March 28, 2005

Where the herd is . . .


Are bestseller lists good for the book business or bad? In her newest column, Cleveland Plain Dealer book editor Karen Long observes that “Some folk regard best-seller lists as quirky cultural thermometers. Others write them off as a sign of the Apocalypse.” She considers comments on the topic made by Sam Tanenhaus and Dennis Loy Johnson at the recent National Book Critics Circle gathering in New York. Long also observes that, no matter what the bestseller lists say, “a reader confined to best sellers would be impoverished, just as marooned as a listener stuck permanently on a Top-40 play list. It can be fun to see where the herd grazes, but the nourishment is bound to be thin.”

Dennis Johnson is the founder of MobyLives, and the co-founder and co-publisher of Melville House. Follow him on Twitter at @mobylives