Blogger: Michelle Ule
Location: Santa Rosa, California, home office
As I write, the number one New York Times best-seller in trade paperback books is Heaven is for Real,by Todd Burpo, who collaborated with someone I know: Lynn Vincent. It’s been on top since March, and in the most recent counting I’ve seen–August 3–it had sold more than 3 million copies.
This is only the most recent heaven-based story that has soared to the top of the charts–90 Minutes in Heaven (Revell, 2004) by Don Piper and Cecil Murphey also has sold millions of books.
Both collaborators, Lynn Vincent and Cec Murphey, are fine, experienced writers who know how to put together a good story and have written other best-selling books. So, is it the author or the subject matter that makes a best-seller?
Given the news from the last couple of years, it looks to me as if people are seeking something–reassurance, perhaps–that life is more than junk bonds, failing housing prices and war.
What better place can there be than heaven?
Another sleeper best seller came out in January: Ann Voskamp‘s: One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are (Zondervan). Voskamp’s book deals with gratitude and stopping to really look at life around you: she invites readers to push away from the grim aspects of a harried life and pause to thank God for the many blessings he pours out. Simple, easy, affirming, and something anyone can do.
Some books are always going to sell well: What to Expect When You’re Expecting, for example, or simple baby name books. But others are well-crafted for a certain time. Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin was famously declared by President Abraham Lincoln as having played a role in starting the Civil War. Every four years we get inundated with books written by prospective candidates.
Other books current on the list include The Help by Kathryn Stockett, a story of the Civil Rights era. The reader can root for the “winning” side. Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand is another feel-good story from an era during which right and wrong were easy to recognize. The same is true of Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay; we can always feel superior to the Nazis.
What do you think? In uncertain times, what types of stories might appeal to people? What do you think is behind all the heaven best-sellers? Can you think of common themes that always have appeal? What type of book would you like to read? What do you read when you need reassurance? Have you read any of the books in this post, and if so, what was your response to them?
Part 3 is here: Best Sellers: 2 authors weigh in
Part 5 is here: Best sellers: reading when life is tough.
Best selling books: authors or subject? Click to Tweet
Best sellers: a heavenly topic? Click to Tweet</em>