Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Revisiting Best Sellers

I recently saw this link on another blog, and thought I'd share it here.  At, if you enter your birthdate, you can look up the top ten fiction and non-fiction best-sellers from that week.  Click here (note:  Americans, put in the date European-style, day/month/year). 

My list was like a personal chastisement; several authors on this list are ones that I, as an English major and writer, should probably be more familiar with.  I've always meant to read more John Updike, but just never got around to it.  Too many books, which one to choose?  William Styron.  Isn't it enough to have watched Sophie's Choice?  These are my shameful thoughts.  So I've ordered two books from my personal best-seller list, for the week of May 28, 1968. 

It makes sense that many of the books from that tumultuous year would have social implications. 

The first, The Confessions of Nat Turner by William Styron, won the author the Pulitzer Prize, but also widespread derision from blacks and whites alike.  The story is based on an extant document, the actual "confession" of Nat Turner to the white lawyer Thomas Gray. Styron has imagined the characters of the story and his imaginings are not often kind.  I'm really looking forward to reading this book that had such a cultural impact.

The second book I chose is by John Updike, entitled Couples.  The Publisher's Weekly blurb describes it as an "artful, seductive, savagely graphic portrait of love, marriage and adultery in America."  Apparently, the book was one of the first to blow the lid off the idea of suburban bliss.  Perhaps an early Revolutionary Road.

All of which leads me to this thought:  how much does the best sellers list really reveal about the population at any given time, anyway?  Out of curiosity I pulled up this week's list and was very proud to see that I have read two of those books.  My personal determination is that two books is sufficient, so I'm good there.  Definitely doing my part as a productive member of 2011.  As for non-fiction...maybe another post.


  1. The book for my birth week was THE FRENCH LIEUTENANT'S WOMAN by John Fowles. Haven't read it. Have you?

  2. Another Meryl Streep movie! This is like six degrees of Streep. Haven't read it and don't think I've seen the movie either, although it was an Oscar nominee (lost to On Golden Pond). Are you going to try the book?


"As soon as we express something, we devalue it strangely. We believe ourselves to have dived down into the depths of the abyss, and when we once again reach the surface, the drops of water on our pale fingertips no longer resemble the ocean from which they came...Nevertheless, the treasure shimmers in the darkness unchanged." ---Franz Kafka