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Betty Smith books in order

Elisabeth Lillian Wehner, better known as Betty Smith, was an American playwright and bestselling author of literary fiction.

She is best known for writing A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (1943).

Passionate about stage theater from an early age, it was while at the University of Michigan that Betty audited a number of journalism and playwriting courses.

A student of renowned professor of drama and playwriting, Kenneth Thorpe Rowe, her breakthrough came when she won the university's Avery Hopwood Award for her full-length play Francie Nolan, later renamed Becomes A Woman.

As a novelist, she made her debut in 1943 with A Tree Grows in Brooklyn; a book that in many ways mirrored her personal experiences growing up.

The novel would later be adapted into a film directed by Elia Kazan, starring James Dunn and Dorothy McGuire, Joan Blondell, and Peggy Ann Garner.

Betty died of pneumonia on January 17, 1972, in Shelton, Connecticut, at the age of 75.

More about Betty Smith

Genre: Literary Fiction

Born: 1896 / Died: 1972

United States

Non Series

  • A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (1943)
  • Tomorrow Will Be Better (1948)
  • Maggie-Now (1950)
  • Joy in the Morning (1963)

Detailed book overview

Non Series

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

An American classic about a young girl's coming-of-age at the turn of the twentieth century.

From the moment she entered the world, Francie Nolan needed to be made of stern stuff, for growing up in the Williamsburg slums of Brooklyn, New York demanded fortitude, precocity, and strength of spirit. Often scorned by neighbors for her family’s erratic and eccentric behavior―such as her father Johnny’s taste for alcohol and Aunt Sissy’s habit of marrying serially without the formality of divorce―no one, least of all Francie, could say that the Nolans’ life lacked drama. 

By turns overwhelming, heartbreaking, and uplifting, the Nolans’ daily experiences are raw with honestly and tenderly threaded with family connectedness.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
Director: Elia Kazan
Cast: Dorothy McGuire, Joan Blondell, James Dunn, Lloyd Nolan, Peggy Ann Garner, Ted Donaldson, James Gleason, Ruth Nelson, John Alexander, B.S. Pully
Author: Betty Smith
First Release: 1943
ISBN: 978-0060736262
Publisher: Harper Perennial Modern Classics
Tomorrow Will Be Better

A poignant story of love, marriage, poverty, and hope set in 1920s Brooklyn.

Tomorrow Will Be Better tells the story of Margy Shannon, a shy but joyfully optimistic young woman just out of school who lives with her parents and witnesses how a lifetime of hard work, poverty, and pain has worn them down. 

Her mother's resentment toward being a housewife and her father's inability to express his emotions result in a tense home life where Margy has no voice. Unable to speak up against her overbearing mother, Margy takes refuge in her dreams of a better life.

Her goals are simple—to find a husband, have children, and live in a nice home—one where her children will never know the terror of want or the need to hide from quarreling parents. When she meets Frankie Malone, she thinks her dreams might be fulfilled, but a devastating loss rattles her to her core and challenges her life-long optimism. 

As she struggles to come to terms with the unexpected path her life has taken, Margy must decide whether to accept things as they are or move firmly in the direction of what she truly wants.

Author: Betty Smith
First Release: 1948
ISBN: 978-0062988683
Publisher: Harper Perennial Modern Classics

In Brooklyn's unforgiving urban jungle, Maggie Moore is torn between answering her own needs and catering to the desirous men who dominate her life. Confronted by her quarrelsome Irish immigrant father, the feckless lover who may become her husband, and others, Maggie must learn to navigate a cycle of loss, separation, and hope as she forges her own path toward happiness.

Author: Betty Smith
First Release: 1950
ISBN: 978-0062120205
Publisher: Harper Perennial Modern Classics
Joy in the Morning

In 1927, in Brooklyn, New York, Carl Brown and Annie McGairy meet and fall in love. Though only eighteen, Annie travels alone halfway across the country to the Midwestern university where Carl is studying law―and there they marry.

But Carl and Annie’s first year together is much more difficult than they anticipated as they find themselves in a faraway place with little money and few friends. With hardship and poverty weighing heavily upon them, they come to realize that their greatest sources of strength, loyalty, and love, will help them make it through.

Author: Betty Smith
First Release: 1963
ISBN: 978-0061774331
Publisher: Harper Perennial Modern Classics