April 5-11, 2002
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How bestsellers reveal American culture

How bestsellers reveal American culture

Rave Reviews “What’s scandalous in one generation is commonplace in the next (and sometimes vice versa). And for readers, novels always bring back personal memories as well,” said John Unsworth, co-curator of the “Rave Reviews” exhibit and director of the Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities.

Novels often mirror American culture, showcasing society’s longings, values and morals. Bestsellers can also bring about change in thought, social practices and deals. This exhibition, “Rave Reviews: Bestselling Fiction in America,” explores American reading habits and chronicles the development of the bestseller.

The books and other period objects are on display through June 10 in Alderman Library’s McGregor Room. Most of the items are from the library’s Lillian Gary Taylor Collection of Popular American Fiction from 1752 through 1950.

Among the highlights is the first book to sell over 1 million copies in a short time, Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind (1936), displayed with the first American bestseller, Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852). Works from contemporary authors Jan Karon, Stephen King and John Grisham represent current bestsellers.

The online exhibition, at www.lib.virginia.edu/exhibits/rave_reviews, encourages readers to post their memories and thoughts on popular fiction and its impact on them.


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