The Good Earth
Pearl S. Buck
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.
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.