10 Great Historical Novels That Take Place in the 1930s

Between the economic struggles of the Great Depression, the tensions brewing in Europe after the end of the First World War, and the progress of technology like film & television, the 1930s were an interesting time to be alive. If you want to read a well-written story that takes place during this exciting decade, check out the ten great books listed here. This video was made with Ezvid Wikimaker.

Historical Fiction Set in the Thirties: Our 10 Picks

Title Author
1. The Patriots Sana Krasikov
2. The Well and the Mine Gin Phillips
3. I Will Send Rain Rae Meadows
4. The Air You Breathe Frances de Pontes Peebles
5. The Westhampton Leisure Hour and Supper Club Samantha Bruce-Benjamin
6. Mary Coin Marisa Silver
7. Vivian in Red Kristina Riggle
8. Modern Girls Jennifer S. Brown
9. First Snow, Last Light Wayne Johnston
10. The Fortunate Ones Ellen Umansky

Important Events in the 1930s

8 Great Historical Films

  1. Schindler's List (1993)
  2. 12 Years a Slave (2013)
  3. Doctor Zhivago (1965)
  4. Braveheart (1995)
  5. Lincoln (2012)
  6. Bonnie and Clyde (1967)
  7. The King's Speech (2010)
  8. All the President's Men (1976)

The History of the Great Depression

In Depth

After the style and excess of the 1920s, the decade that followed was a difficult one, from the struggle of the Great Depression in America to the onset of war in Europe. Those tough years are the perfect setting for fiction that highlights the extremes of the human experience. For history buffs and curious readers who love getting lost in the past, here, in no particular order, are some excellent reads that take place in the 1930s.

At #1, we find Sana Krasikov's "The Patriots." When the Depression hits America, Brooklyn-based Florence takes off for Russia, soon finding herself in a situation that's nothing like she'd imagined. Years later, with her son leaving Moscow for the States, she'll find that old secrets don't die so easily. After her son looks into her KGB file, her promise of a free, unencumbered life is dashed forever. Now, Florence will have to let her son in on the truth of her complicated life.

At #2 is "The Well and the Mine" by Gin Phillips. In Carbon Hill, Alabama, a family is hit hard by the country's financial downturn. But the Moores don't just have money to worry about: they're trying to get to the bottom of a homicidal mystery. When a desperate woman throws her baby down their well, the whole community starts talking. Now, it's up to the Moores to uncover the motivation behind the crime, a shocking revelation that implicates the entire town.

In Carbon Hill, Alabama, a family is hit hard by the country's financial downturn.

In the #3 slot is "I Will Send Rain" by Rae Meadows. It's 1934 in Oklahoma, and the dust bowl is in full swing. Once fertile farm country, Annie Bell's hometown is now slowly being laid to waste by the horrible drought that seems to get worse every day. Tempted by the possibility of cutting ties with her old life, Annie wants to do what's best for herself and her family, even if it means packing up everything and setting out for parts unknown.

At #4 is "The Air You Breathe" by Frances de Pontes Peebles. Two young girls meet on the streets of Brazil, drawn to each other by their love of music and their lust for life. As the girls grow up together, their joint career brings them far from the streets of Rio. Landing in Los Angeles during the height of the studio era, the young women find a way to make a life for themselves. But as their success grows, they learn that sustaining an age-old friendship isn't always easy, no matter how strong their bond might be.

Coming in at #5 is Samantha Bruce-Benjamin's "The Westhampton Leisure Hour and Supper Club." The biggest party of the year is taking place at Serena Lyons' home. But as fate would have it, the Great Hurricane of 1938 is about to crash the party. As Serena keeps her eye out for the one special guest she'd give anything to see, the storm advances, threatening to destroy the hostess's perfect world.

But as fate would have it, the Great Hurricane of 1938 is about to crash the party.

At #6 is Marisa Silver's "Mary Coin." As a struggling mother trying to build a life for herself and her family during the Depression, Mary never imagined that her pain would be immortalized in an iconic image. But that's exactly what happens when photographer Vera Dare snaps a picture of Mary, turning her into one of the most recognizable faces in history. As the two women's stories unfold, readers are shown just how destructive it can be to try to distill a rich, complex life into a single image.

For #7 we find "Vivian in Red" by Kristina Riggle. Milo is the King of Broadway. Or at least he was, back in his heyday in the 1930s, when musicals were all the rage. Now, in his 80s, he gets a sudden glimpse into everything that might have been. The return of an ageless woman who seems to have stepped out of 1934 and into the present day stuns Milo and sends him on a journey to reconnect with the mysterious force that has been dropped back into his life by fate.

For #8 we have Jennifer S. Brown's "Modern Girls." Dottie loves her independent life in New York. She has a great job, a boyfriend, and a group of spunky gal pals to go out on the town with. But when Dottie ends up pregnant, her conservative Jewish family isn't too pleased. With her mother getting more and more involved in socialism and her father striving to return to a more traditional way of living, will Dottie be able to have her own life on her own terms without breaking away from the family completely?

She has a great job, a boyfriend, and a group of spunky gal pals to go out on the town with.

At #9 is Wayne Johnston's "First Snow, Last Light." Ned Vatcher is one of the "Vanishing Vatchers," a family line struck by tragedy and madness. During the harsh winter of 1936, fourteen-year-old Ned comes home to find his parents gone without a trace. Moving in with his grandparents, he meets a few colorful characters who become part of his chosen family. If Ned can build a new life while solving the mystery of what happened to his old one, maybe he'll be able to put an end to the Vatchers' tragic streak for good.

Finally, at #10, is "The Fortunate Ones" by Ellen Umansky. In 1939, Rose Zimmer gets shipped off to safety as part of the kindertransport program designed to protect children in occupied countries. With her parents unable to leave their home in Vienna, Rose must stand helplessly by as war ravages Europe and leaves her orphaned.

After the fighting ends, she becomes obsessed with finding her mother's most prized possession: a painting that has fallen into unknown hands. Her quest takes her all the way up to the present day, and to the home of Lizzie, a Los Angeles transplant who just might have the answers Rose seeks.