Years ago, a friend of mine and I had the idea to start a list of New York Times Bestsellers Through the Decades and read down the list. The list was meant to start from a decade back and move up to the present… 2016. Needless to say, we didn’t get very far, at all. The only one we did manage to read was The Martian by Andy Weir which, if I remember correctly, I did review on this blog when it was published. Not a huge fan, but it was popular enough to be made into a film so that made me think about bestsellers and how reflective they are of the time in which they are published. We’ve had Mars fever for a while, but only in recent years does it seem as though we’re getting close and closer to actually touching its surface with human beings. Mars is in the public conscious.
Also, think about it, Gone With the Wind was a hugely successful bestseller in 1936 followed by the equal success of its 1939 film, but would that get made today? Maybe, but the direction would certainly be different.
Here was our list:
2015 THE MARTIAN – Any Weir (READ)
2005 THE DA VINCI CODE – Dan Brown
1995 THE HORSE WHISPERER – Nicholas Evans
1985 LAKE WOBEGON DAYS – Garrison Keillor
1975 RAGTIME – E. L. Doctorow
1965 THE SOURCE – James Michener
1955 BONJOUR TRISTESSE – Francoise Sagan
1945 THE BLACK ROSE – Thomas B. Costain
1935 VEIN OF IRON – Ellen Glasgow
2016 (Let’s Bring it Home) THE BURIED GIANT – Kazuo Ishiguro
^ This list is the only reason I own a copy of The Da Vinci Code and The Horse Whisperer. Do people even talk about these books anymore? Remember what an absolute stir Dan Brown caused? Meanwhile, Gone With the Wind is still talked about in all its controversy. So, why do some of these books have staying power and some don’t? Surely, they were culturally relevant at some point. If you look at the list, some still ring a bell, others are almost completely forgotten to the modern reader.
I think I’d like to get back to the list and ask myself the same questions as I read. Honestly, though, I hate holding myself to a strict regiment – so I might just hop around. I’ll start with the books I already own, at least! Maybe I’ll add the decades missing. I think I’ll start with The Horse Whisperer. I’m dying to know what all the whispering is about, 1995 here I come!