The long run at # 1 for LEAN IN by Sheryl Sandberg (2013, Knopf) has ended.
In today’s (7/27/2013) Wall Street Journal list of best-selling hardcover nonfiction books, LEAN IN has been unseated. At # 1 is a book by Phil Robertson with Mark Schlabach entitled HAPPY, HAPPY, HAPPY, published by Howard Books.
It was quite a ride for LEAN IN. We don’t have any figures on the number of books sold, nor the amount of revenue generated, but it is most likely at the top of both of these lists for nonfiction books in 2013.
Don’t forget that we can present a synopsis of LEAN IN for your organization. We have a 25-minute synopsis, followed by a 25-35 minute discussion period. You can contact us for details at: , or by calling at (972) 601-1537.
This is the time of the year that we see so many collective lists of the “best of 2010.” In the last few days, we have seen such lists for films, sports accomplishments, songs, architecture, recipes, restaurants, and of course, books.
I want to tell you that I am unimpressed with most of the lists that I have seen that focus on books. As with films, these book lists contain great confusion among quality and quantity. That premise is particularly true when the lists come from booksellers themselves, such as a recent e-mail I received from Barnes and Noble with their “Books of the Year.”
Just like a film, a book is not necessarily good because it sells. Popular, best-selling books are of no greater quality than are popular, high dollar-grossing films. Because people buy a book does not make it good. Nor do I consider it a good barometer for quality.
Consider the terrible film from the late ’70’s, the “Rocky Horror Picture Show.” That film grossed millions of dollars and played regularly in theatres on Friday and Saturday nights through the mid ’90’s. It had no redeeming merit and critics panned its quality. Yet, it had a cult-like following, and it played to packed audiences, mostly either inebriated or bored, for many years.
In the recent Barnes and Noble list, I saw one business book for the 2010 year. It was The Big Short by Michael Lewis. I saw no other business books. I believe that was a fine book, but not as good as his previous offering, Moneyball. Why was it on the list? Because it sold. The best books in that list are the best-sellers. But, best-selling does not indicate high quality. I can give you titles of at least a dozen other books this year that were of higher quality than that one, but that simply did not sell as well.
Please remember that we only summarize the content of best-selling books at our monthly First Friday Book Synopsis in Dallas. The number one criterion is that the book must be on a best-selling list somewhere that we find credible. These lists include Business Week, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and Amazon.com, among others. I will admit to you that after 13 years of doing this, I have delivered synopses of some books that sold well, but that were simply not very good. Some were not well-written, some were ill-researched, and some were best-sellers just because of the reputation of the author.
Regardless, we will continue to use best-sellers as our basis for book selection at the First Friday Book Synopsis. But, I am telling you that popular does not equate to good. And, there are likely some very good books that do not have the boost of marketing dollars from huge publishers that likely go overlooked. Strange as it sounds, it may not be optimal, but these lists remain the best vehicle available for us to use for our selections. Remember – popular may not be good. And, good may not always be popular.
What do you think? Let’s talk about it!
I’ve been feeling, and saying, that there is too much to know. The more we discover, the more data we accumulate, the more we are supposed to master — the more we have to know.
This weekend, I discovered that Guy Kawasaki tweeted Bob’s blog post about his, Kawasaki’s, terrific book. It was great to find out that Kawasaki tweeted about our blog on his Twitter account. But now, I feel like I have to follow Twitter as well as what is on blogs, and in the magazines, and in the newspapers, and in…. It really is information-buffet overload.
And it is ever more sliced and diced, even in the best-seller lists.
Consider this: in the current New York Times Hardcover Business Best Sellers list, Gladwell’s Outliers is still number one. (We presented Outliers at the January, 09 First Friday Book Synopsis, and here it is still number 1 eight months later. Amazing! But, it is that good.) By the way, Gladwell’s The Tipping Point is number one on the NY Times Paperback Business Best Sellers list, and it came out originally in 2000.
So how does a new book, without a “superstar” like Malcolm Gladwell or a Thomas Friedman as author, ever break though? One way is the Amazon.com way. They have created all sorts of categories and sub-categories, so that we can find the best-selling books in ever-more narrow slices of interest. Consider two upcoming selections for the First Friday Book Synopsis. Here is their current ranking (as of this writing — it is updated every hour on Amazon):
|Books > Business & Investing > Women & Business
|Books > Nonfiction > Women’s Studies
|Books > Nonfiction > Social Sciences > Gender Studies
|Books > Science > Technology > Innovations
Neither of these are in the top 20 in the simple “Business” category. (Yes, Outliers is #1 and 2; the Kindle version is #1, the Hardcover version is #2 – at the time of this writing). Yet, these books are worth reading, have received good and encouraging reviews, and because of Amazon’s creative best-selling listing, they can legitimately be called best-sellers — in “narrower” lists of best sellers.
We try to select good, substantive books that have a chance of making it to best-seller status for the First Friday Book Synopsis. These books fit – but partly because of the creativity found in the Amazon approach.