Edward Weeks of the institute of Arts and Sciences of Columbia University has been digging in the grave of book publishing. After getting in good and deep he has come up for fresh air and announced a list of best sellers from 1875 to 1915. The latter date was decided upon because since then no one title has sold in excess of 500,000 copies.
When his findings were made public many authors suffered from severe pains in the abdominal region.
WHAT AMERICANS READ
Sixty-five fiction titles were listed by Mr. Weeks. The leader was “In His Steps,” Charles Monroe Shelton’s novel which told what the world would be like if everyone lived according to the exact teachings of Christ. This book, which was published in 1899, sold 8,000,000 copies. The list is brought to a close with W. Somerset Maugham’s “Of Human Bondage” which has done about 500,000.
In the opinion of this column only 12 of these 65 titles are worth reading today; the remainder are nothing more than the most insipid kind of drivel, pieces of “junk,” as they are called in the trade, such as “The Sheik” (500,000), “Freckles” (2,000,000), “The Winning of Barbara Worth” (1,500,000), “Tarzan of the Apes” (750,000), etc. Certainly such a record is an indictment against the reading intelligence of the country. Today this type of fiction does not sell as well only because its place has been taken by the confession type of magazine, the tabloid and moving pictures.
Of these best sellers the only ones which have any sale at present are Mark Twain’s works.
Vera Caspary, who was about to start work on a new novel, has given up the idea for the present. She accepted a Hollywood contract…. Mike Simmons, who once had ambitions to be a biographer, is back in New York after nine months in Hollywood. His stay here is limited to enough time to see the folks and sell a play.