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A Little History of Book Reviews and the NY Times

There’s a NY Times reviewlot of interest going on in this post announcing a change to the NY Times book review format—which is that the daily reviews and the Sunday Book Review will both be under the editorial purview of Pamela Paul. Does this mean there won’t be any more book reviews during the week? The article doesn’t explicitly say so.

It’s a bit convoluted overall. Perhaps its author, David W. Dunlap, just wrote it on the quick because it had been forever since he posted anything … like I’m doing with this.

Dunlap’s piece does talk about when the Times first started publishing reviews (on Saturdays, initially, but then was moved to Sundays because they figured people had more time to read the section then).

Prior to that, book reviews were published alongside other articles, “treating newly published books as news and containing besides other news of literary happenings” (wrote Elmer Davis in his history of the paper from 1851 – 1921) but this frustrated advertisers. Thus the creation of the section devoted to the subject in 1896.

The article ends with a subtle jab at people who wring their hands at the state of book sales in the digital/Amazon age, noting that a common theme of the reviews back then was the dawn of an “existential threat posed by a growing competitive ‘evil'”—that being the department store.

Adam Robinson
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About The Author

Adam Robinson

Adam Robinson lives in Atlanta and runs Publishing Genius Press. He is the author of two poetry collections, Adam Robison and Other Poems and Say Poem.

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