F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Best Books | Top 3 Picks
F. Scott Fitzgerald is known to have paved a new path in American Literature, capturing the decadence of the 1920s, from its rise to its decline. What is even more riveting about Fitzgerald’s novels are the characters he creates that stem from his personal life experiences in an era of perceivably loose morals and hedonism.
Our Selection of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Best Books
With such a wide range of characters and tales from this dazzling era in American history, which Fitzgerald’s novels best encapsulate the Jazz Age and its timelessness? Here are our top 3 picks of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s best books!
1. This Side of Paradise
Fitzgerald’s debut novel, This Side of Paradise, caused a stir in American society. It highlighted a rising youth culture and made many individuals question the roots of such a culture and how their seemingly shared experiences were not processed or perceived the same way across the various age groups. Romance, war, and addiction come together in the novel to weave the story of Amory Blaine and his journey into adulthood. Charming, rich but also selfish and egotistical, Amory represents the typical Jazz era youth. His string of romantic relationships brings out the different facets of his personality, each one hardening his sense of self.
While the experience of war may be a far-off reality for most of us today, the coming-of-age theme in the novel would resonate strongly. Relationships are a commonplace aspect of many of our lives, and Fitzgerald has captured both their beauty and destructiveness, bringing us a tale that, set in the 1920s, is one that modern readers can learn from and relate to. More than just a glimpse into a decade where parties are rampant and morals questionable, This Side of Paradise appeals to the human condition and its struggles navigating a world that will never cease being swayed by culture and people.
This Side of Paradise grabbed the attention of many with the new angle it introduced to American Literature. It cemented and gave standing to a wave of pop culture in American history regarding music, literature, and lifestyle. Fitzgerald’s well-crafted dialogue strummed a chord in readers’ hearts and raised the bar for what else was to come from the steadily rising author. Nevertheless, the controversy Fitzgerald sparked through This Side of Paradise would set off a debate on morality, human life, and nature that would last for decades.
2. Tender is the Night
Written in one of the darker periods of Fitzgerald’s life, Tender is the Night reflects his descent into alcoholism and how his wife Zelda Sayre succumbed to mental illness. Fitzgerald’s life was in shambles during the late 1920s to early 1930s leading up to his death. The darker themes explored in Fitzgerald’s final novel before his death are a stark depiction of the crash that followed the great heights of the Jazz Age. Fitzgerald paints the Roaring Twenties as full of glamor and pleasure through his first three novels. In Tender is the Night, he peels back these layers, laying bare the consequences and repercussions of a decade of hedonism.
He and Sayre spent a large part of their early marriage hopping from party to party, getting intoxicated, all while their money was depleting like running water. This lifestyle led to significant problems for Fitzgerald as the excessive drinking exacerbated his alcoholic tendencies. In Tender is the Night, we see Dick Diver, the story’s protagonist struggle with alcoholism as well. Meanwhile, Fitzgerald’s wife Sayre is mirrored by the mentally ill Nicole Warren, who is Dick’s wife.
Through this harrowing tale that only seems to grow heavier, the characters only spiral further into a state of unhappiness. Tender is the Night depicts the result of unbridled hedonism and carelessness in Fitzgerald’s life and that of the Jazz Age generation. The novel charts the Divers’ downfall and the loneliness that seems to plague the characters. Emptiness is a prominent theme in Tender is the Night, where relationships are superficial and selfish and merely a means to experience human intimacy. Similarly, human relationships still tend to reflect this quality in a fast-paced world such as ours today.
3. The Great Gatsby
Lastly, this curated list would not be complete without Fitzgerald’s magnum opus, The Great Gatsby. Melancholic, tragic, and poetic, The Great Gatsby is an amalgamation of the Jazz Age in all its glory and hollowness. The American Dream is defined as the promise of wealth and success from consistent hard work, which fuels the novel and its characters. For the Old Rich and New Rich, the criteria of wealth have already been achieved, and yet, characters like Gatsby and Tom are shown to desire unpurchasable things. They want a life that has long passed them, unable to move on. The characters holding on to the past resonates with us as we also have a fondness for the past.
For the working class, the promise of wealth hangs in the distance like an unreachable fruit. The rat race has always been despised throughout generations, and this struggle for a better life is not one confined to the Jazz Age.
While The Great Gatsby stays true to its time and culture, it also captures the persistent desire to have more and be more. Through his characters, Fitzgerald crafts a narrative that motivates readers to question the morals behind each event. In an era where everyone fights solely for themselves, is there a thing that is right and wrong anymore? If so, what is the price one pays to pursue their goals and dreams? These are some of the questions that The Great Gatsby poses to readers.
Boats Against the Current
One of Fitzgerald’s most iconic lines, “boats against the current,” captures the theme in all his novels. His stories depict the never-ending struggle between human nature and one’s culture and immortalize the human condition in a specific era of American history.