Best Sellers


Everyone has a different taste in books. Some like the thrill of solving a murder case while others like to believe that their letter to Hogwarts will come one day. Why are these certain genres of books more popular than others? What makes them appeal to the masses of people that it would rank itself at the top of the best sellers list of the New York Times? There are so much more types of genres out there that it might be difficult to know which is the best, but there are a few genres that just pop out at people.

Books are gateways to new worlds, past worlds, future worlds. What makes these kinds of books more popular than others? I will be analyzing the years since I was born to current day to see the changes of best selling genres  and explain why the current best selling genre is the best selling.

The most popular best selling listers would be New York Times and Publishers Weekly. The New York Times and Publishers Weekly book rankings are based on weekly sales reports obtained from samples of bookstores and wholesalers throughout the United States. Starting from when I was born, 1996, to current day, I’ll be choosing certain years that created quite a buzz in the best sellers listing in the book industry. I’ll be analyzing them in increments of a few years to keep it simpler to understand the changes happening.

In 1996, Primary Colors from New York Times and The Runaway Jury from Publishers Weekly were the best sellers for the year. Primary Colors originally by Anonymous and later found to be Joe Klein was a political work of fiction which described real events during Bill Clinton’s first presidential campaign in 1992 while The Runaway Jury by John Grisham is part of his legal thriller series. In 1997, Cold Mountain from New York Times and The Partner from Publishers Weekly were the best sellers for the year. Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier is an American Civil War story similar to Homer’s The Odyssey while The Partner by John Grisham is another one of his legal thriller series. In 1999, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban from New York Times and The Testament from Publishers Weekly were best sellers for the year. Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling is self-explanatory while The Testament by John Grisham is another one of his legal thriller series. The characteristics of the 1996 year is the most interesting because politics are usually not good topics for books but Primary Colors pulled in politics and then great man Clinton to make a best seller. The others like Cold Mountain, love story, and Harry Potter, fantasy, had characteristics of a top charter but Grisham destroyed them all by consecutively beating them to gain the first position.

In 2001, Desecration topped New York Times and Publishers Weekly as the best seller of the year. Desecration by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins is part of the Left Behind series that pertains to Christianity and the post-apocalyptic world. In 2003, Blow Fly from New York Times and Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix from Publishers Weekly were the best sellers of the year. Blow Fly by Patricia Cornwell is part of the Dr. Kay Scarpetta crime series while Harry Potter is fantasy by J.K. Rowling. In 2004, The Last Juror from New York Times and The Da Vinci Code from Publishers Weekly were the best sellers of the year. The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown is a mystery, detective, conspiracy thriller. The turn of the century introduced new best selling genres like an apocalyptic setting for Desecration, which combined science fiction and religion that gave it a wider range of readers and conspiracy readings like The Da Vinci Code.

In 2007, A Thousand Splendid Suns from New York Times and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows from Publishers Weekly were the best sellers of the year. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini is a follow up to his best selling book The Kite Runner. In 2009, The Lost Symbol topped New York Times and Publishers Weekly as the best seller of the year. The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown is a follow up to his The Da Vinci Code. In 2010, The Help from New York Times and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest from Publishers Weekly were the best sellers of the year. The Help by Kathryn Stockett is about African-American maids working in Jackson, Mississippi while The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest by Stieg Larsson is a crime, mystery, and thriller. There were lots of follow up books that topped the charts like A Thousand Splendid Suns and The Lost Symbol, which shows that these books have a steady fan base that leads to consistent buying of the books. The Help was a huge success and even went to the big screens like Harry Potter because of its unique story telling perspective and style. In 2012, 50 Shades of Grey from New York and Publishers Weekly was the best seller of the year. 50 Shades of Grey by E.L. James is an erotic romance novel. In 2013, Safe Haven from New York Times and Publishers Weekly was the best seller of the year.  50 Shades of Grey and Sparks’ novels have something in common. Similar genre choice of romance and that both will soon be on the big screen.

As the years go from 1996, the style of books that are topping the charts have dramatically changed. Grisham was a chart topper and couldn’t be stopped. He had multiple best sellers and his competitors, not much to start with, couldn’t compare. Then we hit the 2000s mark. This century showed a much wider variety of fiction chart toppers. We have Christianity, conspiracy, thriller, mystery, fantasy, apocalyptic. In the past, there were barely 5 authors who made it on the best selling list but now there are more than 30. This made it harder for Grisham to keep up with all the new competition. Now, we hit the infamous 50 Shades of Grey. This rocked the book industry. This created a sort of panic, morally. There were people who read erotica?! Of course, but they did it in the comfort of their home, online where nobody can see. This book is difficult to buy in stores because of all the judgmental eyes, but what if you could buy them without anyone knowing? This gives life to a new, illustrious book industry.

The top 5 genres list from bottom to top is horror with $79.6 million, science fiction and fantasy with $590.2 million, religious/ inspirational with $720 million, crime/mystery with $728.2 million, and romance/erotica with $1.44 billion.

Let’s start with the horror genre. Horror is a genre that someone has to have the taste for. Most people would be too scared to even read the book, which makes the distribution of this genre much narrower than some of the more popular ones. This is why it breaks the top 5 but not any further. In the horror genre, we have leaders like Stephen King and Dean Koontz who are most known for The Shining and Odd Thomas, respectively.

Science fiction and fantasy is a much better known genre. Mostly, because of huge hits in the genre like the Harry Potter series and the current Hunger Games. This genre section has a huge boost compared to the last genre, horror, because of the many movie adaptations that can come out of it. Harry Potter movies were sold out while the Hunger Games are currently in progress to make the last movie of its trilogy. This category contains fantasy that breaks away from reality that readers enjoy and want to delve into. It is so popular that there is a Disney Universal Studios Harry Potter World. Authors like J.K. Rowling and Suzanne Collins fall into the newly made category of Young Adult fiction, YA. It’s ranked higher than horror but can’t beat the next category in number of books sold.

The next ultimate bestseller in religious works is the bible. Its topping record lists across the globe as the longest-standing, most-translated and widest-distributed book in the world. There are other authors that contribute to this genre that help keep this a booming industry. It beat fantasy/fiction and even horror but the crime has been on Earth since the beginning of time and what better thing to do than write about it.

Another biggie of the book industry is crime and mystery. This genre is similar to science fiction and fantasy. It lets the reader become the Watson to the Sherlock. This intrigues people because it lets them figure out whom the culprit might be depending on how the story is told. Another pull for the crime and mystery genre is to let people inside the minds of murderers, something forbidden but intriguing. Huge names in this industry are John Grisham and Stieg Larsson who are most known for The King of Torts and the Dragon Tattoo series, respectively. In the case of Larsson however, he is deceased so the publishers have hired a ghostwriter to take over and extend his stories to entertain the masses of readers and create more money. This genre may have ranked first before but this new genre giant has taken the book industry by its root.

The biggest industry for books is the romance and erotica genre. The main reason for romance and erotica to top the list for best selling genre would be the increasing use of e-books. This lets the readers stay anonymous of sorts and avoid the awkward looks of the cashier. The huge best selling charter that everyone knows about is 50 Shades of Grey50 Shades of Grey is a trilogy set by E.L. James. Currently she is worth $60 million from just these three books in her world famous trilogy. That is only 4.2% of the entire romance and erotica genre earnings. You can buy 13 Lamborghinis, which is the most expensive car in the world currently, each at the price of $4.5 million. If you don’t understand how much $60 million is yet then I can try to put it in layman’s terms. Let’s just say that you are a huge fan of a fast food restaurant like Zaxby’s. You always get one certain meal just about $7. You can go 7,827 times, which is about 21 years you can eat Zaxby’s for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, before your $60 million is up. But this is chump change when compared to bigger players in the same industry. Danielle Steel has a net worth of $610 million. She takes up a whopping 42.4% of the entire romance and erotica genre earnings! She can buy 135 of the same type of Lamborghini and have Zaxby’s for breakfast, lunch, and dinner for 218 years! This number talk gives a visual to how much a best selling genre can make. Even though it’s a new best selling genre, it can make this much and more in the future. A very important idea to know is that romance and erotica genre is a recently turned popular genre. The biggest reason would be the ability to purchase books with a click of a button on your kindle or nook without having the awkward eye contact between the cashier and you. This anonymity has started the revolution to e-book. This e-book era has started.


Best sellers have changed from one of crime with Grisham to one of romance with E.L. James. There have also been an increase in number of books on chart toppers because of the increase in new authors ready to put their names on the best selling author list. This leads us to wonder about the best selling genre. The current best selling genre has been influential in a movement from paper to electronic. The erotica/romance genre has opened and fully utilized the e-book because it gives the reader anonymity. This is the most important reason for the change from paper to electronic.

Works Cited

Stewart, Thomas. “Which 5 Book Genres Make The Most Money?” TheRichest The Worlds Most Entertaining Site Which 5 Book Genres Make The Most Money Comments. N.p., 31 Jan. 2014. Web. 23 Oct. 2014.

Haq, Husna. “What Books Sell Best? Self-help, Kid Lit, and Erotica.” The Christian Science Monitor. The Christian Science Monitor, 1 Nov. 2013. Web. 23 Oct. 2014.

“Publishers Weekly List of Bestselling Novels in the United States in the 2010s.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 30 June 2014. Web. 23 Oct. 2014.

“New York Times Best Seller Number Ones ListingFiction By Date.” New York Times Best Seller Number Ones Listing. Hawes Publications, 23 Oct. 2014. Web. 23 Oct. 2014.

“The New York Times Fiction Best Sellers of 2007.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 11 Jan. 2014. Web. 23 Oct. 2014.



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