Welcome to Great Penformances

Great Penformances is a collection of contemporary reviews of best-selling fiction of the last century. The reviews seek vintage fiction that will entertain twenty-first century readers and perhaps also inform and enlighten them.

Most of the twentieth century’s best-selling novel were by writers whose names are unknown to today’s readers, but who had huge followings in their day. For example, in the first quarter of the century, Harold Bell Wright wrote five novels each of  whose sales was at least equal to 1 percent of the U.S. population.

A few of the twentieth century’s bestsellers were by distinguished literary figures like John Steinbeck and Sinclair Lewis. Others are by authors whose names appear again and again: Mary Roberts Rinehart, Gene Stratton-Porter, and Zane Grey, for example.

People who have never read any of the books reviewed here know their titles. Many were picked up by Hollywood and packaged for the big screen. Harold Bell Wright, mentioned earlier, wrote the book on which Gary Cooper’s first major film was based. Gone with the Wind, Love Story, and The Bridges of Madison County were all bestselling novels before they were box office draws.

The books reviewed in Great Penformances are still fairly easy to find today in second hand book stores, at garage sales, and in digital formats through sources such as Project Gutenberg.

Reviews of novels from 1900 though 1969 were posted prior to 2018.

Beginning in January 2018, reviews of bestsellers of 1970 through the end of the century are appearing in chronological order. Lists of the bestsellers are available from the menus at the top of the page.

Without further ado, let’s get reading.