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Major Books That Weren't Bestsellers

30 Major Books That Weren't Bestsellers

What books sell well and what books go on to be important are far from the same thing. A history PhD student at the University of California, Berkeley, proved this point by compiling the bestselling books of the 20th century. He then called out those that are critically acclaimed and historically important, determined with help from the Modern Library and The American Intellectual Tradition, and very few titles made both lists.

One comparison of the two lists and it becomes very clear that some of the most famous, beloved, and respected books were not popular in their day. Here are 30 books that found fame late in life.

Read the rest below.


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Join The Conversation
RoaringSilence RoaringSilence 6 years
imLissy, here's an interesting quote that may explain why bestsellers are often not all that great: “A lot of the people who read a bestselling novel, for example, do not read much other fiction. By contrast, the audience for an obscure novel is largely composed of people who read a lot. That means the least popular books are judged by people who have the highest standards, while the most popular are judged by people who literally do not know any better. An American who read just one book this year was disproportionately likely to have read ‘The Lost Symbol’, by Dan Brown. He almost certainly liked it.” from The Economist
danakscully64 danakscully64 6 years
"Lord of the Flies, William Golding" That's because the book sucks.
imLissy imLissy 6 years
I don't read, but my friends who do, every time they read a bestseller, they complain about how bad it is. I think Stephley is correct.
RoaringSilence RoaringSilence 6 years
very interesting.
stephley stephley 6 years
I don't think this is a real big surprise. Best sellers tend to be books that are crowd pleasers, heavier on an immediate entertainment level - happy, scary or sad.
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