Readers who have browsed other bestsellers-of-2011 lists may do a double take when faced with that of the website Better World Books. Most other 2011 bestseller lists don’t have “Holes” by Louis Sachar, which originally came out in 2000, or “Animal Farm” by George Orwell, which was first published back in 1946.
That's because Better World Books is a business of a different kind. Whenever a book – either new or used – is bought on Better World Books, the company donates an additional one through either Books for Africa and Feed the Children. The website gathers used books through college campuses and libraries, among other sources, and their profits help support organizations including various libraries, the National Center for Family Literacy, and Room to Read.
So what’s their number one book? Better World Books’ bestseller for the year was the 2007 Christian novel “The Shack” by William Paul Young, a book which has been described as a "guy-meets-God" novel.
Other books on the 2011 Better Worlds Books bestseller list are also big hits from recent years, including “The Kite Runner” by Khaled Hosseini, which first came out in 2004 and was the third bestselling book, and “Eat, Pray, Love” by Elizabeth Gilbert, the memoir which first came out in 2007 and is number six on Better World Books’ list. “Strengths Finder 2.0” by Tom Rath, a non-fiction book that was released in 2010 and details how to identify your own personal strengths to function better in a workplace environment, came in at number ten on the list, and number fourteen was “The Help” by Kathryn Stockett, the runaway bestseller about African-American maids in 1960s Mississippi. At number eighteen was “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” the mystery by Swedish author Stieg Larsson which was first released in the US in 2008.
But the rest of the book list is dominated by perennial favorites rather than new releases. The fourth bestselling book was Harper Lee’s 1960 classic “To Kill A Mockingbird,” and right below it at number five is “Lord of the Flies” by William Golding, the story published in 1959 of a group of British boys who wash ashore on a deserted island.
And it should come as no surprise that Harry Potter books are sprinkled throughout the list, though interestingly, the first three books are the only ones that made it on – perhaps new readers or families are still discovering the series. “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” made it to number eight on the list, while “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets” landed at number eleven and “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” came in at number seventeen.
Molly Driscoll is a Monitor contributor.