What do Coleen Hoover, Dr Julie Smith and Jamie Oliver have in common? Answer: along with Richard Osman, they were some of the bestselling authors in the UK last year. Books, I must admit, I have not read but which inspired me to examine the staggering world of bestselling books.
Now every schoolboy knows that the Bible
is the best seller of all time. Five billion copies and still counting. The Qur'an
has sold 800 million and the Book of Mormon
190 million. But Chairman Mao's Little Red Book
has estimates ranging from 800 million to 6.5 billion, which would dislodge the Bible
from its perch. So books of a religious, philosophical, ideological and political nature are usually excluded from bestseller lists because they are published over centuries by all kinds of publishers, whose records may not be, as it were, reliable.
We are still left with some surprises. William Shakespeare has sold up to four billion copies of his 42 works equalled by Agatha Christie from her 85 books. Then, Heaven preserve us, Barbara Cartland and Danielle Steele have sold up to 800 million each, with the former penning 723 books and the latter 179. Hot on their high heels, thankfully, come Harold Robbins, whose 23 books have sold 750 million copies and the Belgian phenomenon, Georges Simenon, whose 570 books sold 750 million. (He dismissed his Maigret
detective stories as potboilers, by the way.) Our blessed Enid Blyton amassed 600 million sales from 800, yes 800, books.
So where are the great writers? Tolstoy has sold 400 million. Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities
alone has hit 200 million. Conan Doyle has managed 100 million. And who gets translated? The Bible
has 3,384 known versions followed happily by Saint-Exupéry's Little Prince,
available in 500 languages. Splendidly, you can buy Alice in Wonderland
, or Winnie the Pooh
in more than 150 different tongues.
One final conundrum. In the genre of detective fiction, who is better known: detective or author? Rebus or Rankin, Holmes or Conan Doyle, Lord Peter Wimsey or Dorothy L Sayers, Albert Campion or Margery Allingham, The Saint or Leslie Charteris?
Phew! Made it through another festive season and into a new year. Survived, more or less intact, thanks in no small part to keeping the head below the parapet and ensuring that the wee swamp would be adequately stocked. Sanctuary, in retreat from the noise, at some distance away from the bludgeoning effect of relentless commercialism reminding us, lest we forget in between ad breaks, that more is never enough. That being said, the telly ads can sometimes be a welcome relief from the news, which I noticed recently on one news channel was presented as a 'show'. Performance is all, it seems, but 'rolling' doesn't quite fit the bill when the lunchtime channels simply revisit items that were aired on the late evening radio programme the previous day – and often with the same script/reporter/expert-working-from-home. 'Welcome to the show. Good to have you with us.' 'Thank you for having me.'
It's difficult to understand why broadcasters think this is a good idea, unlikely to deter listeners/viewers from switching on. Might it all be part of a plan, a crafty scheme, a conspiracy dreamed up by the shouty people in politics and the press to lull us into such a state of abject boredom that we stop paying attention to everything that is going on, and everything else that has ground to a standstill? But we mustn't switch off, as that has a bearing on the ratings. You may be lying belly-up, snuggling gently on the sofa bought online at a sale, but as long as you are not switched off, your connectivity counts.
The elected shouties, nowadays clearly devoid of talent, vision,or the ability to do a decent day's work, could then do exactly as they please, or do nothing at all, while the media shouties could say what they like without bothering to be interesting, or able to speak clearly, or even factually accurate. No need to make it up when it's done by the professionals in exchange for rather handsome salaries. (I was about to write 'earnings' but that doesn't seem quite right.)
Meanwhile ,there are more sales, credit scoring, a savings club with store cards for Christmas 2023, buy now pay later opportunities with APR at only 39.9%, all life online and heading towards increasing AI dependency. Not forgetting another round of royal ructions, generating an avalanche of what passes for informed opinion.
Oh really? Is that all there is?
Well, no. Here, within the ancient sturdy walls, the residents are still capable of independent thought; still awake to the pleasure and promise of many things which do not require a digital connection; still alert to the chittering of small birds as they sweep and dive into the food tray, scattering the seeds with complete abandon. Elsewhere, a hellebore is already in flower, and although that passeth my understanding of the seasons and their relationship to gardening, its presence amongst much other soggy, blackened foliage inspires the thought that, in good time, the first snowdrops will appear.
Meanwhile, the other resident is cosy beside her teddy on her cushion, snug and fast asleep. Nothing artificial about the intelligence there, knowing full well that the hand that feeds will be in attendance in due course. Content. Emphasis on the second syllable please.
All well thus far in the new year. Phew!
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