History’s Bestsellers

Gabe Habash spotlights a cool new project:

Matt Kahn has launched 100 Years, 94 Books, the ambitious project of reading and reviewing the Publishers Weekly‘s #1 bestselling books for each of the last 100 years, which, with some books hitting #1 more than once, totals 94 books. Kahn, a creative writing student at California State University, Northridge, began last week with 1913′s #1 book, The Inside of the Cup by Winston Churchill, and at the rate of one review a week, will finish (about two years from now) with 2013′s bestselling book, still to be decided by sales. Along with the review, Kahn will provide on his blog historical context “in an attempt to figure out just what made these particular books popular at that particular time.”

In an interview with Habash, Kahn explained the impetus for the project – a class on 20th century American novelists:

Before we began reading the first text for the course (The Sun Also Rises), the professor lectured on what constituted the literary canon. He pointed out that The Sun Also Rises was far from the most popular book in the year it was released. The bestselling book of 1926 was The Private Life of Helen of Troy.  I’ve always been interested in how society affects popular culture and vice-versa, so the idea for the blog developed from that lecture.