Thursday, December 4, 2008

Why is that book on a bestseller list? (Not that there's anything wrong with that.)

People are always stopping by the Readers' Services desk and looking at the bestseller list displayed there. They will go straight down the list, putting holds on most of the titles, even when there is a lengthy waiting list for most of those books. James Patterson, Danielle Steel, Nicholas Sparks, John Grisham, Jeffery Deaver, Jonathan Kellerman, David Baldacci.. and so on. Have you noticed that just about every book written by these authors always appear on the bestseller lists, almost before the books hit the shelves? Why is that? And why do so many other (dare I say it?) more worthy books, never seem to appear on these lists? I guess it's true that sometimes life just isn't fair, but wouldn't it be nice if some other authors hit the list once in a while? Some books are more prominently displayed at bookstores than others and are granted reviews in local and national newspapers and magazines, while others are shuffled to the back of the store and never rate a review. A few select authors are blessed by Oprah and therefore quickly make the list, a recent example being The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski. I wonder if that book would have been as popular if Oprah hadn't chosen it for her book club? (I've read it and while it's not bad, I don't think it's that great either.) Another example is Harlan Coben's The Woods, which came out about the same time as Tana French's book In the Woods. This was Tana's first book and I gave it higher marks than Harlan's book, but guess which one hit the bestseller lists?

So what do you think? What about those bestseller lists? Have you read any books lately that you think should have been on a bestseller list? And finally, have you read anything lately from one of those lists and said to yourself "how in the world did that one make the list?"!


Anonymous said...

???! - Tana French's "In the Woods" will this Sunday appear in its 16th week on the New York Times paperback bestseller list. (Her newer book, "The Likeness," was briefly on the hardcover list earlier this year.) Your judgment is vindicated!

Anonymous said...

I find the nonfiction bestseller list more interesting. Often it's just the latest diet and self-help books, but usually there's one "Blink" or "Eats, Shoots and Leaves." I love those titles that for some reason capture the public imagination. No doubt their authors are just as surprised to find themselves so popular!

Cheryl said...

I might be the only one, but I'd like to see the bestsellers list that combines the top ten bestsellers into a single list. Children's, nonfiction-whatever. And then I'd like to see numbers to see how much each book sold.

I enjoy looking at the lists to see which books have been on the list the longest, and what position they were at the week before.

But asides from Janet Evanovich, very few of the books I read make it on the top 10 lists.

Laura A. said...

The last book I read that was on the bestseller list was American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld, which I absolutely loved and which I think deserved the wide readership it received.

A book that didn't make the bestseller list but that is worthy of attention is Goldengrove by Francine Prose, which is told from the point of view of a woman looking back on the aftermath of her older sister's death, which occurred when the narrator was just 13.

There are many wonderful authors whose books are easy to miss unless you read book reviews. Another source for overlooked but worthy books: the library staff!

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