NYT Best SellersThe Week in Review section in the NYT had an article this morning on Wiesel's Nightbeing taken off the best seller list after a run of 80 weeks (new translation, I think) because it...

NYT Best Sellers

The Week in Review section in the NYT had an article this morning on Wiesel's Nightbeing taken off the best seller list after a run of 80 weeks (new translation, I think) because it is now "a modern classic," its strong sales a result of being on students' reading lists rather than being read by the general public. The writer then wondered what other "classics" are summarily dismissed from the Best Seller list for this reason.  Pride and Prejudice? To Kill a Mockingbird? Should there be, some wonder, a "best selling list" for the classics, which in many ways would reflect what is most assigned in English courses in high school and college, or should these "classics," even if they are read as a result of course assignments, be included on the NYT Best Seller list if in fact they merit that status (have sold lots and lots of copies). I would love to see a "best seller list" for the classics, and I wonder what we would find on it.  I have a feeling it would be many of the texts we discuss on enote, Lord of the Flies now seeming to be really popular.

What do you think we would find there?  And if the "classics" were included on the Best Seller list, what would happen to sales of the more recent publications (since sales are boosted by their status on the list)?  And would classics be read more often because their titles would receive all the publicity that the Best Seller List generates?

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Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I wonder if there's a way to somehow differentiate between what's selling only "today" and what's been selling over time.  Perhaps two lists.  The logistics escape me at the moment, but I'm confident it could be cone.  Would it?  I doubt it.  The purpose of such lists is typically not only to reflect sales but also to generate them.  To that extent, these lists may be more of an accurate reflection of what people are buying rather than what they're reading.

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I think this post exposes more about the publishing industry and their desire to sell books rather than any other altruistic motives from this quarter. I guess I am slightly torn between the two positions - on the one hand, I do think that "bestsellers" such as Night etc should remain bestsellers because they just are so good and everyone should be encouraged to read them. On the other hand I recognise that the policy of the NYT bestseller list allows other, newer titles to come to people's attention that would otherwise perhaps be ignored or forgotten. I suppose too, that when a novel like Night has topped the best seller list for so long, it does go on to be famous. On the other hand, in my opinion there are so many "bestsellers" which I have bought based on this title and have been supremely disappointed with, so some way of distinguishing what is pulp fodder from true classics would be very welcome!

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clane | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

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I liked this post because I have not often wondered about the best of the classics and what it is now that makes a book a classic or causes it to hit the approved list for reading. Personally I like most of the novels on the lists I have so I'm always just excited to be able to teach books I love. Part of the reason I love them is that I feel in love with these particular titles (Lord of the Flies, 1984, Animal Farm, Things Fall Apart, Fahrenheit 451, The Cay, The Old Man and the Sea, all the titles we see students reading on eNotes) is because I read them in school- it was what I was exposed to as far as literature and I was a sponge. I wonder how different my reading preferences would be if the novels we read in school changed. I did find a few interesting lists of "tops" when it came to literature that I thought I would share. They aren't serious lists like NY Times Best seller list, but they were fun to look at and had some interesting comments posted about them. You can add to them too. :)

http://www.listsofbests.com/list/17

http://www.listsofbests.com/list/2321 

I have an idea . . . why doesn't eNotes create a "top" list of literature- why do we have to wait for someone else to do it- we've all read some of these books before. :) 

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sagetrieb | College Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

Posted on

An article on the front page of the NYT (so now you know how I spend my Sundays) this morning about the crack down in Myanmar referred to 1984, showing just how relevant that book still is.  The journalist interviewed a protester:  "It's not peace you see here, it's silence, it's a forced silence," said a 46 year old writer who joined last month's protests...and was now on the run, carrying with him a worn copy of his favorite book, George Orwell's 1984." Perhaps one measure of a book's greatness is its relevance across cultures--and this also shows, sadly, that Orwell's fears still permeate.

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Jamie Wheeler | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted on

NYT Best Sellers

The Week in Review section in the NYT had an article this morning on Wiesel's Nightbeing taken off the best seller list after a run of 80 weeks (new translation, I think) because it is now "a modern classic," its strong sales a result of being on students' reading lists rather than being read by the general public. The writer then wondered what other "classics" are summarily dismissed from the Best Seller list for this reason.  Pride and Prejudice? To Kill a Mockingbird? Should there be, some wonder, a "best selling list" for the classics, which in many ways would reflect what is most assigned in English courses in high school and college, or should these "classics," even if they are read as a result of course assignments, be included on the NYT Best Seller list if in fact they merit that status (have sold lots and lots of copies). I would love to see a "best seller list" for the classics, and I wonder what we would find on it.  I have a feeling it would be many of the texts we discuss on enote, Lord of the Flies now seeming to be really popular.

What do you think we would find there?  And if the "classics" were included on the Best Seller list, what would happen to sales of the more recent publications (since sales are boosted by their status on the list)?  And would classics be read more often because their titles would receive all the publicity that the Best Seller List generates?

Good question.  I was looking up something just the other day and came across a "by decades" list of "number one" best-sellers.  I think I scanned three decades, 40s to 70s.  Of all the dozens of novels listed there, I had heard of precisely two of them and perhaps three of the authors. 

So what does writing a number one best-seller mean?  Isn't it far more important to achieve literary posterity than be a flash in the pan? 

Surely there is some list out there.  I hope someone knows.  I, too, am interested in why trends in teaching turn the way that they do.  Why is "Lord of the Flies" being taught so much?  And 1984 and The Most Dangerous Game?  Does it say something about our political/moral climate? 

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