Book Cover Book Cover Book Cover Book Cover Book Cover Book Cover Book Cover Book Cover

Some Thoughts On Bestseller Lists

A picture of '#1' on a white background

This is a bit of a rambling, musing, sort of post. I’m looking for your opinions really.

There are so many bestseller lists nowadays and each of varying merit – merit in some cases of course being a question of individual taste. Some seem trivial, especially when you see a book that you and, it seems, no one else, has heard of; on other occasions they are almost the be all end all.

In years gone by – by this I mean the ‘old’ days of book talk being the domain of newspapers and magazines – I used to take more note of lists than I do now (again it’s the sheer difference in quantity and the way they were more special when they were few and thus coveted). These days I rarely read a list unless it’s published on a newspaper website or it’s one a blogger has discussed and included in a post. More often than not, my association with lists is limited to the mention on the cover of a book.

This is all very judgemental of me so I’ll end this point here by saying that bestseller lists can affect my reading choices if I’m partial to the creator of the list or if I’m intrigued by a book but wouldn’t have chosen to read it if I hadn’t known it was so popular. It’s no use saying I don’t ascribe to hype; try as I can, hype will get to me on occasion and sometimes you just have to let it have its way.

So, a new point to get away from the judgement – I may read a bestseller based on its presence on a list however my reading most often depends on whether my fellow bloggers have enjoyed it. A bestseller list is a good place to start your choosing plan, but it’s devoid of the necessary notes on subject matter. The recommendation is mathematical, and words and a personal recommendation win every time.

With bestseller lists there’s that expectation that the book will be good, so you have to keep in mind that the hype might well be just that, hype, and that it might not be the book for you. A bestseller may have won many people over, but ‘many’ isn’t ‘everyone’. I think in many ways it’s harder to accept a book didn’t work for you if you chose it because of a bestseller list than it is if you picked it at random or read a few reviews. I think not liking a bestseller can often cause more confusion for the dissenter than it should (of course a hyped book that most agree isn’t really a good book – you know which I’m thinking of here – is different).

Similarly, a bestseller might simply be a bestseller because of hype, because of marketing spiel or a few choice words, not because people have read and loved it.

I always think it’s worth remembering that some lists aren’t as much of a recommendation as they might seem, that a book can easily make it onto a list if the author or publisher are there at the right time and place. I know that a book can technically be called a bestseller, as far as the cover copy is concerned, if it makes #1 during a few hours on Amazon.

I suppose what I’m saying is that bestseller lists can be good, they can be bad, they can be valid ways of choosing books, but you’ve got to remember that they’re not necessarily about the content.

What do you think of bestseller lists – do they affect your reading choices?


Literary Feline

March 20, 2015, 3:18 pm

The only influence any bestseller list has on me is in sometimes bringing my attention to a book I might be interested in reading. I don’t go out of my way to look for bestseller lists or read books off them.

I’ve always taken bestseller lists as being books that are selling the most amount of copies, not necessarily based on quality. I do enjoy reading some bestsellers, but it isn’t their status that makes me want to read them.

Jenny @ Reading the End

March 20, 2015, 11:20 pm

Bestseller lists affect my reading choices absolutely zero. I depend so much on bloggers and other online reviews (professional ones as well), and a lot of what ends up on bestsellers lists are the books that go in a series, or are by those authors who write the same sort of book over and over again (which, no judgment!). So I don’t even glance at them. It’s all bloggers for me.

Margaret @ BooksPlease

March 21, 2015, 12:16 pm

Bestseller lists don’t affect my reading – I just don’t look at them any more. And if a book gets a lot of hype it can put me off reading it for a while – eventually I may look at it though.

Thanks for clarifying that a book can be called a bestseller if it reaches #1for a few hours on Amazon – I’ve often wondered about the claims on the covers for some many books to be ‘the number 1 best seller’!


March 25, 2015, 1:56 am

Sometimes I read a book from a best seller list so I’ll have something to talk about with people I meet. Sometimes I have to do social things with college trustees, and best sellers can be a bridge to conversation with them.


March 26, 2015, 6:38 am

I like to see bookseller lists purely out of curiosity to see what’s new and out there. But since I started book blogging, I much prefer recommendations from book bloggers I trust.



Comments closed