1913 Books That Have Stood the Test of Time

18-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Wednesday, September 10, 1913:  Didn’t feel the best the morning. Commenced reading a book.


Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

What book was Grandma reading?

Goodreads lists two hundred books published in 1913 that are still in widely read. They probably were not the most popular books at the time, but rather they are the books that have endured –and whose message apparently continues to resonate a hundred years later.

Fifteen books on the list that I recognized the title or author are listed below:

1. O Pioneers by Willa Cather

2. Sons and Lovers by D.H. Lawrence

3. The Custom of the Country by Edith Wharton

4. Theodore Roosevelt: An Autobiography by Theodore Roosevelt

5. The Tale of Pigling Bland by Beatrix Potter

6. The Bobbsey Twins’ Mystery at School (Bobbsey Twins #4) by Laure Lee Hope

7. Chance by Joseph Conrad

8. Desert Gold by Zane Grey

9.  The Adventure of the Dying Detective by Arthur Conan Doyle

10. The Inland Voyage and Travels with a Donkey by Robert Louis Stevenson

11. The Story of My Boyhood and Youth by John Muir

12. Little Wars by H. G. Wells

13. The Night Born by Jack London

14. The War Correspondence of Leon Trotsky: The Balkan Wars 1912-1913 by Leon Trotsky

15. La Follette’s Autobiography: A Personal Narrative of Political Experiences by Robert M. La Follette

You may also enjoy similar posts that I did for books published in 1911 and 1912:

1912 Books That Have Stood the Test of Time

1911 Books That Have Stood the Test of Time

43 Responses

  1. Some timeless ones in this list

  2. O Pioneers! is one of my favorites. I went to the list on Goodreads and I have only read six of the books. I do have a couple on my to read list though.

  3. I love those Goodreads lists. It is really interesting to see what has endured.

    • I’m also always surprised at the year that some of these books were published. If I’d just guessed, I would have missed the publication date by a couple decades for a couple of these books.

  4. Oh, I remember reading the Bobbsey Twins.

  5. I like the angle you took on this–Helena didn’t give you much to work with!

  6. Anything book…I love it! I had to smile of the image of a sour faced grandma who felt under the weather and took that as a reason for reading…”commenced reading a book” to me sounds like ‘could it get any duller…’ ;0)

    • I think that you are absolutely right that Grandma decided to read a book because she was bored and couldn’t think of anything more exciting to do.

  7. Thanks for sharing…I will continue to visit your site and read up on all that’s here. I am so nostalgic and love the past, especially the turn of the century (1900’s). I just attended the Old Car Festival at The Henry Ford in Dearborn where I saw lots of clothes like the ones your grandmother wore. Wish we could go back in time to really experience it but… The book list is great, too.

    • The Old Car Festival sounds like fun. Several years ago I visited the Ford Museum and did the Ford Rudge Factory tour–but it was in the very early spring and the Greenfield Village had not yet opened for the season. Hopefully I’ll get back there in the future when it is open.

      • Let me know…I would love to meet you. And while you are here, you could go into the Research Library that’s right at the entrance to the village. Anyone who writes would find it invaluable!

        • Thanks for the invitation. The Research Library sounds awesome. I don’t currently have any plans to visit Michigan again–but maybe I’ll get back there sometime in the future.

          • I love that place. I held a recipe book in my hand from the 1800’s. It was so small (about 3″x4″) and was quite unique. I had many of my mother’s old cookbooks and sent them a list (included one of my own) that I desired to donate. They did accept one of mine for their collection. I was so proud!!! I’ll keep in touch.

          • It’s awesome that the library collection has one of your cookbooks.

  8. Using the word ‘commenced’ is so formal but I guess it could be an old fashioned expression from the times – so interesting to see terms like this from Helena’s diary.

  9. I love these lists–I’m going to share them with my book groups. Thank you!

  10. What an interesting list, I am going to check out your post from the other two years too.

  11. what a great list–some I’ve never heard of. Can’t wait to tackle a few of these.

  12. My favorite from 1911 is Ethan Frome which I read as a teenager (not in 1911 of course)! :)

  13. Yes, we wonder what book she read. Thanks for giving us possibilities.

    • I wonder if the books that were really popular in 1913 ended up being the books that people still read.

      Another thought-
      Will people a hundred years from now read today’s best sellers?

  14. Haha, I kind of doubt it was the Lawrence.

  15. All good books (and things) will endure.

  16. Good book list, I will have to check out some of those titles. I wish she would have told us what she was reading. ;)

  17. What a revelation that the only books on this list I have read are Conan Doyle and The Bobbsey Twins! Not that I haven’t read other things by many of the writers, but whatever they were writing in 1913 seems to have slipped under my radar. I am going to have to read O Pioneers. Guess I haven’t because everyone has told me I “should.”

    • I think that you’ll like O Pioneers When I was putting the list together, I noticed that a lot of famous authors published books in 1913, but that in many cases the 1913 book was not one of the more popular books by the author.

  18. O Pioneers! is on my reading list. Just finished another Willa Cather book. She’s such a good writer.

  19. […] A few weeks ago, I gave you a list of 1913 books that are still popular according to Goodreads. […]

  20. […] 1913 Books That Have Stood the Test of Time […]

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