Reading lists

20 books that defined the 1920s

In a new series, we look at the novels that helped shape our past, from famous classics to forgotten gems. To kick things off, here's to the roaring 1920s...


Every now and then, a novel captures its era so perfectly that it becomes a window through which future generations can peer into its world. In this new series, we are taking a look at the fiction that helped define the decades in which they came out. They aren't always bestsellers – some require time and distance to prove their epoch-defining credentials – but all have come to play a part in shaping our perspectives its time and place.

We're starting with the 1920s, one of the 20th century's most dynamic decades. The world was coming out of a devastating war, a new kind of capitalism was rearing its head, and many writers saw an opportunity to express their disillusionment with societal isssues such as racism  present. For others, it was a fresh chance to celebrate sexual liberation, or the pursuit of pleasure that engendered the Jazz Age. 

So, without further ado, here are 20 books, each of which played some part in defining the roaring 20s.

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