To say bestsellers of 1913 haven’t held up well is an understatement.
Of the 10 novels that topped the sales charts in 1913, only Pollyanna is a title that will ring a bell with most modern readers. It’s fame is probably due more to the 1960 movie version starring Hayley Mills than to Porter’s novel. In most of the other bestsellers of 1913, the message gets in the way of the story.
Forced to choose my favorites of the 1913 bestselling novels, I’d pick two novels by women authors known for juvenile fiction: Pollyanna, by Eleanor H. Porter, and T. Tembarom by Frances Hodgson Burnett.
Both of my picks are eponymous novels about orphans . (Orphans were as common in America up to World War I as children from single-parent homes are today.) Neither novel is realistic, though T. Tembarom is marginally superior to Pollyanna on that count.
Both orphans have cheerful dispositions and a willingness to make the best of whatever comes their way.
And, since I’m a sucker for cheerful kids, I’ll choose these two as the best of a bad crop of bestselling novels.