Considering the worldwide impact of the Great Depression, it’s not surprising that many books have been written about this subject. Here are some of our top picks, both true and fictional, based on the experiences, challenges, and triumphs of those who lived through the depression.
A Southern Exposure: A Novel by Alice Adams: In the hopes that they can escape the burden of debt and other obligations Harry, Cynthia and Abigail Baird move from New England to Pinehill, North Carolina and find themselves in a completely different world.
Go Tell it on the Mountain by James Baldwin: John Grimes yearns for his father’s love, and desperately wants to escape the oppression he faces as a young black man in New York during the Great Depression. In order to become a man his father would be proud of John must make a choice- accept his heritage or become a part of the forces that oppress him.
Paper Moon (or Addie Pray) by Joe David Brown: Eleven-year-old Addie’s quick wit and a sharp tongue have helped earn her a place as one of the world’s youngest con artists. Addie and “Long Boy”- her mentor and perhaps father- have had some successful schemes but nothing compares to what Major Carter E. Lee, shyster extraordinaire has come up with. Realizing that the grift may not be for her, Addie decides to turn the tables on Major Lee.
Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis: 10 year old Bud Caldwell is convinced that bass player Herman E. Calloway of the Dusky Devastators of the Depression is his father. After narrowly escaping a monster infested woodshed Bud runs away from his foster home to Grand Rapids, Michigan where his supposed father owns a club.
Jim the Boy by Tony Earley: Life has always been hard for ten-year-old Jim Glass, his family and the town of Aliceville, North Carolina. As the town changes with the introduction of electricity and the construction of a new school, Jim begins to realize there is a lot more to the world than the small town he knows.
Sea Glass by Anita Shreve: Honora and Sexton Beecher are newlyweds with a bright future ahead of them until the stock market crashes. Finances have already been tight since they decided to buy an old beach house and the added stress of Sexton’s new job at a local mill takes a toll on their marriage.
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck: Wise to the ways of the world, George must look after his friend Lennie, a giant with the mind of a child. The two men have traveled the country in search of work and a place to call home. At last they think they may have found it on a ranch in California’s Salinas Valley but the odds seem to be against them.
An Hour Before Daylight: Memories of a Rural Boyhood by Jimmy Carter: This memoir offers a unique look at the influences that made Jimmy Carter one of America’s best loved leaders. The former president reminisces about growing up in Depression-era Georgia offers an intimate glimpse into the life of a family who must pull together to make it through a time of national crisis.
One Time, One Place: Mississippi in the Depression: A Snapshot Album by Eudora Welty: On assignment for the WPA Eudora Welty shot this series of haunting and beautiful photographs of small town Mississippi during the Great Depression.
The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl by Timothy Egan: A harrowing account based on the experiences of those who lived in what later became known as the Dust Bowl. Egan contends that the tragedy was the result of a combination of man-made and ecological forces. Through his interviews Egan has woven a work of haunting beauty.