Auto boutiques-francophones Simple and secure cloud storage Personal Care Pets Music Deals Store Fall Barbecue
Bestsellers: A Very Short Introduction and over one million other books are available for Amazon Kindle. Learn more
FREE Shipping on orders over CDN$ 25.
Only 2 left in stock (more on the way).
Ships from and sold by
Gift-wrap available.
has been added to your Cart
+ CDN$ 6.49 shipping
Used: Good | Details
Condition: Used: Good
Comment: **SHIPPED FROM UK** We believe you will be completely satisfied with our quick and reliable service. All orders are dispatched as swiftly as possible! Buy with confidence!
Have one to sell?
Flip to back Flip to front
Listen Playing... Paused   You're listening to a sample of the Audible audio edition.
Learn more
See all 3 images

Bestsellers: A Very Short Introduction Paperback – Nov 25 2007

See all 2 formats and editions Hide other formats and editions
Amazon Price
New from Used from
Kindle Edition
"Please retry"
"Please retry"
CDN$ 11.95
CDN$ 5.45 CDN$ 0.01

No Kindle device required. Download one of the Free Kindle apps to start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, and computer.

  • Apple
  • Android
  • Windows Phone
  • Android

To get the free app, enter your e-mail address or mobile phone number.

Product Details

Product Description


His amiable trawl through the history of popular books is frequently entertaining Scott Pack, The Times breezily entertaining Kevin Power, Irish Times (Dublin) Sutherland effectively challenges the assumption that a book's commercial success somehow invalidates either its author's integrity or the critical acumen of its readers. Instead we are offered a plausible vision of the blockbuster or the bodice-ripper as narrative in its purest form. Jonathan Keates, TLS

About the Author

John Sutherland is Emeritus Lord Northcliffe Professor of Modern English Literature at University College London, and Professor of Literature at Caltech. He has published many books, including, most recently, iSo You Think You Know Jane Austen?/i and iSo You Think You Know Thomas Hardy?/i, and has edited 15 volumes in the Oxford World's Classics series (most recently Lytton Strachey's iEminent Victorians/i). He writes and reviews widely, including in the iTLS/i and iLRB/i, and writes regular columns in the iGuardian/i, iFinancial Times/i, iNew Statesman/i, and iSunday Telegraph/i. In 2005, he was chair of the Man-Booker fiction prize committee.

Inside This Book

(Learn More)
Browse Sample Pages
Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
Search inside this book:

Customer Reviews

There are no customer reviews yet on
5 star
4 star
3 star
2 star
1 star

Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4 reviews
14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
Very limited scope, not a lot of insight Dec 1 2007
By A. J. Sutter - Published on
Format: Paperback
This book is below the standard of many other volumes in the VSI series, and also a bit shorter (116 pages of text). Early on there's an interesting compare and contrast of the US and UK "bestseller" markets. After some discussion of what is a bestseller, and the history of lists, the bulk of the book is a kind of gossipy recitation or series of capsule descriptions of the main bestselling novels in the US (Chap. 4) and the UK (Chap. 5) during the 20th Century. The focus throughout is on the content and genres of these books. There is a short Chap. 6, about 4 pp., about digitization and e-books.

Notwithstanding that this is a VSI and therefore of necessity concise, there are many unfortunate shortcomings of the approach taken here:

(i) no discussion of other countries' bestsellers, or even of the influence of Anglophone books on the bestseller lists in other EU countries, to say nothing of Japan, Latin America, etc.;

(ii) next to no discussion of the business aspects of bestsellerdom, including, among other topics: agents and advances, the relationship of bestsellers to the backlist, and media tie-ins and merchandising; and

(iii) no discussion of non-fiction. This last is puzzling: since the thesis of the book is that one can learn something about the preoccupations of an era by looking at its bestseling novels, one might think its best-selling non-fiction would be at least as transparent a gauge of the Zeitgeist. And some lines on the history of the self-help and business book genres, for example, would also have been reasonable to include in a book so titled.

All in all, this book might be of most interest to someone looking for a chatty bit of "cultural studies" fluff as a kind of sorbet course between more substantial books. If you're expecting a book about the publishing business, or even a more serious cultural analysis, you will probably be disappointed.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Here Today, Gone Tomorrow Dec 31 2008
By K. N. - Published on
Format: Paperback
John Sutherland's contribution to Oxford's VSI series is an informative condensation of major themes in the sociology of literature. It is not a comprehensive analysis of all bestselling genres (e.g., self-help books, popular history, etc.), nor is it exhaustive of all geographic areas (confining itself to the Anglo-American book markets). Nonetheless, Sutherland stays true to the VSI format (brevity and readability) and provides his readers with a pithy survey of major bestsellers and their social, literary, and cultural contexts.

While it is true that there are other studies that deal with the bestseller phenomenon more extensively (of which Sutherland cites a handful in his bibliography), this VSI book has the advantage of inviting lay readers to reflect on the origins and development of bestseller marketing over the course of the twentieth century. Drawing from his wide knowledge of bestselling titles in the U.S. and Britain, Sutherland offers numerous examples of books that happened to capture their historical moment perfectly, only to fade away once that moment had passed. Sutherland is careful to point out the importance of genre (especially with crime fiction and westerns), political ideology (see his discussion of Tom Clancy and John Grisham), and media tie-ins (with 1976's *The Omen* as the landmark screenplay-novelization tie-in) in establishing a book's bestseller status in a given time and place. The examples are brief, but by the end of Sutherland's survey one has a good impression of the various strategies authors, publishers, and advertisers have used to secure books' lucrative, albeit fleeting, place on the bestseller lists.

Again, there are other books out there that delve deeper into the bestseller phenomenon. Two titles Sutherland doesn't cite but that remain illuminating are Thomas Whiteside's *The Blockbuster Complex*, based on a series of articles he wrote for the *New Yorker* in the 1970s, and Andre Schiffrin's more recent *The Business of Books*. Still, Sutherland's VSI is a pleasant, accessible read, and one that brings lay readers into conversation with an enduring object of study in the sociology of literature.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Concise but informative Dec 20 2007
By Ronald H. Clark - Published on
Format: Paperback
This is a recent addition to Oxford's superb but inexpensive "Very Short Introduction" series, which tend to be handy to use, brief in duration, but packed with information (i.e., the perfect "plane book"). I have read other books on this subject, which largely focus on various past bestseller lists. The author here is attempting something more useful--to really explore the concept of what is a bestseller and what factors account for some books becoming bestsellers and others not. The author is British, so his focus is the U.S. and the UK, but he well explains how some common factors have impacted both countries. One of the more interesting findings is that due to the late agreement in the US to abide by British copyrights, many of the bestsellers in this country during the 19th century were cheap unauthorized reprints of British works. The author also discusses how the unique British marketing controls on books (essentially, no discounts; all sell at the same price) had an impact there. Separate chapters are devoted to American (with which the author is quite conversant) and British bestsellers. In the American chapter, the author suggests common factors which determined whether a book might be a bestseller, and establishes some analytical categories for this phenomenon. The text runs 113 pages, including some quite interesting and helpful illustrations, and also includes a short bibliograpy and index. The high production values associated with OUP are present here as well. While this book will never itself become a bestseller, it certainly provides an informative introduction to that topic.
Nothing interesting, really April 27 2015
By Scobin - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is mostly an enumerative, boring, unenlightening description of scores of bestselling books published in the US and the UK since the late 19th century until the 2000s. There's hardly a shred of any economic, sociological, or literary analysis here, and if you're desperate for plot summaries, you will likely find more comprehensive ones at Wikipedia (or, frankly, anywhere but here).

Some isolated remarks (like the one about 'bestsellers' vs. 'fastsellers') are interesting enough, the book is not a bad read, and Sutherland has done some information compiling which may be useful to readers interested in the history of publishing. Designed differently and delivered in a systematic manner—not as a series of unrelated anecdata—this could have been a decent reference book. Right now, it is nothing more than a disappointment.