Pottermore’s guide to the twenties: iconic books published in the 20s

The 1920s were a boom time for the arts, and literature was no exception. Here are a few of the famous (and infamous) publications that book-lovers, or book-writers like Newt Scamander, might appreciate.

A Penguin copy of Lady Chatterley's Lover, by D. H. Lawrence.
A Penguin copy of Lady Chatterley's Lover, by D. H. Lawrence. Express / Stringer/ Getty Images.

This is part of a Pottermore series celebrating the era of the 1920s, the decade where Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them takes place.

1. Edith Wharton’s The Age of Innocence

Published in 1920 and set in 1870s New York, The Age of Innocence centres on the marriage of Newland Archer to heiress May Welland, and his pursuit of her cousin, the scandalous Countess Ellen Olenska. In 1921, it became the first novel by a woman to win the Pulitzer Prize.

2. DH Lawrence’s Women in Love

Published in 1920, Women in Love is the sequel to The Rainbow, which had been banned on the grounds of obscenity. It tells the tale of two sisters and their relationships in the years before the First World War.

3. James Joyce’s Ulysses

James Joyce’s retelling of The Odyssey through a day in the life of two Dublin men is considered one of the finest works of modernist fiction. Its lack of conventional structure has challenged readers for years, and when it was published in full in the early 1920s it, too, was banned for including obscene material.

4. F Scott Fitzgerald’s The Beautiful and Damned

F Scott Fitzgerald’s second novel, published in 1922, was heavily influenced by his own marriage to Zelda Sayre – ‘the first American flapper’ – and explored the decadence of the glamorous New York society in which they lived.

5. Richmal Crompton’s Just William

Richmal Crompton’s Just William series follows the adventures of schoolboy William Brown. It was phenomenally successful in the UK, with 39 books released over 50 years. The first story, Just William, was published in 1922.

6. TS Eliot’s The Waste Land

The Waste Land was TS Eliot’s epic modernist poem, completely radical when it was published in 1922. Presented in five parts, it includes notes written by Eliot on the poem’s structure and references.

British poet T.S Eliot at his desk.
British poet T.S Eliot at his desk. Bettmann / Contributor / Getty Images.

7. Margery Williams’s The Velveteen Rabbit

The Velveteen Rabbit is one of the world’s best-loved children’s books. Released in 1922, it follows the adventures of a stuffed rabbit and his desire to become real through the love of his owner.

8. PG Wodehouse’s The Inimitable Jeeves

PG Wodehouse created Jeeves, butler to Bertie Wooster, in 1915. The first collection featuring just the two of them – The Inimitable Jeeves – was released in 1923. Now, the name Jeeves has become inextricably linked with the image of an upper-class gentleman’s butler.

9. EM Forster’s A Passage to India

Published in 1924, A Passage to India is set against the backdrop of the British Raj and Indian independence movement, and its central story – of a young Englishwoman falsely accusing an Indian physician of sexual assault – explores the challenges presented by British colonialism.

10. W Somerset Maugham’s The Painted Veil

W Somerset Maugham was one of the most popular writers of his era and The Painted Veil, published in 1925, is one of his best-known stories. It follows spoiled Kitty Garstin through her marriage to Walter Fane, their life in Hong Kong, and her affair with Charlie Townsend.

11. Gertrude Stein’s The Making of Americans

Although published in 1925, Gertrude Stein’s The Making of Americans: Being a History of a Family’s Progress was completed in Paris in 1911. Its length and experimental style had much to do with the amount of time it took to reach publication.

12. Alain LeRoy Locke’s The New Negro

The New Negro was an anthology, published in 1925. It is the definitive text of the cultural renaissance then known as The New Negro Movement, later termed the Harlem Renaissance.

13. Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway

Mrs Dalloway, published in 1925, is one of Virginia Woolf’s best-known novels. The story follows Mrs Dalloway and Septimus Warren Smith through one day in the years after the Great War. Woolf explores her characters’ innermost thoughts using a style called stream of consciousness.

14. F Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby

F Scott Fitzgerald has become synonymous with the Roaring Twenties, and his 1925 work The Great Gatsby is his most iconic novel. Like many of his works it was inspired by the New York society he and his wife, Zelda, inhabited.

15. Langston Hughes’s The Weary Blues

Langston Hughes was a writer and poet whose work is considered one of the high points of the Harlem Renaissance, the 1920s movement that kindled a new black cultural identity. The Weary Blues was his first poetry collection, published in 1926.

16. Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises

The Sun Also Rises, published in 1926, follows a group of American and British expats who travel to Pamplona, Spain, to watch the running of the bulls. The story is written in the understated style that would become Hemingway’s trademark.

Ernest Hemingway at his typewriter
American writer Ernest Hemingway works at his typewriter. Lloyd Arnold / Contributor / Getty Images.

17. Virginia Woolf’s To The Lighthouse

Published in 1927, To The Lighthouse follows the relationships of a married couple, the Ramsays, as they holiday in the Hebrides. Like other modernist novels of the time, it contains very little dialogue or action.

18. William Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury

William Faulkner’s innovative The Sound and the Fury was published in 1929. It follows the declining fortunes of the once-aristocratic Compson family, with different members of the family narrating different sections.

19. DH Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Although DH Lawrence’s notorious novel – which charts the relationship of Lady Constance Chatterley and her gamekeeper, Oliver Mellors – was published in 1929, it wasn’t released in the UK until 1960, after the book’s publishers Penguin won an obscenity trial.

20. Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms

Hemingway’s 1929 novel is set during the First World War. It follows the love affair between American soldier Frederic Henry and English nurse Catherine Barkley. It was a bestseller, and cemented Hemingway’s reputation as a modern American writer.