Category Archives: 1930-1939

Year 43

1930: As I Lay Dying

Author: William Faulkner

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Told in a “stream of consciousness” writing style, As I Lay Dying describes a woman’s death and her family’s journey to Jefferson, Mississippi to bury her. The story is told by multiple narrators, including the dead woman herself, which illustrate various motivations and internal struggles that each of the characters experience. In this novel, William Faulkner first introduces Yoknapatawpha County, Mississippi, which serves as the setting for many of his later works.

Faulkner claims to have written As I Lay Dying in six weeks and did not change a word after writing it.

Year 44

1931: L’Art Religieux

Author/Editor: Emile Male

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Emile Male was a noted French art historian and is widely recognized for his contributions to the study of the history of art and his contributions to the scholarship of medieval and byzantine art.  This volume ( one in a series) is based on his doctoral dissertation at the University of Toulouse and still to this day is considered to be one of the seminal documents of medieval and byzantine art. According to the Dictionary of Art Historians, “ Mâle was one a of group of pioneering art historians, who, along with the German-speaking (but methodologically different) Adolph Goldschmidt, Alois Riegl, and Wilhelm Vöge, were responsible for transforming art history from a fledging discipline into an internationally respected field of study. His books were widely appreciated during his lifetime, inspiring generations of art historians to study French iconography as a core explication of medieval art. He was among the first to recognize eastern influences in medieval art.” ( retrieved September 24, 2012 from

Year 45

1932: Brave New World

Author/Editor: Aldous Huxley

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Brave New World was published in 1932, and explored a new totalitarianism world in which mind control,  mass (re)production, and pleasure are combine to create a state where “…the all-powerful executive of political bosses and their army of managers control a population of slaves who do not have to be coerced, because they love their servitude,” (Huxley, 1946 foreword).

In the thirties, Huxley lived in a milieu that was still feeling the aftereffects of the Great War, beginning to fear the development of totalitarian states in Europe, and on the cusp of the Second World War. These anxieties were recombined with disgust at the shallow pursuit of pleasure which Huxley felt he observed in a trip to America, and are perhaps at the root of the dilemmas he explores in Brave New World.

Brave New World is a resilient novel. Reading it 80 years after its publication, many of the questions and problems raised by Huxley remain unresolved.

Year 46

1933: The Thin Man

Author: Dashiell Hammett

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The blend of hard-boiled detective fiction and screwball comedy of The Thin Man seemed like a perfect representative for 1933.

Dashiell Hammet’s The Thin Man was his last novel. Hammet, along with Raymond Chandler, was one of the pioneers of the hard-boiled detective novel which has so influenced American popular culture. The Thin Man was a bit of a departure, in its relative lightness, but some of the essential hard-boiled characteristics remain.

The Thin Man was adapted as a film in 1934, starring William Powell and Myrna Loy, whose chemistry and capacity to improvise irreverently  were so popular that the single novel led to a half dozen movies altogether, made throughout the 30’s and 40’s.

Year 47

1934: A Handful of Dust

Author/Editor: Evelyn Waugh

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Evelyn Waugh’s satirical novel about the pretentious and insipid world of the London aristocracy has been named as one of the best books of the twentieth century by both Time magazine and Modern Library. Chronicling the demise of the marriage between Tony and Brenda Last, A Handful of Dust depicts the English elite’s struggle to maintain their precarious place in society during the Great Depression.

The title of the book comes from a poem by T.S. Eliot:

“I will show you something different from either

Your shadow at morning striding behind you

Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you;

I will show you fear in a handful of dust.”

Year 48

1935: The Witch of Wall Street: Hetty Green

Author/Editor: Boyden Sparkes & Samuel Taylor Moore

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The Witch of Wall Street: Hetty Green is a biography of Henrietta Green, at one time the richest woman in America. She was a shrewd business woman and anecdotes of her frugality border on the ridiculous (such as she ordered only the hems of her dress to be washed to save on soap). She also prided herself on her fair approach to lending and investing; she is quoted as saying, “… the … thing I am proudest of in my whole business life is that I do not take, that I never took in all my life, and never, never! will take, one single penny more than 6% on any loan or any contract”.  For many years she worn the same black dress and bonnet and this combined with her sharp tongue and strong personality, earned her the title, The Witch of Wall Street.

This account of Hetty Green’s life examines her influences and portrays not just her public character, but also her family life and personal story.

Year 49

1936: The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money

Author/Editor: John Maynard Keynes

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As an economics student in the early 80’s, this book (or at least excerpts of it) were required reading in several of my classes. During those Reagan years, Keynesian thought was a bit out of favor in the political arena. The work was nevertheless a cornerstone work of economic thought that had to be dealt with by my generation of undergraduate economists. My familiarity with any of its contents has long since past. But in the ongoing debates about unemployment, national debt and the economy, Keynes continues to be the one economist (along with Bernake) that you’re either for, or against.

Year 50

1937: Their Eyes Were Watching God

Author/Editor: Zora Neale Hurston

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Depicting the life of a black woman named Janie Crawford, Their Eyes Were Watching God describes how the culture and societal pressures in the rural South influenced Janie’s relationships with her three different husbands and how her experiences informed the person she became. Shocking in its starkness, this work initially received mixed reviews; notably it was panned by Hurston’s Harlem Renaissance contemporaries for being essentially too real and doing nothing to promote the African-American experience.

The popularity of this book was revitalized in the 1970s with feminist reinterpretations as well as its inclusion in African-American studies. It has also been transformed into a popular television adaptation produced by Oprah Winfrey.

Year 51

1938: The Basic Writings of Sigmund Freud

Author/Editor: Sigmund Freud & Dr. A. A. Brill

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Freud is considered the founder of psychoanalysis and lived from  1856 – 1939.   Dr. A. A. Brill was a psychiatrist and was the first to translate into English most of the major works of Freud and thus brought his writings to a new community of American psychologists and psychiatrists.  Included in this volume are the first translations of Psychopathology of Everyday Life, The Interpretation of Dreams, Three Contributions to the Theory of Sex, Wit and Its Relation to the Unconscious, Totem and Taboo and The History of the Psychoanalytic Movement.  Brill’s translations are the first and some scholars prefer later translations that are seen as more vivid.

Detailed information about Freud can be found using Biography Resource Center.

In addition, the following resources are also useful:

Year 52

1939: Mein Kampf

Author/Editor: Adolf Hitler

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It’s impossible to think of the 20th century without acknowledging the conflict and horrors associated with this book.

Indeed, that is much the sentiment of Ludwig Lore, who wrote the preface of the Stackpole edition:

I cannot conceive of any book of which I more positively disapprove, but I consider it vitally important for every intelligent American to acquaint himself at first hand with the theories on which the National Socialist state is founded.

Mein Kampf, the infamous work by Adolf Hitler, is one of the most widely-read books in history. Although the text in the original German was first published in 1929, this “unauthorized” English translation by Stackpole and Sons was published in 1939 with the tagline “This Edition Pays No Royalty to Adolf Hitler”. This edition was only available for three months because of copyright issues, but it sold over 12,000 copies in that time period.

The impetus to publish this translation is stated on the book jacket: “With the appearance of this volume, Hitler’s censorship ends, and the work which Dorothy Thompson calls “Hitler’s blueprint of world conquest” is at last available to readers everywhere.”