How bestsellers chart the state of nations | Books | guardian.co.uk
There are worse ways of finding out about a country than looking at its book charts. For instance, strange as it may seem, Takiji Kobayashi's Marxism-inspired Kani Kosen is a bestseller in Japan at the moment, 79 years after it was first published. But given the currently bleak economic climate in the country, you can see why a story about the struggles of poor labourers might be appealing reading.
Looking at the UK book market, meanwhile, is a good way to obliterate any idea of the Brits being sophisticated, stiff-upper-lip types. For one, it appears we're completely incapable of thinking for ourselves and making any decisions without Richard and Judy telling us to - two-thirds of the bestselling fiction titles of the year thus far are written by authors who've appeared on the daytime duo's sofa. We follow the trends of the US (see Stephenie Meyer, Kim Edwards, James Patterson, William Young et al). We're obsessed with reading "real life" tales of other people's misery (financial rather than economic at the moment, but check the charts again next year). And, for everyone else, there's those books "written" (ahem) by people off the telly.
In America, it seems, you've really got to be cultivating your "spiritual" side. Oprah Winfrey, for instance, wants you to buy Eckhart Tolle's A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose. And, based on sales, more than three million Americans are duly awakening. Meanwhile, William Young's self-published religious novel, The Shack, has sold almost a million copies this year, while pastors and preachers like Rick Warren, Joel Osteen, Joyce Meyer and Lee Strobel have all sold comfortably into five figures. Elizabeth Gilbert's memoir Eat, Pray Love has also done incredibly well publication - it has "pray" in the title - and for those not wanting to commit themselves to one religion, there's always Rhonda Byrne's The Secret.