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Babbitt

3.66  ·  Rating details ·  20,030 ratings  ·  1,143 reviews
Babbitt, first published in 1922, is largely a satire about "typical" American culture, society, and behavior, its main theme focuses on the power of conformity and the vacuity of middle-class American life.
Paperback, 328 pages
Published October 1st 1961 by Signet Classics (first published 1922)
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3.66  · 
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 ·  20,030 ratings  ·  1,143 reviews


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Lyn
Jul 18, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It always amazes me how human nature does not change.

This book was written in and about the 1920's but except for some anachronistic language, could have been written today. This was also a fun glimpse at Prohibition era America. Lewis was spot on in many of his characterizations and was an astute observer of human nature.

This should be on a list of books that everyone should read.

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BlackOxford
Nov 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favourites, american
The Success of Failure

Babbitt is perhaps the first comic novel of mid-life crisis. It shows Lewis at his most Dickens-like, creating prototypical American characters that live on in cultural mythology.

The issue is this: How does an imperfect male human being, knowing his flaws only too well, make his way in an equally flawed society - without sacrificing either his own integrity or his ability to participate in that society? Lewis answer: Essentially he can't. Everything is irrational compromis
...more
Richard Derus
Nov 20, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Lisa
"Well, if that’s what you call being at peace, for heaven’s sake just warn me before you go to war, will you?"

Well, Babbitt is the American idea at peace. And it constitutes a warning that we should be taking seriously! Either my memory is getting more and more nostalgic, or Sinclair Lewis nailed it over and over again, in the same frustrating way Atwood and Orwell did: by seeing the ugliness before it existed to its full extent. Beware of good-natured American ambition. It's a killer! And bewa
...more
Viola
Oct 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Paul Bryant
Apr 11, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels
This is a love/hate thing. In Sinclair Lewis’s previous novel Main Street there is more love than hate and in Babbitt it’s the other way round. He does hate George Babbitt for all his boorishness, his complacency, his wretched kneejerk reactionary rightwing politics, his pallid marriage, his blaring friends, his ridiculous slang, his stupid stupidity, but by the end, by the time George has been pulled through a couple of hedges backwards, you can see he loves him a bit too.

This novel is about t
...more
Ryan Holiday
Jun 22, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jon(athan) Nakapalau
Babbitt reminds me of Pink Floyd's Comfortably Numb - we spin a cocoon of "becoming" around ourselves and go about our life...but as time goes by the cocoon is not transformative, but binding. At some point in everyone's life the cocoon of what we wanted to "become" becomes the web that traps who we "are". For most of us 'Comfortably Numb' sneaks up through the decades; only then do we realize our "butterfly summer" passed by us long ago.
Wastrel
Jan 15, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Pulitzer Prize for Fiction - formerly the Pulitzer Prize for the Novel - has long been one of the most respectable and important accolades in American literature. It is, as we all know, awarded to the greatest literature (in the eyes of the jury) produced by an American author in the preceding year. Always has been. But the definition of great literature has changed a little over time, not just when it comes to vague perceptions, but even as regards explicit definitions. For example, in the ...more
Annelies
How I loved reading this book! The humoresque style in which it is told. It' a twenties story but actually very actual about a middleclass estate agent who is confronted with midlife crisis and something as a burnout. He wants to be popular, wants to do everything for it. His social staus is very important for him and his wife. But he climbs high and falls low and then understands that only self-relevation is the answer to life. The book never becomes dull. You have to laugh with Babbitt's tryin ...more
Nancy Oakes
Jan 05, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: american-fiction
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
Chloe
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C C
What pants should I wear to the US Open, I ask myself, anxiously, at seven in the morning, while guests of mine sleep 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
Andy
Jul 23, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: readownedloved
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
ALLEN
Mar 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
George F. Babbitt lives and works in the bustling (but fictional) midsize Midwestern burg of Zenith, Winnemac (loosely based on real-life Cincinnati, Ohio) in 1920. He's a middleman -- selling real estate for "more money than [his customers] could afford to pay." Every day he consults the most prestigious local newspaper to get his opinion "fix" for the day without always understanding how those opinions came to be. Babbitt went to a State University and depends on his underpaid secretary to fix ...more
Shaima Faisal
"Same with you. All we do is cut each other's throats and make the public pay for it."

“Babbitt” is a novel written by the American novelist Sinclair Lewis and was first published in 1922. It follows the story of the Babbitt family, specially George F. Babbitt, who lives in the city of Zenith, among a majority of middle-class Americans who aspire to live by certain standards that determine their social worthiness.

Lewis tried through the character of George F. Babbitt to criticize the social life
...more
Duffy Pratt
Apr 29, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classic
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
BAM The Bibliomaniac
Classics Cleanup Challenge #4
Audio # 153
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
Caren
Oct 02, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: adult-fiction
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
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
Cdrueallen
Dec 30, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Kerrie
Dec 14, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Marley
May 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Kirk
Mar 29, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Amy
Though written in the 1920s, this book easily could have been written today. I'm amazed by how relatable, and familiar, it felt. Lewis captures a yearning that I think many people experience, and in his pitiable, unlikable hero, he descries the fate of modernity.
I'd much rather have read this book than The Great Gatsby in high school. It is possible, however, that I wouldn't quite of understood it.
The tone, irony, and poignancy in this book really struck me. I want to write a paper about it!
D
...more
Janette
Oct 18, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
First off, I'll say that Sinclair Lewis had a great writing style. Amazing description. Good characterization. But as far as I could tell (and okay, I only got through the second disk--1/6th of the book) there wasn't an actual plot to the story. Seriously, the guy woke up, shaved, had breakfast, and went to work. He dictated letters and bough a cigar lighter. That was pretty much it.

I'm not sure why this book is a classic. Mostly I just wondered if everybody else's life was so petty and devoid o
...more
K.M. Weiland
Jul 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have been thoroughly enjoying my exploration of Lewis’s fiction, but now that I’ve reached Babbitt I see why it is considered his masterpiece. It is a tightly plotted, incisively character-driven, all-too-realistic journey through the quiet desperation of middle class life, led by a protagonist who is both revolting and utterly compelling.
Chris Gager
May 10, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Another re-read of a high school book. My current paperback is actually the same edition/cover as the one I read way back when, so I had to choose a different one, also Signet from 1961. So far it's pretty easy to read, but dated, obviously. One balks at the portrayal of the family and its Patriarch, but SL grew up in the midwest(Zenith = St. Paul/Minneapolis ... Des Moines ...Cincinnati etc.) so he gets the benefit of the doubt. This society-history portrait goes back a bit less than a hundred ...more
Kenneth Grossman
Babbitt (1922) by Sinclair Lewis is an American classic and has long been 'recommended' student reading in the United States as early as high school.
Babbitt is a blistering critique of early 20th century American upper-middle class society and especially of the hypocrisy and superficiality that characterized it. The philosophy, ideals and morals of that society are shown to be vacuous. Severe conformism is promoted by its members mainly for their own self-aggrandizement, self-perpetuation and se
...more
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نادي أصدقاء نوبل: بابت - سنكلير لويس 1930 239 514 Apr 10, 2017 09:31AM  
Reading the Classics: Babbitt - Starting the Read 6 43 Jun 14, 2016 11:21AM  
All About Books: Week 47 - Babbit by Sinclair Lewis 5 24 Aug 13, 2014 09:19AM  

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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
“You're so earnest about morality that I hate to think how essentially immoral you must be underneath.” 39 likes
“Whatever the misery, he could not regain contentment with a world which, once doubted, became absurd.” 25 likes
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