Of all the hardcover fiction published each year, only a few books have the popularity to make it to the bestsellers lists, and then to stay there longer than a couple of weeks. In 2010, notable long-lasting bestsellers included the last installment of Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, Kathryn Stockett’s The Help (currently being made into a movie ), and Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom. All hung out in the top 5 of the New York Times Bestsellers list for months in 2010 and are still topics of book discussions in 2011.
But those are the few. The majority of 2010 bestsellers were bought, read, and forgotten, further evidence that those consumers buying the most books today regard reading as pure escapism and entertainment-and books as a disposable medium. Many popular books debut at the #1 spot of the bestsellers list and fall quickly into the bargain bin.
Remember any of these #1 bestsellers from 2010?
Worst Case by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge – #1 on February 21, 2010
Patterson finds continued success in his brand of crime thrillers. His fans keep buying books with the James Patterson name on the cover regardless to what extent he’s actually involved with the writing process. Worst Case stayed at #1 for two weeks, but after three weeks, it was out of the top 5.
Fantasy In Death by J.D. Robb – #1 on March 14, 2010
Also successful in the romance genre, Nora Roberts assumes the pseudonym J.D. Robb to write a series of futuristic crime novels. This is the 30th title in her In Death series, and it was out of the top 5 after two weeks.
House Rules by Jodi Picoult – #1 on March 21, 2010
Picoult has found her niche in taking highly-charged issues and using them as the basis for her literary fiction. Still, her books are highly “commercial,” i.e., bestsellers, and she writes a new one about every year. House Rules, whose main character is an autistic boy accused of murder, managed to stay in the top 5 for five weeks.
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Caught by Harlan Coben – #1 on April 11, 2010
Another author of crime thrillers, Coben writes both series fiction and “stand-alones,” like this thriller about a missing girl that stayed in the top 5 for four weeks.
The Shadow of Your Smile by Mary Higgins Clark – #1 on May 2, 2010
Higgins Clark is an author with staying power. Her first suspense novel Where Are the Children? was published in 1975 and is still in print, according to her website . Yet Smile fell out of the top 5 after just one week at #1.
Dead In the Family by Charlaine Harris – #1 on May 23, 2010
The books in Harris’ Southern Vampire Series are the inspiration for the HBO television series True Blood and repeatedly debut at #1, like this latest in the series which stayed at #1 for two weeks, but fell out of the top 5 after the third week.
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61 Hours by Lee Child – #1 on June 6, 2010
Child’s thriller novel featuring main character Jack Reacher fell to #3 in its second week on the bestsellers list (with the debut of Larsson’s The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest at #1), and was out of the top 5 in the third week.
Sizzling Sixteen by Janet Evanovich – #1 on July 11, 2010
Evanovich’s 16th title in her comedic mystery series featuring bounty hunter Stephanie Plum kicked Glenn Beck’s TheOverton Window out of the #1 spot, but was out of the top 5 in three weeks.
Safe Haven by Nicholas Sparks – #1 on October 3, 2010
After knocking Franzen’s Freedom out of the #1 spot, Safe Haven stayed in the top 5 for five weeks, perhaps because of the popularity of Sparks’ previous novel, the 2009 #1 bestseller The Last Song, which was released as a movie in March 2010.
Port Mortuary by Patricia Cornwell – #1 on December 19, 2010
Cornwell has written 18 popular crime novels featuring Dr. Kay Scarpetta, including this latest which fell out of the top 5 after two weeks.
#1 status doesn’t last long for many bestselling books, but don’t feel sorry for these bestselling authors. Many of them had more than one appearance on the 2010 bestsellers list, including Nora Roberts and Lee Child. And James Patterson had no less than five bestselling titles in 2010. Readers may move on quickly to the next new fiction title, but they’re buying their favorite authors again and again.
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The New York Times Best Sellers January-December 2010. NYTimes.com