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Babbitt

3.6 of 5 stars 3.60  ·  rating details  ·  11,609 ratings  ·  635 reviews
On the surface, everything is all right with Babbitt's world of the solid, successful businessman. But in reality, George F. Babbitt is a lonely, middle-aged man. He doesn't understand his family, has an unsuccessful attempt at an affair, and is almost financially ruined when he dares to voice sympathy for some striking workers. Babbitt finds his only safety lies deep in t...more
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Published July 1st 2011 by Blackstone Audiobooks (first published 1922)
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Richard Reviles Censorship Always in All Ways
Book Circle Reads 55

Rating: 4* of five

The Publisher Says: Prosperous and socially prominent, George Babbitt appears to have everything. But when a personal crisis forces the middle-aged real estate agent to reexamine his life, Babbitt mounts a rebellion that jeopardizes everything he values. Widely considered Sinclair Lewis' greatest novel, this satire remains an ever-relevant tale of an individual caught in the machinery of modern life.

An even better sales copy is on the Buns and Nubile edition...more
Nancy Oakes
Actually, I read this as part of a self-oriented challenge to read a few of the "1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die" list; like the ones I've chosen so far it turned out to be a fine novel, one with more than a lot of relevance to our modern world considering it was written in the 1920s.

George F. Babbitt is a real estate agent in Zenith, a Midwestern city of of "towers of steel and cement and limestone" where the population has grown to "practically 362,000." While anyone visiting its busi...more
Andy
I think I may have read a short story or two by Sinclair Lewis during high school or early college, but if I did I don't remember it. Lewis was never one of the early modern American writers that I was very curious about, and so when Anna gave me a copy of Babbitt that she bought at some discount book sale, along with several other books, for my birthday I was maybe least excited about Babbitt (among that group of books)--knew nothing about it, really, aside from having heard of it before. Maybe...more
Chloe
Oh the pain of suburban ennui! It really and truly sucks when you do everything everyone always tells you will make you happy and then you realize that you're dissatisfied with the world. Poor Georgie Babbitt... or not.

This is an early entry in the genre that has been driven into the ground by things like American Beauty, Norman Mailer's An American Dream and Bret Easton Ellis' American Psycho. Middle-aged realtor and pillar of the community, George Babbitt, is an up-and-comer. He says all the r...more
Viola
Given that Babbitt was published in 1922, I expected to travel back in time and experience life of the 1920s. I expected to be transported to a different era. I expected to be greeted by a foreign world. And, instead, I mostly felt firmly planted in modern day. Yes, it is true that the language and manner of speaking is different. It’s “by golly” this and “by gosh” that. But, the themes and all of the satire still speak to the human experience of modern day. And in that way, I found the novel to...more
Lisa Kortebein
Smart. Witty. Utterly satirical. If this is the kind of book you like, read this one. Even if you don't, read this one. Often when you read stellar books, the end lets you down. Not this one. From the first page to the last, Lewis succeeds in relaying the story of everyday America. Babbitt is an average upper middle to middle class businessman who suddenly realizes that he wants so much more. He was kind of waylaid into a marriage, away from career ambitions (no, not by pregnacy, but by midweste...more
Josh
This book is conflicting me. What is this a satire of? Your average, shallow, 1920's business-man? Or is George F. Babbitt merely a straw man for every Republican and Christian that dare disagree with or do wrong to ol' Sinclair?

I wouldn't say Babbitt is merely a straw man; he is a very well-rounded character, very realistic and relatable at times, and occasionally put in a sympathetic light. But I was reminded too often that he is just a character, as he suddenly pulls a "DIE SOCIALIST DIE"/"Th...more
Ryan Holiday
I don't think there was anyone in the 1920s who would have believed that this book would be completely forgotten. By all accounts, it was destined to be a classic critical novel of the American experience. You can't read anything about the '20s and '30s that doesn't comment on Babbitt (sold 130,000 copies its first year, HL Mecken loved it, it won Lewis a Nobel Prize). Calling someone a "Babbitt" was considered an insult and the phrase became a constant topic of conversation in the media and lit...more
Kirk
Contemporary satirists would do well to reread Sinclair Lewis and learn something that doesn't always come through in, say, Little Children or The Emperor's Children: Lewis has a way of making you feel for his characters. I suppose it's a fine distinction between ridiculing social mores and ridiculing the folks who practice them (knowingly or not), but it strikes me as an important one. I guess I'm a sap and I want to like my main characters---or, rather, I want to like them for their susceptibi...more
Duffy Pratt
I rarely change my mind about a book based on the way it ends. With this book, I make an exception. I went through various phases with this book.

To start, it seemed like a fun satire of one of the most shallow characters imaginable. George Babbit is a real estate man, utterly conventional, and without a thought or opinion of his own. He defines himself by the products he buys. He doesn't know what to think about something unless he's read the opinion in the editorials (conservative, of course)....more
Adam
Jan 06, 2008 Adam rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: A person who likes F. Scott Fitzgerald.
This is really two books, both about Babbitt but really differing in plot structure and time period covered. The first book (half) is about the daily life of George Babbitt, who was once the symbol of the superficial and vacuous middle-class man but -- since people don't really read Babbitt anymore -- has lost that iconic status. We follow Babbitt as he wakes up to a pricy alarm clock, goes to work, tries to quit smoking, hangs out with other Babbitt-type chums, and goes back home. It's a good c...more
Jennie
I didn't think I would like this book, so I began to listen to it while running one of my mindless reports at work. I was hooked pretty early on. Lewis has such a great voice for description without wordiness that I could picture the scenes in my mind perfectly. More importantly, I found my own inner Babbitt and I welcomed her, with warning. Babbitt's boosters and Elks are my book club and PTA board. My ego has an easy blow up valve on it, and I feel like I have people I need to please, or at le...more
Marley
I just re-read Babbit after at least 45 years. I'm convinced that like Death of a Salesman, it can't be understood by younger readers. At least I didn't get it back then. I was surprised that this time around I found Babbit very sympathetic. After all, we all are Babbits to some extent. I was really rooting for him to become the town eccentric.

As satire, Babbit works. As a "documentary" of post-war America it works. I found myself, however, mourning the death of American commercial culture, as...more
Kerrie
George Babbitt is the ultimate conformist - successful businessman and high-ranking member of the little booming town of Zenith which, by golly, produces and contributes more to America than any of those four-flushers in New York or San Francisco! To all onlookers, Babbitt should be 110% satisfied with his place in society and life and a person to be envied.

And yet... he's not. He feels hemmed in, restricted, and unable to be himself. He wants to be... different. It's a niggling feeling, which c...more
Jason Pettus
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography [cclapcenter.com]. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted illegally.)

The CCLaP 100: In which I read for the first time a hundred so-called "classics," then write reports on whether or not they deserve the label

Essay #55: Babbitt (1922), by Sinclair Lewis

The story in a nutshell:
The follow-up to his surprise smash bestseller Main Street, Sinclair Lewis' 1922 Babbitt is basica...more
Christian Clarke
What pants should I wear to the US Open, I ask myself, anxiously, at seven in the morning, while guests of mine slept on our threadbare black futon in our hot, cramped living room. Should I wear the chinos? I didn't even know they were called "chinos" until my girlfriend, sleeping in the bed I am pacing next to, told me they were called chinos. The chinos are off-white. Are all chinos off-white? Are there green chinos? White pants are risky. Is wearing white classy or fruity? Both? Isn't there a...more
Cdrueallen
BABBITT is the devastatingly funny yet still endearing portrait of George Babbitt, a suburban real estate broker who is 46 in 1920. It's fascinating and disturbing when reading BABBITT to realize how little American business, American marriages, and American men have changed in the past 91 years. In 1920 gas cost 31 cents a gallon, liquor was illegal though in plentiful supply, and the internet had yet to be imagined, but George's emotional mix of bluster, bullying, babyish pouting, and his desp...more
Amorfna
Džordž F. Bebit , stanovnik Zenita I imućni trgovac nekretninama je po pe-esu visoko moralni građanin, tipični konformista i valjani republikanac. On prezire klasičnu muziku I sluša isključivo dobri stari američki jazz. Klanja se novcu, progresu i praktičnom. Oličenje američkog optimizma!
Trebalo bi da je zadovoljan pa opet…
Bebit je savršen primer čoveka koji je zadovoljan svojim životom iz puke nemogućnosti da se otme zakonima konformizma koji mu nalažu da bude zadovoljan. Čovek koji je lišen sp...more
Amanda Nelson
Satire! Wit! Intelligence! Come snuggle, you three.

Hokay so. Babbitt is about...Babbitt, a 1920's realtor who is All the Conventional Things. He's all 2.5 kids (awkward, that 0.5), new car, shiny happy house, member of civic leagues, dutifully Presbyterian in the shallowest of ways, Republican, etc. Lewis introduces you to Babbitt, notes his nice pajamas and his habit of sleeping on the porch because this is what people did back then, and then rips into Babbitt and everything he represents for 3...more
Caren
I had never read anything by Sinclair Lewis, but he was put on my radar when it was mentioned in a library school class that the heroine of his book "Main Street" began her 'career' as a librarian. When I saw the audio version of "Babbitt" at the library, I decided to give it a listen. I was drawn in immediately by the detailed description of daily life in the USA in 1920. George F. Babbitt is a middle-aged realtor living in Zenith, a medium-sized town in middle America. Lewis' portrait of Babbi...more
Chris
I'm still a bit torn on this book.

The writing was good. The main character, Babbitt, had considerable depth and we really got into his head. The environment/setting/etc was well presented and really gave me a good feel for 1920s middle America. The ending wrapped up the various elements into a nice little package while still giving you something to think about.

And yet, I left this novel feeling unsatisfied and unfulfilled.

There are a few ways to take this novel. From a high level, it's a great...more
Juan Hidalgo
Babbit está considerada la mejor novela de su autor, Sinclair Lewis, ganador del Nobel de literatura en 1930 y primer Estadounidense en lograr tal galardón.

George F. Babbit es un agente inmobiliario casi cincuentón e instalado en la comodidad de la próspera clase media americana de los años 20, el cual aglutina todas las virtudes y defectos de ese segmento social: patriotismo y patrioterismo; religiosidad y doble moral; devoción a los suyos y rechazo a lo considerado ajeno; sumisión y rebelión.....more
Dianna
Oct 31, 2007 Dianna rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Cynical people.
This book is funny. I will write more.

Excerpt from page 72:

(It's the early 1900's and Mr. Babbitt is talking to his son about the merits of correspondence courses...)

There's a whole lot of valuable time lost even at the U., studying poetry and French and subjects that never brought in anybody a cent. I don't know but what maybe these correspondence-courses might prove to be one of the most important American inventions.
Trouble with a lot of folks is: they're so blame material; they don't see t...more
Mark
I read this for a project I'm working on about middle-class life, and knew very little about it other than some vague early English literature references to Lewis' greatness (I hadn't read any Sinclair Lewis before this).

It's a masterful piece of work, because Lewis is so obviously disgusted by the whole emerging middle-class of American regional cities of the 20s and what he sees as their lack of ethics, culture and empathy.

And yet, in the end, he manages to make George Babbitt a sympathetic ch...more
James
Started this book with the sense that it would be case of dutifully expanding my horizons through a worthy albeit dated tome. What I got was a very funny, very fresh comedy of manners and society. Babbitt is an enduring figure which makes this book astonishingly contemporary. In his ambitions, smugness, self satisfaction all the while looking for something maybe a little different he walks the corporate world today, and in fact could almost be modeled on a boss I had. What makes Sinclair differe...more
David
Typical Sinclair Lewis indictment of American ideals but with little subtlety. The first half of the book is pretty much broad satire of 1920s life in a typical mid-sized American town, interesting but obvious. The second half is more involving as it delves into Babbitt's discontent and struggle to understand what he really wants out of life.

In the end we are left with a neat little moral about personal integrity and independent thinking, along with some frustration that Babbitt did not complet...more
Larissa
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
J.M. Hushour
This is a quintessential tear-down-the-Joneses kind of novel, an iconoclastic, rigorous, and upsetting riff on conformity and the banality of uniformity and conservatism that, frankly, we need more of. That this was written in 1920 is startling for two reasons: first, it was that bad even in 1920? You think society's unimorphism and fall-into-step blind corraling of tastes and mores occurring now is bad, but it ain't nothing new. And it was infinitely more inappropriate back then to diverge from...more
Robert
Sinclair Lewis was a very sharp social satirist and novelist of the early 20th century. Babbitt (1922) like his earlier Main Street (1920), describes an era very different from the modern day, at least on the surface. But this examination of American materialism and civic boosterism remains all too relevant today. George Babbitt is an upper middle class realtor in a mid-sized Midwestern city called Zenith. He's a shallow, glad-handing, social climbing capitalist, as well as politically narrow-mi...more
Bill
Babbitt has been on my list of to reads for more than 20 years, and I finally picked it up for last week's trip to Florida. I haven't finished it, but here is the bottom line -- it is a totally prophetic, almost spooky vision of the 20's that entirely foreshadows what's going on now with the American economy, from real estate speculation/price run ups to a blind belief -- and a Republican belief at that -- in the power of the markets to cure all. It's got WASPism, mild anti-semitism, and enough...more
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Awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1930 "for his vigorous and graphic art of description and his ability to create, with wit and humor, new types of characters." His works are known for their insightful and critical views of American capitalism and materialism between the wars. He is also respected for his strong characterizations of modern working women. H.L. Mencken wrote of him, "[If] the...more
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“Whatever the misery, he could not regain contentment with a world which, once doubted, became absurd.” 15 likes
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