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The New York Times Book Review: 125 Years of Literary History

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A "delightful" (Vanity Fair) collection from the longest-running, most influential book review in America, featuring its best, funniest, strangest, and most memorable coverage over the past 125 years. Since its first issue on October 10, 1896, The New York Times Book Review has brought the world of ideas to the reading public. It is the publication where authors have been A "delightful" (Vanity Fair) collection from the longest-running, most influential book review in America, featuring its best, funniest, strangest, and most memorable coverage over the past 125 years. Since its first issue on October 10, 1896, The New York Times Book Review has brought the world of ideas to the reading public. It is the publication where authors have been made, and where readers first encountered the classics that have enriched their lives. Now the editors have curated the Book Review's dynamic 125-year history, which is essentially the story of modern American letters. Brimming with remarkable reportage and photography, this beautiful book collects interesting reviews, never-before-heard anecdotes about famous writers, and spicy letter exchanges. Here are the first takes on novels we now consider masterpieces, including a long-forgotten pan of Anne of Green Gables and a rave of Mrs. Dalloway, along with reviews and essays by Langston Hughes, Eudora Welty, James Baldwin, Nora Ephron, and more. With scores of stunning vintage photographs, many of them sourced from the Times's own archive, readers will discover how literary tastes have shifted through the years--and how the Book Review's coverage has shaped so much of what we read today.


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A "delightful" (Vanity Fair) collection from the longest-running, most influential book review in America, featuring its best, funniest, strangest, and most memorable coverage over the past 125 years. Since its first issue on October 10, 1896, The New York Times Book Review has brought the world of ideas to the reading public. It is the publication where authors have been A "delightful" (Vanity Fair) collection from the longest-running, most influential book review in America, featuring its best, funniest, strangest, and most memorable coverage over the past 125 years. Since its first issue on October 10, 1896, The New York Times Book Review has brought the world of ideas to the reading public. It is the publication where authors have been made, and where readers first encountered the classics that have enriched their lives. Now the editors have curated the Book Review's dynamic 125-year history, which is essentially the story of modern American letters. Brimming with remarkable reportage and photography, this beautiful book collects interesting reviews, never-before-heard anecdotes about famous writers, and spicy letter exchanges. Here are the first takes on novels we now consider masterpieces, including a long-forgotten pan of Anne of Green Gables and a rave of Mrs. Dalloway, along with reviews and essays by Langston Hughes, Eudora Welty, James Baldwin, Nora Ephron, and more. With scores of stunning vintage photographs, many of them sourced from the Times's own archive, readers will discover how literary tastes have shifted through the years--and how the Book Review's coverage has shaped so much of what we read today.

30 review for The New York Times Book Review: 125 Years of Literary History

  1. 4 out of 5

    Michael Reilly

    This is a coffee table book. It has big pages. It is printed on heavy stock paper and it is heavy. It has full page pictures spread our over two pages. It has serious graphic design. It is an attractive book. It is more of an anthology than a history. The book is arranged chronologically. Each of the five chapters cover 25 years. ( The juvenile part of me, which is pretty big, did get a kick out of a typo in the table of contents of this obviously very carefully prepared book. We get a listing f This is a coffee table book. It has big pages. It is printed on heavy stock paper and it is heavy. It has full page pictures spread our over two pages. It has serious graphic design. It is an attractive book. It is more of an anthology than a history. The book is arranged chronologically. Each of the five chapters cover 25 years. ( The juvenile part of me, which is pretty big, did get a kick out of a typo in the table of contents of this obviously very carefully prepared book. We get a listing for "Chapter Two 1921-1694") Each chapter has excerpts from reviews and articles during that period. We get the contemporaneous interviews of classics like "The Great Gadsby" and "Catch 22". We get celebrity reviewers. Bill Clinton reviews one of the volumes of Robert Caro's Lyndon Johnson biography. Kurt Vonnegut writes a glowing review of Tom Wolfe's first book. Each section also has articles from that period and author interviews as well as sidebars on things like letters to the editors and excerpts of reviews of books on subjects like the Vietnam War or self help. This is a book for browsing. I particularly enjoyed Dick Schaap's glowing review of "The Godfather" and Nora Ephron's brutal attack on a Jacqueline Susann novel. I was disappointed that that there was no mention of Anthony Boucher who reviewed crime novels in his "Criminal At Large" column from 1951 to 1968 or of his successor Marilyn Stasio who did the same job for 22 years. I was also surprised that a big fancy $50 book like this could not afford an index. Particularly since this kind of browsing book is exactly the type that need an index.

  2. 4 out of 5

    John

    The best part of this book is that you read reviews of books that had just come out and were not as yet considered classics — thus, you get a “real time” capture of a work early in its classic life. Examples of this include Faulkner’s Light in August, Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye, and Heller’s Catch-22. You also get first reviews of books like The Godfather, Carrie, and Deliverance, and a scattering of essays by various authors interposed. This is a book to peruse and read over a period of The best part of this book is that you read reviews of books that had just come out and were not as yet considered classics — thus, you get a “real time” capture of a work early in its classic life. Examples of this include Faulkner’s Light in August, Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye, and Heller’s Catch-22. You also get first reviews of books like The Godfather, Carrie, and Deliverance, and a scattering of essays by various authors interposed. This is a book to peruse and read over a period of time.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Michael Ritchie

    Disappointing. I expected more actual reproductions of reviews, articles, covers, and even ads. The reproductions we do get are tiny, and instead, we get mostly excerpts and lots of photographs that are often not relevant. Very glad I read a library copy and didn't splurge on this. Disappointing. I expected more actual reproductions of reviews, articles, covers, and even ads. The reproductions we do get are tiny, and instead, we get mostly excerpts and lots of photographs that are often not relevant. Very glad I read a library copy and didn't splurge on this.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Lynn

    Pure Pleasure I’ve been a fan of The New York Times Book Review since I was a kid in the 70s. I still read it today. Really loved this book and it was so wonderful to read. I can’t recommend it enough!

  5. 5 out of 5

    Dan Trefethen

    Well, it's really a coffee table book with the full page author photos and occasional graphic representations of reviews, but the guts of the book are the meaty historical reviews, some by famous authors themselves. They highlight some swings and misses (Fahrenheit 451, Catch-22), but mostly celebrate the acknowledged successes that have held up over time. This is a book where a reader can browse, looking for the original reviews of favorite books to see what the NYT reviewer thought about it at Well, it's really a coffee table book with the full page author photos and occasional graphic representations of reviews, but the guts of the book are the meaty historical reviews, some by famous authors themselves. They highlight some swings and misses (Fahrenheit 451, Catch-22), but mostly celebrate the acknowledged successes that have held up over time. This is a book where a reader can browse, looking for the original reviews of favorite books to see what the NYT reviewer thought about it at the time. There's some self-examination here, as they acknowledge they were late to catch up to the importance of literature by Black authors. While there are some reviews of gay issues (notably the non-fiction account “And the Band Played On” about the AIDS crisis), there seems to be a lack of representation of alternative voices. It's mostly white, male, and largely American authors who were reviewed in the past 125 years. The women authors tend to be intellectuals, some writing about feminist issues, some about women's sexuality (“The Hite Report”). There's very little coverage of LGBTQIA+ texts or authors. Still, it's a fun book to leaf through, and might actually inspire a reader to revisit a book, or get around to reading that classic 20th century text they'd been meaning to get t

  6. 4 out of 5

    Matt Ely

    You read this book because you like reading about reading books. And you like reading the writing of the kinds of people who like reading books. You also like looking at books. This book has many pictures of books and pictures of the people who write books. Sometimes the pictured people who write books also write about the books they've written or respond in writing to the writings of those who wrote about the books that they've written. You also like old things and this thing is old. The best t You read this book because you like reading about reading books. And you like reading the writing of the kinds of people who like reading books. You also like looking at books. This book has many pictures of books and pictures of the people who write books. Sometimes the pictured people who write books also write about the books they've written or respond in writing to the writings of those who wrote about the books that they've written. You also like old things and this thing is old. The best things about this thing are the old things, the ones that make you feel like you're tapping into an ancient throughline, that you're participating in something broad and noble. It feels less good when to you when the notes are more modern and you see yourself as you are and the times which you understand and are unable to romanticize the otherness of this library book with pretty pictures. You also like that this book has inspired you to check out so many other books from the library. It's fun to hold and it's full of books. And you like that. Not enough to need to spend more time with it, but enough.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Scott Eggerding

    I got this book as a gift for Christmas and, at the risk of alienating my family, I read it straight through. Reading the first impressions of books we now call classics was compelling and thrilling. As a weekly reader of the book review for nearly 30 years and an occasional reader before then, the sheer volume of books that are published and the small percentage that get reviewed make the Review a true bell weather of literary permanence. I enjoyed reading when the reviewer missed a classic, bu I got this book as a gift for Christmas and, at the risk of alienating my family, I read it straight through. Reading the first impressions of books we now call classics was compelling and thrilling. As a weekly reader of the book review for nearly 30 years and an occasional reader before then, the sheer volume of books that are published and the small percentage that get reviewed make the Review a true bell weather of literary permanence. I enjoyed reading when the reviewer missed a classic, but was even more impressed when someone “got it right” from the start. Of course there are many missing books and important missing authors, so maybe there will be a sequel!

  8. 5 out of 5

    Maksim Karpitski

    It's an exceptionally illuminating book, in that, insubstantial as it is, this collection of snippets does let one see how vapid and narrow-minded the criticism of this most esteemed magazine mostly was. Indeed, it's the fitting reflection of its white male upper middle-class values and a suitable subject for a Wes Anderson movie. Since he already did The New Yorker, well, why not this some day. One of the most intelligent pieces here is the second introduction, A Review of the Review, written by It's an exceptionally illuminating book, in that, insubstantial as it is, this collection of snippets does let one see how vapid and narrow-minded the criticism of this most esteemed magazine mostly was. Indeed, it's the fitting reflection of its white male upper middle-class values and a suitable subject for a Wes Anderson movie. Since he already did The New Yorker, well, why not this some day. One of the most intelligent pieces here is the second introduction, A Review of the Review, written by Parul Sehgal.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Heather Mize

    This book is a treasure trove. Boom reviews, many by authors, pictures of authors, pictures of books, interviews with authors! There are a few misses - certain books not showcased that probably didn’t make it past the chopping block in what I imagine was a tough edit. But my goodness! It’s so brilliantly designed and compiled. I’m absolutely in love with this book! The only downside is the lack of an index. But seriously…who is complaining!

  10. 4 out of 5

    Diana N.

    A great book for book lovers/reviewers! It was very interesting to see some of the original reviews of books that we now consider classics. The photos in this book are great as well and show several of the reviews in the original newspaper print. The only thing I would have liked was more content in the recent years like that of past decades. Overall a fun book to have!

  11. 4 out of 5

    Valerie Sherman

    Read this to get ideas for my list for next year, but it's so much more. I didn't know that authors sometimes published reviews, such as frequent critics Kurt Vonnegut and Joan Didion. I didn't know about the legendary exchange between Langston Hughes and James Baldwin. They also showed when the review missed the mark on books that would become beloved. Very interesting to read. Read this to get ideas for my list for next year, but it's so much more. I didn't know that authors sometimes published reviews, such as frequent critics Kurt Vonnegut and Joan Didion. I didn't know about the legendary exchange between Langston Hughes and James Baldwin. They also showed when the review missed the mark on books that would become beloved. Very interesting to read.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Kenny Tran

    A picture can describe a thousand words. The photos are wonderful and capture the attention with a descriptive, well written scenario. The quality and book makes a great addition to a book collection.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Jessica

    I really enjoyed this book. Not only were the reviews great to read but looking back at books that got good or bad reviews knowing their eventual success was fascinating. The history and essays rounded out a wonderful collection.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jenn

    I like to look at these books and read these randomly. Great for coffee tables!

  15. 4 out of 5

    Trace Nichols

    Such a GREAT resource for book lovers. Great reminder of books I have yet to read. Wonderful history of the Review!

  16. 4 out of 5

    Zamora GI

    I liked.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Susan Dunker

    I thought I would just flip through this book, but I ended up reading much of it. Fascinating history with lots of books to add to TBR list.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Earl Anderson

    A well-documented history of the book review and The New York Times' role in it. Filled with many great articles from its 125-year history. A well-documented history of the book review and The New York Times' role in it. Filled with many great articles from its 125-year history.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Sawy-o

    Interesting- I liked the intro and good refresher about classics for historical/ literary books.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Jan

  21. 5 out of 5

    Mïlo García

  22. 5 out of 5

    Gary Wicker

  23. 4 out of 5

    Suzi B

  24. 5 out of 5

    Jules

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer Nicole

  26. 5 out of 5

    Samuel Tripp

  27. 4 out of 5

    SanchezMY

  28. 5 out of 5

    Ann

  29. 4 out of 5

    Judy

  30. 4 out of 5

    Heidi De Vries

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