Books of summers past

Books of summers past

Now that we are getting into the summer season, I thought it would be fun to look back at the best-selling books of previous summers for some  inspiration  about what to read at the beach (or, if you are like me, what to read while you desperately seek a shady shield from the solar radiation). 😉

It’s a little tough to just pull up a list like that, so I had to decide on an approach. What I’m doing is look at past New York Times bestseller lists, which you can find at

I’m going to jump back a decade at a time.

I’ll go with…books on the bestseller list on the first week of September which have been on the list for at least twelve weeks. That should really limit the numbers down, and suggest that the books have sold well all through out that summer (although sometimes the weeks aren’t consecutive). The available lists go back to the 1950s, so I’ll be stopping there.

If they are available in the USA Kindle store (that’s the one I can check easily) and text-to-speech access is not blocked*, I’ll link them here. If they are not available in the USA Kindle store (and I’m interested to see which ones those are), I’ll make note of that.

2003 (not available: 0%)

  • The Da Vinci Code (Dan Brown)
  • The Devil Wears Prada (Lauren Weisberger)
  • The Lovely Bones (Alice Sebold)


1993 (not available: 29%)


1983 (not available: 53%)


  • In Search of Excellence (Thomas J. Peters, Robert H. Waterman)
  • The One Minute Manager (Ken Blanchard) (not available)
  • Megatrends (John Naisbitt) (not available)
  • Creating Wealth (Robert G. Allen)
  • Jane Fonda’s Workout Book (Jane Fonda) (not available)
  • Blue Highways (William Least-Heat Moon)
  • Growing Up (Russell Baker)
  • The Last Lion (William Manchester)
  • Nothing Down (Robert G. Allen) (not available, although there are updated versions)
  • How to Live to Be 100 – Or More (George Burns) (not available)
  • Working Out (Charles Hix) (not available)
  • The F-Plan Diet (Audrey Eyton) (not available)

1973 (not available: 36%)


1963 (not available: 70%)


  • The Fire Next Time (James Baldwin) (not available)
  • I Owe Russia $1200 (Bob Hope) (not available)
  • The Whole Truth and Nothing But (Hedda Hopper) (not available)
  • The Day They Shook the Plum Tree (Arthur H. Lewis) (not available)
  • Happiness Is a Warm Puppy (Charles M. Shulz) (This is a Peanuts book…not sure why it was in nonfiction back then) (not available)
  • Travels with Charley (John Steinbeck)

1953 (not available: 63%)

  • Désirée (Annemarie Selinko)
  • Battle Cry (Leon Uris)
  • The High and the Mighty (Ernest K. Gann) (not available)
  • The Dark Angel (Mika Waltari) (not available)
  • The Silver Chalice (Thomas B. Costain)
  • Kingfishers Catch Fire (Rumer Godden) (not available)
  • In the Wet (Nevil Shute)


  • The Power of Positive Thinking (Norman Vincent Peale)
  • A House is Not a Home (Polly Adler) (not available)
  • How to Play Your Best Golf All the Time (Tommy Armour) (not available)
  • A Man Called Peter (Catherine Marshall) (not available)
  • The Silent World (Jacques Yves Cousteau and Frederic Dumas) (not available)
  • Annapurna (Maurice Herzog)
  • Holy Bible: Revised Standard Edition (I can’t tell which one this was)
  • The Rommel Papers (B.H. Liddell Hart) (not available)
  • North from Malaya (William O. Douglas) (not available)
  • Uncle Pogo So-So Stories (Walt Kelly) (not available…this is from the comic strip)

Well, this brought back some memories! For me, that’s not just of reading them, or owning them, but of selling them when I managed a brick and mortar bookstore.

I’m somewhat surprised at how many of them are available, although more will likely become available over time. It’s also interesting to me that nonfiction books seem much less likely to be available than fiction ones. In some cases, that may be due to the timeliness of the topic of the former, but I wonder if fiction generally has a longer sales life…which could help explain when nonfiction titles are priced higher than fiction ones. I always thought that was because they took longer to write, and might have a more limited market, and those certainly could be factors…but a shorter sales life does that, too.

One note on that Bible: the NYT list says that they don’t list “perennial sellers”, which I believe now keeps The Bible off the list, although they didn’t used to have that exception.


How about you? Did this make you nostalgic? Feel free to let me and my readers know by commenting on this post.

* A Kindle with text-to-speech can read any text downloaded to it…unless that access is blocked by the publisher inserting code into the file to prevent it. That’s why you can have the device read personal documents to you (I’ve done that). I believe that this sort of access blocking disproportionately disadvantages the disabled, although I also believe it is legal (provided that there is at least one accessible version of each e-book available, however, that one can require a certification of disability). For that reason, I don’t deliberately link to books which block TTS access here (although it may happen accidentally, particularly if the access is blocked after I’ve linked it). I do believe this is a personal decision, and there  are legitimate arguments for purchasing those books. In this particular post, I have listed the titles out of a desire to be historically complete, but have not provided links

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

3 Responses to “Books of summers past”

  1. scottishbookworm Says:

    Interesting, thanks!

  2. Tuxgirl Says:

    There is something to be said about the timeliness of non-fiction books, but in a lot of ways, I think that’s the amazing thing about the work project Gutenberg does. Sure, I’m not necessarily going to grab the 1918 version of the encyclopedia britannica when I want to find out about something, but there is an interesting side of knowing what previous generations *thought* about things.

    And, there are so many old non-fiction books that probably would be lost by now if it weren’t for their work digitizing the books.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Tuxgirl!

      Oh, I’m absolutely with you on that! I love reading old non-fiction, for precisely the reasons you list. Pop culture, like old issues of Variety, or even (and perhaps especially) advertising can really give you an insight into what people at least thought would appeal.

      I’ve praised Project Gutenberg many times here…they aren’t indiscriminate digitizers, but since they don’t need people to actually buy what they digitize to be able to continue doing it, they can make different choices than would a commercial concern.

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