All-Time Bestsellers

images.jpgHere’s a good exercise. Not counting books such as the Bible, what do you think the top ten best selling books are? We’re talking about books that have sold the most copies and ignore cover price, literary quality, or subliminal cover art.

Jeffrey Somers has posted the surprising statistics on About.com (Jeffrey is their Bestsellers expert).

I have listed the bestsellers below but you should read the original article on About.com for a much further discussion of each entry.

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Nineteenth Century Novels Are Classic

images-1.jpgThe novels of the 19th Century make up the core of what is considered classic literature in the western world. The novel as a genre had just been developed in the previous century and through the 19th Century the traditional form of the novel was developed by authors such as Jane Austen, Charlotte Brontë, Charles Dickens, and Emile Zola. In the next century the form is generally codified and then, as always happens when any form of art is defined and restricted, modern writers began to break the rules and in doing so, extend the definition of what is termed the novel.

Long ago, however, I learned that you can’t understand how the rules are broken unless you’re well versed in the rules themselves. Thus it is important to understand the novel as written in the 19th Century if you want to understand and enjoy the advancement of the form in the 20th Century.

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Resolve to Read the Classics

PenguinI opened up the armoire in my bedroom to disclose a television I almost never use. Many people tell me they lay in bed at night and watch television; however, as cosy as that sounds, this is a practice that reminds me too much of living in an SRO where the bed was actually the only piece of furniture in the room (and the toilet was down the hall). I guess you could say that lying in bed watching television reminds me too much of the bad times in my life.

Of course, being an avid reader, I seldom watch television even in the living room.

But the significance of opening the armoire was that I uncovered a huge repository of Penguin and Oxford Classics: new ones, old ones, thick ones, thin ones, translations, collections, a veritable library of canonical literature. But have you tried reading the tight print in the average 600 page Penguin edition? Luckily most of these texts are available online for free or for a small expense (but watch out for translations) so I have started packing them into bags to donate to the local book exchange.

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Should Reading Be a Pleasure?

classics It’s a old and tired controversy but an article from About.com started me thinking whether this question was more an evaluation of our society rather than a specific relationship between contemporary readers and their chosen texts. For the record, I have always contended that a person’s chosen reading material is highly subjective: you should read what you want to read. But the analogy is to food, eating, and nutrition: if you want to eat cream-filled sponge cake loaded with preservatives and lacking any food value, it is your fundamental right … but so is getting fat and having your teeth fall out.

So, following through with the analogy, are you happy because you enjoy the flavor of high fructose corn syrup or are you happy when you can bite into an apple and walk ten blocks to Otmar’s Iron Den (put another manhole cover on the lat machine).

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