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August 2003

Fads and Pop Culture—Bestsellers

cover of Making the List by Michael Korda

Bestselling books have always reflected the country’s preoccupations and pop sensations.

Michael Korda, in Making the List: A Cultural History of the American Bestseller 1900–1999 (381.45002 K84 2001), traces the first bestseller list to the February issue of The Bookman: A Literary Journal in 1895.

Here are just a few titles Korda cites from Publishers Weekly bestseller lists over the years. They offer an intriguing glimpse at what the country was thinking about. And they’re all available at the Library; most are also available in large print and audio formats.

1900–1909

Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm
Kate Douglas Wiggin
1904, #8

The Jungle
Upton Sinclair
1906, #6

1910–1919

Fiction

The Virginian
Owen Wister
1902, #1

The Window at the White Cat
Mary Roberts Rinehart
1910, #8 (first mystery on the list)

Nonfiction

The Montessori Method
Maria Montessori
1912, #2
372.M781

Over the Top
Arthur Empey
1917, #4
940.48173 E55Ze 1917

The Education of Henry Adams
Henry Adams
1919, #1
973.072024 A213Za 1996

1920–1929

Fiction

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes
Anita Loos
1926, #1

All Quiet on the Western Front
Erich Maria Remarque
1929, #1

Nonfiction

The Outline of History: Being a Plain History of Life and Mankind
H. G. Wells
1921 & 1922, #1; 1923 #5
901 W45.2

Etiquette
Emily Post
1923, #1
395 P85

1930–1939

Fiction

Anthony Adverse
Hervey Allen
1933 & 1934, #1

Gone With the Wind
Margaret Mitchell
1936 & 1937, #1

Nonfiction

You Must Relax
Edmund Jacobson
1934, #9
612.76 34

Mein Kampf
Adolf Hitler
1939, #7
943.086 H67Zhi 1971

1940–1949

Fiction

The Robe
Lloyd C. Douglas
1942, #7; 1943, #1; 1944 & 1945, #2

Forever Amber
Kathleen Winsor
1944, #4; 1945, #1

Nonfiction

Anna and the King of Siam
Margaret Landon
1944, #8
959.303409 L5851 1944

Brave Men
Ernie Pyle
1944, #2; 1945 #1
940.542 P99b

1950–1959

Fiction

On the Beach
Neville Shute
1957, #8

Peyton Place
Grace Metalious
1956, #3; 1957, #2

Nonfiction

Betty Crocker’s Picture Cookbook
1950, #1; 1951, #2
641.5 q83.28

The Holy Bible Revised Standard Version
1953 & 1954, #1
220.526 A13

Why Johnny Can’t Read
Rudolf Flesch
1955, #8
372.4 F611

Masters of Deceit: The Story of Communism in America and How to Fight It
J. Edgar Hoover
1958, #4
335.4 H789

1960–1969

Fiction

To Kill a Mockingbird
Harper Lee
1961, #3

The Group
Mary McCarthy
1963, #2

Rosemary’s Baby
Ira Levin
1967, #7

Nonfiction

The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich
William L. Shirer
1960, #7; 1961, #2
943.086 S558

Happiness Is… A Warm Puppy
Charles Schulz
1962, #5; 1963, #1

In Cold Blood
Truman Capote
1966, #3
364.1523 C649

1970–1979

Fiction

Jonathan Livingston Seagull
Richard Bach
1972 & 1973, #1

The Thornbirds
Colleen McCullough
1977, #2

Nonfiction

Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex But Were Afraid to Ask
David Reuben
1970, #1
612.6 R442 1999 (all new edition)

I’m Ok, You’re Ok
Thomas Harris
1971, #4; 1972, #2; 1973, #3
616.891 69

All the President’s Men
Carl Bernstein
1974, #2
353.460973 B531 1974

Roots
Alex Haley
1977, #1
929.2 H168Ah

1980–1989

Fiction

The Name of the Rose
Umberto Eco
1983, #7

The Tommyknockers
Stephen King
1987, #4

The Satanic Verses
Salman Rushdie
1989, #6

Nonfiction

Never Say Diet
Richard Simmons
1981, #3; 1982, #9
613.25 q80.5

The One Minute Manager
Kenneth Blanchard
1983, #4
658.82.4

A Brief History of Time
Stephen Hawking
1988, #3
523.1 88

1990–1999

Fiction

Scarlett: The Sequel to Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind
Alexandra Ripley
1991, #1

The Firm
John Grisham
1991, #7

The Bridges of Madison County
James Waller
1993, #1; 1994, #9

Nonfiction

Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus
John Gray
1993, #8; 1994 & 1996, #2; 1995, #1; 1997, #9
306.872 G779 1992

Angela’s Ashes
Frank McCourt
1997, #1
973.049162 M131Zm 1996

The Greatest Generation
Tom Brokaw
1998, #2; 1999, #2
940.348173 B867 1998