20 Must-Read Historical Fiction Books Set In The 1900s and 1910s

Best Historical fiction of 1900s scaled

In the annals of history, the 1900s loom large as a century of unparalleled change and innovation. 

And from the ashes of the Victorian era to the dawn of the digital age, the 20th century witnessed so many remarkable events that reshaped the world as we know it.

In this article, I’ve now listed 20 totally fantastic books set in the 1900s and 1910s that everyone needs to read because I know you’ll love them all!

1. Light Changes Everything by Nancy E.  Turner

Light changes everything

Light Changes Everything is a sizzling 1907 Arizona tale about Mary Pearl and her Jane Austen dreams, disrupted by an old-money suitor, Aubrey Hanna. 

Despite a rushed engagement, Mary Pearl’s journey to Wheaton College opens doors to academics and womanhood that paints her as a bold feminist ahead of her time.

2. Gilded Mountain by Kate Manning

Gilded mountain

This book shifts us to 1907 Colorado and we get to see Sylvie Pelletier’s adventures while working for the wealthy Padgetts. 

Seduced by luxury but appalled by unfair treatment, Sylvie faces tough choices amid rising tensions in the changing American West.

3. A Tree Grows In Brooklyn by Betty Smith

A tree grows in Brooklyn

This book set in the 1900s is set in the early 1900s Williamsburg, and it follows Francie Nolan’s poignant coming-of-age story that blends joy and sorrow within her family’s struggles and triumphs.

4. The Cold Millions by Jess Walter – 1909

The cold millions

This time around, we dive into the unpredictable lives of the Dolans in 1909, with Rye torn between his brother Gig’s dreams of workers’ rights and his scepticism. 

As they meet Ursula the Great and a sinister mining magnate, Rye’s loyalties are tested and I know you’ll dearly love this 1900s book. 

5. Little Souls by Sandra Dallas – 1918

Little souls

Sandra Dallas’s Little Souls is set in 1918 and it is a Denver bestseller and Colorado Book Awards finalist. 

Set during the 1918 flu pandemic, it follows sisters Helen and Lutie who are dealing with different challenges and gripping secrets.

6. The Magnolia Palace – 1919

Magnolia Palace

The events in this book take place in 1919, when Lillian Carter’s successful modelling career takes a hit after the Spanish flu claims her mother. 

Decades later, model Veronica Weber sees more family drama in the same mansion and discovers some hidden messages and a decades-old murder mystery.

7. Dead Wake by Erik Larson – 1915

Dead Wake

Dead Wake by Erik Larson shows the tragic sinking of the Lusitania in 1915 revealed the impact on America’s path to war during the Progressive Era.

8. The Secret Life of Violet Grant by Beatriz Williams – 1914

Secret life of violet grant

This book based on the late 1910s intertwines 1914 Berlin and 1964 Manhattan that reveals a family secret that involves Violet Schuyler Grant and a British Army captain.

9. Orphans of the Storm by Calia Imrie – 1911

Orphans of the storm

This 1911 book weaves Marcella Navratil’s desire for divorce and Margaret Hays’s Titanic journey and it sets the stage for a sweeping tale of the Titanic’s sinking.

10. A Memory of Violets by Hazel Gaynor – 1912

A memory of violets

This time around, we follow Tilly Harper’s journey in London as she discovers the story of Florrie, an orphaned flower girl, and her sister Rosie.

11. Scarlet Carnation by Layla Ibrahim – 1915

Scarlet carnation

Scarlet Carnation set in 1915 shows us racial injustice, class divisions, and WWI through May’s dream of independence and Naomi’s pursuit of dignity in Nice, France.

12. The Women of the Copper Country by Mary Doria Russell – 1913

Women of the copper County

Annie Clements fights for fairness in the tough mining town of Calumet and this echoes the challenges of early 20th-century workers in this historical fiction book set in the 1910s.

13. The Radium Girls by Kate Moore – 1917

Radium girls

This book is based on the true story of women handling radium who were initially hailed but contracted sickness. 

Their fight for rights brings about crucial changes, and you can watch this now on screen because it was adapted into a movie in 2018.

14. The Saturday Evening Girls Club by Jane Healey – 1909

Saturday evening girls club

Centred around four immigrant women who form a strong bond in Boston’s North End while pursuing dreams that clash with tradition, this amazing historical fiction book set in the late 1900s is a must-read. 

15. Ragtime by E. L. Doctorow – 1906


Ragtime blends real and make-believe in a rich American family’s home and it intertwines historical figures and imagined characters against the backdrop of early 20th-century America.

16. The Attic Child by Lola Jaye – 1906

Attic child

The Attic Child delves into family secrets, love, loss, identity, and belonging through Celestine and Lowra in the early 1900s and 1974.

17. Band of Sisters by Lauren Willig – 1917

Band of sisters

This book follows Kate Moran and Smith College graduates helping French civilians during World War I.

18. A Fall of Marigolds by Susan Meissner – 1911

A fall of marigolds

A Fall of Marigolds links nurse Clara Wood’s grief in 1911 with widow Taryn Michaels’ rediscovery of a century-old scarf and how they unravel hidden connections in their stories.

19. The Bourbon Thief by Tiffany Reisz – 1900s

Bourbon thief

Cooper McQueen’s search for a stolen bourbon bottle reveals the dark history of the Maddox family and a hidden vendetta against them.

20. The Gods of Tango by Carolina De Robertis – 1900s

The gods of tango

The Gods of Tango follows Leda’s journey from Italy to Argentina in 1913 and how she disguises herself as a man named Dante to pursue her passion for the violin and the forbidden world of tango. 

And what do you think? Will you check out any of these historical fiction books set in the 1900s? Let me know in the comments below.

The related posts below have even more recommendations and I know you’ll love them a whole lot. 


Hi! I'm Preye ("pre" as in "prepare" and "ye" as in "Kanye"), and I am a lifelong book lover who enjoys talking about books and sharing bits and pieces of all the fascinating things I come across. I love books so much that I decided to become a developmental editor, and right now, I work with authors to help them tell their stories better. On this blog, I share everything from book recommendations to book reviews and writing tips, so feel free to stop by anytime you like!

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