From Adults to Teens and Everything In Between

From Adults to Teens and Everything In Between

Friday, August 27, 2010

Friday Review: Blast from the Past!

I thought it would be fun to take a look back in time at what were the most popular novels of ten, twenty, even fifty years ago.

Did you know, for example, that in 1963 the best selling book was The Shoes of the Fisherman by Morris L. West? If you happened to drop into your local bookseller’s back in 1991, you were most likely looking to pick up a copy of Scarlett by Alexandra Ripley. In 1979, everyone was clamoring for a copy of The Matarese Circle by Robert Ludlum.

What’s that? You say you’ve never heard of some of these books – let alone read them? As with any consumer-driven product, the world of literature is subject to trends. Just like fashion (bell bottoms or low rise jeans), hair do’s (the Farrah or the Dorothy) and color schemes (brown and gold or pink and green), what’s hot today will more than likely be cold as the arctic tomorrow.

Sure, vampires may be all the rage this year, but I kind of doubt there will be the same fervor for them ten, twenty or fifty years from now.  To predict the future, just look to the past.

Of course, there are the marvelous exceptions: The Grapes of Wrath, The Scarlet Letter, Pride and Prejudice – all the stuff that makes up the curriculum of Freshman Lit. These are the timeless classics and their messages translate well beyond their own eras. Sure, it’d be great to leave a legacy like that. But let’s face it – most of us would be thrilled simply to see our name on the cover of a book at the local Wal*Mart.

In the end, if vampires are your thing, then by all means, write about vampires. Otherwise, it would probably be prudent to follow this sage advice: write where your heart leads you.

Bestselling Books from
Ten, Twenty, Fifty Plus Years Ago
(How many of them have YOU read?)

1950 – The Cardinal by Henry Morton Robinson: This novel traces the development of one man's vocation from young Roman Catholic priest in New England through his elevation as cardinal in the early part of this century. Along the way, he faces many moral dilemmas and heartbreaks.

1960 – Advise and Consent by Allen Drury: A political novel which explores the Senate confirmation of a controversial figure.

1970 – Love Story by Erich Segal: Oliver Barrett IV is a rich jock from a stuffy WASP family on his way to a Harvard degree and a career in law. Jenny Cavilleri is a wisecracking, working-class beauty studying music at Radcliffe. Opposites in nearly every way, Oliver and Jenny immediately attract, sharing a love that defies everything ... yet will end too soon.

1980 – The Covenant by James A. Michener: Adventurers, scoundrels and missionaries. The best and worst of two continents carve an empire out of the vast wilderness that is to become South Africa. For hundreds of years, their rivalries and passions spill across the land. From the first Afrikaners to the powerful Zulu nation, and the missionaries who lived with both--all of them will influence and take part in the wars and politics that will change a nation forever.

1990 – The Plains of Passage by Jean M. Auel: The saga continues the cross-continental journey of Ayla, her mate Jondalar and their menagerie to his homeland. En route, they encounter a variety of problems, yet manage to find panaceas for each. Their enlightened compilation of skills, inventions, therapies and recipes transforms the voyagers into spirit-like personas providing The Others with constant awe.

2000 – The Brethren by John Grisham: Three former judges, doing time at a federal prison in Florida, concoct a lucrative mail scam that goes awry.


  1. What a great post! You did a lot of research, didn't you? I haven't read a single one of the bestsellers you listed, save for the "classics" in the middle of your post.

  2. Very entertaining, Beth! Loved it!


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