with a jaw-dropping twist.

Who am I?

I’m a certified crime junkie beginning with Helter Skelter and, more recently, FBI profiler Jack Douglas’ Mindhunter. This genre is a passion, but here’s the kicker, I started my writing journey in Western historical romance. I know, right? Then I had this wild idea: a psychologist who’s got a secret – her mother is a notorious serial killer on death row, and someone is imitating her crimes. Just like that A Killer’s Daughter was born! Now I’m always reading and listening to thrillers and true crime podcasts. Check out my newsletter to see what’s grabbing me. 

Jenna's book list on psychological thrillers with a jaw-dropping twist

Why did Jenna love this book?

I think I picked this one up in a bookstore because of the back cover blurb. I found the writing much more in the literary fiction category which is to say it is beautiful and very well written.

What I especially appreciated in this story was the way the setting, the Bottoms, became such an important feature. Really, the setting is a character all its own and I appreciated learning about a place that was so specific and different from where I was raised.

That is not to say that the twist did not take me completely unaware because they definitely did.

By Joe R. Lansdale,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The Great Depression, East Texas. The woods are thick, the rivers wild, the weather ripe with tornadoes, and the Crane family, like most families in that neck of the woods, are eking out a thin living. When young Harry Crane discovers a mutilated body bound to a tree with barbed wire in the river bottoms, the underbelly of East Texas is exposed. Whites fear a renegade Negro. Blacks fear a vengeful massacre, or, if the killer is white, that the law will let him slip through their fingers. Harry believes the murderer is the Goat Man, an East Texas monster…

The Match King

By Frank Partnoy,

Book cover of The Match King: Ivar Kreuger, the Financial Genius Behind a Century of Wall Street Scandals

Patrick Honohan Author Of Currency, Credit and Crisis: Central Banking in Ireland and Europe

From the list on big financial scams.

Who am I?

There’s something clinical and yet human about big financial crises, especially those that involve some kind of trickery or fraud. I’ve always been fascinated by this dark side of the world of money, and have been fortunate enough in my career to have had ring-side seats at a few such events in rich and poor countries. Fraud is not at the heart of the “social contrivance of money” but the monetary system is built on an edifice of trust that can all too easily be abused by scammers. From these episodes, we can learn a lot about people, credit, and society’s ways of protecting itself.

Patrick's book list on big financial scams

Why did Patrick love this book?

From my reading of Frank Partnoy’s book, I get the impression that Swedish celebrity financier Ivar Kreuger did really start out as a skillful and legitimate businessman, negotiating exclusive rights to sell matches in a range of central and Eastern European countries in the 1920s and early 1930s.

But, as so often happens, when business became more difficult in the 1930s, his elaborate financial activities gradually morphed into recklessness and fraud.

By Frank Partnoy,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

At the height of the roaring '20s, Swedish emigre Ivar Kreuger made a fortune raising money in America and loaning it to Europe in exchange for matchstick monopolies. His enterprise was a rare success story throughout the Great Depression. Yet after his suicide in 1932, it became clear that Kreuger was not all he seemed: evidence surfaced of fudged accounting figures, off-balance-sheet accounting, even forgery. He created a raft of innovative financial products, many of them precursors to instruments wreaking havoc in today's markets. In this gripping financial biography, Frank Partnoy recasts the life story of a remarkable yet forgotten…

The Saints of Swallow Hill

By Donna Everhart,

Book cover of The Saints of Swallow Hill: A Fascinating Depression Era Historical Novel

JuliAnne Sisung Author Of Curse of the Damselfly

From the list on unconventional, courageous women.

Who am I?

When I was a child, my mother and I shared and discussed Zane Grey books. I loved his portrayal of the past and read every one. My obsession with historical fiction grew, and I wrote my first draft of Elephant in the Room at age sixteen. I’m stuck in the period between 1875 and 1940 because of the simplicity driving life as well as the complexity of larger events changing the world. Wilder, Steinbeck, Twain, all picked me off my feet and set me down in their shoes. I’m not able to remove them. I write about courageous women because we are, whether it’s expressed or is in waiting.  

JuliAnne's book list on unconventional, courageous women

Why did JuliAnne love this book?

Set in the depression era in North Carolina’s turpentine pine forests, Rae Lynn Cobb learns a Tar Heel’s dangerous work. After life in an orphanage, she appreciates the work, a home of her own, and her loving husband. When he dies, with her grief-stricken help, she cuts her hair and flees dressed in his clothes and driving his rattle-trap truck. As a man, she works in a hazardous and treacherous turpentine labor camp and becomes indebted to the company-owned commissary. Like most labor camps, the owners have ways to keep indebted workers from running – dogs and guns. She gets locked in a sweatbox by a scheming man and survives, runs again, and finds peace. Rae does what is necessary with quiet grit and determination. For me, this book exemplifies what is missing in our world—personal responsibility—and I couldn't quit cheering for the heroine. A beautiful historical novel.

By Donna Everhart,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Where the Crawdads Sing meets The Four Winds as award-winning author Donna Everhart's latest novel immerses readers in its unique setting—the turpentine camps and pine forests of the American South during the Great Depression. This captivating story of friendship, survival, and three vagabonds' intersecting lives will stay with readers long after turning the final page.

It takes courage to save yourself...

In the dense pine forests of North Carolina, turpentiners labor, hacking into tree trunks to draw out the sticky sap that gives the Tar Heel State its nickname, and hauling the resin to stills to be refined. Among them…

Schulz and Peanuts

By David Michaelis,

Book cover of Schulz and Peanuts: A Biography

Judy Juanita Author Of De Facto Feminism: Essays Straight Outta Oakland

From the list on how rebels kept up the good fight.

Who am I?

I read bios and memoirs because I need to know what really happened. I read several bios of the same person; then piece together a sense of the truth. As a journalist, I understand that all of a person’s life won’t make it into the final story. Editors have a mission of their own; books are molded by exigent demands and social mores. That’s why The Autobiography of Malcolm X in 1965 had one view of its subject, and Manning Marable’s bio in 2011 another. I’ve read both and other accounts to formulate my own ideas about the man and his times.

Judy's book list on how rebels kept up the good fight

Why did Judy love this book?

Charlie Brown, Lucy, and “the gang” have fascinated me since I sat at the family table, fighting with my siblings for sections of the newspaper. My copy of this book is copiously highlighted because there was so much to learn about the artist’s life and technique. The opening pages reeled me in when the writer told of Schulz witnessing his mother’s excruciatingly painful death from cancer. I know cartoons have wisdom that goes beyond kids’ comprehension. This book shows how and why Schulz used all the elements of his life to write this strip. Peanuts and the comics of my childhood are why I use graphic novels like Maus in my classrooms. They have truths that hit on many levels.

By David Michaelis,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Charles Schulz, the most widely syndicated and beloved cartoonist of all time, is also one of the most misunderstood figures in popular culture. Now, acclaimed biographer David Michaelis gives us the first full-length biography of Schulz: at once a creation story, a portrait of a hidden genius, and a chronicle contrasting the private man with the central role he played in shaping the imagination of a generation and beyond. The son of a barber, Schulz was born in Minnesota to modest, working class roots.In 1943, just three days after his mother's tragic death from cancer, Schulz, a private in the…

Book cover of The Harp in the South

Maggie Joel Author Of The Unforgiving City

From the list on to uncover Sydney’s past.

Who am I?

I arrived in Sydney in the 90s knowing as much as one brief peruse the Berlitz Guide could provide me. For the next 25 years I immersed myself in its beautiful harbour and beaches whilst writing four novels, all set in my hometown of London. But when I sat down to write my fifth novel, The Unforgiving City, set in 1890s Sydney, I drew a complete blank. What was my adopted city’s history? Did it even have one? If so, where was it? By the time I’d finished the novel I’d unearthed a whole other, hidden, Sydney. I will never view my new home town the same way again. 

Maggie's book list on to uncover Sydney’s past

Why did Maggie love this book?

This is an Australian classic. Published in 1948, Park wrote this, her first novel, when she moved to the crowded, chaotic impoverished inner Sydney suburb of Surry Hills. Fascinated and deeply stirred by what she saw, her novel centres on the close-knit Darcy family whose love for one another and enduring joy for life is in stark contrast to the harsh and occasionally brutal world around them. Park’s love for her characters and for her city shines through and provides a magical yet thoughtful window on a Sydney in the years immediately following the war. I worked in Surry Hills for many years and I set much of my last novel on its streets and laneways so to walk those same streets in Ruth Park’s footsteps was such a treat.

By Ruth Park,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Harp in the South as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An Australian classic, this is the story of the Darcy family who live in the Depression era tenements of Surry Hills, Sydney.

Hugh and Margaret Darcy are raising their family in Sydney amid the brothels, grog shops, and run-down boarding houses of Surry Hills, where money is scarce and life is not easy.

Filled with beautifully drawn characters that will make you laugh as much as cry, this Australian classic will take you straight back to the colourful slums of Sydney with convincing depth, careful detail, and great heart.

Democracy for Realists

By Christopher H. Achen, Larry M. Bartels,

Book cover of Democracy for Realists: Why Elections Do Not Produce Responsive Government

Jason Brennan Author Of Democracy: A Guided Tour

From the list on democracy, its promises and perils.

Who am I?

I’m a philosopher by training and professor of economics, ethics, and public policy at Georgetown University’s business school. My work often begins by noting that philosophy debates often take certain empirical claims for granted, claims which turn out to be false or mistaken. Once we realize this mistake, this clears the ground and helps us do better work. I focus on issues in immigration, resistance to state injustice, taboo markets, theories of ideal justice, and democratic theory. I’m also a native New Englander now living near DC, a husband and father, and the guitarist and vocalist in a 70s-80s hard rock cover band.

Jason's book list on democracy, its promises and perils

Why did Jason love this book?

Roughly around sixth grade, most people in the West learn a basic model of how democracy functions.

According to the sixth-grade model, voters each have various interests and values. They then learn how the world works, what politics can and can’t do, and so on. On the basis of their values and information, they form ideologies or general political preferences.

They then seek out and vote for the parties and candidates which will best realize their goals. The parties and candidates in turn run on platforms that appeal to such voters. So, the theory goes, elections turn the popular will into power.

Achen and Bartels show that this model is entirely wrong, or, more precisely, correct for at best a small minority of voters. Instead, most people vote for who they are, not what they want. People vote and join political parties not to change government, but to show other…

By Christopher H. Achen, Larry M. Bartels,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Democracy for Realists as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Democracy for Realists assails the romantic folk-theory at the heart of contemporary thinking about democratic politics and government, and offers a provocative alternative view grounded in the actual human nature of democratic citizens. Christopher Achen and Larry Bartels deploy a wealth of social-scientific evidence, including ingenious original analyses of topics ranging from abortion politics and budget deficits to the Great Depression and shark attacks, to show that the familiar ideal of thoughtful citizens steering the ship of state from the voting booth is fundamentally misguided. They demonstrate that voters--even those who are well informed and politically engaged--mostly choose parties and…