Review by Choice Review
Justice's labor of love lists all books from the bestseller lists in Publishers Weekly (PW), 1919-90, and New York Times (NYT), 1935-90. Since his goal was to provide reliable and comprehensive documented information, his compilation is "not intended to provide any judgments on the relative merit of a particular book." He hopes his book "will fill a niche, providing information that may be of interest to those who would like to find out how many books a particular author placed or how many weeks a particular book spent on the bestseller list." It is arranged alphabetically by author and gives titles chronologically by their first appearance on a list. For each title, Justice cites publisher, the list on which the book appeared, date and position of its first appearance, date and position at its peak, number of weeks at that position, and number of weeks on that list. If a title appeared on both lists, the entry concludes with "tot wks," a figure that must be used with caution, since it conflates the number of weeks various editions have appeared on the NYT and PW lists, does not recognize that a title may have appeared on more than one list simultaneously, and does not distinguish between hardback and paperback editions. "Brief History of the Bestseller Lists," which follows the introduction, overemphasizes the minutiae of changes in the names of the lists (e.g., from "Best Sellers" to "Current Best Sellers") but does trace changes in compilation procedures and trends in publishing (e.g., the appearance of the NYT paperback list in 1965, the addition of "religious" and "audio" lists to PW in 1990). Most useful for students and scholars are the four appendixes. Appendix 1 ranks numerically authors with 10 or more listed books (Louis L'Amour is first with 30). Appendix 2 ranks books listed for 100 weeks or more, and Appendix 3 ranks authors listed for 100 weeks or more. Appendix 4 is a complete list of authors and their total weeks. The Joy of Sex is first in Appendix 2 (753 weeks) and Stephen King in Appendix 3 (1,731 weeks). A title index concludes the volume. A final warning: "bestseller" is an imprecise term; a book that was "number one" for many years and one which appeared at the bottom of one list for one week will both be forever regarded by their publishers and authors as "bestsellers." Recommended for medium and large libraries and those supporting 20th-century US culture. J. D. Haskell Jr.; College of William and Mary
Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
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