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Related: Amazon bestsellers - commercial - hit - blockbuster - popular

Historians of the bestseller: Resa Dudovitz - Robert Darnton

Titles: The Da Vinci Code (2003) - Dan Brown - Harry Potter series (1997 - ) - J. K. Rowling

Prejudice 1: The commercial success of a book is usually its strongest indictment against literary quality.

Bestselling books are a relatively new phenomenon, their existence depends on mass production and some means of assessing popularity, by sales or otherwise. Therefore, the "first" bestseller by current definition may at best be little more than two hundred years old (in fact, Goethe's Die Leiden des jungen Werther (The Sorrows of Young Werther), published in 1774, may have been the first popular bestseller). [May 2006]

A bestseller is a book (usually a novel) that is identified as extremely popular by its inclusion on a list of top-sellers. In everyday usage, the term bestseller is not usually associated with a specified level of sales, or considered of superior academic value or literary quality, it simply implies great popularity, similar to blockbuster for films and chart-topper (or similar) in music (although, in film and music, these measures are generally related to specific sales figures and periods). To some, bestseller has a negative connotation, particularly in fiction, indicating a work with mass appeal and of inferior literary quality. The term is widely used for marketing, with bestseller status advertised prominently on the covers of paperback editions whenever possible. In North America, the New York Times bestseller list is perhaps the most widely known list. [Aug 2006]

See also: 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die (2006)


A bestseller is a book (usually a novel) that is identified as extremely popular by its inclusion on a list of top-sellers. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bestseller [Apr 2005]

Turning fiction bestsellers into feature films.

Bestsellers play a significant role in the mainstream movie industry. There is a long-standing Hollywood practice of turning fiction bestsellers into feature films. Many, if not the majority, of modern movie "classics" began as bestsellers. On the Publisher's Weekly fiction bestsellers of the year charts, we find: #2. The Godfather (1969); #1. Love Story (1970); #2. The Exorcist (1971); #3. Jaws (1974); among many others. Several of each year's fiction bestsellers are sooner or later made into high profile movies. Being a bestseller novel in the US over the last 40 years has guaranteed a first crack at being turned into a big budget, wide release movie. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bestseller [Apr 2005]


The bestseller is a relatively new phemenon. Its history starts with the reading revolution of the mid-nineteenth century.

A novel which sold well in the eighteenth century - and even the most successful book rarely sold more than a few thousand copies - did so within a fairly closed circle of readers, many of whom as writers also participated in deciding the prevailing criteria of literary excellence.

By the mid-nineteenth century cheaper editions and improved access to reading material through subscriptions and in France, through reading rooms, pushed sales of a popular novel as high as 10,000 copies. Although critics continued to function as the arbiters of taste, the critical elite could no longer claim literature to be their exclusive property. The bestseller as we know it today was born.

New York Times Best Seller list

The New York Times Best Seller List is a weekly chart in The New York Times that tracks the week's best-selling books in the United States. The list appears in the Sunday Times Book Review section, first debuting on April 9, 1942 under the title, "The Best Selling Books, Here and Everywhere." The first book to top the list was The Last Time I Saw Paris by Elliot Paul.

Unlike some subsequent lists of best sellers, The New York Times list is not based upon total sales figures, but instead upon surveys of a selected sample of retail booksellers. The list is divided into Fiction and Non-Fiction sections, which each contains fifteen titles.

While some believe a book is only truly successful if it appears on the list, the Times maintains that the list is simply that, with no assumption as to its intrinsic value. Neveretheless, some have accused publishers of marketing books in a manner designed to place them on the list. Examples include the works by L. Ron Hubbard, Battlefield Earth and Mission Earth.

Similarly, some listed books are flagged with an obelus () indicating that a significant number of bulk orders had been received by retail bookstores. Since it is normally more economical to place bulk orders for classroom or resale use through wholesalers or publishers, this might indicate that the purchases were made to increase a book's placement in the best seller list.

In 2001, a separate section of the best seller list was created to track the sale of children's books. Critics of The New York Times best seller lists claim that the children's book list was created especially so that the Harry Potter book series, which dominated the list for over two years, could be moved to a separate section and other titles allowed to appear on the list. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_York_Times_Best_Seller_list [Aug 2006]


A potboiler is an artistic work (usually written) created for the sole purpose of making money quickly or to maintain a steady income for the artist, thus implying that artistic values were subordinate to saleability.

The word was derived from "to boil the pot": in other words, the author wrote the book to keep a pot of food boiling.

One of the most famous potboilers is A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Potboiler [Aug 2005]

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