The New York Times Bestseller list honors and documents those books that are the most popular reads at any given time. The following selection of novels is just a small example of the wonderful books that have made their way on the prestigious list.
1) The Godfather
Written by Mario Puzo and published in 1969, The Godfather tells the story of an Italian Mafia family, the Corleones, over the span of a decade. Headed by Don Vito, the Corleones engage in a mob war with the other mafia families in the New York area. The book focuses mainly on Vito’s son, Michael, as he struggles against his ultimate destiny to become the head of the family. Three films and a video game were adapted from the book; the first film won so many awards that the book became a classic in its own right while still being relevant to contemporary audiences. The book presents lessons about the importance of honor and how close family ties can affect one’s life. The Godfather will most likely appeal to readers interested in the mafia world and the far-reaching implications of the mob’s relationships with various other people not in the “family.”
2) Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone
Originally published in 1997 under the title of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in London, J.K. Rowling’s immensely popular book was renamed Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone for a 1998 release in the United States. The first book in a series about a young wizard and the magical world that he inhabits, this bestseller broke records and led to a successful film franchise and related merchandise. Although this book is written for young adults, older audiences have embraced it as well. Rowling’s endless imagination and witty writing make this book so special. Harry Potter’s world makes for some fascinating lessons about social stratification and culture.
3) Bag of Bones
One of Stephen King’s greatest contemporary novels, Bag of Bones not only appeared on the New York Times Bestseller list, but it also won the British Fantasy Award in 1999. Published in 1998, Bag of Bones is a classic ghost story, focusing on a widower’s struggle to come to terms with the sudden death of his beloved wife. Many characters from other King novels are mentioned in this book, so his fans will not be disappointed by Bag of Bones. The novel touches on issues of racism and parenting, so it is still a socially relevant story.
4) Drowning Ruth
A beautifully written novel by Christina Schwarz, Drowning Ruth shows how the power of a dark family secret can impact the lives of several people in complicated and tragic ways. Released in 2000, the book was also selected for a spot on Oprah’s Book List. Set in the early 1900s, Drowning Ruth tells the story of a series of sad circumstances that befall a pair of sisters. The book is an easy read, but the thematic elements may be disturbing for some people. It would probably be best for those interested in reading a nuanced mystery.
5) Journey Through Heartsongs
One of the most touching books I’ve ever read, Journey Through Heartsongs is a collection of poetry written by the late Mattie J. Stepanek. At the tender age of 3, Stepanek, who suffered from a form of muscular dystrophy, began writing poetry. Before his death at the age of 14, Stepanek published several other books and became a powerful motivational speaker. I recommend this book for anyone who would like to read inspirational poetry.
6) The Lovely Bones
Alice Sebold’s powerful novel, published in 2002, is narrated by a teenage girl after she is murdered. From her Heaven, she watches her family back on Earth as they grow older and learn to find closure with her unexpected death. The Lovely Bones is so well-written that it’s difficult to put the book down. Both heartbreaking and touching, this novel makes a point about protecting our children and never taking our loved ones for granted. The story of Susie Salmon is difficult to forget, a fact that is made obvious in the recent film adaptation of the book.
7) Jonathan Livingston Seagull
This fable was written by Richard Bach in 1970, and the book stayed on the New York Times Bestseller list for over 38 weeks. At first glance, this novel might seem to be a simple, easy read, but the commentary it makes about society and the pressure to conform is rather interesting. It tells the story of Jonathan, a seagull who is so disillusioned with the limitations of his banal existence that he goes on a search for something more in life. There are so many lessons in this book, from freedom and individuality to respect and forgiveness.
8) Looking for Mr. Goodbar
Loosely based on a true story about the brutal murder of a schoolteacher, Looking for Mr. Goodbar was written by Judith Rossner in 1975. The main character, Theresa Dunn, spirals downward into despair by picking up strangers in bars. The last man she goes home with ends up killing her, bringing about an end to a sad life. Looking for Mr. Goodbar would be enjoyed by readers who like fictionalized true crime stories. Contemporary audiences will still find this book relevant, because women continue to face similar dangers. The novel was adapted into a controversial film starring Diane Keaton in 1977.
Published in 1990 by British novelist Rosamunde Pilcher, September follows a family and their friends as they work together to move past various happenings in their shared history. An unforgettable cast of characters gives this book a special quality, and it will likely appeal to readers who enjoy sweeping and romantic novels. Although September was written as a companion book to another Pilcher novel, The Shell Seekers, both can be read as separate, stand-alone books. It was later retold in a mini-series in 1996, and the movie is just as good as the book.
10) The Kitchen God’s Wife
Following the overwhelming success of her first novel, The Joy Luck Club, Amy Tan wrote The Kitchen God’s Wife in 1992. An interesting story about the tense relationship between a Chinese-American woman and her mother, The Kitchen God’s Wife shows the difficulties of dealing with biculturalism. Like Tan’s other works, The Kitchen God’s Wife deals with Chinese women struggling to find their identities in America. The book is a moving and satisfying read. Anyone who likes stories about mother-daughter relationships will probably enjoy this novel.