Adult paperback books have traditionally been treated as two separate categories. “Mass market paperbacks” are usually rack sized pocket books that you see in the grocery and mass market outlets. They have been declining as a genre for many years now. Trade paperbacks are larger format books. You see them on the bookshelves and front tables of bookstores. This year there have been declines as well, probably attributable, as all else in publishing, to the growth of e-books. Here are the bestselling paperbacks for 2010 along with their estimated domestic sales for the year. I’m combining the two categories together for simplicity sake. Some of the books (Stieg Larsson, for instance) are in both trade and mass. I’ve lumped the sales together.
Adult paperback bestsellers
The Girl With the Dragoon Tattoo, Stieg Larsson, 6,114,964
The Girl Who Played With Fire, Stieg Larsson, 4,827,738
The Last Song, Nicholas Sparks, 2,784,275
Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert,2,153,835
The Lost Symbol, Dan Brown, 2,367,052
Ford County, John Grisham, 1,050,000
Little Bee, Chris Cleve, 1,045,000
Finger Lickin’ Fifteen, Janet Evanovich, 1,045,363
Pirate Latitude, Robert Crichton, 986,990
Breathless, Dean Koontz, 948,000
I, Alex Cross, James Patterson, 927,681
One Night, Debbie, McComber, 901,618
Happy Ever After, Nora Roberts, 900,000
Alex Cross’ Trial, James Patterson, 872,000
Live To Tell, Lisa Gardner, 872,000
A few things you might notice. What I find most surprising is that there is only one non-fiction book on the list, Eat, Pray, Love. Of course, it’s been on the list for years now. The second bestselling non-fiction book is Three Cups of Tea with sales of 450,000. It’s pretty far down the list (into the 50′s). And after that, The Blind Side: The Evolution of the Game by Michael Lewis, (408,323).
The one thing that is not surprising is the dominance of highly commercial brand name fiction. The same is true of the hardback bestsellers as well. If you go further down the list though, you will find books by such well-regarded literary figures as: Harper Lee (yes, To Kill a Mockingbird! #20!), Abraham Verghese, Charles Dickens (thanks, Oprah!), and Kazuo Ishiguro. Literary snoots no doubt will see this list as another example of the decline of literary values in the Internet age. They are probably right, but not because of this list. If you go back twenty years and look at the list, you aren’t likely to find The collected works of Thomas Mann either.