Monday, January 3, 2011

The Best-Selling Titles in The Library of America’s First Three Decades

Over the weekend, Roger Ebert noted on Twitter that The Library of America’s first collection of Philip K. Dick fiction, Four Novels of the 1960s, is the “best-selling” title in the LOA’s history. Indeed, two years ago, we had publicized that the volume had sold faster than any other title during its first year of publication, and it is currently in its sixth printing, with more than 50,000 copies sold.

But, because it was published just four years ago, the volume has a way to go before it becomes the Library of America’s all-time best-selling title. We’re asked frequently what have been the most popular volumes in our history, and we thought we’d start off the New Year by publishing our top-ten titles, based on the total number of copies sold through all channels (including retail stores, book club sales, and our mail-order subscription program):
  1. Thomas Jefferson: Writings [1984]                                   217,518
  2. Mark Twain: Mississippi Writings [1982]                         150,973 
  3. Abraham Lincoln: Speeches 1859–1865 [1989]                120,589
  4. Abraham Lincoln: Speeches 1832–1858 [1989]                118,284
  5. Walt Whitman: Poetry & Prose [1982]                             114,790
  6. Henry David Thoreau: A Week, Walden, etc. [1985]        114,367
  7. Debate on the Constitution: Part One [1993]                               112,273
  8. Ralph Waldo Emerson: Essays & Lectures [1983]            108,781
  9. Robert Frost: Poems, Plays, & Prose [1995]                      106,772
  10. Flannery O'Connor: Collected Works [1988]                   105,753
Philip K. Dick, still selling strong, is at #39 on the list. Other titles published during the last decade include The American Revolution [2001] at #24, H. P. Lovecraft: Tales [2005] at #31, and John Steinbeck: Novels 1942–1952 [2001] at #38.

All told, the 215 titles in the Library of America series total 222,020 pages (an average of 1,047 pages per volume), with over 8 million copies in print.

7 comments:

  1. This is fascinating! Thank you for sharing.

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  2. Very interesting! (Alas, no Irving . . . )

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  3. Yeah, hard to believe disreputable but persistently popular Poe didn't make the cut. Happy to see Uncle Walt right next to his beloved Captain though.

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  4. Disreputable Poe? Hahahahaha... Poor boy, poor little Poe...

    It's a very interesting list!!! And, in my opinion, it's a very very subject of meditation that 6 of 10 books of it are about politics or politicians. And, also, that the second best-selling tittle is of Twain. I'm from Barcelona (Spain) and, although Twain is a very popular writer here, I should'nt have expected that he was so popular (and sold!) in your Library. Fortunately there is Lovecraft in the list, at #31...

    Thank you for the list!!!

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  5. I'm amazed but thrilled to see a woman on the list. If I'd been asked to guess who that woman would be, I'd never have guessed Flannery O'Connor. Interesting.

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  6. Man, 215 volumes so far.... I've started collecting them a few months ago, buying them second hand with trade credit at a used bookstore I sell to alot, and I've only got 23 so far. They don't show up all that often, and the prices vary wildly. I picked up Twain's Innocents Abroad and Roughing It for $4 at the low end, and the Lincoln Anthology and Poe's Essays for $20 each at the high end. Some are jacketed, some are boxed, and many are neither, but however they come they're such well made books I love having them. If I had money, I'd certainly get them all.

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