Benjamin Thomas's Reviews > Great American Bestsellers: The Books That Shaped America

Great American Bestsellers by Peter Conn
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Apr 12, 2012

it was amazing
bookshelves: audio-books, non-fiction, books-about-books-or-reading, lecture-series
Read from April 12 to June 28, 2012

If you haven't yet discovered The Teaching Company, I urge you to check them out. They offer a wide variety of lecture series on DVDs or CDs, everything from history, to political thought, to the fine arts. Typically, the lectures are 30 minutes long, a perfect amount of time to provide interesting insights yet not long enough to seem like a boring college lecture. Don't let the initial prices turn you off because they are always (and I mean always) running sales with huge discounts (like 75% off).

This particular lecture series examines the great bestselling books in American history, and why they became bestsellers. We get to hear all about great classics you would expect such as the The Grapes of Wrath, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Catcher in the Rye, but we also hear about other bestsellers in history such as Catch-22, The Good Earth, and Ragged Dick and even nonfiction such as How to Win Friends & Influence People and John Adams. There is even a lecture on contemporary bestselling authors such as John Grisham, Stephen King, and Danielle Steel.

I actually began listening to this lecture series only reluctantly because I didn't want to experience the typical elitist college English professor approach to dissecting a classic work of fiction and telling me what the author "is really saying here". I can't stand that sort of thing and so I am pleased to say that there is very little of that here. We are treated to author bios, and the impact of the book on society (Uncle Tom's Cabin, The Jungle) but without the "you should be reading this or else you are not a real reader" mentality. I was also pleased to hear the lecturer speak of today's popular fiction as worthwhile. He even takes the time to walk us through the history of bestsellers, from Colonial days all the way through Oprah's Book Club.

I'm very happy to recommend this lecture series to anyone interested in the world behind the books we read.
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