After a bit of a break to catch my breath after reviewing all the bestselling novels from 1900 to 1969, I’ve decided to push on with reading all the bestselling novels of the 20th century.
I’m going to try to get back on my twice-weekly schedule, with reviews published on Tuesdays and Saturdays. Looking at the lengths of the novels for the early 1970s, I almost gave up before I began. There are several 800 and 900-page novels among them. We’ll see how things go. If I can’t keep up the twice-a-week pace, I may have to cut back to once a week.
I’m going to work through the years’ lists in chronological order, and on each list work down from #1 down to #10.
I won’t be posting the each years’ bestseller lists and review dates in advance. That takes time better spent reading and reviewing.
To see what’s ahead, click the tab for the Bestsellers Lists; the 1970-1999 lists are in the bottom drop down menu.
Saturday I’ll publish my review of the #1 bestseller of 1970: Love Story.
I look forward to having you join me in reading and chatting about older fiction.
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.
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
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.
Test your knowledge of twentieth century bestselling novels with this quiz. The answer to each question is the title of a novel from an annual top 10 list. Hint: the answers are title from the first quarter of the century.