The Atlantic Bookshelf: Conclusion

A wrap up of book reviews from Edward Weeks

As a veteran with a bonus in prospect, I wonder how much of the total Adjusted Compensation will be spent on books. Probably not as much as one tenth of one per cent. Automobiles, I think, will claim the greater share; mortgages, clothes, debts, and taxes will all prove more pressing than printed matter. And, speaking of taxes, is there, I wonder, any connection between the income taxes and the dismal slump in book buying, more noticeable than ever this year between midFebruary and the first of April? Readers don’t voluntarily go on strike for those six weeks. No; but it is my belief that the majority of booklovers are included in that bracket hard hit by income taxes. The force of the blow felt sometime between the first of February and the first of March gives each reader a stunned sense of economy from which he is slow to recover.
As an editor vitally interested in the care and feeding of authors, I certainly hail the various forms of patronage which are intended to stimulate the writing and — incidentally — the reading of books in these lean years. The Pulitzer Prizes are awarded in recognition of recent performances, and the Guggenheim Fellowships in expectation of good things to come. Similarly, if less altruistic, the Harper and Atlantic Monthly Press Contests seek to bring fresh talent to light, just as the Houghton Mifflin Fellowships start in motion books which otherwise would wait to be written. Very helpful, it seems to me, are the four new Fellowships recently instituted by the Book of the Month Club, Here are four awards of $2500 each which will go to the authors of distinctive books, but books the value of which the public did not at once appreciate — books, in short, which have sold less than 5000 copies their first year. The effect of most prizes and patronage is to emphasize the few at the expense of the many. But here is a deliberate endeavor to preserve from near oblivion four good books each year — books like This Simian World, by Clarence Day, The Cabala, by Thornton Wilder, Lost Horizon and Without Armor, by James Hilton, each of which was neglected by the public.
The Atlantic’s List of Recommended Books for the first six months of 1936 is now available. This list will not be published in the magazine, but institutions or individuals may obtain it on application.