Tag Archive for: great reads

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What Can We Learn From the Century’s Bestsellers 
by Linda Rodriguez

Matt Kahn is a blogger with an unusual idea. He is reading the 94 books that have been listed as the year’s bestseller by Publishers Weekly for each year of the 100 years since PW began announcing the bestselling book of each year. http://www.kahnscorner.com/2013/02/100-years-94-books.html

The list below comes from his blog. It’s eye-opening, I believe, to see what outsold all other books each year. Fifteen books on the list are books that still live, excepting the most recent years for which we have no real knowledge yet of which books will live on and which will sink into oblivion. If we knock off the last ten years’ books for that reason, that still leaves us with only fifteen out of eighty-four. Most of these books are unknown in the present day. Modern readers may know who H.G. Wells and Zane Grey are, but most will never have heard of Mr. Britling Sees It Through, The U. P. Trail, or The Man of the Forest. Other authors, such as Vicente Blasco Ibáñez, A.S.M. Hutchinson, and Henry Morton Robinson, will be unrecognizable to today’s readers.

What can we learn from this list then? One thing we can learn is that bestseller status doesn’t necessarily mean that the books are the best for their time—or even good. A second is that many great books don’t ever make the top bestsellers list. Missing are all of Faulkner’s and Hemingway’s, and they were both Nobel Prize winners. Also, you won’t find Fitzgerald’s, Willa Cather’s, Henry James’, Edith Wharton’s, Harper Lee’s, Truman Capote’s, and Kurt Vonnegut’s titles, to mention just a few writers with major literary reputations. A third lesson is that—witness the books listed for Wells and Grey—a writer may write his finest books without such success and then find a lesser book on the list by virtue of the quality of those earlier volumes.

The final take-away is that all of this is out of the author’s control. All we can do is write the best books we can. When I get discouraged at the difficulty of bringing my books to the attention of readers, I pull this list out and read and note the significant omissions.

Publishers Weekly Annual Bestsellers List                                                                                                          

• 1913: The Inside of the Cup by Winston Churchill
• 1914: The Eyes of the World by Harold Bell Wright
• 1915: The Turmoil by Booth Tarkington
• 1916: Seventeen by Booth Tarkington
• 1917: Mr. Britling Sees It Through by H. G. Wells
• 1918: The U. P. Trail by Zane Grey
• 1919: The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse by Vicente Blasco Ibáñez
• 1920: The Man of the Forest by Zane Grey
• 1921: Main Street by Sinclair Lewis
• 1922: If Winter Comes by A.S.M. Hutchinson
• 1923: Black Oxen by Gertrude Atherton

•  1924: So Big by Edna Ferber
• 1925: Soundings by A. Hamilton Gibbs
• 1926: The Private Life of Helen of Troy by John Erskine
• 1927: Elmer Gantry by Sinclair Lewis
• 1928: The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder
• 1929: All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque
• 1930: Cimarron by Edna Ferber
• 1931: The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck
• 1932: The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck
• 1933: Anthony Adverse by Hervey Allen
• 1934: Anthony Adverse by Hervey Allen
• 1935: Green Light by Lloyd C. Douglas
• 1936: Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
• 1937: Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
• 1938: The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings
• 1939: The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
• 1940: How Green Was My Valley by Richard Llewellyn
• 1941: The Keys of the Kingdom by A. J. Cronin
• 1942: The Song of Bernadette by Franz Werfel
• 1943: The Robe by Lloyd C. Douglas
• 1944: Strange Fruit by Lillian Smith
• 1945: Forever Amber by Kathleen Winsor
• 1946: The King’s General by Daphne du Maurier
• 1947: The Miracle of the Bells by Russell Janney
• 1948: The Big Fisherman by Lloyd C. Douglas
• 1949: The Egyptian by Mika Waltari
• 1950: The Cardinal by Henry Morton Robinson
• 1951: From Here to Eternity by James Jones
• 1952: The Silver Chalice by Thomas B. Costain
• 1953: The Robe by Lloyd C. Douglas
• 1954: Not as a Stranger by Morton Thompson
• 1955: Marjorie Morningstar by Herman Wouk
• 1956: Don’t Go Near the Water by William Brinkley
• 1957: By Love Possessed by James Gould Cozzens
• 1958: Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak
• 1959: Exodus by Leon Uris
• 1960: Advise and Consent by Allen Drury
• 1961: The Agony and the Ecstasy by Irving Stone
• 1962: Ship of Fools by Katherine Anne Porter
• 1963: The Shoes of the Fisherman by Morris L. West
• 1964: The Spy Who Came in from the Cold by John le Carré
• 1965: The Source by James A. Michener
• 1966: Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann
• 1967: The Arrangement by Elia Kazan
• 1968: Airport by Arthur Hailey
• 1969: Portnoy’s Complaint by Philip Roth
• 1970: Love Story by Erich Segal
• 1971: Wheels by Arthur Hailey
• 1972: Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach
• 1973: Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach
• 1974: Centennial by James A. Michener
• 1975: Ragtime by E. L. Doctorow
• 1976: Trinity by Leon Uris
• 1977: The Silmarillion by J. R. R. Tolkien and Christopher Tolkien
• 1978: Chesapeake by James A. Michener
• 1979: The Matarese Circle by Robert Ludlum
• 1980: The Covenant by James A. Michener
• 1981: Noble House by James Clavell
• 1982: E.T., The Extraterrestrial by William Kotzwinkle
• 1983: Return of the Jedi by James Kahn
• 1984: The Talisman by Stephen King and Peter Straub
• 1985: The Mammoth Hunters by Jean M. Auel
• 1986: It by Stephen King
• 1987: The Tommyknockers by Stephen King
• 1988: The Cardinal of the Kremlin by Tom Clancy
• 1989: Clear and Present Danger by Tom Clancy
• 1990: The Plains of Passage by Jean M. Auel
• 1991: Scarlett by Alexandra Ripley
• 1992: Dolores Clairborne by Stephen King
• 1993: The Bridges of Madison County by Robert James Waller
• 1994: The Chamber by John Grisham
• 1995: The Rainmaker by John Grisham
• 1996: The Runaway Jury by John Grisham
• 1997: The Partner by John Grisham
• 1998: The Street Lawyer by John Grisham
• 1999: The Testament by John Grisham
• 2000: The Brethren by John Grisham
• 2001: Desecration by Jerry B. Jenkins and Tim LaHaye
• 2002: The Summons by John Grisham
• 2003: The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown**
• 2004: The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown
• 2005: The Broker by John Grisham
• 2006: For One More Day by Mitch Albom
• 2007: A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini**
• 2008: The Appeal by John Grisham
• 2009: The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown
• 2010: The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets Nest by Stieg Larsson
• 2011: The Litigators by John Grisham
• 2012: Fifty Shades of Grey by E. L. James
• 2013: To be determined…

* Publishers Weekly did not include the Harry Potter books in its listings. Harry Potter and the Order of the Pheonix was the bestselling book for 2003, and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was the bestselling book of 2007.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Linda Rodriguez’s third Skeet Bannion novel, Every Hidden Fear, was published in May 2014. Her second Skeet mystery, Every Broken Trust, was a selection of Las Comadres National Latino Book Club and a finalist for both the International Latino Book Award and the Premio Aztlan Literary Prize. Her first Skeet novel, Every Last Secret, won the Malice Domestic Best First Traditional Mystery Novel Competition, was a Barnes & Noble mystery pick, and was a finalist for the International Latino Book Award. Her short story, “The Good Neighbor,” has been optioned for film.

Books That Stick

by Bethany Maines

A friend recently posted a list of books that have “stuck with him.”  It was an interesting list featuring, among other things, Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Disgusting Sneakers. (For those who never read Encyclopedia Brown as a kid – you missed out.  Half Choose Your Own Adventure, half Sherlock Holmes each Encyclopedia Brown book required attentive reading so that the reader could solve the mystery along with the heroes.) But the list got me to thinking about books that have stayed with me. What makes a book stick? Maybe the right book has to arrive at the right time, or maybe a book has to articulate something that I was unable to express until the moment I saw the words on the page. Or in the case of some books… they just seem realer than real life.  So for what it’s worth, here’s my list of the top 5 books/book series that have stuck with me.

  • Trixie Belden – This teenage sleuth was a tomboy with annoying siblings, and that sounded a lot more like pre-teen me than perfect Nancy Drew with her fancy car and friends.
  • The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings – My mother read us these books out loud (reading, it’s what people do when they don’t have a TV) when we were young.  I blame Eowyn for my life long desire to kick ass, take name, and defeat an Orc horde.
  • The Ordinary Princess – A  little tale about a Princess who is blessed with the gift of being ordinary by her fairy godmother, what could be better than that?  Oh, how about the most adorable illustrations penciled by the author herself?  From the day I discovered this book, the author, M.M. Kaye, became my inspiration. I don’t know if art and novel writing are a rare combination or if author’s just aren’t allowed to be something else, but what I know is that I want to do both and M.M. Kaye inspired me to reach for that dream.
  • Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson – Foisted on me as a birthday present, I didn’t read it for years, mostly because the book jacket let me know that the hero’s name was Hiro Protagonist.  I was put off.  I shouldn’t have been.  Bouncing between religion, language, consumerism, cybernetics, and computer programming, the book honestly made me rethink some of my positions on those topics.
  • Pyramids by Terry Pratchett – This was the first book I read in the Discworld series and it was the first “quirky” British style novel I’d ever read.  It was also the first time that I’d ever read something that sounded like the inside of my head, with parentheticals, footnotes, strange topic switches, and a loopy plot.  I didn’t even know you could write like the inside of my head and get away with it.  I became a devoted follower of the Discworld and when I learned that Sir Pratchett had been stricken with an early onset Alzheimer’s that was robbing of his ability to write, I was absolutely devastated.  The fact that he has carried on writing novels with the help of a tape recorder, a stenographer and some new drug treatment inspires me to get off my ass and write more as well.

That’s my list.  What’s on yours?

Bethany Maines is the author of the Carrie Mae Mystery series and Tales from the City of Destiny. You can also view the Carrie Mae youtube video or catch up with her on Twitter and Facebook.

Why It’s Always a “Great Day” when I Talk About Books on TV

by Susan McBride

I had the pleasure of appearing on “Great Day St. Louis” again yesterday, something I’ve been doing about every other month or so for a few years now.  Watching myself on TV today compared to when I was first published in 1999 is a hoot.  Back then, when I was nervous, I tended to do bug eyes (aka “deer in headlights”).  The longer I spoke, the bigger my eyes got.  Although, come to think of it, I did that when speaking in person to others, too.  I remember one conversation with Charlaine Harris eons back when she finally shouted at me, “Blink, dammit!”  Thank goodness, I got over that.

Back to “Great Day” and the Great Reads segment from yesterday.  I always look forward to going downtown to the KMOV Channel 4 studios.  It means getting to play hooky from my current work-in-progress (and those pesky looming deadlines), so I jump at the chance!  Ed loves going with me, so he usually takes the morning off.  I never protest, as I don’t mind a bit having a “driver” drop me off in front of the building while he goes to park the car in the appointed lot a few blocks up (it’s especially handy-dandy when the weather is ugly).

I even have fun pushing through the revolving doors to get into the KMOV lobby, where I sign in at the reception desk and then wait for Sammi, an assistant producer, to come get me (and any other guests hanging around).  We enter the newsroom where various reporters, meteorologists, and even anchor-people are working on stories in their cubbies. Then it’s back through a hallway and into the studio, approaching from behind a wall and emerging right beside the Weather Center (Ed loves the Weather Center most of all).

Since it’s the holiday season, the anchor desk has lots of poinsettias around it, which looks so pretty.  The chairs for guests of “Great Day” are right beside it.  Ed and I always like to poke around, take pictures, talk to Jenn and Brooke, the producers (who are adorable!), or Matt Chambers (one of the “Great Day” co-hosts and one of the station’s most beloved weather dudes!), and also with other guests (that’s how I met Lisa Bertrand, Wade Rouse, and a whole bunch of other cool people that I like to keep in touch with, or at least keep tabs on!).

Yesterday, the owner of a gold, silver, and coin shop was on-set for a segment, and I got his card (I really want to sell my old jewelry from high school that I will never wear again or pass down to anyone!).  He gave us newly-minted quarters and a newly-minted dollar.  So cool!  You never know what’s going to happen on “Great Day”–I once got a fabulous cookbook from a visiting chef!  But I digress!

Once Sammi gets me settled inside, she hands me a script.  I find out which co-host will do the segment with me (yesterday, it was Matt) and what Matt will see running across the teleprompter.  That way, I have a good idea of what to expect when I sit down with him on the set, the camera rolls (and my mike goes live), and we start talking about books. The script also notes the approximate time I’ll be on-air, so I know if I’m early in the show or later.  For Thursday, I was on at 10:34, so Ed and I got to sit and watch the cooking segment (turkey pot pie!), an interior designer discussing her family’s “Christmas auction” (which they do in lieu of buying lots of gifts), and a therapist explaining seasonal mood changes (my mood only gets better the colder and snowier it gets!).

And then it was my turn!  Sammi had me miked up the back of my sweater, and I followed her over the camera cables to the kitchen area, where I sat on a stool behind the counter with Matt.  I’m usually on the other side of the set behind a glass-topped table (or, occasionally, on the sofa).  So this was something new!

Once the previous segment finished (we got to watch it as it aired), Matt introduced me and the Great Reads segment…and off we went!  Here’s the bit so you can see it for yourself (I gush about three recent books I loved, including our very own Maggie Barbieri’s PHYSICAL EDUCATION and recent Stiletto guest blogger Marilyn Brant’s A SUMMER IN EUROPE).  It only takes about five minutes, and then I’m done!  As always whenever I leave the “Great Day” set, I can’t wait to go back again!  😉