Unfortunately, not many wanted to participate, the exception being ``Good Morning America’’ co-host, George Stephanopoulos ,who is reading ``Hitch 22’’ a memoir by Chris Hitchens; while Margaret Carlson, columnist for Bloomberg News, tells me her practice is to start dipping into a selection of books before choosing one worthy of carrying with her. ``So far’’, Carlson tells me, ``I'm taking The ``Imperfectionist’’ [by Tom Rachman]; `Solar’’ by Ian McEwan(the first 50 pages are hilarious), and ``Little Bee’’ by Chris Cleave, about a British fashion editor who crosses paths with a Nigerian émigré.’’
Carlson also informs me she doesn’t read much non-fiction, the exceptions this summer, are ``The Promise: President Obama, Year One’’ by Jonathan Alter, ``Game Change’’ by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin, and Mika Brezinski's ``All Things at Once.’’
So as we continue to peruse book reviews and prepare are reading lists, I thought this might be the perfect time to look back on books from some historic bestseller lists through the years.
• On October 10, 1896: The New York Times publishes the first issue of The Saturday Book Review Supplement.
• In 1897, Publishers Weekly reports that 5,703 new books and new editions were published that year.
• In 1900, Sigmund Freud published Die Traumdeutung (The Interpretation of Dreams) in German.
• On June 27, 1920, The New York Times Magazine and the Book Review merged. The alliance would only last for two years.
• 1920: Edith Wharton’s novel, ``The Age of Innocence’’ is released.
• 1921: The first children’s book column appears in The New York Times Book Review.
• James Joyce’s novel ``Ulysses’’ was published in Paris in 1922. It was banned in America beginning on February 21, 1921 until 1933.
• 1923: Ernest Hemingway attends his first bullfight.
• 1930: Sinclair Lewis becomes the first American to win the Nobel Prize in Literature.
• On August 9, 1942: The New York Times begins to publish a Best-Seller’s list.
• On top of the Bestseller’s list in 1958 was Boris Pasternak’s ``Doctor Zhivago’’, a novel by a Soviet poet who survived Stalin’s purges. The book had to be smuggled out of the Soviet Union; and later Pasternak was forced to turn down the Nobel Prize as well as forgo any royalties earned from the book.
• On May 3, 1959, The New York Times reviews D.H. Lawrence’s ``Lady Chatterley’s Lover’’, a book that was privately published in Italy in 1928 and banned in the United States.
• After November, 1960, paperback editions become more popular. James Baldwin’s ``Giovanni’s Room’’ about an American living in Paris (originally published in hardback in 1957) became a bestseller in a 1960 re-issued paperback edition.
• The 1962 Cuban missile crisis helped sales of `the novel ```Seven Days in May’’ in that year, a spy thrilling novel by Fletcher Knebel and Charles W. Bailey about overzealous military generals prepared to launch pre-emptive strikes on the Soviet Union.
• Biologist Rachel Carson’s ``Silent Spring’’ published in 1962 was instrumental in reforming the agriculture industry and launching the environmental movement. Carson’s book was also significant in setting off a wave of`` whistle-blowing’’ books, including Ralph Nader’s 1965 book, ``Unsafe at Any Speed’’ and his attack on the automobile industry.
• 1963: The New York Review of Books begins publishing.
• Betty Friedan’s ``The Feminine Mystique’’ is published in 1963, a seminal book considered by many which inspired the women’s movement. In the book, Friedan wrote that ``American women were trapped in the concentration camp of suburbia,’’
• Prompted largely by the rise in fast-food eating and its excess fat, with the first Kentucky Fried Chicken outlet opening in 1957, Pizza Hut in 1958, an American housewife, Jean Nidetch, organizes the first Weight Watchers’ meeting in 1963; and in 1968 publishes, `the `Weight Watcher’s Cook Book’’, which became an instant bestseller. Nidetch’s pioneering book would spark a string of weight loss books, including: ``The Scarsdale Diet ‘’(1978); ``The Pritkin Diet’’ (1979); and ``The Cambridge Diet’’ (1981).
• In 1969, Mario Puzo’s ``The Godfather’’ shot to the top of the bestseller’s list, becoming the fastest bestseller at the time; so that by the time Francis Ford Coppola’s 1971 film starring Marlon Brando hit the screen, the novel’s publishers worldwide sales had climbed to over $15 million.
• In 1970, Erich Segal’s ``Love Story’’’, a novel which coined the popular line: ``Love means never having to say you’re sorry’’ sold more than 10 million copies over the decade; while the hardback edition was reprinted twenty times in its first year of publication.
• Jim Bouton’s controversial ```Ball Four’’ was published in 1970; setting off a new publishing craze of tell-all books.
• During the summer of 1974, Peter Benchley’s ``Jaws’’ and its Bantam paperback edition sold more than six million copies in as many months. 10 million or one in ten Americans had purchased a copy of ``Jaws’’ by 1976.
• In 1976, Alex Haley publishes ``Roots: The Saga of an American Family’’ which sold over 1 ½ million copies in its first six months. ABC turned the bestselling novel into a mini-series, attracting a record 130 million viewers. Haley was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for the book.
• In 1987, Tom Wolfe’s ``The Bonfire of the Vanities’’ topped bestseller lists throughout the U.S.
• The United States first real No. 1 Science fiction bestseller was Michael Crichton’s ``Jurassic Park’’ published in 1989.
• On February 4, 1989, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issues a death threat to author Salman Rushdie for writing, `` The Satanic Verses.’’
• On June 6, 1993, in its Summer Reading issue, The New York Times Book Review publishes in color for the first time.
• On December 27, 1998, the first of seven books in the Harry Potter series, by J. K. Rowling `` appears on The New York Times hardcover bestseller’s list. All seven books sold 375 million copies worldwide and were translated into 65 languages. The final book in the series published in 2007, ``Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,” sold 8.3 million copies within the first 24 hours
• According to the National Endowment for the Arts, literary reading among adults has increased at a seven percent rate between 2002 and 2008.
• In 2008, nearly half (47.0 percent) of all adults read fiction; while reading poetry and drama continues to decline.
• Young adults (18-24) read books at a slightly lower rate than older adults; although the same demographic read more online than older Americans.
• The highest reading population is ages 55-64, at 58.4 percent, followed by ages 35-44 at 56.2 percent.
• In 2008, nearly 15 percent of all U.S. adults read literature online.
• 54.3 percent of adults read any book; 50.2 percent read literature.
• Fiction (novels and short stories) accounts for the new growth in adult literary readers.
Source: ``Books of the Century: A Hundred Years of Authors, Ideas and Literature’’ from The New York Times (Random House); ``Reading the Decades: Fifty Years of the Nation’s Bestselling Book’’ By John Sutherland (BBC); ``Reading on the Rise’’ (2008 report) from the National Endowment for the Arts.
Web sites to keep in mind: