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125 Years of the New York Times Books Review

You have read the right titles. You even enjoyed many of them. But you still feel uncomfortable showing off in your own words how well read you are.

Here is some help. Read what others told about the book, right after it was published. You may get some ideas. You may get inspired to read more.

That seemingly redundant piece of information about an “ancient” book published 50 years ago could come handy as a conversation starter some time. Moreover, it will make you stand out at the next job interview.

Hope you have set up your access to The New York Times brought to you by Rutgers University Libraries. If you haven’t done so, here is a delightful read for all book lovers, history buffs, and anyone interested in tidbits about famous titles.

The collection of 125 years of books that were reviewed in the New York Times spans from light topics, such as Jack London at a dog dinner and Winnie-the-Pooh to verses on the loss of the Titanic and current topics on race, equity, and health.

See some highlights as follows. Click on the titles to locate a copy in the library available online. The source of the descriptions is the original article.

1903 In “The Souls of Black Folk” — now widely accepted as a foundational text of American intellectual history — W.E.B. Du Bois wrote that “the problem of the 20th century is the problem of the color line.” In it, Du Bois also detailed his now-storied critique of Booker T. Washington’s emphasis on economic advancement.

1926 Shortly after A. A. Milne introduced Winnie the Pooh and Christopher Robin to the world, one young reader was not so happy: his son, the original Christopher Robin, who threatened “to take revenge upon his dad by writing poems about him.”

1953 After the English publication of Simone de Beauvoir’s “The Second Sex,” which would go on to shape the modern women’s movement, the male reviewer called it “a truly magnificent book, even if sometimes irritating to a mere male.”

1962Silent Spring,” Rachel Carson’s investigation into the use of pesticides, awakened readers to their insidious and destructive effects and helped spur the modern environmental movement. Our reviewers grasped the urgency of Carson’s contribution: “It is high time for people to know about these rapid changes in their environment, and to take an effective part in the battle that may shape the future of all life on earth.”

1968 “Because the summer of 1968 promises — or threatens — to be a critical one in American life,” wrote the Book Review on June 2 of that year, “prominent novelists and critics were asked to address themselves once more to the old but lively question of ‘engagement.’ Many writers responded, including Malcolm Cowley, Gore Vidal and Joyce Carol Oates.

1987 And the Band Played On,” Randy Shilts’s account of the origins and aftermath of the AIDS epidemic, was one of the first books to investigate the indifference and neglect of the American government and medical establishment.

1988 After “Beloved” did not win the National Book Award, the Book Review published a statement in Toni Morrison’s defense drafted by June Jordan and Houston A. Baker and signed by 48 Black writers, including Maya Angelou, Amiri Baraka, Lucille Clifton and Angela Davis.

Read the entire article with links to the original review: 125 years of books that were reviewed in the New York Times.

See more on how to access the New York Times and other newspapers from Rutgers Libraries.