The 1930s – Books for All Ages

Here you’ll find a list of books that are either set in the 1930s or were written during this time. This list is broken down by age but there are many books that can be enjoyed by some or all of the age groups. This list is just a sample of the thousands of books that we can access through the county-wide system. Some descriptions were taken from the catalog, others from our Literature database; Novelist (click to access from home.)

Click on Titles to be taken to the Catalog

Adult Fiction and Non-Fiction Books (Some may be suitable for teens or even children. Please ask a librarian for help with determining age suitability) 

Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café by Fannie Flagg —Mrs. Threadgoode’s tale of two high-spirited women of the 1930s, Idgie and Ruth, helps Evelyn, a 1980s woman in a sad slump of middle age, to begin to rejuvenate her own life.

Kate Vaiden by Reynolds Price —Now in her mid-fifties, Kate Vaiden recalls her early life growing up, after the violent death of her parents, an orphan in small towns in North Carolina and Virginia in the 1930s and 1940s.

Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver —The story of Harrison William Shepherd, a man caught between two worlds — Mexico and the United States in the 1930s, ’40s, and ’50s — and whose search for identity takes readers to the heart of the twentieth century’s most tumultuous events.

The Legend of Bagger Vance By Steven Pressfield – African American Bagger Vance, middle-aged caddy to war hero and former golf champion Rannulph Junah in 1931, explains to Junah how golf resembles life, and Junah’s game improves.

Maus: a Survivor’s Tale By Art Spiegelman – The author-illustrator traces his father’s imprisonment in a Nazi concentration camp through a series of disarming and unusual cartoons arranged to tell the story as a novel.

Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden — Because her mother is dying and her father old, Chiyo, nine, is sold to a wealthy geisha house in Gion where she learns her trade and works it in the 1930s and 1940s.

Native Son by Richard Wright —Right from the start, Bigger Thomas had been headed for jail. It could have been for assault or petty larceny; by chance, it was for murder and rape. Native Son tells the story of this young black man caught in a downward spiral after he kills a young white woman in a brief moment of panic. Set in Chicago in the 1930s, Richard Wright’s novel is just as powerful today as when it was written — in its reflection of poverty and hopelessness, and what it means to be black in America.

The Orchid House by Lucinda Riley — For fans of The House at Riverton and Rebecca–a debut spanning from the 1930s to the present day, from a magnificent estate in war-torn England to Thailand, this sweeping novel tells the tale of a concert pianist, Julia, and the prominent Crawford family whose shocking secrets are revealed, leading to devastating consequences for generations to come.

Shanghai Girls by Lisa See — Forced to leave Shanghai when their father sells them to California suitors, sisters May and Pearl struggle to adapt to life in 1930s Los Angeles while still bound to old customs, as they face discrimination and confront a life-altering secret.

To Have and Have Not by Ernest Hemingway — In an attempt to keep his family above water, Harry Morgan runs contraband rum shipments between Cuba and Key West during the 1930s, in a humorous tale that also follows an unlikely love affair.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee — Scout’s father defends a black man accused of raping a white woman in a small Alabama town during the 1930s. The great American novel.

Water for Elephants By Sara Gruen – Ninety-something-year-old Jacob Jankowski remembers his time in the circus as a young man during the Great Depression, and his friendship with Marlena, the star of the equestrian act, and Rosie, the elephant, who gave them hope.

A Week from Sunday by Dorothy Garlock — Set in 1930s Louisiana, a young woman makes a new life for herself after she runs away from home.

Children & Teen Fiction and Non-Fiction Books (Adults can like these too!)

Al Capone Does My Shirts By Gennifer Choldenko – A twelve-year-old boy named Moose moves to Alcatraz Island in 1935 when guards’ families were housed there, and has to contend with his extraordinary new environment in addition to life with his autistic sister.

Bird in a Box By Andrea Davis Pinkney – In 1936, three children meet at the Mercy Home for Negro Orphans in New York State, and while not all three are orphans, they are all dealing with grief and loss which together, along with the help of a sympathetic staff member and the boxing matches of Joe Louis, they manage to overcome.

The Book Thief By Marcus Zusak – Trying to make sense of the horrors of World War II, Death relates the story of Liesel–a young German girl whose book-stealing and story-telling talents help sustain her family and the Jewish man they are hiding, as well as their neighbors.

Bud, Not Buddy By Christopher Paul Curtis – Ten-year-old Bud, a motherless boy living in Flint, Michigan, during the Great Depression, escapes a bad foster home and sets out in search of the man he believes to be his father–the renowned bandleader, H.E. Calloway of Grand Rapids.

Ghost-Girl: a Blue Ridge Mountain Story By Delia Ray – Eleven-year-old April is delighted when President and Mrs. Hoover build a school near her Madison County, Virginia, home but her family’s poverty, grief over the accidental death of her brother, and other problems may mean that April can never learn to read from the wonderful teacher, Miss Vest.

The Invention of Hugo Cabret : a novel in words and pictures By Brian Selznick – When twelve-year-old Hugo, an orphan living and repairing clocks within the walls of a Paris train station in 1931, meets a mysterious toyseller and his goddaughter, his undercover life and his biggest secret are jeopardized.

Macaroni Boy By Katherine Ayers – In Pittsburgh in 1933, sixth-grader Mike Costa notices a connection between several strange occurrences, but the only way he can find out the truth about what’s happening is to be nice to the class bully. Includes historical facts.

My Heart Will Not Sit Down By Mara Rockliff – In 1931 Cameroon, young Kedi is upset to learn that children in her American teacher’s village of New York are going hungry because of the Great Depression, and she asks her mother, neighbors, and even the headman for money to help.

Out of the Dust By Karen Hesse – In a series of poems, fourteen-year-old Billie Jo relates the hardships of living on her family’s wheat farm in Oklahoma during the dust bowl years of the Depression.

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry By Mildred D. Taylor – A Black family living in the South during the 1930s is faced with prejudice and discrimination which their children don’t understand.

Turtle in Paradise By Jennifer R. Holm – Turtle, eleven, knows that life isn’t like the happy Hollywood movies her mother adores. It’s 1935 and jobs are scarce, so when her mother gets a job as a live-in housekeeper with a woman who doesn’t like children, Turtle heads off without complaint to stay with relatives she’s never met in Key West, Florida. Turtle’s dreamy mother insists that Turtle is going to live in paradise, but down-to-earth Turtle doesn’t expect much. Eventually Turtle warms to her eccentric relatives and begins to see the natural beauty hidden under the trash.

A Year Down Yonder By Richard Peck – During the hard times of 1937, fifteen-year-old Mary Alice is sent to live with her feisty, larger-than-life grandmother in rural Illinois and comes to a better understanding of this fearsome woman.

Your Eyes in Stars By M. E. Kerr – In their small New York town, two teenaged girls become friends while helping each other make sense of their families, neighbors, and selves as they approach adulthood in the years preceding World War II.