Jazz Age January Reading Guide

Posted December 19, 2014 by LeahAdmin in Literary Lists / 9 Comments

Jazz Age January

The Jazz Age January starting line is just a few weeks away, I’m excited about choosing which books to read! If you’re still trying to decide what to read — or haven’t signed up because you don’t know where to start — check out the following reading guide! I’ve broken it up into four sections full of great recommendations:

1. Books by Jazz Age authors

2. Books by Harlem Renaissance writers

3. Non-Fiction about the ’20s

4. Contemporary Fiction set during the Roaring ’20s

Books by Jazz Age Authors

We’ve got the ever-popular F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, and Evelyn Waugh, but I also tossed in some deeper cuts for those who want to take things to the next level.

Jazz Age Authors

  1. Manhattan Transfer by John Dos Passos
  2. The Waste Land by T.S. Eliot (poem)
  3. The Beautiful and Damned by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  4. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  5. This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  6. Save Me the Waltz by Zelda Fitzgerald
  7. A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway
  8. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
  9. Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell
  10. The Portable Dorothy Parker by Dorothy Parker
  11. The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas by Gertrude Stein
  12. Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh
  13. Vile Bodies by Evelyn Waugh

Harlem Renaissance

Last year Kasia Redux pointed out how white most Roaring ’20s reading tends to be, so I wanted to make a point of recommending books by authors of color for this challenge. The Harlem Renaissance spanned the 1920s and gave birth to some incredible African American writers like Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston.

Harlem Renaissance

  1. The Weary Blues by Langston Hughes
  2. How it Feels to Be Colored Me by Zora Neale Hurston (essay)
  3. Quicksand by Nella Larsen
  4. Home to Harlem by Claude McKay
  5. Banjo by Claude McKay


For those who want to learn about the fascinating era of bathtub gin, flappers, the birth of modern cities, and the colorful characters who still inspire fascination nearly a century later.

1920s Non-Fiction

  1. The Poisoner’s Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York by Deborah Blum
  2. Careless People: Murder, Mayhem, and the Invention of The Great Gatsby by Sarah Churchwell
  3. So We Read On: How The Great Gatsby Came to Be and Why it Endures by Maureen Corrigan
  4. Flappers: Six Women of a Dangerous Generation by Judith Mackrell
  5. Bobbed Hair and Bathtub Gin: Writers Running Wild in the Twenties by Marion Meade
  6. Zelda by Nancy Milford
  7. Supreme City: How Jazz Age Manhattan Gave Birth to Modern America by Donald L. Miller
  8. Found Meals of the Last Generation: Recipes and Anecdotes from 1920s Paris by Suzanne Rodriguez-Hunter

Contemporary Fiction

Novels about Zelda Fitzgerald and the various wives of Ernest Hemingway abound, as well as vibrant books set in swinging Jazz Age New York. These books give readers a great feel for the atmosphere of the time without the depressing knowledge of how their authors died.

Contemporary Fiction

  1. About Zelda Fitzgerald
    1. Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler
    2. Call Me Zelda by Erika Robuck
  2. About Hemingway’s wives
    1. The Paris Wife by Paula McLane
    2. Mrs. Hemingway by Naomi Wood
  3. Set in the ’20s
    1. Wake by Anna Hope
    2. The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty
    3. The Other Typist by Suzanne Rindell
    4. Fallen Beauty by Erika Robuck
    5. Dollface by Renee Rosen
    6. The Girls at the Kingfister Club by Genevieve Valentine
    7. The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters
  4. Young Adult
    1. The Diviners by Libba Bray
    2. Bright Young Things by Anna Godbersen

This list is obviously not definitive, and participants are welcome (and encouraged) to read books I haven’t listed here. If you have any other recommendations, please let me know in the comments!

Have you chosen any books for Jazz Age January yet? If you haven’t signed up yet, you can do so here!

  • Great list! It almost threw my reading plans off, but thankfully I remembered that I resolved to start the new year with 20 books that I already own. So the only change I might make is to add an author of color. I need to check whether I own anything that qualifies.

  • Eleanor Baggley

    Brilliant guide! I already own a number from this list that I’ve not yet read, so I’m thinking participating next year is definitely a must.

  • Soooo many great books to choose from! Now I just have to decide which one it’ll be this year!

  • semicolon

    I just read One Summer: America, 1927 by Bill Bryson, and I highly recommend it. Also, anything about Lindbergh, including Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s first memoir, Bring Me a Unicorn, 1922-1928.

  • Elena

    I love all the books, Leah. I especially recommend “Z” and “Flappers”. I read them two summers ago and it was such a great experience!

  • Ooh, I love the nonfiction list! How fun!

  • Methinks I’m going to have to start with a little Brideshead Revisited. It’s been a long time since I last read it. Can’t wait to see what others come up with.