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Wednesday, February 5, 2014

The Library of America’s Best-Selling Titles (2014 update)

As we did last year, below we present a list of the Library of America series “backlist titles” (i.e., volumes published prior to 2012) selling the most copies in 2013.

There are some noteworthy movements in this year’s list. Perhaps not surprisingly, the debut volume of the LOA edition of Kurt Vonnegut’s collected fiction tops the list in its first year of eligibility. An end-of-the-year Ben Stiller remake of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty more than tripled sales of the LOA James Thurber edition. Likewise, a screen adaptation of On the Road motivated readers to snap up the Kerouac volume containing the novel; its sales increased by over 30% in 2013. An encore broadcast in August of the American Masters program James Baldwin: The Price of the Ticket fueled a similar increase in sales of the collection of Baldwin’s essays.

Just as impressive was the 50% increase in sales for the Ulysses S. Grant volume, probably helped along by commemorations of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. Somewhat mysterious are the unexpected 30% increases in sales for such stalwart evergreens as John Muir and John Dos Passos's U.S.A.—not that we’re complaining. At #15, sales of the Dos Passos volume were virtually identical to those of Shirley Jackson and Walt Whitman, which also enjoyed modest lifts.

Following each entry are the year the volume was originally published and last year's ranking:
  1. Kurt Vonnegut: Novels & Stories 1963–1973 [2011, —]
  2. The Philip K. Dick Collection [three volumes, 2007–2009; ranked #1 last year]
  3. Flannery O'Connor: Collected Works [1988; #3]
  4. Jack Kerouac: Road Novels 1957–1960 [2007; #7]
  5. Raymond Carver: Collected Stories [2009; #4]
  6. H. P. Lovecraft: Tales [2005; #5] *
  7. Ulysses S. Grant: Memoirs & Selected Letters [1990; #14] *
  8. Alexis de Tocqueville: Democracy in America [2004; #6] *
  9. American Earth: Environmental Writing Since Thoreau [2008; #2]
  10. Dashiell Hammett: Complete Novels [1999; #8]
  11. John Muir: Nature Writings [1997; #13] *
  12. James Thurber: Writings and Drawings [1996; —] *
  13. James Baldwin: Collected Essays [1998; —]
  14. The Collected Plays of Tennessee Williams [two volumes, 2000; #11]
  15. John Dos Passos: U.S.A. [1988; —]
    (tie) Shirley Jackson: Novels & Stories [2010; —]
    (tie) Walt Whitman: Poetry & Prose [1982; —]
* Titles indicated by a red asterisk were available this past year as e-books, which contribute a relatively small—but rapidly growing—source of sales for LOA backlist titles. For a complete list of LOA e-books currently available, visit www.loa.org/ebooks.

* * *
This past year also marks a milestone of sorts: with the publication of volume #246 (Susan Sontag: Essays of the 1960s & 70s), the LOA series now contains over a quarter of a million pages.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you so much for this annual update, It is pleasing to see certain authors' work get new readership, regardless of the catalyst.
    Lovely to see Muir doing so well too.


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