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The Best Seller List Has a Century Club with Limited Membership

LONG HAULERS On Nov. 4, 2014 — years before the pandemic, before people the world over had memorized the Greek alphabet as if by osmosis — Rupi Kaur published her debut poetry collection, “Milk and Honey.” The book is now in its 190th week on the paperback trade fiction list, one of fewer than a dozen nonseries titles that have been best sellers for more than 100 weeks.

“stay strong through your pain / grow flowers from it,” Kaur writes in an all-lowercase poem dedicated “to the reader.” It goes on, “bloom beautifully / dangerously / loudly / bloom softly / however you need / just bloom.”

Aside from evergreen encouragement, what books have the most staying power as top sellers? There’s no clear common denominator among the ones that remain on the list, week in and week out. We see the highest numbers where kids’ books are concerned, which won’t come as a surprise to anyone who is familiar with the intensely loyal reading habits of the younger generation. Its members tend to want to read the same book over and over, and they want to give it to their friend for her birthday, and maybe throw in a copy for a grandparent too. This type of word-of-mouth campaign may account for a 278-week run of R. J. Palacio’s “Wonder” on the middle grade hardcover list (the movie didn’t hurt either); or the 338-week domination of Adam Rubin’s “Dragon’s Love Tacos” in the picture book arena. Aside from “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” (667 weeks on the series list) and its neighbor, “Harry Potter” (666 weeks), these are among the longest-running tenants across all charts.

On the adult side, stalwarts tend to be of the nonfiction variety, with “Thinking, Fast and Slow,” by Daniel Kahneman, perambulating around the paperback list for 298 weeks. When Kahneman’s investigation of intuition was published in 2011, our reviewer described it as “lucid, profound, full of intellectual surprises and self-help value.” Our critic Dwight Garner wasn’t as enamored with the newest addition to the century club, “Killers of the Flower Moon,” which recently hit 100 weeks on the paperback list. When it came out in 2017, Garner wrote, “If you taught the artificial brains of supercomputers at IBM Research to write nonfiction prose, and if they got very good at it, they might compose a book like David Grann’s ‘Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI.’” However, he added, “This is not entirely a complaint.”

Circassia News

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