Peek at 2016’s vintage bestsellers list

Another year’s winding down.

Another list of bestselling novels is coming up.

photo of table stacked with books.
You won’t find any of these on my 2016 reading list–they’re too new.

In 2016, I’ll be reviewing from most recent to earliest bestsellers on their “decade anniversaries.” I’ll begin with bestsellers of 1966, 1956, 1946, 1936, all of which you’ll find listed on this page, and the bestsellers of 1926, 1916, and 1906, which you’ll find listed on this page.

Five titles from those years are novels making a repeat appearance. The list page links above will indicate which novels I reviewed then they made their first appearance on the bestseller list.

In addition, to what I call my decade anniversary lists,  I’ll be picking up the bestsellers of 1917 and 1918, to fill out the year.

There is some really fine reading ahead.

I look forward to sharing it with you.

© 2015 Linda Gorton Aragoni


Apology for delayed post

My review of A Far County was to have been posted in the wee hours of Saturday morning. I hit the wrong item on the pull-down menu when scheduling it, accidentally marking it for September 8 instead of August 8.

I try to keep to the published schedule, but sometimes I mess up.

My apologies to any of my readers who were waiting with bated breath for the review to appear.

And profuse apologies to my readers who didn’t notice I’d missed a deadline. I’ll redouble my efforts to make the reviews so good you’ll miss them if they are late.


Linda Gorton Aragoni

The writing of the green: bestsellers about the Irish

Irish writers are as famous as Irish whiskey: What reader hasn’t heard the names Bram Stoker, James Joyce, Jonathan Swift,  Oscar Wilde,  C.S. Lewis?

Yet best-selling novels featuring Irish characters are a fairly recent development.

In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, here are three recommended vintage novels featuring Irish characters that will entertain you and perhaps give some insight into the history of the Irish at home and abroad.

Kitty Foyle

1939-10-Kitty_FoyleKitty Foylethe heroine of Christopher Morley’s 1939 novel of that name, is a Philadelphia working-class girl from Irish immigrant stock.

She’s smart enough to be considered college material and dumb enough to fall for a Main Line guy whose family would never have accepted an Irish working-class daughter-in-law.

Kitty provides a glimpse into the second-generation Irish immigrant each-foot-in-a-different-world experience of the 1930s.

Joy Street

joy-street_200Joy Street by Frances Parkinson Keyes, 1950, gives a glimpse into the Irish absorption into America’s professional class.

The story is about Emily Field whose lawyer-husband’s firm, reaching out the the Boston immigrant community, hires a Jewish lawyer, an Italian lawyer, and an Irish lawyer.

Roger both likes and respects his colleagues, but Emily’s family is less than enthusiastic about immigrants who didn’t arrive on the Mayflower. Even Emily isn’t sure she’s keen on Irishmen, but she comes around.

The Edge of Sadness

1961-09-fc_edgesadnessIn his 1961 novel, The Edge of Sadness, Edwin O’Connor explores stereotypical Irish characters, who by 1960 have become a political and economic force in Boston.

The leading character is an over-50 priest, Father Kennedy, who after four years in a western facility for alcoholics , has been brought back East to lead a down-at-the-heels parish. The parishioners are primarily immigrants from post-war Europe and South America, too busy trying to make ends meet to come to church.

Have a good day reading of the green.

Politics Makes Slim Reading



American flag waving in breeze

Since today is election day in the United States, I thought I’d roundup some bestsellers that deal with the political election process.

Like so any of my good ideas, it underestimated the problems it entailed.

Coming up with a list of good political novels from the bestselling lists of the first six decades of the twentieth century is harder than it sounds. There are plenty of novels that show the impact of decisions by political officials, but not a great many that dive into the business of electoral politics.

The 1964 bestseller by Fletcher Knebel and Charles W. Bailey II,  Convention, would appear a logical choice but for one thing: It wasn’t a particularly good novel then, and it has dated badly.

My short list of titles that are focused on electoral politics are:

Coniston is a 1906 work by the American novelist Winston Churchill about an uneducated, stuttering county boy who becomes a backroom force in mid-1800 New Hampshire politics.

Churchill’s portrait of Jethro Bass is as good as any from the pen of Anthony Trollope or Thomas Hardy.  My review won’t be coming up here until 2016, but you’re welcome to read ahead.

The Man is Irvin Wallace’s 1964 bestseller about America’s first Black president, which I reviewed here earlier this year. The story has premonitions of this month’s news.

A Lion Is in the Streets by Adria Locke Langley is a 1945 novel written from the perspective of the wife of a charismatic Southern politician. (Imagine Hillary Rodham Clinton writing a novel about her marriage and you’ll see the possibilities.)

After James Cagney paid a quarter million dollars for its film rights, The New York Times described Langley’s novel as “lurid.” It might have been lurid for The Gray Lady in 1950, but it’s pretty tame today.  My review of A Lion Is in the Streets comes out in 2015.

© 2014 Linda Gorton Aragoni

Photo credit: Linda Aragoni

November–December Review Schedule

With the holidays upon us, you can expect postings from now to the start of 2015 to be rather a hodgepodge.

Over the years as I’ve been posting reviews of bestsellers, I’ve had difficulty finding some novels when their turn came in my rotation. Through the end of the year, 1919-09 frontpiece

But before I start on them, since Tuesday is election day in the US, I’ll suggest some political novels that you may prefer to watching the polls close.

Below is a list of what’s scheduled each week. As usual, if a book is available free online from Project Gutenberg, I’ve included a link to it.

Political novels [Nov. 4]

1919 bestseller list [Nov. 8]

1919 #4 Dangerous Days by Mary Roberts Rinehart [Nov. 11]

1919 #5 The Sky Pilot in No Man’s Land by Ralph Connor [Nov. 15]

1919 #7 Dawn by Eleanor H. Porter [Nov. 18]

1919 #8 The Tin Soldier by Temple Bailey [Nov. 22]

1919 #9 Christopher and Columbus by Elizabeth Von Arnim [Nov. 25]

1919 #10 In Secret Robert W. Chambers [Nov. 29]

1919-08_tinsoldier_248Poll: your 1919 favorite novels [Dec. 2]

My favorites of the 1919 novels [Dec. 6]

1920 #2 Kindred of the Dust by Peter B. Kyne [Dec. 9]

1920 #10 Harriet and the Piper by Kathleen Norris [Dec. 13]

1929 #3 Dark Hester by Anne Douglas Sedgwick [Dec. 16]

1929 #310 The Galaxy [British title The Milky Way] by Susan Ertz [Dec. 20]

Updates to my favorites of 1920 and 1929 [Dec. 23]

Wrap up 2014 reading [Dec. 27]

Schedule for 2015 reviews [Dec. 30]

Three Exemplary Fathers in Fiction

Good fathers are too dull for novels. At least that’s the impression the scarcity of exemplary fathers in bestselling fiction gives. I turned up just three interesting men in the bestselling pre-1970 fiction who have a demonstrable, positive impact on their own children.

Atticus Finch

To Kill a Mockingbird book jacketOf the three, lawyer Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird is the most famous. Atticus has achieved the status of an American icon. You can buy mugs and T-shirts asking, “What would Atticus do?”

Atticus doesn’t do much of what passes these days for fathering. He doesn’t coach Jem’s little league team. He doesn’t organize Scout’s birthday parties. He doesn’t help his kids with their homework.

Instead, he gives them a lap when they’re hurting, answers their questions, and makes sure they know right from wrong. And he lives his convictions so unwaveringly that people stand to their feet when he passes.

Charles “Stuffy” Anderson

dust jacket of Time and Time AgainA less well-known father is Charles “Stuffy” Anderson in James Hilton’s 1953 bestseller, Time and Time Again. Charles is both proud and embarrassed that his colleagues call him “Stuffy.” He knows he’s a stuffed shirt, but he tries to always be a man of integrity.

Charles sent his son to America when Gerald’s mother was killed in the London blitz. He’s hoping Gerald’s joining him in Paris to celebrate his seventeenth birthday will establish their relationship on a more adult level.

Charles regrets that having to care for his father, who was descending into dementia, kept him from seeing more of Gerald during his teen years, but Charles believed his first duty was to his father.

When he and Gerald are reunited, it’s clear that Gerald loves and respects his father and follows his moral example.

John Graham

gp_cover1John Graham is the last of the three exemplary fathers. Graham made a fortune in the pork packing industry, which allowed him to send his son Pierrepont to be expensively educated at Harvard. The fictional executive pens Letters of a Self-Made Merchant to His Son to give Pierrepont advice not available in those hallowed halls. (The actual author of the 1903 bestseller is George Horace Lorimer.)

The senior Graham writes conversationally, commenting on what his son writes to him and on what he reads between the lines of the son’s letters, and illustrating his points with humorous stories from his own experiences.

When his son does something of which he disapproves, his father tells him. When he does something of which his father approves, he tells him that, too. But Graham assumes his son will do the right thing as soon as he knows what that the right thing to do is.

Shared expectations

Although these fathers are very different men, they give the impression that they would find their children interesting and enjoyable to have around, even if those children belonged to someone else. These three fathers also share some common expectations:

  • They expect their children to be children.
  • They expect their children to be obedient.
  • They expect their children to do what they have been taught is right .
  • They expect their children to outgrow childishness as they grow up.
  • They expect their children to become good companions when they become adults.

With fathers like those, how far wrong could the children go?

Fathers’ Day Bonus Tomorrow

Sunday you will find an unscheduled posting at here Great Penformances about three exemplary fathers in vintage bestsellers.

You probably can identify one of the fathers from the T-shirt image below:

Drawing of Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch
What would Atticus do?


Come back Sunday to see who the other two  are and what makes them exemplary fathers.

(My review of Mary Peters will run here tomorrow as scheduled.)

@2014 Linda Gorton Aragoni

WWI Veterans “Backed the Wrong Horse”

American flag waving in breeze

Since this is Memorial Day weekend when America stops between barbeques and ball games to remember those who served in its military, this excerpt from Conningsby Dawson’s 1924 bestseller The Coast of Folly is perhaps apt. The speaker, an American heiress in her twenties, is reflecting on how World War I —”the Great War” — affected her generation.

While it had lasted, it had made us postpone our youth by dazzling us with visions of the rewards of sacrifice. From the moment it had ended, we had grown increasingly certain that, if such rewards had ever existed, during our generation they were going to be withheld. We grew cynical about the advantages of goodness. They seemed to be more profitable to preach about than to practice. We saw those who had gone in search of them in the face of wounds and death, sleeping out in parks like broken speculators. They’d backed the wrong horse in doing their duty; the bottom had fallen out of the hero-market. Selfish people and shirkers had come out on top. No one thought the worse of them. They were fussed over and courted, these far-seeing investors who had refused to accept ideals at an inflated value. They’d kept their heads in the frenzy of patriotism, their hands in their pockets, their skins whole. While the gullible had been smashed in trenches, they’d converted calamity into business opportunity. We girls who had looked on, had learned a lesson in disillusionment: sin was a bug-a-boo; God a legend; right and wrong party cries in the game of self-advantage. To live for oneself and go in quest of pleasure seemed the only wisdom to adopt.

In the wake of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, has the bottom fallen out of the hero-market again?


The Coast of Folly is slated for review here July 29.

© 2014 Linda Gorton Aragoni