1942: A 75-year retrospective on books

Posted on October 5, 2017 at 6:00 am

by Rachel Edmondson

Spokane County Library District is commemorating its 75th anniversary this year. We’re celebrating this fall! We’ve collected stories and poems from local writers to create a community anthology, coming out in November. We have two musical celebrations at our libraries: in October, Unstrung featuring cellist Karen Hawkins and violinist Lori DeGuire and in Novermber, a celebration featuring Hot Club of Spokane.

In our latest issue of Engage, our programs and events guide, we took a stroll down memory lane, looking at newspaper articles and photographs of our libraries and programs over the years. It’s been fascinating to see what has changed and what has stayed the same.

There are an amazing number of library programs that are popular today that have been popular throughout the 75 years the library has been engaging with our community. This made me start to wonder if there were books published the year the library was established that are still in our collection today. I found several still being checked out and read 75 years after first publication. Of course, our copies aren’t 75 years old!

What I first noticed in my quest to discover books published in 1942 was that this was a great year for children’s books. Several classic picture books made their debut the same year as the library. The Runaway Bunny, by Margaret Wise Brown, is one of the most recognized picture books and has truly stood the test of time. Since the book was first published in 1942, it has never been out of print. Another well-recognized title is Caldecott winner The Little House, by Virginia Lee Burton. And for those who grew up with the Little Golden Books, you’ll remember The Poky Little Puppy, by Janette Sebring Lowrey.

Older children were also enjoying some well-known and enduring books. Children reading chapter books were busy solving mysteries with the charming and independent Nancy Drew and the adventurous, amateur detectives the Hardy Boys. 1942 brought the 19th book in the Nancy Drew series (The Quest of the Missing Map) and the 21st in the Hardy Boys Mysteries (The Clue of the Broken Blade). Both the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys series were written by many different ghost authors. The Nancy Drew series was published under the pseudonym Carolyn Keene and The Hardy Boys were published under the pseudonym Franklin W. Dixon. 1942 was also the year The Boxcar Children, the first book in the series by the same name, was published by Gertrude Chandler Warner.

While children were busy solving mysteries, adults were flexing their philosophical muscles with French author Albert Camus’ The Stranger. This book sparked conversation from the moment it was first published in France in 1942. C.S. Lewis was another author writing during this time period and his theological satire The Screwtape Letters debuted in 1942 and went on to sell millions of copies worldwide.

Several other famous authors were busy publishing books during this time period including John Steinbeck, Pearl S. Buck, William Faulkner, and Agatha Christie (adults enjoy mysteries too!). For a trip back in time (give or take a few years from 1942), you can check out titles by these authors who wrote in the same era and have endured in popularity for 75 years and more.

I hope you enjoyed this literary trip to 1942, the year that Spokane County Library District got its start. My colleagues in Collection Services, Cheryl and Sheri, compiled booklists of top books in adult and youth for the past 75 years. See how many you’ve read and share your favorites with us.


1942: The Stranger by Albert Camus

1943: The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand

1944: The Razor’s Edge by W. Somerset Maugham

1945: Animal Farm by George Orwell

1946: The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care by Dr. Benjamin Spock

1947: Tales of the South Pacific by James Michener

1948: The Naked and the Dead by Normal Mailer

1949: Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell

1950: The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury

1951: The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

1952: East of Eden by John Steinbeck

1953: Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

1954: Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien

1955: Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

1956: Peyton Place by Grace Metalious

1957: On the Road by Jack Kerouac

1958: Night by Elie Wiesel

1959: Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs

1960: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

1961: Silent Spring by Rachel Carson

1962: One Who Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey

1963: The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan

1964: Games People Play by Eric Berne

1965: The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Alex Haley & Malcom X

1966: Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann

1967: I’m OK—You’re OK by Thomas A. Harris

1968: 2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke

1969: Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut

1970: Love Story by Erich Segal

1971: The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty

1972: Stepford Wives by Ira Levin

1973: Fear of Flying by Erica Jong

1974: Helter Skelter by Vincent Bugliosi & Curt Gentry

1975: Shogun by James Clavell

1976: Roots by Alex Haley

1977: The Shining by Stephen King

1978: The Road Less Traveled: A New Psychology of Love, Traditional Values, and Spiritual Growth by M. Scott Peck

1979: Hitchhiker’s Guide to The Galaxy by Douglas Adams

1980: The Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean Auel

1981: The One Minute Manager by Kenneth H. Blanchard

1982: The Color Purple by Alice Walker

1983: Son: A Psychopath and His Victims by Jack Olsen

1984: Hunt for Red October by Tom Clancy

1985: Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry

1986: Codependent No More: How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring for Yourself by Melody Beattie

1987: Watchmen by Alan Moore

1988: The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie

1989: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change by Stephen Covey

1990: Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton

1991: Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

1992: Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus by John Gray

1993: The Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield

1994: One for the Money by Janet Evanovich

1995: Independence Day by Richard Ford

1996: A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

1997: Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom

1998: The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

1999: A Walk to Remember by Nicholas Sparks

2000: The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make A Big Difference by Malcolm Gladwell

2001: Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen

2002: The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

2003: The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown

2004: My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult

2005: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

2006: Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

2007: Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

2008: The Last Lecture by Jeffrey Zaslow & Randy Pausch

2009: The Help by Kathryn Stockett

2010: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

2011: Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James

2012: Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed

2013: Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg

2014: All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

2015: Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

2016: Hamilton by Lin-Manuel Miranda

2017: You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me by Sherman Alexie


*Children’s and young adult

1942: The Poky Little Puppy by Janette Sebring Lowrey

1943: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

1944: The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes

1945: Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren

1946: The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge

1947: Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

1948: Corduroy by Don Freeman

1949: Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle’s Magic by Betty MacDonald

1950: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis

1951: Irish Red by Jim Kjelgaard

1952: Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White

1953: Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder

1954: Half Magic by Edward Eager

1955: Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson

1956: Old Yeller by Fred Gipson

1957: The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss

1958: The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare

1959: The Rescuers by Margery Sharp

1960: Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell

1961: The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster

1962: The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats

1963: Curious George Learns the Alphabet by H.A. Rey

1964: Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh

1965: The Black Cauldron by Lloyd Alexander

1966: Up a Road Slowly by Irene Hunt

1967: The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton

1968: Ramona the Pest by Beverly Cleary

1969: The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

1970: Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume

1971: Go Ask Alice by Anonymous

1972: Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George

1973: How to Eat Fried Worms by Thomas Rockwell

1974: Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein

1975: Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt

1976: Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor

1977: Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Patterson

1978: The Westing Game by Ellen Rankin

1979: Bunnicula by James Howe

1980: The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch

1981: Jumanji by Chris Van Allsburg

1982: The BFG by Roald Dahl

1983: Babe: the Gallant Pig by Dick King-Smith

1984: Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge by Mem Fox

1985: Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan

1986: Stotan! by Chris Crutcher

1987: Where’s Waldo by Martin Handford

1988: Matilda by Roald Dahl

1989: Hatchet by Gary Paulsen

1990: The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi

1991: Tuesday by David Wiesner

1992: The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stinky Tales by Jon Scieszka

1993: The Giver by Lois Lowry

1994: Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech

1995: The Watsons Go to Birmingham, 1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis

1996: The Midwife’s Apprentice by Karen Cushman

1997: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling

1998: Holes by Louis Sachar

1999: The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket

2000: Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli

2001: The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares

2002: Coraline by Neil Gaiman

2003: Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus by Mo Willems

2004: Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko

2005: The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

2006: Just Listen by Sarah Dessen

2007: Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney

2008: The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

2009: Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin

2010: Press Here by Herve Tullet

2011: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

2012: Wonder by R.J. Palacio

2013: Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

2014: Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

2015: Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Pena

2016: Thunder Boy, Jr. by Sherman Alexie

2017: The Hate You Give by Angie Thomas

Rachel Edmondson

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