Books Set in the 1920s: 16+ Jazz Age Books to Love

Books set in the 1920s

The Jazz Age is one of my favorite periods to see depicted in movies or novels. So I’ve rounded up my favorite books set in the 1920s.

You’ll find mysteries and fictional biographies, books set in America, England, and further abroad, and a wide range of sub-genres too.

Each story captures the Jazz Age in a different light because of the varied protagonists – aristocrats, lighthouse keepers, booksellers, female gang members, and more!

Within these pages, you’ll explore prohibition in the States, art-deco cafes in Paris, and post-war life across the globe. We hope some of these books will inspire you to learn more about this fascinating time in world history.

*Jazz Age Books Post contains affiliate links. Purchases made through links result in a small commission to us at no cost to you. Some books have been gifted. All opinions are our own.

The Best Books Set in the 1920s

Books Set in the 1920s

trust

Trust by Hernan Diaz

This is a story told in four parts. The first is a bestselling novel written about a wealthy couple who rose to power and prominence in the 1920s before finding a sharp decline.

The second is the outline of a memoir written by the husband whom the novel is about. The third is the memoir of the husband’s former secretary and the final piece is the wife’s diary. The stories of all 4 conflict and coincide in various ways to tell a tale the reader has to decipher.

Why I Loved It: I understand why Diaz won both The Booker Prize and the Pulitzer for this story. The way the layers unfolded, revealing secrets and answering questions was quite clever. It took all four narratives laid atop one another like layers of tracing paper to see the entire picture. It was just brilliantly done.

Find this book in Jazz Age Novels

The House on Biscayne Bay

The House on Biscayne Bay by Chanel Cleeton

Chanel Cleeton has written a gothic historical fiction and i am here for it! After focusing on the Perez family for several years, Cleeton has finally written another stand-alone novel.

In the era after The Great War, Robert Barnes and his wife Anna built a beautiful estate called Marbisa in Biscayne Bay, Florida. Decades later, Carmen Acosta visits the estate, now owned by her estranged sister and her husband, which looks like a paradise on the outside but is much more.

Told in a dual-timeline narrative, Carmen is out to determine if the murder of her sister is connected to the murders at Marbisa in the 1920s.

Why We Liked it: Marbisa came to life in both narratives – becoming a character in its own right. I loved reading Cleeton’s foray into the mystery/thriller genre, especially because I didn’t see the ending coming! #gifted by Berkley

Find this book in Jazz Age Novels / Spring 2024 New Releases / Beach Reads 2024 / Best Historical Fiction 2024 / New Thriller Books 2024

The Chaperone

The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty

The story starts in 1922 when Cora must accompany 15 year old Louise Brooks from Wichita Kansas to New York City. Louise will go on to become a famous silent film star but is headed to a prestigious school of dance in this story.

The five weeks that the women spend together over the course of this novel will change them both.

Why We Liked it: This book does such a great job of showing all the different changes happening during this time. It was the first book I read set during this period of history.

Find this book in Books set in 1920s / Best Historical Fiction Novels

sing unburied sing


Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward

This book is an award winner and the writing is undeniably wonderful. The story itself has elements of magic that add to the difficult subject matter.  It deals with drugs, violence, and poverty- all of which are completely relevant in today’s society. 

Why We Like It: The characters did not develop throughout the story as much as I would have liked, but this ghost book is a worthwhile read when considering the wonderful writing. The paranormal aspect makes this a great book for fall.

Find this book in Fall Books / Jazz Age Books / Ghost Books

Dressmaker of propect heights

The Dressmakers of Prospect Heights by Kitty Zeldis

In this Jazz Age novel, three women’s lives intersect in Brooklyn in 1924. All because Bea, a dress store owner, has moved from New Orleans with her charge and seamstress, Alice, in hopes of meeting Catherine.

As their lives intersect, they forge friendships, confront their pasts, and learn about the bonds of found family. This historical fiction fashion book moves from New York City to late 19th century Russia and to New Orleans in the 1910s.

Why We Like it: It was a quick read that focused a lot on sewing, Jewish history, and family ties. #Gifted by Harper Books

Find this book in Books about the Jazz Age / Novels about Fashion

Jazz Age Novels Set in England

Queens of London

Queens of London by Heather Webb

This historical fiction book takes place in London in 1925. Alice Diamond is the head of an all-female gang, The Forty Elephants, and she has big plans for the group. Unfortunately for her, Lillian Wyles, the first female detective at Scotland Yard has her eye on the gang and she is looking for a way to bring them down.

Two other females are also central to the story – Dorothy, a naive shopgirl, and Hira, a young girl who runs away from her cruel uncle only to end up in Alice’s care.

Why We Liked it: Initially, the four narrators were hard to keep track of, but eventually this mob story came together with all the stories weaving into one. I couldn’t help but root for Hira, my favorite protagonist. #gifted by Sourcebooks

Find this book in 1920s Novels / Mob Novels

Maisie Dobbs

Maisie Dobbs  by Jacqueline Winspear

Maisie Dobbs is not your typical PI. For a start, she is a woman working as a PI in 1929. 

Her first case seems like it should be a simple case of infidelity. Instead, it leads her to a murder and back to WWI where she was a nurse.

She is smart, thoughtful, and fun to read. Maisie Dobbs is a psychologist and a detective who trained under renowned Maurice Blanche a former member of Scotland Yard. She branches out and decides to start her own business.

Why We Loved it: I read this cozy mystery novel in one day.  It was so refreshing to see post-war England through Maisie’s eyes as she enters a field dominated by men. I cannot wait to read more books in this fabulous series.

Find this book in Detective Books / Historical Mystery Books / British Mystery Books / Jazz Age Novels

The House of Riverton and more Kate Morton Books ranked

The House of Riverton by Kate Morton

Kate Morton’s first book was also the last of hers that I read. Like most of Morton’s work, this gothic story revolves around the secrets of a large manor house and the family within.

This particular story is told by Grace, the former housemaid at Riverton and the confidant of the Hartford sisters. Now in her 90s, she is finally willing to share the secrets of a deadly party thrown by the family.

Why We Love it: It’s clear with this debut why Kate Morton would go on to become a best selling author. She is the master of the gothic mystery.

Find this book in Books set in the 1920s / Kate Morton Books Ranked

The Glittering Hour

The Glittering Hour by Iona Grey

Set in the dual timeline of 1925 and 1936, this story is perfect for fans of Sybil and Branson’s love story. In 1936, Alice is stuck at her stuffy grandparent’s estate while her parents are abroad.

Her mother, Selina, sets her on a treasure hunt through the grounds, to reveal her own childhood adventures. But back in 1925, we see her falling in love with a man that is below her station.

Why We Like it: This heartbreaking love story is an epic novel worth enjoying over a long weekend.

Find this book in 1920s Novels / Books like Downton Abbey

The mystery of Mrs. Christie

The Mystery of Mrs. Christie by Marie Benedict


⁣Marie Benedict is the master of bringing women back to life in her historical fiction novels. The Mystery of Mrs. Christie is my favorite to date and I found it hard to put down. ⁣In December 1926, Agatha Christie went missing for 11 days. She re-emerged as mysteriously as she disappeared and more questions than answers persist.

Why We Like it: Benedict does a wonderful job of building the mystery using her brilliant imagination and bringing us into the world of Agatha Christie. It is the perfect blend of fiction and mystery and is an absolute delight.

Find this book in Historical Mystery Books / 13 Fiction Books about Writers / Books About Books / Biographical Fiction Novel / 1920s Novels

Jazz Age Books Set in Paris

The age of light

The Age of Light by Whitney Scharer

This historical fiction novel is about real-life photographer and model,  Lee Miller. I had never heard about Miller prior to this book, though I was familiar with her lover – Man Ray.

Why We Loved it: She made some life choices that I can’t say I agree with, but I found her to be a strong, feminist woman ahead of her time. This book is a five star read, but be warned – there are some erotic scenes in the novel.

Find this book in Biographical Fiction / Best Books of 2019 / Jazz Age Novels / Art Novels / Best Book Club Books

Mademoiselle chanel

Mademoiselle Chanel by C. W. Gortner

Coco Chanel is a fascinating woman, who is famed for her stylish, sophisticated fashions. Yet this story explores her connection to the Nazis during WWII and just how far she would go to stay on top.

Why We Loved it: I loved this story, but ended up hating the woman it was about. I grew up loving Chanel designs and idolizing the fashion icon. However, when I learned more about her life, I was scandalized and horrified….but I couldn’t put it down!

Find this book in Books set in the 1920s, Biographical Fiction / Fashion Novels / Books Set in France

The Paris Bookseller

The Paris Bookseller by Kerri Maher

I love Kerri Maher’s other two books so I eagerly grabbed this story about an American ex-Pat (Sylvia Beach) that opened a bookstore in Paris during the time between WWI and WWII.

The story was sprinkled with literary figures well-known from the time – think Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Stein, etc. But the story really revolves around Beach’s publication of Joyce’s Ulysses.

Our Thoughts: I had no idea that the famous book caused such a stir in the world at the time – with many publishing houses refusing to publish it based on its content. The story was interesting but a little dragged out in parts. I think the tedium of the publishing process just got to be a little too detailed for my taste.

Find this book in Books about Bookstores / 1920s Novels

1920s Novels Set Abroad

gentleman in moscow

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

This historical fiction hotel novel is set in Moscow between 1918 through the 1950s, Count Alexander Rostov has narrowly escaped execution and has been sentenced to house arrest within his hotel, the Metropol for the rest of his life.

The Count is confined to the attic room. Once a part of the spoiled elite, he becomes friends with the staff and the inhabitants.

Why We Loved it: The book is beautifully written and I grew to love the Count. This is slated to becom a tv show soon.

Find this book in Books Becoming TV Shows / Books set in the 1920s / Hotel Novels

The Light Between Oceans and more isolation books

The Light Between Oceans by M.L Stedman

A lighthouse keeper and his wife have gotten used to the lonely, isolated life of maintaining the lighthouse on a faraway island. But they are yearning for a baby to keep them company.

When one washes ashore, they quickly claim the child as their own without reporting it to the authorities. On a rare outing in town 2 years later, they bring their daughter along and realize the impact of what they have done.

Why We Loved it: This was a heartbreaking but beautiful read and the movie adaptation was excellent as well.

Find this book in 1920s Novels / Books about Mothers / Sad Books / Isolation Thrillers

bluebird

Bluebird by Genevieve Graham

Taking place first in the hospital tent of the great war and then in Canada during prohibition, this historical fiction story was totally captivating!

The love story between Jerry and Adele during prohibition and the search for the truth of their story and their descendant in the present provided the perfect balance of mystery and romance.

Why We Liked It: I loved learning about the rum runners during prohibition in Canada. It was a part of history I’d never considered before.

Find this book in WWI Books / Jazz Age Novels / Historical Romance Novels

Fantasy Jazz Age Novels

Gods of Jade and Shadow

The Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

I don’t know what took me so long to read this amazing young adult fantasy book. I heard such great things and I did not want to be disappointed but, I was also afraid that it would be dark. Somehow, despite being about the god of Death, this was not a dark or heavy book.

Casiopea lives in her grandfather’s home with her mother who is forced to clean. She dreams of leaving someday. When she accidentally frees the Mayan god of death, he attaches himself to her and she must go with him to free him from his brother’s curse.

Why We Love it: I loved this book and its completely unique story.

Find this book in 1920s Novels / Beach Reads 2022 / Female Bipoc Authors

Revelle

Revelle by Lyssa Mia Smith

This prohibition-era historical fantasy novel was inspired by Moulin Rouge! It’s filled with romance, carnival performers, and a magical community on an island near New York.

Luxe (our Satine) can use her magic to create illusions to give people exactly what they want but what her family needs is money. When Dewey, a time-traveling smuggler, asks her to help him become mayor by pretending to be his fiance, she thinks her prayers are answered.

Until she meets Jamison, a poor commoner with no magic to speak of. They begin an illicit relationship that might spell doom for them all.

Why We Liked it: This YA historical fantasy novel held me captive. It was so original! If you are looking for young adult fantasy romance books, this one should be on your TBR.

Find this book in Jazz Age Novels / Circus Books / YA Fantasy Romance / Historical Fantasy

Classic Books Set in the 1920s

benjamin Button

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button by F. Scott Fitzgerald

This short story revolves around a man who aged in reverse – born as a 70-year-old and ending his life as a newborn. He has a chance at love and experiences life’s ups and downs throughout his odd life.

My Thoughts: I listened to this one while doing the laundry the other night, it’s only an hour long but I rather liked it! I liked it so much that I was frustrated that it wasn’t a full-blown novel.

Find this book in Best Classic Books /1920s Novels / Short Story Collections

The Great Gatsby and more books for Downton Abbey Fans

Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Are you a fan of Rose’s storyline from Downton Abbey? Well, our swinging-dancing, jazz-loving, rebellious debutante would be perfectly happy inside Fitzgerald’s famed novel.

The book might take place in America, but the same ideas of the class divide and resistance to change in the most opulent of settings could be felt in England too.

Daisy and Gatsby’s story still seems so relevant today too. This tragic love story is a classic for a reason.

Find this book in Books set in New York / Classic Books / 1920s Novels

Passing

Passing by Nella Larsen

This book came to my attention because it was the first selected for Netflix’s new book club. They’ve been making so many adaptations recently that a marking move like that made sense.

I didn’t know the term passing, in which a black woman with light skin passes herself as white, until I read The Vanishing Half last year.

Why We Like it: Nella Larsen’s book on the subject had me further understanding what it means, why a black woman would make that choice, and what the consequences of passing might be.

Find this book in 1920s Novels

Jazz Age Nonfiction

Maiden Voyages

Maiden Voyages by Sian Evans

Maiden Voyages looks at the ladies who worked Ocean Liners like the Titanic and the unbelievable challenges they faced. I was in awe as I listened to this story of ships being sunk by icebergs and wartime submarines. 

The stories of unruly passengers, hurricanes, and the sacrifices of leaving their families to help others were unbelievable. I was so engrossed that I kept forgetting the book was non-fiction.

Why We Love it: If you love women’s history, the history of travel, or stories about the Titanic, this is the book for you!

Find this book in Books Set in the 1920s / Gilded Age Books / Books like Downton Abbey / Feel-Good Nonfiction / Boat Books

Killers of the flower Moon

Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann

While this is about the start of the FBI and its role in solving the brutal Osage murders in the 1920s, it also tells the story of the exploitative, disgusting treatment of the Osage tribe. It was shocking to read about the brutal way the Osage were manipulated – from the overcharging of goods to the corruption of the justice system, to flat-out murder, this is a stark, eye-opening story of our country’s racist roots.

Why We Like it: I read this non-fiction book before it became a movie. The plot is juicy and thought-provoking. It was hard to believe I was reading a true story, the plot twists and characters came to life in a cinematic way.

Find this book in Books set in the 1920s / Thought-Provoking Books

Jazz Age Novels on our TBR

What Jazz Age?

The Jazz Age, or Roaring Twenties, is the time between the end of WWI and 1929. It’s primarily known as the Jazz Age in the US because of the rise of Jazz music. The period is also known for Prohibition, flappers, and the rise of the automobile. The period ended with the onset of the Great Depression.

Did any of these books set in the 1920s make it to your TBR?

Historical Fiction

Ultimate List of Historical Fiction

Love Historical Fiction? The Ultimate List of Historical Fiction is the perfect list for you. It is carefully divided by time.

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