Two ’38 top books held over on 1939 list

On the 1939 bestseller list are two titles that were in the top 10 the previous year as well.

Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier  held third place in 1939, up from fourth place on the 1938 bestseller list. The tale of the romantic lass who finds herself playing second fiddle to her husband’s late wife in Manderley still has the power to raise goosebumps.

The other holdover from 1938 also concerns a wife who meets an untimely death.

All This, and Heaven Too by Rachel Field moved from sixth place in 1938 to second place in 1939. The fictionalized biography f the author’s great aunt had something for everyone. The first half of the book recounts a sensational European sex scandal and murder trial . The second half recounts her later life as genteel wife of a prominant American clergyman.

You’ll find reviews of both these books on the Categories menu at the right under 1938. I won’t be reposting the reviews.

– Linda Aragoni

Please don’t steal my content

I found to my dismay this morning that a blog about weddings has reprinted one of my reviews without permission.   I will, of course, be following up to nab the culprit.

I make my book reviews available free via a widget. Get the widget, get the reviews, stay out of trouble.

Copy my work without permission, even if you include the copyright infornation, and I will come after you.

Fair warning.


Free book reviews for blog or website

Did you know these reviews of vintage novels are available free to libraries, writers, booksellers and other folks interested in good reading?

By posting the Great Penformances widget on your blog or website, you can give your visitors a new book review at least weekly. The widget automatically updates every time I post.   Since there’s no advertising on my blog,  your visitors get a commercial-free review. Best of all, by using the widget, you keep your visitors at your site rather than sending to my link site.

To learn more, visit Click on the Free Reviews tab at the top of the page.

~ Linda

Drop back 100 years tomorrow

My plan to review the 1959 bestsellers from 1-10 order ran into a snag. I haven’t gotten to the library to pick up the #10 book on the list.

Tomorrow instead of a review of  Robert Ruark’s Poor No More from 50 years ago, I’ll post a review of a 1909 bestseller that I read and enjoyed:  The Man in Lower Ten by Mary Roberts Rinehart.

How could anyone not like a book that includes this line:

“[Y]ou want the unvarnished and ungarnished truth, and I’m no hand for that. I’m a lawyer.”


Lolita a bestseller in ’59 as well as ’58

Lolita by Vladmir Nabokov was number 8 on the 1959 bestseller list. It  had been number 3 for the previous year.  My review of the novel is listed under the 1958 bestseller category.

If you look at the bestseller lists of the first half of the twentieth century, you’ll find many instances when a book stayed on the list for two or even three years.

As late as the 1960s, you’ll find bestsellers that stuck to the list for a couple years. For example, Irving Stone’s The Agony and the Ecstasy was on the list in 1961 and 1962, as was J. D. Salinger’s Franny and Zooey.    Catherine Marshall’s Christy made the list in 1967 and 1968.

These days, it seems novels are popular about for about 20 minutes.  Sad to say, many of the novels don’t deserve more than that.

Free reviews for library websites

Dear Ms. and Mr. Librarian,

You can get these weekly reviews of vintage bestsellers for your library website visitors FREE in the form of a decorative widget.

Great Penformances widget on Nov 12, 2008
Great Penformances widget on Nov 12, 2008

The Great Penformances widget is perfect for small libraries with small budgets for new books. Published book reviews create buzz that will get those old books from the basement stacks back in circulation.

Here’s how it works.

The widget is bit of Java script. You copy the code and paste it into your web page or blog page. That’s all there is to it. You don’t ever have to touch it again.

Each week when I post a new review, it automatically pops up in the Great Penformances widget on your website. Presto! Fresh content for your visitors.

Please note. The image at the left is a screen capture, not a real widget.

You can try the widget I have on the  “About” page of my business website, Get the JavaScript code for the Great Penformances widget or by clicking the “get widget” button on that page or get it directly from Widgetbox

Tip: If you aren’t planning to install the widget immediately, copy and paste it into a text editor like Notepad so it saves with a .txt extension. Saving it as a Microsoft Word file messes things up.

Happy reading!

Linda Aragoni

[2016-03-08 removed links to websites no longer available]


Where to Find 1957 Bestsellers

If you’re at all like me, the first place you look for books is your public library.

My local library, Kinney Memorial, has  On the Beach in its young adult section. Why a tale of nuclear holocaust  is  considered young adult reading is beyond me.  But then The Bridge of San Luis Rey and Moby Dick are in the young adult section, too.

I got the rest of the 1957 bestsellers through interlibrary loan from the Four County Library System.  To search the Four County Web site, click on Find a Book, Tape or CD. When the iBistro  page opens,  I suggest you choose the power seach option for the quickest results. There you can enter the author’s last name and the title you want to find.

You might want to check WorldCat for these and other bestsellers of yesteryear. Not all libraries post their databases to WorldCat, but many do.  If you enter your zip code, WorldCat will list its member libraries holding a particular search item according to their distance from you.

Here are WorldCat links for 1957 bestsellers:

By Love Possessed

Peyton Place


Rally Round the Flag, Boys!

Blue Camellia

Eloise in Paris

The Scapegoat

On the Beach

Below the Salt

Atlas Shrugged

If You’d Rather Watch ’57 Bestsellers

On the Beach     compulsion.jpg      Peyton Place

I mentioned in an earlier post that Of Love Possessed, the top novel in ’57, was made into a movie. Other top novels of 1957 that got the Hollywood treatment were Peyton Place; Compulsion; Rally Round the Flag, Boys;  and On the Beach. (Look at that. All I have to do is think about Of Love Possessed and I break out in semicolons.) You’ll have no difficulty finding any of them in DVD.

Adapted for the big screen 1957, the Peyton Place film version was almost a flop. It was saved by publicity surrounding the murder trial of the daughter of star Lana Turner for the murder of her mother’s mobster boyfriend. The film is available in VHS and DVD formats. The novel also spawned the  the first prime time TV soap opera. That’s out on DVD, too.

There are two versions of On the Beach. Gregory Peck and Ava Gardner starred in the first film adapation in 1959. It’s available in VHS and DVD formats. A 2000 remake starring Armand Assante was on TV a week or so ago. It is available on DVD. sells the two versions on DVD as a set, for people who want to be really depressed.

A movie version of Compulsion was released in 1959. (It’s available on DVD.) Nathan Leopold (the character on whom Judd Steiner is based) was offended by the film. From prison, he sued author Levin and the film’s producer Richard Zanuck for invasion of privacy. The case dragged on for years. Leopold finally lost: he was declared a public figure not entitled to privacy protection.

Rally Round the Flag, Boys! is available on DVD. It stars Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward.

My Picks for 1957

Looking back at the 1957 bestsellers from 60 years later, I rank Compulsion by Meyer Levin and On the Beach by Nevil Shute as the best reading of that year’s top ten.Both these novels are top-notch entertainment on topics that remain timely. Compulsion deals with why smart people commit crimes. On the Beach deals with the consequences of poor political choices.I’d give Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged the next slot on my favorites list. I don’t consider it good entertainment; far from it. The book is too long and Rand tells far more than she shows. But Rand’s political and philosophical views are still worth a read today because her ideas are still in the air.

Nothing else on the 1957 list is more than ho-hum reading.

Peyton Place deserves a mention though. The title has become almost synonymous with illicit sex through the novel is tame by today’s standards.

Want to know a little about how I reach my opinions? Check the  “about the reviewer” and “how I grade” pages listed across the top of this page.


Better Without Ink?

By Love Possessed went from hardcover to Hollywood. The film has the distinction of being the first movie screened in-flight by an airline.  The film stars Lana Turner, Efrem Zimbalist Jr., and Jason Robards.

View stills and ad posters at [nonworking link removed 2016-03-08]

I haven’t seen the inkless version. Whatever it’s faults, it certain has to have at least one virtue: it has to be shorter than the novel.