Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author

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Yet another list: 100 years of bestsellers

Here, via a link from commenter David H, a website where we see a particular reader’s responses to books when he read every single #1 bestseller (using the Publisher’s Weekly list) published from 1913 to 2013.

What a project! I had two reactions: 1. This is awesome! and 2. I would never do this!

Here’s the list — at the actual post, each title links through to the review. I read some of the reviews last night, so I can tell you: No, not that Winston Churchill. Actually kinda hard to believe there could ever have been a famous author of the same name, but so it seems.

Scanning quickly through this list, how many titles do you see that you would have to be paid (a lot) to read? For me it would be Gone With the Wind, plus The Da Vinci Code and any sequels. Well, and Fifty Shades.

How many did you think were just movies and not books? For me, that would be ET and the Star Wars novelization.

How many have you actually read? For me, very few till you hit the 1980s and then eight or so, but none in the past decade. I should add that I’ve read a couple by Pearl Buck and liked them quite a bit, but not The Good Earth.

I’m definitely going to read through the reviews. I read the first few last night.

1913: The Inside of the Cup by Winston Churchill
1914: The Eyes of the World by Harold Bell Wright
1915: The Turmoil by Booth Tarkington
1916: Seventeen by Booth Tarkington
1917: Mr. Britling Sees It Through by H. G. Wells
1918: The U. P. Trail by Zane Grey
1919: The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse by Vicente Blasco Ibáñez
1920: The Man of the Forest by Zane Grey
1921: Main Street by Sinclair Lewis
1922: If Winter Comes by A.S.M. Hutchinson
1923: Black Oxen by Gertrude Atherton
1924: So Big by Edna Ferber
1925: Soundings by A. Hamilton Gibbs
1926: The Private Life of Helen of Troy by John Erskine
1927: Elmer Gantry by Sinclair Lewis
1928: The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder
1929: All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque
1930: Cimarron by Edna Ferber
1931: The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck
1932: The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck *
1933: Anthony Adverse by Hervey Allen
1934: Anthony Adverse by Hervey Allen*
1935: Green Light by Lloyd C. Douglas
1936: Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
1937: Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell*
1938: The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings
1939: The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
1940: How Green Was My Valley by Richard Llewellyn
1941: The Keys of the Kingdom by A. J. Cronin
1942: The Song of Bernadette by Franz Werfel
1943: The Robe by Lloyd C. Douglas
1944: Strange Fruit by Lillian Smith
1945: Forever Amber by Kathleen Winsor
1946: The King’s General by Daphne du Maurier
1947: The Miracle of the Bells by Russell Janney
1948: The Big Fisherman by Lloyd C. Douglas
1949: The Egyptian by Mika Waltari
1950: The Cardinal by Henry Morton Robinson
1951: From Here to Eternity by James Jones
1952: The Silver Chalice by Thomas B. Costain
1953: The Robe by Lloyd C. Douglas*
1954: Not as a Stranger by Morton Thompson
1955: Marjorie Morningstar by Herman Wouk
1956: Don’t Go Near the Water by William Brinkley
1957: By Love Possessed by James Gould Cozzens
1958: Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak
1959: Exodus by Leon Uris
1960: Advise and Consent by Allen Drury
1961: The Agony and the Ecstasy by Irving Stone
1962: Ship of Fools by Katherine Anne Porter
1963: The Shoes of the Fisherman by Morris L. West
1964: The Spy Who Came in from the Cold by John le Carré
1965: The Source by James A. Michener
1966: Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann
1967: The Arrangement by Elia Kazan
1968: Airport by Arthur Hailey
1969: Portnoy’s Complaint by Philip Roth
1970: Love Story by Erich Segal
1971: Wheels by Arthur Hailey
1972: Johnathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach
1973: Johnathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach*
1974: Centennial by James A. Michener
1975: Ragtime by E. L. Doctorow
1976: Trinity by Leon Uris
1977: The Silmarillion by J. R. R. Tolkien and Christopher Tolkien
1978: Chesapeake by James A. Michener
1979: The Matarese Circle by Robert Ludlum
1980: The Covenant by James A. Michener
1981: Noble House by James Clavell
1982: E.T., The Extraterrestrial by William Kotzwinkle
1983: Return of the Jedi by James Kahn
1984: The Talisman by Stephen King and Peter Straub
1985: The Mammoth Hunters by Jean M. Auel
1986: It by Stephen King
1987: The Tommyknockers by Stephen King
1988: The Cardinal of the Kremlin by Tom Clancy
1989: Clear and Present Danger by Tom Clancy
1990: The Plains of Passage by Jean M. Auel
1991: Scarlett by Alexandra Ripley
1992: Dolores Claiborne by Stephen King
1993: The Bridges of Madison County by Robert James Waller
1994: The Chamber by John Grisham
1995: The Rainmaker by John Grisham
1996: The Runaway Jury by John Grisham
1997: The Partner by John Grisham
1998: The Street Lawyer by John Grisham
1999: The Testament by John Grisham
2000: The Brethren by John Grisham
2001: Desecration by Jerry B. Jenkins and Tim LaHaye
2002: The Summons by John Grisham
2003: The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown**
2004: The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown*
2005: The Broker by John Grisham
2006: For One More Day by Mitch Albom
2007: A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini**
2008: The Appeal by John Grisham
2009: The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown
2010: The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets Nest by Stieg Larsson
2011: The Litigators by John Grisham
2012: Fifty Shades of Grey by E. L. James
2013: Inferno by Dan Brown
2014: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

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8 Comments Yet another list: 100 years of bestsellers

  1. Macsbrains

    I’ve only heard of 24 of them. Of those, I have read 1, also The Good Earth, and no, never again.

    There is not a single thing on that list that I would read by choice, except perhaps the Tolkien, if only in theory, since I’ve never been able to make it through The Hobbit. (I plan to try this again, but changing my reading protocols from fantasy to myths and see what happens.)

    The only things you could pay me to read would be the Star Wars novelization, the John Green book (his books are readable, but that one’s not my kind of book), and I’d read the Dan Browns and 50 Shades for the amusement factor. (Maybe some of the King books, but I’m terrified of clowns so…)

  2. SarahZ

    I had to read Grapes of Wrath in high school, but the only one of those that I read voluntarily was The Fault in our Stars.

    What a waste of valuable reading time, to spend it on those 100 books!

  3. Mike S.

    It’s striking to me that H.G. Wells’ entry is a book of his I’d never heard of.

    (I also suspect Publishers Weekly of having classification rules that kept J.K. Rowling off the list.)

  4. Elaine T

    I actually read several on that list more or less voluntarily, as far as I remember they simply looked halfway interesting. A couple more were school assignments, like The Good Earth or Grapes of Wrath, so my total of read (or started to read) is around 20. I can’t remember my reaction to TGE at all, but suspect I’d agree with MacBrains.

    Some publication did re-jigger their bestseller lists to keep Harry Potter books off… I remember the fuss at the time, but I don’t think it was PW, probably the NYT.

  5. pete mack

    I’ve read Wouk, Uris, Clavell, Michener, lots by Grisham. Silmarillion is interesting as a study in world-building, though it is not really a novel. Grapes of Wrath surely. And my HS English teacher assigned GWTW, the one assigned book I did not finish. (I recall to this day that it had exactly 1 kilopage–that is 1024 pages. I quit after 700 or so.)

  6. pete mack

    You mentioned a while back that Mad Max: Fury Road is an “art movie with explosions.” The director agrees. He feels it will be better in the black and white rerelease.
    http://www.esquire.com/entertainment/a46375/mad-max-fury-road-finally-getting-that-black-and-white-version/
    Certainly, the trailer looks very good (never mind the lack of plot.) The first time I saw Jaws was edited for broadcast on a black and white television. It too is a better movie in B&W–it feels like an old fisherman’s yarn that way, rather than a canonical 1970s disaster flick.

  7. Rachel

    Mike, yes, I too was struck by HG Wells’ book not being one I’d heard of.

    My strong feeling is that a lot more people bought the Silmarillion than read it. Certainly I just dipped into and out of it. If I were guessing, I’d say probably not everyone who bought Fifty Shades read that, either.

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