Musings on the 1918 bestseller list

Older of the bestsellers are increasingly hard to find. When I do find them, the pages are yellow and brittle.

Publishers are reissuing many of the older books as their copyrights expire and the move into public domain. I’d rather read the books first, though, and then buy those I want to read more than once.

I’ve recently discovered that Milne Library at the SUNY College at Oneonta has a superb collection of vintage fiction, some of which is in the regular circulating collection. The library staff and student assistants are wonderful. They even helped me get a long term parking permit so I didn’t have to get a permit on every visit.

According to my posting scheme, I should begin  posting the reviews for 1918’s bestsellers this week.  These novels are . . . .

  1. The U.P. Trail by Zane Grey
  2. The Tree of Heaven by May Sinclair
  3. The Amazing Interlude by Mary Roberts Rinehart
  4. Dere Mable by Edward Streeter
  5. Oh, Money! Money! by Eleanor H. Porter
  6. Greatheart by Ethel M. Dell
  7. The Major by Ralph Connor
  8. The Pawns Court by E. Phillips Oppenheim
  9. A Daughter of the Land by Gene Stratton-Porter
  10. Sonia by Stephen McKenna

Several of these authors were incredibly prolific and popular in their day. E. Phillips Oppenheim, who I’d never heard of, published over 150 books and is credited by some with originating the thriller.

Mary Roberts Rinehart was no slouch either. She wrote over 60 popular mysteries and originated the phrase “the butler did it”.

Zane Grey also has 60 novels on his resume and an organization devoted to keeping his work alive.

Ethel M. Dell, another author unfamiliar to me,  appears to have knocked out a novel a year from 1911 to 1939.

Despite their incredible output, I have located only a few of these authors’ books.

Of course, not all the 1918’s bestselling novelists were so prolific.

Ralph Connor, who wrote just 11 novels and two volumes of short stories, was a full-time Presbyterian minister. Edward Streeter produced a similarly small volume of novels in his spare time. His day job was vice president of Fifth Avenue Bank, which later became Bank of New York.

Gene Stratton-Porter, who I thought was just a novelist, was actually a naturalist, wildlife photographer, and one of the first women to start a motion picture studio. The state of Indiana now operates two of her homes, Wildflower Woods and Limberlost, as state historic sites.

When I run out of reviews of bestsellers, I’ll fill out the year with reviews of some classics that didn’t make the bestseller list. Stay tuned.

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Linda Aragoni

I read. I write. I think. I make big ideas simple. I help teachers teach expository writing to teens and adults. In my free time, I read and review old novels.

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