The ‘Times Book Review’ Blows Up the Best-Seller Lists

Courtesy of NYT

Crain's New York Business reports that the New York Times Book Review is expanding its best-seller lists, adding a page of new and expanded lists. Both Advice, How-To and Miscellaneous lists will be expanded from 5 books to 10. More dramatically, the Paperback Fiction list, once 15 books long, is being split into mass-market and trade, each of which will include 20 books. So instead of 15 paperback fiction best-sellers, the TBR will now include 40.

It's clear that this is an advertising-driven move; as Crain's points out, more best-seller lists mean more lucrative ad space next to best-seller lists, and more best-selling books mean more publishers buying ads to tout their best-sellers. But TBR editor Sam Tanenhaus points out that the addition of a trade paperback fiction list means that more books that are actually reviewed in the Times will appear on the best-seller lists. Meaning, of course, literary fiction, not that shameful mass-market pop-fiction crap that the American people keep insisting on buying in large quantities. Good for the Times for making a best-seller list that keeps the riffraff out! Did it work?

Sadly, it seems like Tanenhaus's quest to stock his shiny new best-seller list with litera-choor is still meeting with some difficulties. On this past weekend's Paperback Fiction list, 7 of the 15 listed books were trade paperbacks, and four of those linked to TBR reviews. On the new, improved Trade Paperback Fiction list due to be published this coming Sunday, only 10 of the 20 listed books link to TBR reviews; the rest, we guess, are pop fiction in literary-fiction clothes.

So, good news for Richard Powers; the prototypical Difficult Novelist places The Echo Maker at No. 20 and can finally say he's a New York Times best-selling author. But seriously: Two books by Nicholas Sparks? The Alchemist? Jennifer Weiner?!? What the hell are popular books like that doing on a best-seller list? Maybe the TBR should just split their lists into "Good Books" and "Crap Books" and be done with it!

'New York Times' revamps best seller lists [Crain's NY]
September 23, 2007 Paperback Trade Fiction Bestsellers [NYT]