Nathan Bransford first offers a post in which he critiques the idea that in those halcyon days of yore the general public loved highbrow literary fiction, while today cultural tastes have degenerated.
Nathan’s take: “Personally, I’m very skeptical of golden era attitudes toward the past. While books have had to cede cultural ground to other media with the rise of movies, TV and the Internet, I also don’t know that there was ever an exalted period in the past where everyone in America was reading literary fiction and arguing about Proust vs. Flaubert at the dinner table, or even that there were more people who did that in the past than do now.”
Then! To explore the issue, he also offers:
A list of the best-selling novels every year this century, and, for good measure,
A list of the best-selling nonfiction books every year this century.
But I don’t know! Much as I admire Nathan Bransford, I’m afraid that for me, having Dan Brown appear twice in the past ten years is, um, not a positive sign. Also, having Fifty Shades as the 2012 bestseller kinda adds weight, all by itself, to the thesis that cultural tastes in books have degenerated in the modern day. Is there anything half as bad in the first 15 years of this list, as the bad ones in the last 15 years? And here I mean “badly written,” not just “pornographic.”