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The 1920s Books

Frederick Lewis Allen, Only Yesterday (1931)

Allen, a journalist, wrote Only Yesterday in 1931, so its perspective on life in the Roaring Twenties is deeply colored by the descent into Great Depression that immediately succeeded it. Engaging and readable, Only Yesterday remains an indispensable account of life in 1920s America.

Edward J. Larson, Summer for the Gods: The Scopes Trial and America's Continuing Debate Over Science and Religion (1997)

A Pulitzer Prize winner, Larson's engaging account of the circus-like 1925 "Scopes Monkey Trial"—in which a Tennessee schoolteacher was charged for teaching evolution—provides much useful cultural context for understanding the controversial intersection between religion and science.

David M. Kennedy, Over Here: The First World War and American Society (1980)

Though Over Here focuses mainly on the period just preceding the Roaring Twenties—the Great War era—its closing chapters deftly explain how the war unleashed the very illiberal tendencies in American society that ended the Progressive Era and doomed Woodrow Wilson's idealistic vision to failure. Over Here's ending is the beginning of the Harding/Coolidge 1920s.

Steve Fraser, Every Man a Speculator: A History of Wall Street in American Life (2005)

Fraser's grand history of Wall Street's image and reality in American culture encompasses much more than the 1920s; the book traces the American stock market's place in our society from 1792 into the 21st century. This long-term context provided in this enthusiastic work enables deeper understanding of Wall Street's pre-eminence in the Roaring Twenties.

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