1912 Books That Have Stood the Test of Time

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

Friday, January 12, 1912: At least our examinations are over. Took two today and made about ninety in each. We spelt on sides this afternoon. The side I was on was beat. I was the last one to be spelt down. The word was ‘nihilism’. I guess that’s the way you spell it. If Jake would have pronounced it the way it’s spelt, I would have perhaps staid up longer.

Was invited to the book club up at Oakes’ this evening, but didn’t go as I didn’t think I would enjoy it. I would be urged to play cards and that I scarcely know how.

Had my first sleigh ride today.

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

What were they reading at book club? Goodreads lists two hundred books published in 1912 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.

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

1.         Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs

2.         The Reef by Edith Wharton

3.         The Problems of Philosophy by Bertrand Russell

4.         The Financier by Theodore Dreiser

5.         The Yosemite by John Muir

6.         The Theory of Money and Credit by Ludwig von Mises

7.         The Judgment by Franz Kafka

8.         Sinking of the Titanic: Eyewitness Accounts by Jay Henry Mowbray

9.         Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw

10.       Son of the Sun: The Adventures of Captain David Grief by Jack London

9 thoughts on “1912 Books That Have Stood the Test of Time

  1. One of my favorite books is one I found at my Great grandmothers in the early 1960s. It was published in 1908. It is called “Marcia Schuyler” by Grace Livingston Hill Lutz. It’s a totally unbelivable story of a girl who ends up being married off to her sister’s fiance when the sister runs off with a gambler. Another one, “Lydia of the Pines” by Honore Willsie is a much better book but wasn’t published until 1917. I think I need to scan these books because they are on the verge of crumpling to bits of yellowed paper. I used to have even more of these books but apparently they got left behind in our last move.

    1. I also enjoy some of the old books. Last year I read a couple books published in 1911. The Rosary by Florance Barclay was about a woman who refused to marry a man who loved her because she thought that she was too ugly and that he’d later regret it. He then became blind after a hunting accident. She then wanted to marry him, but believed that he’d turn her down because he’d think that she felt sorry for him. Eventually everything worked out and they got married and lived happily ever after. The story seemed corny, but it did make me think about the relationship between beauty and love. I also discovered the works of Edith Wharton and really enjoyed reading a couple of her novels.

  2. Of course book number 8 on your list wasn’t published until after April 1912, since that’s when the Titanic sank. Did your grandmother ever mention big news stories in her diary? I look forward to April to see if she mentions the sinking of the Titanic.

    1. I also was surprised to see this on a list of 1912 books. It apparently was published late in the year. I’m amazed that they were able to get a book published that quickly back then.

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