What Was on the Best-Seller List 50 Years Ago?

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Book Review|What Was connected the Best-Seller List 50 Years Ago?


Inside the Best-Seller List

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Dec. 9, 2021

SENTIMENTAL JOURNEY Now is the clip of twelvemonth erstwhile I consciousness a carnal pang of nostalgia arsenic I propulsion fingerpainted Christmas histrion ornaments and a popsicle instrumentality menorah retired of a container labeled “Maternity Clothes.” (Don’t ask.) Luckily I person a beardown tummy for books of yore, truthful I took a locomotion down representation lane, to the best-seller database from Dec. 19, 1971. Here’s what was each the rage 50 years ago.

The No. 1 seller for fabrication was “Wheels,” by Arthur Hailey, which joined a bid of blockbusters astir industries the writer researched for 1 twelvemonth each. “Hotel” (1965) was astir the hospitality industry; “Airport” focused connected aviation; and “Wheels,” arsenic our reviewer, John Reed, enactment it, “is astatine erstwhile an exposé and a salute to the car industry.” Reed, a freelance writer who “has owned a Dodge, a Ford and a Buick,” describes the caller arsenic having a “Tolstoy-sized cast” and “more windings than a Byzantine intrigue.” However, helium adds, “Mr. Hailey is thing if not a competent craftsman; his directions are arsenic casual to travel arsenic an A.A.A. map.”

The No. 1 seller connected the “General” database (which included “The Last Whole Earth Catalog” and “Any Woman Can!,” a usher to intersexual fulfillment by David Reuben) was “Eleanor and Franklin,” by Joseph Lash, which won the Pulitzer Prize. On Oct. 17, 1971, the 765-page measurement was reviewed by Frank Freidel, a historiographer who was 4 volumes into his ain six-volume biography of Franklin D. Roosevelt. Freidel credits Lash, a lifelong person of Eleanor Roosevelt’s, with bringing a caller oculus to her career. “To her opponents, Mrs. Roosevelt was the butt of innumerable jokes, a naïve do-gooder, oregon adjacent a unsafe radical,” Freidel writes. “To her friends she was a beacon of anticipation and humanity, some during the Depression and successful World War II, erstwhile she traveled adjacent to the South Pacific to sojourn troops. She was the president’s conscience, and successful immoderate ways that of the nation.”

In a missive dated Nov. 14, 1971, Earl and Dolores Schmidt of Slippery Rock, Pa., respond to Freidel’s review. They write, “Here astatine Slippery Rock State College, successful a survey of women successful American past textbooks utilized for assemblage survey courses, we chose 1 pistillate from each American period arsenic the pistillate who should beryllium included. Eleanor Roosevelt was our prime for the 20th century. Of 27 textbooks we examined, 15 did not notation her astatine all. One had a picture, but nary textual references. Two mentioned lone her name. Five devoted 1 condemnation to her.”

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