In his entertaining history of bestseller lists, Making the List (Barnes & Noble Books, $20), Michael Korda opines that there's a certain sameness about the books that succeed. Look at business titles, and you'll see what he means. The 1906 food-industry expose The Jungle bears similarities to 2001's Fast Food Nation. The 1995 book Jesus, CEO, reappearing on the BusinessWeek list this month, echoes 1925's The Man Nobody Knows. 2001's Real Estate Riches brings to mind 1979's How to Become Financially Independent by Investing in Real Estate. And of course 1984's Iacocca set the pattern for fat-advance CEO memoirs followed by Donald Trump, Sam Walton, Sumner Redstone, and Jack Welch.
Korda also shows that although the lists have many "clunkers," there have always been plenty of "good books." And while brand-name writers tend to dominate more and more over time, the lists are still full of surprises.
By Karin Pekarchik