Has our taste in reading material changed over the last century? Guest blogger Cindy Orr takes a look in her monthly blog post.

Let me run a plot line by you and you can see if it sounds like a novel you, or someone you know, might like to read.

Okay, here goes:

  • Rich playboy meets beautiful girl whose father is a lower class drunk. They have a summer romance. He has feelings for her, but can’t get past the fact that she’s beneath him, so he breaks it off. Will they get together at the end?

Sounds like a typical bestseller, right? Well, this plot is from the book Katrine by Elinor Macartney Lane, the bestselling novel of 100 years ago. It seems that our reading tastes haven’t really changed all that much since 1909. This could very well be the plot of a romance published in 2009. Katrine is available in eBook form from OverDrive for only $3.99 if you’d like to give it a try.

How about this one:

  • A man gets on a train to deliver documents that will prove a forgery. When he gets to his sleeping car, he finds a man dead drunk and passed out in his berth, so he sleeps elsewhere. In the morning, the drunk who took his place is dead, the documents are gone, and there’s blood in the bed where he slept. Now he’s suspected of murder.

That’s The Man in Lower Ten by Mary Roberts Rinehart. It’s said that this mystery story was so scary that people refused to sleep in the lower birth number ten on trains for a very long while after they read the book. Mary Roberts Rinehart’s books are still popular today, though this book, her first novel, was published and became a bestseller in 1909. By the way, this book is available through Content Reserve as well.

Here’s another one:

  • An outsider comes to the mountains of Eastern Kentucky before coal mining in the area began, and falls in love with a local girl. Their love story unfolds against the devastating changes which occurred when the coal companies came in, ravaged the landscape and exploited the people.

This book is The Trail of the Lonesome Pine by John Fox, Jr. Fox was the first author to sell more than a million copies of a book—The Little Shepherd of Kingdom Come. Again, these books are in the OverDrive collection.

One last example:

  • This hero is a little like Indiana Jones—tall, handsome, strong, accomplished. He travels the world in search of adventure and romance, and finds both in the little fictional country of Graustark. It’s up to him to protect the child-prince from the evil Communists who plot to kill him with a suicide bomber (yes, they had suicide bombers even back then).

This one is Truxton King by George Barr McCutcheon, one of his Graustark novels, some of which are available from OverDrive.

This is the time of year for looking back. When we do, it seems to me that we find bestselling novels of 100 years ago that could easily be enjoyed today. It doesn’t seem as if our reading tastes have changed all that much. We still like love stories, adventure, mysteries, sad tales. While our language may have changed a bit, we still read books with similar plot lines. Maybe reading for pleasure isn’t all that different today than it was in 1909.

See a sample of The Trail of the Lonesome Pine, below:

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