My journey leapfrogging through the bestselling novels of 1900 to 1969, reviewing sets of novels on the decade anniversary of their publication has reached 1927.
Here is the list of the bestseller list of 90 years ago which I’ll be reviewing in April. Dates my reviews are scheduled to appear here are in square brackets.
#1 Elmer Gantry by Sinclair Lewis [April 4 2017]
#2 The Plutocrat by Booth Tarkington [April 8, 2017]
#3 Doomsday by Warwick Deeping [April 11, 2017]
#4 Sorrell and Son by Warwick Deeping [reviewed June 14, 2016]
#5 Jalna by Mazo de la Roche [reviewed Oct. 15, 2008]
#6 Lost Ecstasy by Mary Roberts Rinehart [April 15, 2017]
#7 Twilight Sleep by Edith Wharton [April 18, 2017]
#8 Tomorrow Morning by Anne Parrish [April 22, 2017]
#9 The Old Countess by Anne Douglas Sedgwick [April 25.2017]
#10 A Good Woman by Louis Bromfield [April 29 2017 ]
These novels are too recent to be out of copyright in the U.S. If you want to buy a second hand copy or reprint, I suggest you try Alibris.com, a collaborative database of independent booksellers.
The reader poll will be posted May 2 and my best of the 1927 bestsellers post on May 6.
If all goes as planned, in 2017 I’ll reach my goal of reading and reviewing each of the bestselling novels published between 1900 and 1969. Most of the novels I’ll review this year are bestsellers celebrating their publication on a year ending in a “7” between those dates.
Illustration from The Younger Set
This year I’ll post reviews in chronological order, beginning with the bestsellers of 1907, 1917, and 1927.
Then I’ll skip ahead to 1967. (I previously reviewed the bestsellers of ’37, ’47 and ’57.)
I end my project by reviewing the bestselling novels of 1968 and 1969.
Review dates for 1907 bestselling novels
Satan Sanderson illustration
Here is my list of the 1907 bestsellers. Dates in square brackets tell you when you can expect the review to be posted. Links take you the Project Gutenberg page where you can download the novel for free, or, if I previously reviewed the novel, to that review.
During 2012, I’ll be reviewing novels celebrating their ascent to the bestseller list 50, 60, 70, 80, and 90, 100 and 110 years ago.
I’ve found 69 of those 70 novels either in print or in digital format at Project Gutenberg, the first producer of free ebooks. Among them are some famous titles, such as The Good Earth that was the number one top selling novel two years in a row, and famous authors, such as Hemingway and Faulkner.
You’ll be pleasantly surprised to find some great reading by authors you’ve never heard of as well as some novels that are, in my view, better than those for which the novelist is justly famous.
I haven’t found Three Loves by A. J. Cronin from the 1932 list. The Great Depression was hard on books: people wore rags instead of turning them into paper. Thus many books published between 1930 and World War II have crumbled into dust; some ’30s novels are more rare than novels of the 1800’s.
1962 Bestseller List
Ship of Fools by Katherine Anne Porter [Jan. 4, 2012]
Dearly Beloved by Anne Morrow Lindberg [Jan. 8, 2012]
A Shade of Difference by Allen Drury [Jan. 11, 2012]
Of the novels that topped the 1941 bestseller list, the two that are probably best remembered today are James Hilton’s Random Harvest and Ernest Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls. At the risk of ruining the suspense, I’ll state now that For Whom the Bell Tolls was, and remains, superior to Random Harvest.
The top 10 list contains a couple of gems beside the Hemingway novel. Get out your library card and see if you can’t uncover them. Dates you can expect to see my reviews are in parens.
The Keys of the Kingdom by A. J. Cronin (30-Apr-2011) Random Harvest by James Hilton (7-May-2011) This Above All by Eric Knight (14-May-2011) The Sun Is My Undoing by Marguerite Steen (21-May-2011) For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway (28-May-2011) Oliver Wiswell by Kenneth Roberts (4-Jun-2011) H. M. Pulham, Esquire by John P. Marquand (11-Jun-2011) Mr. and Mrs. Cugat: The Record of a Happy Marriage by Isabel Scott Rorick (18-Jun-2011) Saratoga Trunk by Edna Ferber (25-Jun-2011) Windswept by Mary Ellen Chase (2-Jul-2011)
Of the nine 1930 bestselling novels I’ve found, none is a great novel, but several are definitely worth reading. (I’m still looking for Years of Grace by Margaret Ayers Barnes, which won a Pulitzer in 1931.)
Bromfield, who has a knack for turning ho-hum plots into gee-whiz ones, turns his hand to a murder mystery compressed into one day. Nothing about the plot or the characters of Twenty-Four Hours standard-issue.
J. B. Priestley’s novel is also about a crime, but in this case it’s a white-collar crime with a half-dozen victims. Readers know from the start who-done-it and why (it’s the money). The interest is in seeing how the staff of victimized business respond.
Not far behind these two are Cimarron by Edna Ferber, Exileby Warwick Deeping and The Door by Mary Roberts Rinehart. These novels are more predictable in their plotting, but with just enough individuality to keep them from being dull.
It's my dream to make a fortune selling these book reviews.
Keep the dream alive.
Please don't copy my work for any purpose, commercial or non-commercial, without prior permission. That would make it difficult for me to realize my dream—and get you into serious copyright problems.
I am, however, usually very happy to give literacy organizations (such as libraries, schools, newspapers, Literacy Volunteers of America) and independent bookstores permission to use the reviews on their websites. It's just a matter of asking nicely before you go ahead and do it.