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Bestsellers: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions #170)

3.08  ·  Rating Details ·  91 Ratings  ·  24 Reviews
Lady Chatterley's Lover. The Blue Lagoon. Portnoy's Complaint. The Da Vinci Code. For the last century, the tastes and preferences of the common reader have been reflected in the American and British bestseller lists, and this Very Short Introduction takes an engaging look through the lists to reveal what we have been reading--and why. John Sutherland shows that bestseller ...more
Paperback, 127 pages
Published December 3rd 2007 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published October 25th 2007)
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Paul Bryant
Nov 15, 2016 Paul Bryant rated it really liked it
Shelves: litcrit
Here’s a fast little gallop through the crazy world of bestsellers – I liked it! Some fun facts for you:

Agatha Christie is probably the world biggest selling novelist ever – 72 novels in total, 2 billion sales. That is not really a fun fact. It’s actually a yawn. I think most people are born knowing this already.

Barbara Cartland is a best selling author although none of her 600-PLUS NOVELS (it says here) was an individual bestseller

Gone With the Wind sold a million in 1936 (first year of public
Ahmad Sharabiani
Bestsellers: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions #170), John Sutherland

Lady Chatterley's Lover. The Blue Lagoon. Portnoy's Complaint. The Da Vinci Code. For the last century, the tastes and preferences of the common reader have been reflected in the American and British bestseller lists, and this Very Short Introduction takes an engaging look through the lists to reveal what we have been reading--and why. John Sutherland shows that bestseller lists monitor one of the strongest pu
Oct 23, 2016 Damaskcat rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I enjoy reading books about books and John Sutherland writes well about books of all kinds. He has an entertaining and approachable style and makes his subject very readable. Here he looks at the phenomenon of the bestseller. The book is not an exhaustive list of bestsellers in the UK and in the US as it is a short introduction but it does look at the highlights as well as some unexpected bestsellers on both sides of the Atlantic.

The book starts by defining a bestseller and then goes on to look
This was an interesting, albeit very brief overview of the phenomenon of the bestseller. I think it started well, but the two sections on the US and UK market lost their way a little for me. I would have been more interested to learn about what made them bestsellers - something tantalisingly touched on in the beginning - rather than the lists of bestsellers which the sections became. Also, the final section about the digital revolution was skimmed over with almost no detail. Nevertheless, it was ...more
Mar 08, 2012 Abbey rated it it was ok
Not at all what I expected, this terse and dull little book had no lists, no wonderful pile of book titles for me to peruse and, likely, add to my TBRs - the main reason I picked it up. Yes, there were tons of books mentioned in the text but while it attempted to be "chatty" the presentation, to me, only succeeded in being boring! The author writes well, but extremely pedantically, and this wasn't my cuppa. A handy little book to read while you're waiting in a long line, perhaps, but I've got lo ...more
Angela Maher
Jul 02, 2015 Angela Maher rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
A fairly good overview of what a bestseller is, and isn't, and the factors that influence sales. It won't tell you how to write one, nor does it go into any detail on individual books, but if you like books it has some interest.
Douglas Wilson
Jan 12, 2009 Douglas Wilson rated it liked it
Shelves: wordsmithing
Good, informative.
What is a best-seller? In many ways it’s a misnomer. The Pilgrim's Progress has sold many more copies than The Da Vinci Code, but the critical difference is that the latter sold faster during a brief period. Identifying books as noteworthy primarily for selling quickly started out as largely an American phenomenon. Publishers in the US were proponents of stack-em-high-and-sell-em-cheap, with lurid covers and advertising to the public, long before the British joined in — for most of the 20th Cent ...more
Apr 27, 2015 Staszek rated it it was ok
This is mostly an enumerative, boring, unenlightening description of scores of bestselling books published in the US and the UK since the late 19th century until the 2000s. There's hardly a shred of any economic, sociological, or literary analysis here, and if you're desperate for plot summaries, you will likely find more comprehensive ones at Wikipedia (or, frankly, anywhere but here).

Some isolated remarks (like the one about 'bestsellers' vs. 'fastsellers') are interesting enough, the book is
Jan 14, 2016 Ian rated it it was ok
Basically a Wikipedia page that got cut for being too lengthy. There's some really interesting stuff at the start about the historical differences between US and UK publishing, like how the UK despised the idea of a popular book list ("ugh, the masses are so DISGUSTING, Martha"), and how the US started by out-right ripping off British authors. Once you get past that, it's a pretty uninteresting slog with little to note. I'm sure it might be of use to some college student writing a paper, but to ...more
Jay McNair
Jan 31, 2016 Jay McNair rated it it was ok
Nice little primer on the history of the bestselling book from about 1850 onward, focus being America in the earlier parts of the 20th century. Breezy style, which left me slightly mistrustful. Most interesting thing, I think, is the relationship between "literary" and high sales—when those two coincide. I'd like to study that more. Glad to know a little more of American/British publishing history.
Belen Ontheroad
Jan 03, 2016 Belen Ontheroad rated it liked it

Sería interesante el mismo ejercicio con:

* Bestsellers en España y en Latinoamérica, de forma comparada. Muy interesante las convergencias.

* Premios Planeta

* Evolución de los Blockbusters.

* Evolución de las pelis españolas que triunfan.

* Space Opera (basada en Star Wars + Juego de Tronos + Imperio Británica).
Nov 03, 2013 Ellie rated it liked it
Rather than an overview of bestselling works throughout the years, this is more of an exploration of what bestseller status means in western culture and how it has changed since the first bestseller lists were created. I thought the most interesting part was the (unfortunately fairly brief) discussion of the difference between British and American reading culture.
Jun 26, 2012 Sarah rated it liked it
Quirky and opinionated, but with great information on British and U.S. bestsellers from the nineteenth century through 2009. The conclusion was disappointing, and I wanted more of an overarching argument. Sometimes too cranky, but full of wit. It'll be interested to see what students make of this one!
Apr 07, 2010 A.M. rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
The text is often rather witty, but there is only so many lists of historical bestsellers I can handle before my head explodes. I was expecting more discussion and less fact-listing -- I'd recommend this to publishing history buffs, but it may not suit your needs if you want something more focused on the whys of a bestseller.
Daniel Wright
A suprisingly interesting essay.

Chapter 1: Definitions
Chapter 2: The modern scene
Chapter 3: Fields and lists
Chapter 4: The American bestseller
Chapter 5: The British bestseller
Chapter 6: The future of the bestseller: is there one?
Abbi Dion
My favorite of all the Very Short Intros. Delightful and interesting and revealing. Sorry for the bland review. Enjoy.
Jun 16, 2015 Rose rated it it was amazing
Amazing what he can cover in such a short space while keeping it well-paced and witty.(However, I believe it was Tallulah Bankhead, and not Dorothy Parker, who critised Norman Mailer's spelling).
Sonya Watkins
Aug 12, 2012 Sonya Watkins rated it liked it
equal parts interesting and boring. learned some interesting history and facts. I think the book went overboard with lists
Jan 20, 2015 Ryan rated it did not like it
Skimmed, more than read. I really only picked this book up b/c I couldn't imagine there's enough material to fill even a Very Short Intro, and I was write, er...right.
Nicola Newman
Nicola Newman rated it liked it
Oct 23, 2013
Jeff Wyonch
Jeff Wyonch rated it liked it
Mar 22, 2010
Marie-Therese rated it liked it
Oct 02, 2011
Oct 14, 2015 María rated it really liked it
Solo UK y USA, por supuesto. El resto del mundo no existe.
Katie rated it liked it
Jun 25, 2015
Lynn rated it liked it
Feb 03, 2015
John rated it really liked it
Oct 16, 2014
Dale rated it it was ok
Oct 05, 2015
Mickey rated it did not like it
Jan 30, 2017
Connor Smith
Connor Smith rated it liked it
Jul 18, 2014
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John Andrew Sutherland is an English lecturer, emeritus professor, newspaper columnist and author.

Now Emeritus Lord Northcliffe Professor of Modern English Literature at University College London, John Sutherland began his academic career after graduating from the University of Leicester as an assistant lecturer in Edinburgh in 1964. He specialises in Victorian fiction, 20th century literature, an
More about John Sutherland...

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