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The Most Popular Books 100 Years Ago

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While Colleen Hoover and Emily Henry’s romances dominate the best-selling books of 2023, that wasn’t always the case. Join Fable as we explore the most popular books 100 years ago and see if any of these titles still catch our attention today! The year is 1923, and folks are dancing, drinking champagne, and reading these books. Let’s see who caught their attention!

Black Oxen by Gertrude Atherton

Black OxenA 1922 novel by American novelist Gertrude Atherton. The story centers on the relationship between thirty-four-year-old columnist Lee Clavering and Mary Zattiany, a 58-year-old woman who, through modern science, has regained her youth. The story takes place within New York’s high society, and there is much criticism of the older and younger generations in the 1920s. The older generation is argued to be unreasonably caught up in convention, while the younger generation is shown as too eager to flout their straying from those same conventions.

“Possibly there are few imaginative writers who have not a leaning, secret or avowed, to the occult. The creative gift is in very close relationship with the Great Force behind the universe; for aught we know, may be an atom thereof. It is not strange, therefore, that the lesser and closer of the unseen forces should send their vibrations to it occasionally; or, at all events, that the imagination should incline its ear to the most mysterious and picturesque of all beliefs” ― Gertrude Atherton, The Bell in the Fog & Other Stories

The Enchanted April

By Elizabeth von Arnim
The Enchanted AprilDrawn by a promise of “wisteria and sunshine,” four English ladies exchange their damp and dreary surroundings for a month on the Italian Riviera. They’re different in age and attitude, but all are bewitched by their rented medieval castle and the natural beauty of the Portofino peninsula. Their holiday refreshes their spirits, reintroduces them to their true natures, and reopens their hearts to love and friendship. Hilarious and romantic by turns, the novel provides a piquant satire on British society of the 1920s and the human foibles of every era. It’s also a tale of women coming into their own and finding the courage to be true to themselves and others. This bestselling tale of self-discovery ― recounted with warmth, wit, and charm ― was adapted several times for stage and screen. Not everyone can spend a month in the Italian countryside, but the spell cast by The Enchanted April offers the next best thing.

“Beauty made you love, and love made you beautiful.” ― Elizabeth von Arnim, The Enchanted April

“It is true she liked him most when he wasn't there, but then she usually liked everybody most when they weren't there.” ― Elizabeth von Arnim, The Enchanted April

Reading was very important; the proper exercise and development of one's mind was a paramount duty.” ― Elizabeth von Arnim, The Enchanted April

Babbitt

By Sinclair Lewis
BabbittLewis's scathing satire of middle-class America, Babbitt explores the social pressures of conformity and materialism. It tells the story of George Babbitt, a middle-aged family man who becomes disillusioned with conformity and his belated attempts at rebellion. Set in the fictional Midwestern town of Zenith, Babbitt offers a powerful critique of the American Dream and all it entails.

“Well, if that’s what you call being at peace, for heaven’s sake just warn me before you go to war, will you?” ― Sinclair Lewis, Babbitt

“Vast is the power of cities to reclaim the wanderer.” ― Sinclair Lewis, Babbitt

“Whatever the misery, he could not regain contentment with a world which, once doubted, became absurd.” ― Sinclair Lewis, Babbitt

Wanderer of the Wasteland

By Zane Grey
Wanderer of the WastelandAdam Laret, big, young, and headstrong, ran from Ehrenberg to the banks of the Rio Colorado. He was blindly fleeing his scheming, gambling brother and the woman Guerd stole from him. But Adam's escape wasn't complete until Guerd, in the company of a sheriff, hunted him down. Then Adam committed the ultimate crime. With the mark of Cain upon him--he traveled into the desert to atone for his sins. In a vast, harsh world of heat and beauty, of stealthy creatures and gnawing starvation, Adam faced death and madmen, Indians and strangers who lived where life was impossible. But nothing he did, no act of courage, righteousness, or violence, washed Adam clean. 

"Love grows more tremendously full, swift, poignant, as the years multiply."- Zane Grey

"Men may rise on stepping stones of their dead selves to higher things."- Zane Grey

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