When Virginia Kirkus founded what would become Kirkus Reviews 90 years ago, the world of literature was markedly different—it was Sinclair Lewis, not Stephen King, on the bestseller lists; audiobooks were played on gramophones, and e-books were decades into the future. A lot has changed in nine decades—what follows is a timeline of some of the most significant literary events since Kirkus was born.

January 1933: Virginia Kirkus launches the Virginia Kirkus Bookshop Service, which would later change its name to Kirkus Reviews.

1937: Publisher and editor Frederic G. Melcher suggests that the American Library Association create a new award for children’s book illustrators. The first ever Caldecott Medal is awarded the following year to Dorothy P. Lathrop for Animals of the Bible.

September 1937: J.B. Lippincott & Co.publishes Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God; the novel doesn’t sell well at the time but is later recognized as one of the most influential works of 20th-century Black American literature.

April 1939: Viking publishes The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. The novel becomes a huge bestseller and goes on to win the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize.

October 1939: Pearl S. Buck, author of the bestseller The Good Earth, becomes the first American woman to win the Nobel Prize in literature.

December 1940: F. Scott Fitzgerald, author of The Great Gatsby and Tender Is the Night, dies of atherosclerosis at the age of 44.

April 1943: Reynal & Hitchcock publishes The Little Prince, by French aviator and author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, in the U.S.; it is later published in France after the country is liberated from the Nazis—and after Saint-Exupéry disappears while flying a reconnaissance P-38 in 1944.

September 1947: Harper & Brothers publishes Margaret Wise Brown’s children’s book Goodnight Moon, featuring illustrations by Clement Hurd. Despite being banned by the New York Public Library for 25 years because the head children’s librarian hated it, it becomes an enduring classic.

March 1950: The National Book Awards return in a new iteration after an eight-year absence; the winners of the first prizes include Nelson Algren’s The Man With the Golden Arm and Ralph L. Rusk’s The Life of Ralph Waldo Emerson.

May 1950: Gwendolyn Brooks becomes the first Black writer to win a Pulitzer Prize, for her poetry collection Annie Allen.

July 1951: Little, Brown publishes J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye, which draws controversy—and censorship attempts—over the years due to the novel’s profanity and sexual content.

1952: Anne Frank’s The Diary of a Young Girl, now considered a classic of Holocaust literature, is published in the U.S.

April 1952: Random House publishes Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, widely considered to be one of the best American novels of the 20th century. The following year, Ellison becomes the first Black author to win the National Book Award for Fiction for the book.

September 1953: The first Hugo Awards are presented at the 11th World Science Fiction Convention in Philadelphia. Alfred Bester’s The Demolished Man wins the prize for best novel.

October 1954: Houghton Mifflin Company publishes J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring, the first volume of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, in the U.S. The fantasy novels go on to become some of the bestselling books of all time.

September 1957: Viking publishes Jack Kerouac’s On the Road. The novel, originally typed on a long, handmade scroll, is now considered the most famous work of Beat literature.

October 1957: A judge in California rules that Allen Ginsberg’s poem “Howl” is not obscene months after a bookstore owner and publisher Lawrence Ferlinghetti were arrested for selling it.

January 1961: At President John F. Kennedy’s inauguration, Robert Frost reads his poem “The Gift Outright,” the first in a long line of poets to appear at the event.

July 1961: G.P. Putnam’s Sons publishes Robert A. Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land, one of America’s most influential science-fiction novels. It goes on to win a Hugo Award the following year.

July 1961: Ernest Hemingway, who won the Nobel Prize in literature in 1954, dies by suicide at the age of 61.

1962: Viking publishes Ezra Jack Keats’ The Snowy Day, thought to be the first picture book to center a Black child. Keats wins the Caldecott Medal for the book the following year.

January 1962: Ariel Books publishes Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, the beloved young adult fantasy novel that goes on to win the Newbery Medal.

September 1962: Houghton Mifflin publishes Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, about the effect of pesticides on the environment. Despite opposition from chemical companies, the book proves popular with the public and leads to the beginning of the modern American environmental movement.

November 1963: Harper & Row publishes Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are, which wins the Caldecott Medal and becomes one of the most beloved children’s books in the world.

June 1964: The U.S. Supreme Court rules in Grove Press, Inc. v. Gerstein that Henry Miller’s novel Tropic of Cancer—which had been the subject of dozens of lawsuits since it was published in the U.S. in 1961—is not obscene.

October 1964: French novelist and philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre is awarded the Nobel Prize in literature but declines it, saying he doesn’t want to let himself “be transformed into an institution.”

November 1965: Grossman Publishers releases Ralph Nader’s Unsafe at Any Speed: The Designed-In Dangers of the American Automobile, a critique of car manufacturers that becomes known for the author’s criticism of the Chevrolet Corvair. The book sparks Senate hearings that lead to the establishment of the U.S. Department of Transportation.

April 1967: Viking publishes The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton. The young adult novel, written when Hinton was 15 and 16 and published when she is 18, is banned in some schools for its violent content and is later adapted into an iconic film directed by Francis Ford Coppola.

January 1969: Random House publishes Philip Roth’s Portnoy’s Complaint. The novel, which contains scenes of masturbation, is banned in Australia and in many American libraries. (Later, author Jacqueline Susann, responding to a question about the novel from Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show, would say, “He’s a fine writer, but I wouldn't want to shake hands with him.”)

February 1969: Random House publishes Maya Angelou’s autobiography I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, which becomes a target of book bans for its graphic depiction of sexual assault. In 1993, Angelou is the first woman and first Black poet to read at a presidential inauguration.

May 1969: N. Scott Momaday becomes the first Native American author to win the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, for his novel House Made of Dawn.

June 1969: World Publishing Company releases Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar, which goes on to become one of the bestselling children’s books of all time.

June 1969: The American Library Association establishes the Coretta Scott King Book Awards to help rectify terrible imbalances in African American representation in literature for young people.

1970: Bradbury Press publishes Judy Blume’s middle-grade novel Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret., which goes on to face challenges and bans because it discusses menstruation and adolescent body changes.

June 1972: Author Clifford Irving pleads guilty to mail fraud for selling a fake autobiography of businessman Howard Hughes to publisher McGraw Hill for an advance of $765,000. He is sentenced to two and a half years in jail.

April 1974: Doubleday publishes Carrie, the first novel by Stephen King, who will go on to become one of America’s bestselling, and most recognizable, authors.

July 1974: Knopf publishes Robert A. Caro’s biography of New York urban planner Robert Moses, The Power Broker. The book ends up on everyone’s Zoom shelf in 2020.

January 1975: M.C. Higgins, the Great wins the Newbery Medal, making Virginia Hamilton the first African American author ever to receive the honor.

January 1976: The winners of the first National Book Critics Circle Awards are announced, with E.L. Doctorow’s Ragtimeand Paul Fussell’s The Great War and Modern Memory among the books taking home prizes.

October 1976: Alex Haley’s Roots: The Saga of an American Family is published by Doubleday. The book becomes a massive bestseller, and a 1977 television miniseries based on it draws record ratings.

June 1980: Dell publishes Elise B. Washington’s Entwined Destinies, the first romance novel featuring Black characters and written by a Black author.

September 1982: The American Library Association establishes Banned Books Week “in response to a sudden surge in the number of challenges to books in schools, bookstores and libraries.”

October 1982: Colombian novelist Gabriel García Márquez, author of One Hundred Years of Solitude and Chronicle of a Death Foretold,wins the Nobel Prize in literature.

July 1984: Ace publishes William Gibson’s debut science-fiction novel, Neuromancer, one of the most iconic books of the cyberpunk genre. It goes on to win Hugo and Nebula awards.

April 1988: Bantam publishes physicist Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time: From the Big Bang to Black Holes. The book goes on to sell more than 25 million copies and spends almost three years on the New York Times bestseller list.

February 1989: Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the supreme leader of Iran, issues a fatwa calling for Salman Rushdie to be killed for his novel The Satanic Verses, which Khomeini says was insulting to Muslims. Rushdie goes into hiding for years.

October 1989: Alyson Books publishes Heather Has Two Mommies, written by Lesléa Newman and illustrated by Diana Souza. It becomes one of the first prominent children’s books to feature LGBTQ+ characters and is frequently challenged and banned in schools and libraries.

April 1990: Oscar Hijuelos becomes the first Latine author to win the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, for his novel The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love.

February 1991: Random House publishes John Grisham’s The Firm; the novel is a huge success, remaining on the New York Times bestseller list for nearly a year.

May 1993: Rita Dove is appointed the seventh U.S. poet laureate, the first Black writer to serve in the position.

October 1993: American novelist Toni Morrison (Song of SolomonBeloved) becomes the first Black woman, and the first American woman in 55 years, to win the Nobel Prize in literature.

September 1996: Talk show host Oprah Winfrey launches Oprah’s Book Club with Jacquelyn Mitchard’s The Deep End of the Oceanas her first pick. It quickly becomes the most influential book club in America, regularly boosting sales of selected titles and setting the template for other celebrity book clubs.

June 1997: Bloomsbury publishes J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in the U.K.; it is published by Scholastic in the U.S. the next year. The middle-grade fantasy novel becomes a huge hit, with Rowling writing six more books in the series, all of which are adapted into hit films. Rowling later falls out of favor with many readers after making comments widely seen as hostile to transgender people.

October 2001: Author Jonathan Franzen, whose novel The Corrections was selected for Oprah Winfrey’s book club, criticizes the talk show host in an interview, saying some of her previous picks were “schmaltzy” and “one-dimensional.” Winfrey disinvites Franzen from her show “because he is seemingly uncomfortable and conflicted about being chosen as a book club selection.”

November 2008: Farrar, Straus and Giroux publishes Chilean novelist Roberto Bolaño’s 2666,translated into English by Natasha Wimmer, in the U.S, five years after Bolaño’s death. The novel receives extensive critical acclaim, with a Kirkus reviewer calling it “unquestionably the finest novel of the present century,” and wins the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction.

July 2013: Publishers Penguin Group and Random House merge and form new mega-publisher Penguin Random House.

October 2014: At a ceremony in Austin, Texas, Kirkus announces the winners of the first Kirkus Prizes, some of the richest literary awards in the world. Taking home the prizes are Lily King for Euphoria, Roz Chast for Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?, and Kate Samworth for Aviary Wonders Inc.: Spring Catalog and Instruction Manual.

August 2016: N.K. Jemisin becomes the first Black author to win the Hugo Award for best novel, for The Fifth Season. She goes on to win the prize in 2017 and 2018, making her the first novelist to win it three years in a row.

October 2016: Paul Beatty becomes the first American writer to win the Booker Prize, for his novel The Sellout. The literary award was originally open only to authors from the Commonwealth of Nations, South Africa, and Ireland but in 2014 was opened to any novel written in English.

June 2019: Joy Harjo becomes the first Native American to be appointed U.S. poet laureate.

January 2021: Amanda Gorman reads her poem “The Hill We Climb” at the inauguration of President Joe Biden; at 22, she is the youngest poet to read at a presidential inauguration.

March 2021: Torrey Peters becomes the first out transgender woman to be longlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction for her novel, Detransition, Baby.

August 2022: Salman Rushdie is stabbed 10 times on a stage in Chautauqua, New York, before a planned lecture. A New Jersey man is arrested and charged with attempted murder in the attack, which blinds Rushdie in one eye and leaves him unable to use one hand.

Michael Schaub, a journalist and regular contributor to NPR, lives near Austin, Texas. 

PHOTO CREDITS: Clockwise from lower left, Library of Congress/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images (Fitzgerald), Shawn Miller (Harjo), Ulf Andersen/Getty Images (Márquez), Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images(Angelou), JHU Sheridan Libraries/Gado/Getty Images (Carson), Don Emmert/AFP via Getty Images (Morrison), Fotosearch/Getty Images (Hurtson), Alex Gotfryd/Corbis via Getty Images (King), United States Information Agency/PhotoQuest/Getty Image (Ellison), Spencer Platt/Newsmakers (Winfrey)