The bestseller lists are one thing, but how about the most popular books that you can’t so readily buy? Bookfinder compiles an annual list of the most sought-after out-of-print books, based on the past 12 months of searches on its site. This year’s list is topped by Madonna’s coffee-table book “Sex,” a “nearly perennial” #1, according to the site report, but also included some interesting newcomers.
The report called out three new additions to the most-wanted list. At #50 was “Tudor Roses” by Alice Starmore, “a superstar in the knitting world,” featuring “sweater designs inspired by the Tudor royals (e.g. Henry VIII and Elizabeth I)”. The new #74, “The Reluctant King” by Sarah Bradford, was a biography of King George VI that became newly in-demand after the hit movie “The King’s Speech.” Number 83, “The House Without Windows”, is by Barbara Newhall Follet, “a child prodigy novelist” who disappeared at age 25. An NPR story and a feature on her in Lapham’s Quarterly “reignited interest in her work,” the report said.
A look down the entire list could spark still more conversations (or dinner-table debates, or PhD thesis topics). Who knew that Alan Drury’s warhorse “Advise and Consent,” “the definitive Washington tale,” ever had gone out of print? Who knew that respected cookbook author Marie Simmons had penned a 1997 ode to “Pancakes A to Z”? (Enough people knew to rank it #58 on the list, just ahead of a short story collection by W. Somerset Maugham.) Philip K. Dick fans chiefly know him as a science fiction author, but the list includes an out of print piece of his literary fiction, “Gather Yourselves Together,” at #30. Stephen King holds both spots #3 and #4.
The list is of more than purely academic interest. One of Alice Starmore’s popular titles, “Aran Knitting,” had been a perpetual presence on the Bookfinder list, according to the report – it’s no longer there because it no longer qualifies; last year it went back into print. For some books, though, there’s no hope. Romance novelist Nora Roberts came in just behind Madonna, at #2, for her 1984 book “Promise Me Tomorrow.” But Mediabistro reported (a few years ago, when the book held Booklist’s #3 spot) that Roberts has sworn to never let the book be reprinted, because it is “mediocre.” Sometimes books go out of print for a reason.
What out-of-print books are on your wish list?