The most recommended books about the Roaring Twenties

Who picked these books? Meet our 33 experts.

33 authors created a book list connected to the Roaring Twenties, and here are their favorite Roaring Twenties books.
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What type of Roaring Twenties book?


Book cover of A Moveable Feast: The Restored Edition

Kathy Borrus Author Of Five Hundred Buildings of Paris

From my list on capturing the magic and history of Paris.

Why am I passionate about this?

I lived in Paris for six months when I researched and wrote my first Paris book, One Thousand Buildings of Paris, walking every quarter of Paris including some rather dicey areas. I discovered most Parisians don’t wander very far from their own neighborhoods, and casual tourists tend to stay in the center. The first time my boyfriend and I went to Paris together, I planned daily excursions to all the neighborhoods where he had never been. We became flaneurs (wanderers) at outdoor markets, small museums, parks, and we ventured into unknown spaces. There is always something fascinating to discover in Paris and new ways to gain a sense of history. 

Kathy's book list on capturing the magic and history of Paris

Kathy Borrus Why did Kathy love this book?

One of the photographs in my book, One Thousand Buildings of Paris, was the first apartment that Hemingway and his wife, Hadley, shared when they moved to Paris.

Hemingway’s description of the apartment and the period is illuminating and introduces the reader to the famous and infamous and the life they led after the end of WWI and during the Roaring 20s when Paris was the center of artistic life.

Hemingway also reveals his likes and dislikes and his writing life there, and, notwithstanding their friendship, his jealousy of F. Scott Fitzgerald. I’m not a great fan of Hemingway’s writing. I actually prefer Fitzgerald and especially The Great Gatsby, but I digress. 

A Moveable Feast reveals Paris as indeed a moveable feast to savor.

By Ernest Hemingway,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Moveable Feast as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Published posthumously in 1964, A Moveable Feast remains one of Ernest Hemingway's most beloved works. Since Hemingway's personal papers were released in 1979, scholars have examined and debated the changes made to the text before publication. Now this new special restored edition presents the original manuscript as the author prepared it to be published.

Featuring a personal foreword by Patrick Hemingway, Ernest's sole surviving son, and an introduction by the editor and grandson of the author, Sean Hemingway, this new edition also includes a number of unfinished, never-before-published Paris sketches revealing experiences that Hemingway had with his son Jack and…

Book cover of Scandal in Babylon

Poppy Frances

From Poppy's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Why am I passionate about this?

Reader Nature lover Cat servant Analytical Campaigner

Poppy's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Poppy Frances Why did Poppy love this book?

I’ve long wished I could write such atmospheric scenes with so few words as Barbara Hambly manages, and to pack in so much detail while making it effortless for the reader.

The best scenes of all are multi-layered and hilarious. The base layer is being on a film set in a silent early Hollywood movie, with all the action of how it works, including the stars using lines that mean roughly what is on the cards between the scenes, but are far ruder. The next layer is a commentary on studio politics and rivalries, revenges and romances. The uppermost layer is Emma, the observer, and sometimes script writer, trying to solve the mystery while doing her job at the studio.

Awesome writing skill that I keep re-reading.

By Barbara Hambly,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

“You shall never have a penny of my money. Leave me alone or I will shoot you dead!”

1924. After six months in Hollywood, young British widow Emma Blackstone has come to love her new employer, glamourous movie-star Kitty Flint – even if her late husband’s sister is one of the worst actresses she’s ever seen. Looking after Kitty and her three adorable Pekinese dogs isn’t work Emma dreamed of, but Kitty rescued her when she was all alone in the world. Now, the worst thing academically-minded Emma has to worry about is the shocking historical inaccuracies of the films…

Book cover of The Wakefields of Sweet Valley (Sweet Valley High)

Katie Delahanty Author Of Keystone

From my list on 20th century YA that will give you all the feels.

Why am I passionate about this?

When I was a teen, I had zero aspirations to become a writer. I didn’t discover my passion for writing until I was thirty! But once I started writing, it was these books and the way they made me feel that I drew on. I wanted strong heroines that I wanted to be—and be friends with. I wanted a slow burn, skin-tingling romance with a lot of push and pull. I wanted to be part of something bigger than myself. To go on a quest. To feel victorious. And it is my hope that I can give my readers all the feels these books gave me.

Katie's book list on 20th century YA that will give you all the feels

Katie Delahanty Why did Katie love this book?

I devoured everything in the Sweet Valley world as a teen, though I was more into Sweet Valley Twins than Sweet Valley High for some reason. Maybe it’s because I liked the twins’ innocence, and the high school drama was too much (or too relatable!) to me. I like to escape to a happy ending! And in complete seriousness, I debated naming my daughter Lila because I didn’t want her to be associated with mean girl Lila Flower. In the end, I named her Delilah (Lilah—with an h!—for short) and that eased my worries.

At any rate, I’ll read a family saga any day. And we’ve established that I love historical romance and costumes, so give me all the Wakefield history.

By Francine Pascal,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Wakefields of Sweet Valley (Sweet Valley High) as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 12, 13, 14, and 15.

What is this book about?

Follow the riveting stories of the women who came  before Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield:

  Alice Larson, a bold sixteen-year-old from Sweden,  arrives alone in America to start a new life --  but with a broken heart.

Headstrong  frontier tomboy Jessamyn runs away to join the circus,  leading her sensitive twin, Elisabeth, into a  desperate search that ends in tragedy.

Spirited  twins and rivals Samantha and Amanda battle for  the love of the same boy during the glamorous  Roaring Twenties.

Marjorie, stranded in France  during World War II, becomes a heroine of the  Resistance.

Alice Robertson, child of the  tumultuous sixties,…

Book cover of Ponzi's Scheme: The True Story of a Financial Legend

Mark Arsenault Author Of The Imposter's War: The Press, Propaganda, and the Newsman Who Battled for the Minds of America

From my list on audacious imposters and shameless swindlers.

Why am I passionate about this?

One of the great job benefits of being a newspaper reporter is the wide array of interesting people I get to meet. Not only get to meet but in fact, get paid to meet and to tell their stories. Some of them are famous, and that’s fine. Much more interesting, I think, are the ordinary folk nobody knows who are doing something extraordinary. And then there is a third category that I find most interesting of all: The people who have something to hide. They are mysteries who don’t want to be cracked, and I find them irresistible.

Mark's book list on audacious imposters and shameless swindlers

Mark Arsenault Why did Mark love this book?

Before Ponzi was a scheme, Ponzi was a man. His name was Charles Ponzi. He sailed to the US from Europe with nothing – after gambling away his nest egg during the trans-Atlantic crossing – and then made himself an ill-gotten fortune through a swindle so famous it is now named for him. I love learning history, but not through academic texts. I need to learn it through stories. And the critical ingredient that makes compelling narrative nonfiction are the details that enable me to see the characters and their world in my mind. Zuckoff’s book put me in Boston in 1920, with the sights, sounds, and odors to bring Ponzi and his victims to life.

By Mitchell Zuckoff,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Ponzi's Scheme as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

It was a time when anything seemed possible–instant wealth, glittering fame, fabulous luxury–and for a run of magical weeks in the spring and summer of 1920, Charles Ponzi made it all come true. Promising to double investors’ money in three months, the dapper, charming Ponzi raised the “rob Peter to pay Paul” scam to an art form. At the peak of his success, Ponzi was raking in more than $2 million a week at his office in downtown Boston. Then his house of cards came crashing down–thanks in large part to the relentless investigative reporting of Richard Grozier’s Boston Post.…

Book cover of Higher: A Historic Race to the Sky and the Making of a City

Jason M. Barr Author Of Building the Skyline: The Birth and Growth of Manhattan's Skyscrapers

From my list on the New York City skyline.

Why am I passionate about this?

If you told me as a kid, growing up in the suburbs of Long Island, that I would someday spend nearly all my working hours reading and writing about skyscrapers and skylines, I would have thought you were nuts. But somehow, in my twenties, as I spent more time in New York City, I came to feel a deep connection with the metropolis. Its skyscrapers and skyline speak to its history as a city of strivers. I’ve been lucky that I’ve been able to merge my personal passions with my professional life as an economist. My recommended books are ones that excited me in my journey to understand better the city that I love.

Jason's book list on the New York City skyline

Jason M. Barr Why did Jason love this book?

In about one year’s time, from 1930 to 1931, three buildings—the Bank of Manhattan, The Chrysler Building, and the Empire State Building—in rapid succession claimed the prize of “world’s tallest.” This book is a great journalist account of the personalities behind the three-way race at the peak of the Roaring Twenties. We get to see the inside story of the developers, the architects, and the builders. 

By Neal Bascomb,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The Roaring Twenties in New York was a time of exuberant ambition, free-flowing optimism, an explosion of artistic expression in the age of Prohibition. New York was the city that embodied the spirit and strength of a newly powerful America. 

In 1924, in the vibrant heart of Manhattan, a fierce rivalry was born.  Two architects, William Van Alen and Craig Severance (former friends and successful partners, but now bitter adversaries), set out to imprint their individual marks on the greatest canvas in the world--the rapidly evolving skyline of New York City.  Each man desired to build the city’s tallest building,…

Book cover of The Crack-Up

Libby Sternberg Author Of Daisy

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

Why am I passionate about this?

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

Libby Sternberg 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…

Book cover of Kiki de Montparnasse

Edith de Belleville Author Of Parisian Life: Adventures in The City of Light

From my list on French women according to a French woman.

Why am I passionate about this?

Edith de Belleville is a native Parisian woman who was an attorney for many years. Her passion for Paris led her back to university to get her official tour guide license. Deeply inspired by great Parisian women of the past, Edith decided to write a book, in French, entitled The Beautiful Rebels of Paris (Belles et Rebelles Editions du 81). She just published her memoirs in English to share her literary & dreamy adventures in Paris, Parisian Life, adventures in the City of Light. When she's not at Versailles or the Louvre Museum to do her 'Beautiful Rebels of Paris Tour' Edith is sitting on a café terrace in Paris watching the world go by.

Edith's book list on French women according to a French woman

Edith de Belleville Why did Edith love this book?

If I tell you I'm coming from Roaring Twenties and I have fascinating conversations with great characters who lived in Paris in 1920s, you will maybe think I'm a bit weird. And you will be right.

That's my Parisian life. In front of a café crème at La Rotonde café in Montparnasse, I fight with Picasso and I flirt with the young Hemingway.

And my best friend is called Kiki de Montparnasse. I know how to choose my best friend. Kiki was friendly with a strong temper and beautiful. She posed for painters and sculpters whose art now costs a fortune.

And of course Kiki was elected queen of Montparnasse, the place where modern art was created and the navel of the world, according Henry Miller. And like Miller, Kiki's book was censured in USA because it was too spicy.

She even has an introduction written by Ernest Hemingway—a rare…

By Jose-Luis Bocquet, Catel Muller (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Kiki de Montparnasse as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In the bohemian and brilliant Montparnasse of the 1920s, Kiki managed to escape poverty to become one of the most charismatic figures of the avant-garde years between the wars. Partner to Man Ray - whose most legendary photos she inspired - she would be immortalised by Kisling, Foujita, Per Krohg, Calder, Utrillo and Leger. Kiki was the muse of a generation that seeks to escape the hangover of the Great War, but she was above all one of the first emancipated women of the 20th century.

Book cover of Who Killed Janet Smith?

Daniel Francis Author Of Becoming Vancouver: A History

From my list on Vancouver history.

Why am I passionate about this?

When I was a kid growing up in Vancouver my parents had a collection of books arranged on shelves around the living room. The only one I remember taking down and actually reading was an early history of the city. I recalled being impressed by the simple fact that someone had thought my hometown was interesting enough to write about, not something that was self-evident to a cocky teenager. Many years later, some two dozen books of my own under my belt, I decided maybe I’d earned the right to take a crack at the city myself.

Daniel's book list on Vancouver history

Daniel Francis Why did Daniel love this book?

Janet Smith was a young Scottish housemaid who was murdered in the home of her well-to-do employer in 1924. Never solved, the murder is one of the most celebrated crimes in Vancouver history, featuring political corruption, racial animosity, sex, drugs, and jazz. The book is a wonderful evocation of life in the city in the 1920s when it was emerging from world war and recession and finding its feet as a cosmopolitan community with pretensions to economic leadership. This is one of the first books I ever read about Vancouver history and it remains a favourite.

By Ed Starkins,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Who Killed Janet Smith? as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Literary Nonfiction. New Edition as part City of Vancouver's Legacy Book Project, with foreword by historian Daniel Francis. WHO KILLED JANEY SMITH? examines one of the most infamous and still unsolved murder cases in Canadian history: the 1924 murder of twenty-two-year-old Scottish nursemaid Janet Smith. Originally published in 1984, and out of print for over a decade, this tale of intrigue, racism, privilege, and corruption in high places is a true-crime recreation that reads like a complex thriller.

Anvil Press is pleased to be reissuing this title as part of the City of Vancouver's Legacy Book Project. This new edition…

Book cover of The Bobbed Haired Bandit: A True Story of Crime and Celebrity in 1920s New York

Glenn Stout Author Of Tiger Girl and the Candy Kid: America's Original Gangster Couple

From my list on the Roaring Twenties.

Why am I passionate about this?

The author, editor, or ghostwriter of more than 100 book titles, Glenn Stout loves to mine microfilmed newspaper archives and specializes in deeply reported historical narrative non-fiction that brings the past to life.  Many of his titles have intersected with the Roaring Twenties, including Young Woman and the Sea: How Trudy Ederle Conquered the English Channel and Changed the World, now in development for Disney+ as a major motion picture starring Daisy Ridley.  A long-time aficionado of noir and true crime, Tiger Girl and the Candy Kid was the culmination of more than fifteen years of dogged research, a story The Wall Street Journal called “a hell of a yarn--worthy of an HBO hoodlum epic like Boardwalk Empire.”

Glenn's book list on the Roaring Twenties

Glenn Stout Why did Glenn love this book?

In 1924 husband and wife team Celia and Ed Cooney, with a new baby on the way and not enough money, turned stick-up artists, with meek-looking, bobbed-hair Celia wielding the gun. The tabloids couldn’t get enough of the “flapper turned bad” storyline and for a time every bobbed-hair flapper and her swain in New York was under suspicion.

By Stephen Duncombe, Andrew Mattson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Illuminates the life and image of one of New York City's most fashionable criminals-Celia Cooney
Ripped straight from the headlines of the Jazz Age, The Bobbed Haired Bandit is a tale of flappers and fast cars, of sex and morality. In the spring of 1924, a poor, 19-year-old laundress from Brooklyn robbed a string of New York grocery stores with a "baby automatic," a fur coat, and a fashionable bobbed hairdo. Celia Cooney's crimes made national news, with the likes of Ring Lardner and Walter Lippman writing about her exploits for enthralled readers.
The Bobbed Haired Bandit brings to life…

Book cover of The Great Gatsby

David Nicholson Author Of The Garretts of Columbia: A Black South Carolina Family from Slavery to the Dawn of Integration

From my list on race in America.

Why am I passionate about this?

Though I was born in the U.S., I didn’t wind up living here full-time till I was almost 10. The result? I have always been curious about what it means to be an American. In one way or another, the books on my list explore that question. More than that, all (well, nearly all) insist that black history is inextricably intertwined with American history and that American culture is a mulatto culture, a fusion of black and white. After years of making my living as a journalist, editor, and book reviewer, I left newspapers to write fiction and non-fiction, exploring these and other questions.

David's book list on race in America

David Nicholson Why did David love this book?

Was the hero of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s American classic African-American?

A couple of academics have advanced that theory. I’m not sure I buy it. The notion (and supporting “evidence”) seems little more than a literary parlor game, not to mention the fact that nothing in Fitzgerald’s work or his letters shows a particular engagement with, or sympathy for, black Americans.

Still, it’s an interesting metaphor and the reason this seminal American novel appears in a list of what’s otherwise non-fiction. Gatsby’s yearning for his lost love could be an African-American yearning for a beloved country that does not always love them in return.

I first read this book in high school. It wasn’t until my second, third, and fourth re-reading that I began to appreciate Fitzgerald’s gift for story-telling and his evocative, poignant language. And to identify with Gatsby, the outsider craving to become an insider.

By F. Scott Fitzgerald,

Why should I read it?

18 authors picked The Great Gatsby as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

As the summer unfolds, Nick is drawn into Gatsby's world of luxury cars, speedboats and extravagant parties. But the more he hears about Gatsby - even from what Gatsby himself tells him - the less he seems to believe. Did he really go to Oxford University? Was Gatsby a hero in the war? Did he once kill a man? Nick recalls how he comes to know Gatsby and how he also enters the world of his cousin Daisy and her wealthy husband Tom. Does their money make them any happier? Do the stories all connect? Shall we come to know…