Dan Brown tops Christmas bestseller lists worldwide
Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol has edged out The Guinness Book of World Records to become the No. 1 Christmas best seller in England, a victory for fiction at a time when nonfiction was expected to rule.
So a lot of British readers will find Dan Brown under the Christmas tree. Me? I’ve been wrapping up China Mieville’s extraordinary The City and the City, and, a late discovery, Dave Zeltzerman’s audacious comic crime novel Pariah, for those on my gift list. What books are you giving for Christmas?
I say the surprise victory for fiction is good news, even if the fiction in question is an undemanding potboiler. Not that there’s anything wrong with nonfiction, but it’s refreshing, in this age of reality television, celebrity memoirs and 24-hour news channels, any time the public shows a taste for the novel, which, after all, has been the flagship of Western culture for the past 300 years or so.
“This year there is very definitely a much stronger end-of-year Christmas fiction market,” André Breedt at Nielsen BookScan told the Guardian. “The autobiography and biography market overall peaked in 2007, and ever since then it has been slowing down.”
I can’t find a similar story on U.S. sales, but The Lost Symbol tops the fiction best seller lists at The New York Times and Publishers Weekly, both of which had it at No. 2 last week. USA Today, which doesn’t separate fiction from nonfiction or hardcover from paperback, has Sarah Palin’s political memoir, Going Rogue at No. 1, followed by New Moon, the paperback reprint of Stephanie Meyer’s teen vampire phenom, at No. 2.
“To be Christmas number one is very exciting indeed,” Alison Barrow, of Transworld, Brown’s British publisher, told the Independent.
“People shopping this week and last are the people who are looking for a safe bet, and Dan Brown is a safe bet,” said John Howells, a spokesman for Britain’s leading bookstore, Waterstone’s, in the Guardian.
The British combined list tilts heavily toward fiction, with two Stephanie Meyers books, a new novel by Jodi Picoult and the late Stieg Larrson’s first thriller, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo making the top ten “ahead of a host of celebrity autobiographies.”
To find anything like literary fiction on any of the lists, you have to go all the way to No. 11 in The New York Times, where Barbara Kingsolvers The Lacuna holds steady. USA Today lists Alice Sebold’s 2002 novel The Lovely Bones at No 20, doubtless boosted by the new movie version. PW also has The Lacuna at No. 11.
But it’s the most wonderful time of the year, so I say a rising tide lifts all boats, the glass is half full, and what the heck, life’s a box of chocolates.
If Sue Grafton, Stephen King, James Patterson, Laurel K. Hamilton, Michael Crichton, Glen Beck, Nicholas Sparks and John Grisham, all with books in The Times fiction top 10, are selling a ton of books this holiday season, then maybe, just maybe, Paul Auster, Dan Choan, Daniyal Mueenuddin, China Mieville, Colum McCann, Hilary Mantel and the other authors of the year’s best literary fiction are selling at least a pound here and there.
You may say that I’m a dreamer. But I’m not the only one.