Wednesday, 13 February 2013

The Value of Best-Selling Lists

Whenever I come by a book shop, I have a look at the titles displayed as being on top of current best-selling lists. Usually, it doesn't take me long to see that none of the books is likely to tempt me. Far too often they are just the usual kind of novels filled to the brim with sex or crime or both. Mind you, I use to find them terribly predictable and boring! In general title and cover already suffice to repel me. Most of the time I leave the place disappointed not just by the books, but also by people. How can anyone read such rubbish without being forced to? And why do publishers love it while excellent novels never even make it into the shops?

Of course, there are exceptions. Every once in a while I stumble across a bestseller that is really good. For instance, I bought 'Night Train to Lisbon' by the Swiss author Pascal Mercier when it was listed second or third. It's a wonderful and philosophical novel dealing with the authoritarian regime of António de Oliveira Salazar in Portugal between 1933 and 1968 as well as with the protagonist's search of his own self. Some time I might write a review about it, not now, though, because first I need to brush up on my Portuguese and re-read my original German edition without translations of the many and sometimes long Portuguese passages.

Usually the fact that a book is on a best-selling list is a good reason for me NOT to buy it. I prefer to wait and to let time sweep away the fleeting stars of the book market. If a bestseller is still being sold in the shops after some years, it's a sign for me that it might have certain qualities distinguishing it positively from other well promoted titles. As long as the book isn't shelved among chick lit or thrillers the odds aren't too bad that I'll find it worthwhile reading, but it's no guarantee. Sometimes those novels have the potential to move up to all time classics with the years, sometimes they take just a little longer to disappear from the market.

However, I'd never buy a book without having read the cover text and a few random lines in it! A review is a good indicator, too, although I rarely find one that I'd still support after having read the novel. A good reason to write my own reviews, isn't it? Each book of the 'Shades of Grey' trilogy miserably failed already in my very first check. Okay, you may argue now that E. L. James' novels haven't yet been on the market for long and you're right. Let's see if in ten years they will still be remembered... I'm quite sure that their titles will be banished from my mind pretty soon in favour of more important information and I don't deplore it.


  1. I feel exactly the same Edith. When I go to the bookstore, I see if any of my favorite authors have something new. The bestselling list is of no interest to me.

    1. Hello Conny! I had a feeling that I wouldn't be the only one not to care about best selling lists.


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