Here’s the description of Thornton Wilder’s The Bridge of San Luis Rey, a novel recommended in 1927, from Amazon:
“On Friday noon, July the twentieth, 1714, the finest bridge in all Peru broke and precipitated five travelers into the gulf below.” With this celebrated sentence, Thornton Wilder begins The Bridge of San Luis Rey, one of the towering achievements in American fiction and a novel read throughout the world.
By chance, a monk witnesses the tragedy. Brother Juniper seeks to prove that it was divine intervention rather than chance that led to the deaths of those who perished in the tragedy. His study leads to his own death — and to the author’s timeless investigation into the nature of love and the meaning of the human condition.”
When I looked through New Yorker issues from 1927, I found recommended books that might not be widely circulated today but their authors are still widely read:
D.H. Lawrence’s Rainbow was recommended in 1927. He’s better known for Lady Chatterly’s Lover now:
Elmer Gantry by Sinclair Lewis was recommended in 1927. Sinclair Lewis’ Babbitt is more popular today. Description from Amazon:
“The novel follows George Babbitt, a successful realtor, as he grows more and more dissatisfied with the American Dream.
Babbitt loves the latest appliances, brand names, and the Republican Party. In fact, he loves being a solid citizen even more than he loves his wife. But Babbitt comes to resent the middle-class trappings he has worked so hard to acquire. Realizing that his life is devoid of meaning, he grows determined to transcend his trivial existence and search for greater purpose.
A biting satire of American business, Babbitt has become an important piece of American literature, chronicling the unrest of the growing 1920’s middle class, the ushering in of the age of consumerism, and the pressures of the individual to conform.”
And the Casebook of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was recommended in 1927 and Sherlock Holmes stories still delight in print, digital, television and movies:
Some of the books recommended in 1927 sounded great but went out of print. And while we’ve all seen ads about beauty, I was surprised by what could be sarcasm in this 1927 ad about intelligence:
And here’s one for “OBESI-TEA” from 1927:
I’d love to know what was in “OBESI-TEA”. And did people really look at the menu and say, “I’ll have OBESI-TEA?” Would a waiter ever say, “Looks like you already have it.”
I couldn’t write this post without thinking, what popular book today would likely be popular eighty-five years from now? 2097. I expect readers will still recommend this one: