As part of marking the 125th anniversary of The New York Times Book Review (debuted as a standalone section on Oct. 10, 1896), The Times looks back at the rocky reception for some of today’s best-loved books:
- “Catch-22,” by Joseph Heller: “[G]asps for want of craft and sensibility.” —Reviewed by Richard G. Stern, Oct. 22, 1961.
- “Anne of Green Gables,” by L.M. Montgomery: “The author’s probable intention was to exhibit a unique development in this little asylum waif, but there is no real difference between the girl at the end of the story and the one at the beginning of it.” —Unsigned review, July 18, 1908.
- “Blueberries for Sal,” by Robert McCloskey: “The slight story and its setting, which is limited to one side or the other of a hill, scarcely seems to warrant such expansive and expensive treatment.” —Reviewed by Gladys Crofoot Castor, Oct. 24, 1948.
- “A Is for Alibi,” by Sue Grafton: “Will the series take hold? … [T]he writing lacks real flair.” —Reviewed by Newgate Callendar, May 23, 1982.
- Go deeper: “When the Book Review Went Really Harsh … A hundred years ago, headlines in the Book Review did not mince words.”