Cover image for Ragtime
Doctorow, E. L., 1931-2015.
Personal Author:
Modern Library edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Modern Library, 1997.

Physical Description:
viii, 320 pages ; 20 cm
Reading Level:
930 Lexile.
Program Information:
Reading Counts RC High School 9 18 Quiz: 25705 Guided reading level: NR.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Central Library X Adult Fiction Central Library
Central Library X Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks
Alden Ewell Free Library X Adult Fiction Classics
Grand Island Library X Adult Fiction Open Shelf

On Order



Selected by the Modern Library as one of the 100 best novels of all time

Published in 1975, Ragtime changed our very concept of what a novel could be. An extraordinary tapestry, Ragtime captures the spirit of America in the era between the turn of the century and the First World War.

The story opens in 1906 in New Rochelle, New York, at the home of an affluent American family. One lazy Sunday afternoon, the famous escape artist Harry Houdini swerves his car into a telephone pole outside their house. And almost magically, the line between fantasy and historical fact, between real and imaginary characters, disappears. Henry Ford, Emma Goldman, J. P. Morgan, Evelyn Nesbit, Sigmund Freud, and Emiliano Zapata slip in and out of the tale, crossing paths with Doctorow's imagined family and other fictional characters, including an immigrant peddler and a ragtime musician from Harlem whose insistence on a point of justice drives him to revolutionary violence.

Author Notes

E. L. (Edgar Lawrence) Doctorow was born on January 6, 1931, in the Bronx, New York. He received an A.B. in philosophy in 1952 from Kenyon College and did graduate work at Columbia University. He served in the U.S. Army Signal Corps from 1953-1955.

He began his career as a script reader for CBS Television and Columbia Pictures and as a senior editor for the New American Library. He was editor-in-chief for Dial Press from 1964 to 1969, where he also served as vice president and publisher in his last year on staff. It was at this time that he decided to write full time.

He wrote novels, short stories, essays, and a play. His debut novel, Welcome to Hard Times, was published in 1960 and was adapted into a film in 1967. His other works include, Loon Lake, The Waterworks, The March, Homer and Langley, and Andrew's Brain. He won the National Book Award for Fiction in 1986 for World's Fair and the National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction in 1976 for Ragtime, which was adapted into a film in 1981 and a Broadway musical in 1998. Billy Bathgate received the PEN/Faulkner Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, and the William Dean Howells Medal in 1990. The Book of Daniel and Billy Bathgate were also adapted into films. He received the 2013 Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters for his outstanding achievement in fiction writing. He died of complications from lung cancer on July 21, 2015 at the age of 84.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

It isn't easy to imitate musical syncopation in prose, but Doctorow pulls it off in the audio edition of his now-classic 1975 novel. The ebb and flow and swing of his sentences, reflecting turn-of-the-century jazz genres, are captured perfectly in his low-key, fast-paced reading. Doctorow seamlessly interweaves his invented characters and incidents with a wide range of historical events and people like Houdini, Henry Ford, Emma Goldman, J.P. Morgan, Sigmund Freud, and others to create a portrait of early-20th-century America that presages the rise of the civil rights and women's movements and our involvement in two world wars. Doctorow's novel and his narration are gifts to savor. A Random House paperback. (Nov.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Library Journal Review

Doctorow (1931-2015) reads his classic historical novel (first published in 1975) about the opening days of the 20th century with a dispassionate voice that doesn't stress, emphasize, or otherwise try to influence the listener. He lets the story speak for itself as he narrates as if he were reading a newspaper describing the intermingling of famous people with the ordinary, barely named fictional ones-Mother, Father, Brother, Tateh, etc. Brief intersections hint at unknown potential: Tateh sketching a portrait of Evelyn Nesbit while Freud watches from a car; Houdini having automobile trouble near Father's house; and learning that Father was to accompany Robert Peary to the North Pole. The new century was a time of wonder and change-cars, airplanes, high-risk escapes-and of culture clashes with the poor, blacks, and immigrants that result in injustice, violence, and death. Verdict The fascinating, ironic, and fanciful strands that Doctorow pulls from history and imagination are both humorous and horrific. Hearing the story in the author's own voice is the best way to read this book. Highly recommended.-Juleigh Muirhead Clark, Colonial Williamsburg Fdn. Lib., VA © Copyright 2017. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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