In 1940 and 1941 – the lead-up-to-war years – the New York Times Book Review’s bestseller list appeared only rarely. In 1940, it ran exactly once.
When the list came back, on August 9, 1942, it had the intricate regional grid format you see above. (This list is from January 10, 1943.) It retained this look for more than three years, until September 2, 1945.
I suspect that most of the titles here, to anyone under 50 or 60, anyway, are likely to be unfamiliar.
The No. 1 nonfiction book, “See Here, Private Hargrove,” by Marion Hargrove, was a genial account of Mr. Hargrove’s Army basic training. It was made into a 1944 film that starred Donna Reed and, as Hargrove, Robert Walker. The No. 2 nonfiction book, “Suez to Singapore,” was a report on the sinking of HMS Repulse in December 1941.
The No. 1 novel, “The Robe,” was the work of a former pastor, and was set during Christ’s time. “The Robe” also became film, in 1953. (It starred Richard Burton.)
The No. 3 book on the fiction list, “The Song of Bernadette,” was written by the Czech-born Franz Werfel, a friend and contemporary of Franz Kafka, Max Brod and others. He married Alma Mahler, Gustav Mahler’s widow, after she’d divorced the architect Walter Gropius in order to be with him.
Yes, “The Song of Bernadette” was also made into a film, and a popular one. Jennifer Jones won an Oscar for her portrayal of Bernadette.
If you’ve read any of the books on this list recently, and have anything to say about one or two of them, please run – don’t walk – to the comments button below.
1942And Now Tomorrow by Rachel Field (MacMillan) - August 9, 1942
The Song of Bernadette by Franz Werfel (Viking) - August 16, 1942
Drivin' Woman by Elizabeth Chevalier (MacMillan) - September 6, 1942
The Robe by Lloyd Douglas (Houghton Mifflin) - November 22, 1942
1943Mrs. Parkington by Louis Bromfield (Harper) - March 14, 1943
So Little Time by John P. Marquand (Little, Brown) - October 17, 1943
1944A Tree Grows In Brooklyn by Betty Smith (Harper) - January 2, 1944
Strange Fruit by Lillian Smith (Reynal) - May 14, 1944
Razor's Edge by Somerset Maugham (Doubleday) - July 2, 1944
Green Dolphin Street by Elizabeth Goudge (Coward-McCann) - October 15, 1944
Forever Amber by Kathleen Winsor (MacMillan) - November 14, 1944
The Green Years by A. J. Cronin (Little, Brown) - December 17, 1944
1945Earth and High Heaven by Gwethalyn Graham (Lippincott) - April 22, 1945
Captain From Castile by Samuel Shellabarger (Little, Brown) - May 13, 1945
A Lion Is In the Streets by Adria Locke Langley (McGraw) - July 1, 1945
So Well Remembered by James Hilton (Little, Brown) - September 23, 1945
The Black Rose by Thomas Costain (Doubleday) - September 30, 1945
1946The King's General by Daphne du Maurier (Doubleday) - February 3, 1946
Arch of Triumph by Erich Maria Remarque (Appleton-Century) - March 10, 1946
This Side of Innocence by Taylor Caldwell (Scribner's) - May 12, 1946
The Hucksters by Frederic Wakeman (Rinehart) - July 14, 1946
East River by Sholem Asch (Putnam) - November 24, 1946
B. F.'s Daughter by John P. Marquand (Little, Brown) - December 1, 1946
1947Lydia Bailey by Kenneth Roberts (Doubleday) - February 2, 1947
Gentlemen's Agreement by Laura Z. Hobson (Simon & Schuster) - April 27, 1947
Kingsblood Royal by Sinclair Lewis (Random House) - July 6, 1947
The Moneyman by Thomas Costain (Doubleday) - August 17, 1947
House Divided by Ben Ames Williams (Houghton Mifflin) - November 9, 1947
1948East Side, West Side by Marcia Davenport (Scribner's) - February 8, 1948
Eagle In the Sky by Van Wyck Mason (Lippincott) - March 7, 1948
The Ides of March by Thornton Wilder (Harper) - April 4, 1948
Raintree County by Ross Lockridge (Houghton Mifflin) - April 25, 1948
Pilgrim's Inn by Elizabeth Goudge (Coward-McCann) - May 23, 1948
The Naked and the Dead by Norman Mailer (Rinehart) - June 20, 1948
Shannon's Way by A. J. Cronin (Little, Brown) - September 5, 1948
The Young Lions by Irwin Shaw (Random House) - November 7, 1948
The Big Fisherman by Lloyd C. Douglas (Houghton Mifflin) - December 19, 1948
1949Point of No Return by John P. Marquand (Little, Brown) - April 10, 1949
A Rage to Live by John O'Hara (Random House) - September 18, 1949
The Egyptian by Mika Waltari (Putnam) - October 30, 1949