The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck
The Good Earth
Pearl S. Buck
The bestselling book of
1932 and 1932

The Great Depression, which for the sake of argument we will neatly define as 1929 to 1939, was a tumultuous era that began with the Roaring Twenties going out with a whimper and ended with the turmoil of World War II.  This period of intense hardship for many also yielded some of the most interesting and lasting literature from the previous century. 

The powerful themes of crashing stock markets and widespread poverty are well represented in books familiar to many readers. John Steinbeck depicted the hardships of the Dust Bowl and rural America like no other, and Pearl S. Buck revealed the Chinese were suffering similar hardships on their side of the globe in her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Good Earth.  But the Depression wasn’t just about depressing books.

Many of the most popular novels offered an escape from the worries of the time such as the 1934 bestseller Anthony Adverse, which depicts a globetrotting adventurer, or the feel good story of Goodbye, Mr. Chips in which boarding school teacher Mr. Chipping overcomes shyness and his initial inability to connect with his students to become an inspiring educator.

Each of these novels was among the top 10 bestsellers in the years spanning 1929 and 1939 and - putting aside big names like Sinclair Lewis and Pearl S. Buck – many of these novels are out-of-print and largely forgotten.  Discover great reading from the Great Depression.

 

Great Depression Books

Dodsworth by Sinclair Lewis
Dodsworth
by Sinclair Lewis
Dark Hester by Anne Douglas Sedgwick
Dark Hester
by Anne Douglas Sedgwick
The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings
The Yearling
by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings
Cimarron by Edna Ferber
Cimarron
by Edna Ferber
The Woman of Andros by Thornton Wilder
The Woman of Andros
by Thornton Wilder
Angel Pavement by J.B. Priestley
Angel Pavement
by J.B. Priestley
Rogue Herries by Hugh Walpole
Rogue Herries
by Hugh Walpole
Grand Hotel by Vicki Baum
Grand Hotel
by Vicki Baum
Maid in Waiting by John Galsworthy
Maid in Waiting
by John Galsworthy
The Fountain by Charles Morgan
The Fountain
by Charles Morgan
Mary’s Neck by Booth Tarkington
Mary’s Neck
by Booth Tarkington
Miss Bishop by Bess Streeter Aldrich
Miss Bishop
by Bess Streeter Aldrich
As the Earth Turns by Gladys Hasty Carroll
As the Earth Turns
by Gladys Hasty Carroll
Anthony Adverse by Hervey Allen
Anthony Adverse
by Hervey Allen
So Red the Rose by Stark Young
So Red the Rose
by Stark Young
Good-bye, Mr. Chips by James Hilton
Good-bye, Mr. Chips
by James Hilton
Of Time and the River by Thomas Wolfe
Of Time and the River
by Thomas Wolfe
Drums Along the Mohawk by Walter D. Edmonds
Drums Along the Mohawk
by Walter D. Edmonds
Northwest Passage by Kenneth Roberts
Northwest Passage
by Kenneth Roberts
We Are Not Alone by James Hilton
We Are Not Alone
by James Hilton
Action at Aquila by Hervey Allen
Action at Aquila
by Hervey Allen
The Tree of Liberty by Elizabeth Page
The Tree of Liberty
by Elizabeth Page
And Tell of Time by Laura Krey
And Tell of Time
by Laura Krey
All This, and Heaven Too by Rachel Field
All This, and Heaven Too
by Rachel Field
Old Wine and New by Warwick Deeping
Old Wine and New
by Warwick Deeping

America's Bestselling Books in 1932

A quick view of the bestselling books from 80 years ago reveals several familiar names. Although Pearl S Buck’s works are widely read and used in schools and colleges, Ellen Glasgow’s books are mostly out-of-print.

Louis Golding is almost completely forgotten now even though he was a prolific author of novels, short stories and travel books. A.J. Cronin is best remembered today for creating Dr. Finlay's Casebook.

The year was a busy one. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley was published. The US hosted both the summer and winter Olympics in Lake Placid and Los Angeles respectively.  Adolf Hitler became a German citizen.  The infant son of aviator Charles Lindbergh was murdered. Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt defeated incumbent Republican Herbert Hoover to become US president.

 

Suggest more books from this era (1929-1939)- leave a comment:

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