I’m a sucker for a book list–any book list. I’m always curious about what others find interesting enough to read. Best-seller lists tell me about what lots of people are interested in reading. That doesn’t mean I run out to buy the book, but rather that it gives me some ideas, when I talk to readers, what they might be reading. For lists that include “backlist” books, I’m always interested to find out how many of these books I’ve read, and the “holes” in the list give me ideas for things I might want to pick up some day.
AbeBooks, an Amazon company specializing in used, rare, and out of print books, came out with an interesting list recently that combines “book list” and “best-seller” list. It was their list of the 100 bestselling used books since 2000. The surprise for me was that at the top of the list was Stephen Covey’s The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. They had an interesting explanation of why this came in ahead of more significant literary works like To Kill a Mockingbird (number 2) or one of my favorites that I did buy at a used bookstore, East of Eden (at number 44). They said, “This is a book that many people want to read, but no one wants to keep.”
Actually, that is an interesting statement, because to some degree, this must be true of every book on this list, because these all are used books. For various reasons, the original purchasers didn’t want to keep them, but others want to read them. Truthfully, there are a number on the list I would agree to this being true: Khaled Hosseini’s books, The Five Languages of Love by Chapman, One Hundred Years of Solitude, to name a few. I’m glad I read them, but had no desire to read them again or have them hanging around.
There are some I’ve read that I wouldn’t part with (my heirs might or probably will however!): East of Eden, and anything by Hemingway would be on the list as well as C.S. Lewis and Tolkien. And there are some I’d never touch, including the recent novels of Stieg Larsson and Eat, Pray, Love. (Sorry if that offends anybody–books are like ice cream and everyone has their own taste).
Then there were some I would like to read or re-read someday. To Kill a Mockingbird and The Great Gatsby are up on myu list of re-reads. Believe it or not, I’ve never made it through Gone with the Wind and given my love of all things Civil War, I probably should some day. Freakonomics and The Tipping Point are on one of my TBR piles. I’ll probably re-sell them as soon as I read them (if I do).
One of the most interesting things this reflects is the whole world of used bookselling. The truth is that probably over two-thirds of the books I read are used, or from a used bookstore. The new books I get, I almost always buy at significant discount or get free. I think one of the commandments in my universe is “thou shalt not pay full price for a book”. This means that the person who wants to read a book but not keep it is one of my best friends!
So, are you curious how many of the books on the AbeBooks list are ones I’ve read? To make this fun, I will invite you to guess, and post the answer on Friday.