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 1917
Thursday, November 2, 2017 at 6:30 PM Abbey Room, Boston Public Library

We hosted the Hundred-Year Retroactive Book Award of 1917 to weigh the enduring literary merits of bestsellers published in 1917. Contenders for the prize were T.S. Eliot’s Prufrock and Other Observations, His Last Bow: An Epilogue of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle, and Third Class in Indian Railways by Mohandas Gandhi. Author Stona Fitch moderated the lighthearted debate, after which the audience voted on a winner. In a shocking twist, it was a three-way tie!


Debate Moderator:

Stona Fitch (aka Rory Flynn)

is an award-winning novelist, often writing about Boston crime, who has garnered international acclaim. His 2001 novel, Senseless, was adapted into a movie of the same name. He authors the Eddy Harkness mystery series under the pseudonym Rory Flynn. Mr. Fitch is also the founder of the Concord Free Press, the world’s first donation-based publisher. He lives in Concord, Massachusetts. The Associates honored him as a Literary Light in 2010.

Speaking for the Candidates:


Charles Coe

is a poet and the author of two books of poetry, All Sins Forgiven: Poems for my Parents and Picnic on the Moon, and a novella, Spin Cycles. His essay Hill of Dreams, about his travels through the Soviet Union in 1988, appeared in Inspired Journeys: Travels with the Muse in 2016. Peach Pie, a short film by filmmaker Roberto Mighty based on his poem Fortress, is currently showing in film festivals nationwide. Mr. Coe was honored by the Associates as a Literary Light in 2014, won a fellowship in poetry from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, is in the second year of a three-year term as an Artist Fellow for the St. Botolph Club, and was selected as an Artist-in-Residence for the City of Boston for 2017. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Mr. Coe defended T.S. Eliot’s Prufrock and Other Observations.


Michael Patrick MacDonald

is the author of the New York Times Bestselling memoir, All Souls: A Family Story from Southie and the acclaimed Easter Rising: A Memoir of Roots and Rebellion. These two books are frequent “First Year Experience” selections at colleges and universities throughout the U.S., for which MacDonald has given over 300 campus lectures. The Associates honored him as a Literary Light in 2000, and he has been awarded an American Book Award, and a fellowship at the Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Study Center. MacDonald has written a number of essays and short stories, and been a contributor to the Boston Globe’s Op Ed page and a Senior Contributing Editor for the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism at Brandeis University. Mr. MacDonald serves as Author-in-Residence and Professor of the Practice at Northeastern University’s Honors Department, and is a Senior Fellow at the Center for Peace, Democracy and Development at the McCormack Institute for Social Policy and Global Studies. He lives in Brooklyn, New York. Mr. MacDonald defended Mohandas Gandhi’s Third Class in Indian Railways.

Jacquelyn Mitchard

is the number one New York Times bestselling author of twelve novels for adults, including The Deep End of the Ocean, which was the inaugural selection of the Oprah Winfrey Book Club and also made into a major feature film. The editor of a realistic young adult imprint, Merit Press, Ms. Mitchard also is the author of seven novels for young adults. The Associates honored her as a Literary Light in 2009. In addition, her work has won the Bram Stoker and Shirley Jackson awards, as well as the UK’s Walkabout Prize and was short-listed for the Orange Broadband Prize for Fiction. She is a professor of Creative Writing at Vermont College of Fine Arts and a contributing editor for More magazine. Ms. Mitchard grew up in Chicago, and now lives on Cape Cod, Massachusetts with her family. Ms. Mitchard defended Arthur Conan Doyle’s His Last Bow: An Epilogue of Sherlock Holmes.

Previous Hundred-Year Retroactive Book Award

The Associates of the Boston Public Library Hundred-Year Retroactive Book Award is now in its nineteenth year.

To read about the previous events click below.