One of the Weirdest Best-Sellers Ever?

It’s Freakonomics that I’m referring to. In what way is it so weird?

Well, leaving aside any discussions of its content, consider this strange fact: in the past 10 years (the only years for which we have data), only two books have spent more time on the New York Times non-fiction best-seller list without ever reaching No. 1.

That’s right. Our book has been No. 1 on a bunch of different lists, here and abroad, but on the list that matters most to people in the publishing industry, we’ve never risen higher than No. 2. There was one week, back on June 5 of last year, when we had jumped ahead of books like Blink, The World Is Flat, and My Life So Far (Jane Fonda), and when David McCullough’s surefire No. 1 1776 was still a week away, when we seemed destined for No. 1. But then 60 Minutes ran a profile (a really wonderful one, btw) of Princeton philosopher Harry Frankfurt and his cult hit On Bullshit, which promptly leapfrogged from No. 7 to the No. 1 spot, denying Freakonomics of that elusive glory.

To be sure, we have no complaints about our book’s success. None. There is in fact a perverse pride in having stuck around so long on the Times list without ever reaching the top. Here is the company we keep in this category:

1. CONVERSATIONS WITH GOD (1996), by Neale Donald Walsch (98 weeks)

2. ART OF HAPPINESS (1998), by the Dalai Lama and Howard Cutler (97 weeks)

3. FREAKONOMICS (2005) (45 weeks as of the 3/11/06 list)

3. MAN WHO LISTENS TO HORSES (1997), by Monty Roberts (45 weeks)

So now we have something to shoot for: 99 weeks on the list without ever hitting No. 1. If you are inclined to buy our book, or encourage other people to do the same, many thanks — but please, don’t everyone buy it during the same week.

(Thanks to Frank Albanese for the data.)


slyght

i don't know much about the NYT best-seller's list, but how can the 3/11/06 list be out when that is over a week away? i'm guessing these are updated weekly, so the farthest ahead one could look would be 7 days not 9. just curious. either way, great book. i'll try my best to keep you on the list but out of #1

Stephen J. Dubner

To slyght:

Yes, it's a weirdness of the NYT: for years, they've sent the Book Review (where the list appears) out in advance to subscribers (in the old days, that meant bookstores who wanted to stock up on best-sellers). So the list is compiled a full 12 days before most civilians read it. In the publishing world, it is a Wednesday afternoon ritual to receive the list for the Sunday two weeks away -- that's why, since yesterday was Wed., we know the list for Sun., 3/11/06.

Connie Sartain

You're rapidly approaching a first year anniversary for the hardcover. Party on!

99 weeks sounds close to when the paperback is due out.

aultimer

Seems like the thing those books have in common is that they alienate some significant audience:
1. The happily unchurched
2. The overly-churched
3. The uneducated
4. Non-cowboy men

"Freakonomics for Dummies" is the obvious solution.

hello.georgina.org » Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner

[...] buy too many copies at once. The authors are still going for this record. more on: books permalink• [...]

slyght

i don't know much about the NYT best-seller's list, but how can the 3/11/06 list be out when that is over a week away? i'm guessing these are updated weekly, so the farthest ahead one could look would be 7 days not 9. just curious. either way, great book. i'll try my best to keep you on the list but out of #1

Stephen J. Dubner

To slyght:

Yes, it's a weirdness of the NYT: for years, they've sent the Book Review (where the list appears) out in advance to subscribers (in the old days, that meant bookstores who wanted to stock up on best-sellers). So the list is compiled a full 12 days before most civilians read it. In the publishing world, it is a Wednesday afternoon ritual to receive the list for the Sunday two weeks away -- that's why, since yesterday was Wed., we know the list for Sun., 3/11/06.

Connie Sartain

You're rapidly approaching a first year anniversary for the hardcover. Party on!

99 weeks sounds close to when the paperback is due out.

aultimer

Seems like the thing those books have in common is that they alienate some significant audience:
1. The happily unchurched
2. The overly-churched
3. The uneducated
4. Non-cowboy men

"Freakonomics for Dummies" is the obvious solution.

hello.georgina.org » Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner

[...] buy too many copies at once. The authors are still going for this record. more on: books permalink• [...]