Hundred-Year Retroactive Book Award
Taking a look back in a light-hearted debate
Are books that were popular a hundred years ago still relevant today? That’s the question we ask every year at the Hundred-Year Retroactive Book Award, where three distinguished panelists make a strong case for their books. The audience chooses the winner. Learning from yesterday’s literature has never been this fun.

Hundred-Year Retroactive Book Award of 1923

Wednesday, February 8, 2023 at 6:00 pm
Hybrid: Boston Public Library's Rabb Hall and Virtually on Zoom

Join us for the liveliest book debate in Boston! The Hundred Year Retroactive Book Award of 1923 will be held on Wednesday, February 8, 2023 at 6:00 pm in Boston Public Library's Rabb Hall. This free hybrid event will debate the enduring literary merits of three bestsellers published in 1923. This year’s contenders are Felix Salten's Bambi, a Life in the Woods; Kahlil Gibran's The Prophet; and Agatha Christie's Murder on the Links. The books will be championed by Harvard professor Maria Tatar, historian Paul Wright, and mystery writer Julie Hennrikus, respectively. Boston DJ Kennedy Elsey will moderate the lighthearted debate, after which the audience will vote to determine the winner of the Retroactive Book Award of 1923.

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Meet the presenters

Maria Tatar

Maria Tatar

Maria Tatar will defend Felix Salten’s Bambi, a Life in the Woods. She is the John L. Loeb Professor of Germanic Languages and Literatures and Chair of the Committee on Degrees in Folklore and Mythology at Harvard University. Her expertise lies in children's literature, German literature, and folklore. Recent work includes The Heroine with 1,001 Faces and The Annotated Peter Pan, which commemorates 100 years of J.M. Barrie's novel Peter and Wendy. She has also written books about Weimar Culture, the Brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Andersen, and childhood reading. The recipient of fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Studies, and the National Endowment for the Humanities, she has written for the New York Times, the New Republic, and the Harvard Crimson. Her work has been featured on the Today Show and in Harvard Magazine.

Paul Wright

Paul Wright
Paul Wright will defend Kahlil Gibran's The Prophet. He is a book historian and freelance writer and editor who is currently coordinating a South End Oral History Project, funded by American Historical Association, for the South End Historical Society and the UMass Boston Archives. Paul also serves on the board of the South End Historical Society and is writing a book on the Harvard Classics. He was the Editor of the UMass Press from 1988 to 2006 where he started as a production and acquisitions editor. He also was Executive Editor of the Book Series, Studies in Print Culture and the History of the Book, from 1994–2006 and Sponsoring Editor of the Book Series, American Popular Music from 2001–2006.

Julie Hennrikus

Julie Hennrikus
Julie Hennrikus will defend Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Links. She is the author of ten mystery novels including the Clock Shop Mystery Series and the Garden Squad Mysteries. Her most recently release, The Plot Thickens, is the fifth Garden Squad Mystery set in fictional Goosebush, Massachusetts. Her short stories have been published in the Thin Ice anthology, Dead Calm, and Blood Moon. Julie was recently named the Executive Director of Sisters in Crime, the national association that advocates for women writers of crime novels, and also hosts the weekly Sisters in Crime Writers’ Podcast. She has taught at Emerson and Boston College and was the Executive Director of StageSource, theater artist and company service organization.

the Candidates

Felix Salten’s Bambi, a Life in the Woods

Bambi, a Life in the Woods

Written by Austrian author and literary critic, Felix Salten, Bambi is one of the first novels dealing with humanity’s impact on the environment. Salten’s book is filled with a menagerie of woodland creatures who talk and have distinct personalities as they star in a tale about loss, love, and responsibility. The book would later be immortalized as an animated Disney film, which is still avidly watched by children today.

Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet

The Prophet

Lebanese-American writer, poet Kahlil Gibran weaves 26 fables about the human condition in The Prophet. One of the most translated books in the world, The Prophet, is told from the perspective of Al Mustapha, a prophet who is journeying home. Each chapter represents a conversation with a person the prophet happens upon during his travels and delves into all-encompassing themes such as love, death, joy, sorrow, good, and evil.

Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Links

Murder on the Links
Murder on the Links is the second book to feature Agatha Christie’s iconic detective, Hercule Poirot, and his longtime friend, Arthur Hastings. Poirot’s keen observations on human nature and his incredible memory are instrumental in unmasking the murderer and prompting the literary critics to compare Poirot’s detective style to Sherlock Holmes. Murder on the Links also marks a pivotal moment in Hasting’s character development when he finds love with a mysterious woman who he later marries.

Meet the moderator

Kennedy Elsey

Kennedy Elsey will moderate this debate for the second year in a row. She is the co-host of the popular morning radio program, Karson and Kennedy, on Mix 104.1. She grew up in suburban Chicago and graduated from Drake University with a double major in Theater and Psychology. Kennedy is deeply involved in community events and runs a program called Karson & Kennedy’s Cool Kids. Cool Kids brings amazing kids who have overcome adversity on fun adventures, at no cost to the kid or their families. She is also an outspoken advocate for mental health awareness serving on the board for Samaritans and raising funds with her program "Your Light Is Needed". Kennedy lives in Quincy with the most stable man in her life, her Lab, Elvis.

Previous Hundred-Year Retroactive Book Awards


The Associates of the Boston Public Library's Hundred-Year Retroactive Book Award is now in its twenty-fourth year.

To read about the previous debates click below.