Appointment in Samarra , John O’Hara
Fran Lebowitz famously called O’Hara “the real F. Scott Fitzgerald,” and whether or not that scandalizes you, you should try his first novel of small town politics and the dark side of polite society — all wealth and jealousy and downward spirals spurred on by alcohol. Sound familiar?
Rules of Civility , Amor Towles
Towles’s recent bestselling novel follows enterprising, wise-cracking secretary Katey Kontent from a Greenwich Village jazz bar to the top of New York Society — and all the trappings, both glittery and grungy, that come along with it.
Goodbye to Berlin , Christopher Isherwood
If you love the charm, parties, and ominous machinations of Gatsby but aren’t attached to the whole Great American Novel bit, why not transfer the lot to the significantly seedier streets of Berlin in the early 1930s? There you’ll find the “divinely decadent” Sally Bowles and her entourage, like to give you no end of trouble.
The Beautiful and Damned , F. Scott Fitzgerald
Hey, when you’re on a Fitzgerald kick, you’re on a Fitzgerald kick, and sometimes nothing else will do. Like his other novels, The Beautiful and Damned is steeped in hard liquor, marital discord, and vaguely existential greed. Read it with cocktail in hand and intone along, “Here’s to alcohol, the rose colored glasses of life.”
Mrs. Dalloway , Virginia Woolf
Woolf, it should be noted, does parties much differently than Fitzgerald. But if it’s party tricks you like, things don’t get much more exciting than an affair with a defenestration.
Lady Windermere’s Fan , Oscar Wilde
Though Lady Windermere’s Fan is set a few decades before Gatsby, you can always count on Wilde for some biting social satire. And then there’s the most notorious line of the play, which sums up the themes of both Wilde’s and Fitzgerald’s work pretty well: “We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.”
Save Me the Waltz , Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald
Zelda is all over the place this year, but rather than suggesting one of the many new novelizations of her story, we’ll direct you to one of her actual stories, her semi-autobiographical novel of ballet, hysteria, and being married to F. Scott Fitzgerald.
A Moveable Feast , Ernest Hemingway
If you’re looking for jazz age gossip, go no further than the memoir-of-sorts by Fitzgerald’s very best frenemy, Ernest Hemingway, whose biting sketches of absolutely everybody will entertain and inform.
Jazz , Toni Morrison
If it’s the general mania of the ’20s you love and not West Egg in particular, try Morrison’s musical historical novel of Harlem during the decade, equal parts glamor and chaos, shine and sweat. The prose even reflects the musical styles of the time, with shifting narrators and a sort of call and response throughout. It’ll rattle your bones.
The House of Mirth , Edith Wharton
Well, we couldn’t leave off our favorite novel of the perils of social climbing, and perhaps our favorite New York novel of all time, could we? If only Lily Bart could have met Jay Gatsby. Now that would be a good book.