3.31.2011

Mystery of the Best Selling Book List


What drives humans to take wood, transform it into paper, 
and then proceed to make books out of it?

The desire to communicate through the written word appears to be one of our most interesting traits, so when I heard Borders bookstore filed for bankruptcy last month I felt a little cringe inside. Borders was my first place of refuge after college. I spent hours perusing the shelves and introducing myself to authors that were not on my professor's reading lists. Borders was my first mentor.

Nevertheless, I like many other people have abandoned Borders for Amazon, libraries, and Powells, our delightful Portland used bookstore. So I guess I shouldn't be shocked over Borders demise, but it did make me realize how fast things are changing from paper to digital media. 

All of this thinking about books made me remember how I wanted to share something I discovered last summer on  Wikipedia -- a list of best selling books. Last summer the list of best selling books had religious and political doctrines topping the charts, but when I looked today, I see that have revised their list. 

Here is a sampling, but I hope you'll go and check this site out because I'd love to hear your reaction to some of the titles on the list:

More Then a 100 Million Copies
Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens
Lord of the Rings, J. R. R Tolkien
The Hobbit, J. R. R Tolkien
Dream of the Red Chamber,  Cao Xueqin
And Then There Were None, Agatha Christie

Last summer I had grand plans to read every one of these books that had sold over a hundred million copies, because I thought "wow, wouldn't it be great to be in a book club with 100 million people!" Haha!! Well, I ended up renting the movie And Then There Were None, abandoning the Dream of the Red Chamber after the first couple pages, and then of course remembering how I quit on Tale of Two Cities and Lord of the Rings when I was in my 20s, I threw my project out the window. 

I guess what fascinates me about this particular list is how heavy these books are on language. They are all wonderful stories, but just like a religious text most of them are coded in a way that you spend much of your time trying to decipher its real meaning. Perhaps that is the allure. What do you think?

I did a little bit better on the next list with about 40% already in the bag:

Between 50 and 100 Million Copies Sold
The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe
She
Le Petite Prince
The Da Vinci Code
Think and Grow Rich
The Catcher in the Rye
The Alchemist
Steps to Christ
Lolita
Heidi's Years of Wandering and Learning
The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care
Anne of Green Gables
Black Beauty
The Name of the Rose

The list goes on and is extremely fascinating for like artifacts in a museum it's a wonderful cultural history of what stories intrigue human beings. What surprised you about these lists? What book didn't you see on the list that you thought would be there? Do you find yourself wanting to join the biggest book club ever or are you content to read what you most desire?

2 comments:

  1. hmmm... interesting lists for sure... you know, while the digital age is wonderful and allows one access to so much so quickly, truly there is nothing like sitting in the stacks, pulling out heavy tomes and thumbing through them... i feel like you get a sense of the amount of work moreso because of the physical nature...
    truly, lord of the rings is one of my favorites - maybe it was the beginning you had a hard time with? because once you are in, it carries you away... in fact, i had a hard time with it in my late teens and flew through it around 40... i rarely am able to go through a series without breaks, but i did with these... i guess that many books would need time - so harry is out... i wondered about winnie the pooh... will have to look at the lists, thank you for sharing them!
    i do like being guided a bit - i don't mind being introduced to a new author... for instance, i heard about 'the tiger's wife'...

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  2. Oh, my, I had forgotten that I read Tale of Two Cities for a high school lit class. It was agonizing and admit that I love words but would rather read books that I don't have to decipher. The second list is much more accessible and most of those books are ones I've read. I do think it is a bit sad that book stores may become a thing of the past or limited. There is something very nice and comforting about turning a page or dozing off with a book in your hand.

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