Matt Kahn has read and reviewed every bestselling novel of the last 100 years, starting with The Inside of the Cup (1913), including masterpieces like s like All Quiet on the Western Front (1929) to the surprisingly dark E.T., the Extra-Terrestrial (1982) to a reluctant slog through John Grishham, ending with The Fault in Our Stars (2014). Interview.
"So what is going on here? Should we be reassured that critics are sticking loyally by a work they admire regardless of sales, or bemused that something is being presented as a runaway commercial success when in fact it isn’t?" Tim Parks: Raise Your Hand If You’ve Read Knausgaard. [more inside]
For this blog I plan, among other things, to read and review every novel to reach the number one spot on Publishers Weekly annual bestsellers list, starting in 1913. Beyond just a book review, I'm going to provide some information on the authors and the time at which these books were written in an attempt to figure out just what made these particular books popular at that particular time.
Last August, a book titled "Leapfrogging" hit The Wall Street Journal's list of best-selling business titles upon its debut. The following week, sales of the book, written by first-time author Soren Kaplan, plunged 99% and it fell off the list. [...] But the short moment of glory doesn't always occur by luck alone. In the cases mentioned above, the authors hired a marketing firm that purchased books ahead of publication date, creating a spike in sales that landed titles on the lists.
Here there be dragons. On 8 October 2008, the #1 book on Amazon.com was Christopher Paolini’s Brisingr, the third book of the Inheritance quartet. The books recount the adventures of Eragon and Saphira, the last Free Dragon, but they are hardly free from past influences. In medieval lore, dragons are man’s great foe, a monstrous version of the serpent from the garden of Eden. Raphael’s painting (c. 1506) of St. George and the Dragon evokes this idea, but dragons and their heraldic relatives, the wyverns, gained a more positive reputation over time. Look to Ursula K. Le Guin’s Earthsea Cycle for the inspiration behind Paolini's dragons, or try Dealing with Dragons, geared towards younger readers. There be dragons on bookshelves everywhere.
Forget Fiction And Non-Fiction, Bud: Is The Book Liberal Or Conservative? The National Review's bestseller list (scroll down and click) is starkly divided into "Conservative Bestsellers" and "Liberal Bestsellers". Is this a quirky innovation and deliberate provocation or just plain stupid and sad? Does such a dichotomy in fact exist? How would the literature of the world fit into such a classification? (This isn't the end of the world as we know it, is it?)
People are stupid. No, wait, stop, what I meant to say is, The Prayer of Jabez is the best-selling book in the US! [NYT link] (Europeans, don't laugh, it'll happen to you too.) You can buy mugs, plaques, t-shirts. I think Reverend Ike would approve. But do people actually believe in it?