Friday, September 03, 2010

What Is a Charity to Do with All Those Donated Dan Brown Books?

In the past few months, I've been called everything from a literary snob to someone who will never get beyond lower-middlebrow reading (feedback like that is what makes book blogging so much fun).  As mutually exclusive as those two terms seem at first glance, I think they do describe my attitude about writers and the kind of reading I most often do.

I detest a literary marketplace dominated by the likes of James Patterson, Dan Brown, and Danielle Steele (and a dozen or so others of their type).  I suppose that does make me a literary snob.

But when it comes to my personal reading, no one would categorize me as being a highbrow reader.  I do enjoy "literary fiction," long, well-researched biographies, the classics, etc.  But I also enjoy: books on sports and politics, well written thrillers, series detective fiction, frank memoirs, and some books that edge into the dreaded (for a male reader) "chic lit" genre.

Today, I want to put on my literary snob hat long enough to share two interesting author lists originating with the U.K.'s Oxfam charity shops.  One is a list of the most heavily donated authors, the other ranks authors by the number of books sold at Oxfam.  There is an obvious correlation between the two lists, of course.  It is impossible for an author to sell a lot of books at Oxfam unless his books are being dumped there in great number by previous owners.

It stands to reason that an author with the most books on the Oxfam shelves will rank high on the list of books sold there if there is still a strong demand for his work.  Ranking high on the "dumped list" but low (or not at all) on the "purchased list" cannot be a good thing.
Authors Most Dumped on Oxfam
1. Dan Brown
2. Ian Rankin
3. Patricia Cornwell
4. Alexander McCall Smith
5. John Grisham
6. Danielle Steele
7. J.K. Rowling
8. Jeremy Clarkson
9. Maeve Binchey
10. Bill Bryson

Oxfam Bestselling Authors
1. Ian Rankin
2. Steig Larson
3. J.K. Rowling
4. Stephenie Myer
5. John Grisham
6. Patricia Cornwell
7. James Patterson
8. Terry Pratchett
9. Kate Atkinson
10. Dan Brown

So, among other things, a comparison of the two lists tells us that:

  • Ian Rankin books are flying off the shelves as fast as they hit them
  • J.K. Rowling books change hands at a similar pace to Rankin's
  • Books by Grisham and Cornwell are still sought after
  • Books by Pratchett, Atkinson and Patterson are selling well despite being available in relatively lower quantities
  • People are actually holding on to more of those dreadful James Patterson books than to those horrors written by Dan Brown
  • Vampires and Werewolves are still loved in the U.K.
  • Steig Larson is selling well despite his limited backlist
  • There are more and more Danielle Steele books on Oxfam shelves all the time
  • Dan Brown books sell at such a slow pace that eventually Oxfam will have to find its own place to dump them


  1. Your post made me laugh. I went to a Library book sale this summer and was amazed at the amount of DaVinci Code copies there were. We went back the next day and there seemed to be even more.

  2. Sort of like roaches, Kathy. You see one or two of them and you just know there are dozens more in hiding. :-)

  3. But - but - The DaVinci Code tells THE TRUTH about Christianity! It's IMPORTANT!

  4. Every hotel room should have a copy in the bedside table in honor of our obsession with political correctness...would solve Oxfam's problem, for sure.

  5. Funndy stuff. Doesn't Steig have a longer back list than Dan Brown? Steig has three right. Has Dan written four books? !?!

  6. Lower-middle brow? I'd love to hear more about that ranking. It sounds so interestingly class-oriented. How many brows are there? And what books fit each? So fascinating. Imagine a face with that many brows.

  7. C.B., I'm under the impression that Brown kicked around for a while before hitting it big on the literary trash circuit. I might be wrong about that but I can't bring myself to check it out...don't want to Google Dan Brown too many times and leave a slimy trail from me to him.

  8. I suppose my critic was trying to tell me how far from highbrow I would always be, John. Funny thing is that the criticism came from a Hollywood's that for highbrow work?