Wednesday, April 30, 2008

bestseller lists

We'll come back to author blogging shortly, but in the meantime I had to post a link to this article on the tradition of the bestseller list (thanks, Maud Newton). This is a fascinating and rather tongue-in-cheek Times history of the bestseller list in England. I'm excerpting my favorite paragraph here:

On April 21, 1974, the UK’s first definitive weekly national bestseller list was published.Keeping a finger on the nation’s reading pulse in this way had been routine in America since the 1890s. Americans loved their bestseller lists. Why? Because US society is organised around winners and losers. The UK loathed bestseller lists. Why? Because they were unEnglish. Books, we believed, did not compete against each other. Paying attention to a book not for its quality but for the quantity it sold was Yankee philistinism.

17 comments:

Merry Monteleone said...

Umn... I think sometimes the quantity of sales is a good indication of the story's quality, not always, but a good portion of the time...

oh, nevermind me, I'm a proud Yankee Philistine... hey, you should make that your new tee shirt!

cindy said...

haha!

moonie, i have to tell you--when i read the teacake tax scandal to the love, he said it was an april fool's joke! he's lived in america for too long. 8)

gotta love the brits!

writtenwyrdd said...

LOL, that's a definite cultural difference. Thanks for sharing.

Dennis Cass is . . . said...

You can look at these lists in terms of competition/comparison, but they're also a form of measurement.
English people measure things, right?

Anonymous said...

not all have the benefit of personally knowing moonrat but i do. which has given me the amazing privilege of being able to read her latest editorial masterpiece. (i am not done yet but i am working on it!) and let me assure you that she is amazing. AND she cares deeply about her authors, books and work. in addition, she is able to juggle also caring about her friends and family. in short, if she seems awesome on this blog, that is because she is :)

Merry Monteleone said...

anon 9:53,

We never doubted her awesomeness for a second!!! I'm green with envy that I can't read what you're reading, though.

moonrat said...

anon: thanks! it really means something too me.

momrat, for example, was not a big fan of that book. although she did describe it as "all right."

Precie said...

I meant to ask...was momrat talking about "Emily"?

And, absolutely, you're awesome, moonrat!

moonrat said...

yes indeed, precie. she liked the last half but not the first.

Ello said...

I would write a haiku for you about your awesomeness but for some reason my brain is dead and it would be so not awesome. So instead I shall ditto everyone on how cool you are and how much I love your blog. And how funny that paragraph is. Made me snicker.

Charles Gramlich said...

I kind of like the British Idea actually.

Demon Hunter said...

Interesting post. I never knew that about the UK. They do have a point, but it's in us Americans to be competitive. :*)

Kaytie M. Lee said...

I'd rather know what's new this week rather than what's been selling for 215 weeks.

But then, there's very rarely overlap in what I like to read and what's on a bestseller list.

Froog said...

As (possibly?) the only Brit amongst your regular commenters, can I just say - in addition, of course, to being grateful for Cindy's love - "How true! How true!"

Bestseller lists are the literary equivalent of those TV pop singer talent shows - vile, but irresistible.

Froog said...

By the way, MR, not that I wish to be a nag or anything, but..... summer's here now, and I haven't got my t-shirt yet.

Marie said...

Well, that's a very British attitude, and it has lots of merit--there can be something very vulgar about American competition. On the other hand, competition also means that anyone can enter into the bestseller list, provided they are "good enough." If you think that writing is only for "certain people," ie people not of your class, then you might not write at all, even if you have a book in you. Personally, I think both attitudes--American and British--have their value.

Absolute Vanilla (& Atyllah) said...

Now that's what I call a cultural invasion! I've never liked bestseller lists, I take them as a sure sign of "books to avoid" - but then I like being contrary! ;-)