The Book Review Turns 125 – The New York Times

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In 1913, The Times declared Cather’s “novel without a hero” to be “American in the best sense of the word.”

A satirical, multigenerational family saga set during the waning of the colonial British Empire, this 2000 debut established its author as a prodigy of the novel form.

Diane Johnson chatted with the confident writer in 1977, asking him to explain what made him a self-proclaimed “authority” on all things literary.
This fictional portrait of Henry VIII’s scheming aide Thomas Cromwell — the first volume in a trilogy — won the Man Booker Prize in 2009.
“I am working in the African American literary tradition,” the novelist told us in 2001. “That’s my aim and what I see as my mission.”

Reeling from a divorce, a writer sought solace in Italy, India and Indonesia. There, she found peace — and plenty of material for a blockbuster memoir.
Here’s how we reviewed now-famous mysteries by the likes of Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh, Dorothy Sayers, Dashiell Hammett and more.

Fifty years ago, the Times reporter Neil Sheehan took a hard look at America’s conduct in Vietnam.

This tale of Gilded Age New York City became, in 1921, the first novel by a woman to win the Pulitzer Prize.

The Times would later call this 1995 memoir of a hardscrabble Texas childhood “one of the best books ever written about growing up in America.”

The Book Review’s letters page — the internet message board of its day — was filled with lively, opinionated missives from readers and authors.

The Chilean novelist was living in exile when her first novel was published in 1985. “In a way, I feel that I am working for my country, even if I don’t live there,” she told us.

The blockbuster forerunner of today’s self-help guides was both sensible and superficial, according to The Times’s reviewer in 1937.

This 2015 homage to James Baldwin identified racism at the heart of the American dream.
What did the Book Review look like in 1896, in 1916, in 1962? Scroll down to see what it looked like — and how it changed — through the decades.
By Tina Jordan
You might think that celebrated adult authors writing for kids is a new trend. It isn’t.
This collection — which appeared seven years after the Southern Gothic writer’s death in 1964 — was reviewed by Alfred Kazin.
Dinosaurs in the 20th century? In 1912, Sherlock Holmes’s creator invented the template that Michael Crichton would follow almost eight decades later.
In the deep, sprawling 1977 story of Milkman Dead, the reviewer Reynolds Price found evidence for “the possibility of transcendence within human life.”
By Reynolds Price
To our reviewer, the poet’s novel was “the kind of book Salinger’s Franny might have written about herself 10 years later, if she had spent those 10 years in Hell.”
Our reviewer called “Ulysses” the “most important contribution that has been made to fictional literature in the 20th century.” That doesn’t mean he liked it.
In 1962, our reviewer described this radically feminist novel — now considered Lessing’s most influential work — as “a coruscating literary event.”
In 1925, the Book Review raved about the “sensitive” love poems and “piercing” satire from a young star of the Harlem Renaissance.
In 2020, as Covid-19 raged and protests swept the country in the wake of George Floyd’s killing, Claudia Rankine wrote this poem for the Book Review.
By Claudia Rankine