Saturday, February 14, 2004

Bestsellers of the 20th Century

1900-1998 Lists

My first semi-substantive post, hopefully I don't screw this up too badly. Anyway, this is a listing of Publisher's Weekly's bestselling book going back to 1900. It's pretty interesting to see how much tastes have and haven't changed. I'm afraid the oldest book on the lists I've actually read is Main Street by Sinclair Lewis (1921, #1), though the nonfiction list doesn't go all the way back to 1900.

Even as to more recent authors, it's interesting to see how careers have progressed and how much success people have, and haven't, had. To use a personal favorite as an example, take Frederick Forsyth. The Day of the Jackal was No. 4 in 1971 and 1972, The Odessa File, probably my personal favorite, No. 3 in 1972 and No. 4 in 1973, The Dogs of War No. 6 in 1974, The Devil's Alternative No. 8 in 1980, and The Fourth Protocal coming in at No. 7 in 1984. Add in The Fist of God, which I highly enjoyed, and his older collection of short stories, No Comebacks, and what sort of career does that make? Is he the new Joseph Conrad, someone esteemed by some, but, as some critics said when 4 of Conrad's novels made the Modern Library 100 Best Books list, someone with some talents but ultimately a writer of boy's tales? Or will enjoying a measure of popular success be his undoing? Well, time will tell.

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