What's in a name?

Perhaps, a rose is a rose is a rose, but the same can't be said for bestsellers. By any other list, they'd sell as much ... or maybe less.

For all their fame, William Shakespeare and Gertrude Stein never made it onto The New York Times bestseller list. But some other writers who might not have earned a spot on the book industry's most coveted list may now have a better chance. On July 23, the Times plans to unveil their own children's bestseller list.

This is good news for children's book authors, but even better for the writers of adult fiction. They've finally done what evil Lord Voldemort couldn't: banish Harry Potter from their realm.

For more than 80 weeks, J.K. Rowling's books about a young wizard have been pushing adult novels off the Times list. (See a review of her latest on page 21.)

But, of course, there are other useful lists, and what constitutes a "bestseller" has always been something of a magic trick. A variety of newspapers, magazines, and Internet booksellers compile their own statistics, and they all differ in small, but interesting ways, e.g. the Los Angeles Times list is slightly hipper, Amazon's is slightly pulpier, The Village Voice's is slightly cooler. It all depends on what stores you survey, what categories you exclude, and how you crunch the numbers.

Since 1995, we've reprinted and annotated bestseller lists from Publishers Weekly because they provide as good an indication as any of what the country is reading. This week, we're switching to lists from Book Sense, a relatively new confederacy of America's independent bookstores. By virtue of this change, you won't be able to read about "The Wrinkle Cure," but Gary Wills's history of the papacy makes a fascinating substitute.

Ron Charles is the Monitor's book editor, charlesr@csps.com

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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