Saturday, February 9, 2013

100 years, 94 books

     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.

    I decided to undertake this endeavor as a mission to read books I never would have otherwise read, discover authors who have been lost to obscurity, and to see how what's popular has changed over the last one hundred years.  I plan to post a new review every Monday, with links, short essays, and the like between review posts.

Here is the list of books I plan to review:

* Books that appear multiple times will be condensed into one post. The review of The Robe, the only book to reach number one on two inconsecutive years (1943 and 1953) will be published under the earlier date.

** 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.  I have decided to go with the official PW list.  This is not due to any bias against Harry Potter (I have fond memories of waiting in line for the midnight release of the final book).  By not counting Harry, I add The Da Vinci Code and A Thousand Splendid Suns to the list.  The Da Vinci Code already appears for 2004.  A Thousand Splendid Suns has a lot less notoriety than Harry Potter, so is more in tune with mission.


44 comments:

  1. I saw your post on reddit, and am really impressed you are doing this! Good luck! It will be fun to read your reviews and gain insights into what the popular books have been. :)

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  2. Do you have a Twitter account so I can follow on there? Love the idea.

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  3. That stint where you have to read all of those Grisham books is going to be hell. Here's hoping that you may have already read a few! Great idea for a blog, by the way.

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  4. Would be awesome if you would use something like Readmill to read so that we can follow your highlights!

    https://readmill.com/

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  5. What a great idea! I'm looking forward to following along.

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  6. Great idea, envy you for the compulsory reading opportunity you are getting by doing this, wish I could do the same. All the best, happy reading...

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  7. Could I send a few interview questions for you, via email, to post on my two book blogs? I love your idea!

    Lisa

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  8. Oh, sorry, my email is:

    lisaguidarini@yahoo.com

    Lisa

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  9. Hello,

    I'm a big fan of different reading projects (I've been reading one a week for a few years now). This is a great idea you've got, and I wish you the best of luck! I'll be following your posts.

    Ryan in Costa Rica

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  10. I love this idea! Good luck on your task. :)

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  11. Great project! Let me know if I can be of any help with the Tarkington titles. boothtarkington.com. Contact via ptpopcorn.com

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  12. I saw a link to your blog through GalleyCat and I think your idea is fantastic. Good luck and happy reading!

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  13. micky,
    Good idea. I saw a list of the modern library's top 100 books of the twentieth century. I collected all 100 books [actually works out to be 123]in the original publications all first editions most first printings. It was quite a project.
    Regards

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  14. What a brilliant idea, some awesome books in there! Wish I'd thought of it first, good luck :)

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  15. Hey, what a great undertaking.
    I'm looking forward to read your posts.

    If you'd like to promote your project on my blog, shoot me an email and I'll be happy to help.

    http://www.ManOfLaBook.com

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  16. This is a great project. I'll be following your progress with interest. Looks like you'll be pretty well versed in John Grisham by the time you reach the end!

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  17. Interesting idea. Stumbled across the PW article today and that led me to your blog. I'm part of The Classics Club and on a 5-year reading program that began last May. Good luck with your project.

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  18. Wow! Good luck. I do not envy you at all. I would lose my mind reading so many of these moralistically preachy writers in the years between 1913 and 1950. Is it a coincidence that there are three religiously themed books, one right after the other, during the years the US was officially involved in WW2? I think not. Bestseller-dom has never been the badge of worthwhile reading, merely the badge of popularity. I fear you are in for a load of mediocre and downright bad books. There are only a few true classics still in print on this list. One guess as to why.

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  19. Hi Matt. I've just published Fifty Years in the Fiction Factory which is a study of a anonymous hack writer of best selling periodical fiction - all instalments, never published between covers. Therefore quite different from books on your list - different class of reader for one. The interest we share, however, is the correlation between mass popularity and social change / public obsessions. The PhD on which I based my book + all research materials are available free at www.fiftyyearsinthefictionfactory.com or via my website www.golden-duck.co.uk
    One piece of advice which I'm sure you don't need, is don't sneer at your material or it's readers. So easy to be intellectual snobby about popular fic. So wrong.

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  20. John Grisham is one of my absolute favorite authors. In fact he inspired me to be begin writing thrillers in a similar style.

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  21. I found you by way of the article on Melville House. This is a fantastic idea and I'm looking forward to your reviews; I suspect I'll be adding titles to my To-Read list. I followed you on Twitter and also put a link up on my own blog. Good luck!

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  22. Very neat idea! I look forward to seeing how this turns out. Good luck!

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  23. Wait - they allowed inclusion of novelizations of two movies (1982: E.T., The Extraterrestrial by William Kotzwinkle; 1983: Return of the Jedi by James Kahn), yet they excluded the Harry Potter series?

    I'm sure there is some sense in that decision. Somewhere.

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  24. Fascinating! In my college years, I had an interest in literary adaptation and I would ferret out the source material for Hollywood films of the '30s -'60s. This led me to innumerable forgotten "best sellers", obscure short stories and plays beyond reviving. But in the heap there were some unexpected gems. It's fascinating to follow the ups and downs of popular taste. Good luck with this!

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  25. One of your repeat authors, Jean M. Auel, has created one of the best series I have ever read. Ayla's world was fascinating to explore in 9th grade and I revel in each new books she writes. I'll be most interested in your reviews of her two books however I feel you will miss out on so much by reading the The Mammonth Hunters before reading the first two books in the series. Still, so very excited for your reviews for these as well as the other 92.

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  26. What a fantastic project! I am looking forward to following your blog for the next two years. You may have already encountered this essay in your lit classes, but it is required reading for what you are envisioning: Franco Moretti, "The Slaughterhouse of Literature," MLQ 61 (2000): 207-227.

    http://english.duke.edu/uploads/assets/Moretti%20-%20Slaughterhouse%20of%20Lit.pdf

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  27. Glancing down this list, it's hard to miss the impact of Hollywood on the popularity of books. Or is it Hollywood's fascination with the most popular books? I think it's the former.

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  28. Good luck! What a fun project! You've inspired me to read along with you. I think it is kind of fun to read a book from the 30s on my kindle! (for free even!) Found you from Sullivan's The Dish.

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  29. well i've only read about 10 of these books.

    fyi, fifty shades of grey is one of the worst books ever written, so glad you are saving that one for last!

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  30. Great idea!!:)
    Come and visit me on:
    www.olivains.com

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  31. Fun project. Who doesn't love a list!?

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  32. In case you have not seen it, you can find a link to PW best-sellers on Project Gutenberg from this bookshelf.

    Also of interest is the book Making the List: A Cultural History of the American Bestseller, 1900-1999 that explores some similar ground.

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  33. You have inspired me. I turned 50 years old on February 7th, and have been looking for a significant way to mark this milestone in my life. I have decided tonight to read the bestseller from each year from the year of my birth through the current year and plan to continue to read the current year's best seller for the next 50 years or until I die (whichever comes first).

    Best wishes on your journey. I, too, look forward to reading your future posts.

    Thank you for giving me a second-half of my life-long reading project!!

    Debbie Walker

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  34. Not sure if it would help for what you'll be doing, but the WorldCat Identities site provides good background on authors that might provide some of the context you're look for:

    http://worldcat.org/identities/

    So, for Winston Churchill, for example:

    http://worldcat.org/identities/lccn-n78-85430

    You can see the timeline of books by/about him, his works that are most widely held in libraries, related identities and a tag cloud of related subject headings.

    Good luck on the project! What a great idea.

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  35. Best sellers sell well because they are selling well.

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  37. Amazing concept! For books that are part of series, will you read the rest of the books? The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest is the end of a spectacular trilogy, and it would be disappointing to miss out on the entire story.

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  38. I must say, youve got one of the best blogs Ive seen in a long time. What I wouldnt give to be able to create a blog thats as interesting as this. I guess Ill just have to keep reading yours and hope that one day I can write on a subject with as much knowledge as youve got on this one! clipping path

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  39. Thank you so much for the wonderful book! I finished it a few days ago and cannot get it out of my head. It is pure magic. It was everything I hoped it would be and much more. Thank you so much. You are a great writer... EL James.
    Christian Grey

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  40. Anastasia Steele
    I have said it a million times...
    Alexis Bledel as Ana
    With Ian Somerholder as Christian
    THat is the best fit!!

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  41. I read about your blog on Salon and I want to support you as a book lover and a CSUN alumna! Looking at the list, I'm surprised by how many of the older books are familiar to me because I've seen the films made from them. God bless you as you proceed -- if Valley of the Dolls is causing you pain, gird your loins for the magical prose of Dan Brown!!

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  42. Fascinating project although, as noted upstream, I'd be dreading reading all of those Grisham books.

    FYI: 1992, there is no "r" in Claiborne

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  43. Love the idea and look forward to reading your reviews... One thing, though. The background is horrible and makes your site extremely hard to read on my phone.

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