“In this publication was realized an idea from the editor of The Times that a newspaper book review should be a literary journal, treating newly published books as news and in addition containing other news of literary events.” , wrote Elmer Davis in “History of The New York Times, 1851-1921.
“Books as News” remained the watchword of the Book Review for years. “Literary criticism, which is excellent in its own way, but strictly speaking a means rather than an end, has never been the main object of its existence,” reiterates the Book Review in 1913. “An open forum for discussion of the books from all sound and honest perspectives are still available in The New York Times Book Review.
Over time, the Book Review has evolved, abandoning its saying “books as news” and embracing literary criticism, essays, theories and ideas. It has become a lens through which to look not only at literature but also the world at large, with academics and thinkers weighing in on all the people, issues, and topics covered in books: philosophy, art, science, economy, history, art and more.
J. Donald Adams, who was appointed editor of the Book Review in 1925, later recalled: “When I took over, The Times thought all you had to do was tell people what to do. that there was in the books. I wanted to make the book review something more than that. Under him, the reviews became more opinionated and the coverage wider and deeper. “Dissent in itself can be exciting, it can shed light in gray corners,” wrote Francis Brown in a brief history for the Book Review in 1968. “As our culture becomes more and more unified, the diversity is a quality to be cherished and cultivated, and how boring, stupefying it would be to agree on politics, aesthetics or whatever you like – and especially on books which, by their very being, bear witness to of the diversity of man.