I was absolutely amazed when I stumbled onto a list of the bestselling books in America a few weeks ago and discovered that one author occupied the top four spots. I am guessing that this has never happened previously in United States book history, or at least not in a long, long time.
I’m guessing that these books sold nearly four million copies combined in the month of December. That is a stunning number when you consider that in a typical week a book only has to sell about 4,000 copies to make The New York Times bestseller list.
Even more remarkable, I had never even heard of the author: Stephenie Meyer. Her books are vampire books aimed at teenagers.
I suppose it says something about me that when my laptop went dead just before a four-hour flight home, I couldn’t find a single book I wanted to buy in the airport bookstore — until I saw Twilight, the first in the series of Stephenie Meyer books. A vampire book aimed at teenagers is probably just about my speed.
Although I will say I was somewhat disappointed with the book, an outside observer would laugh at that description, given that I read it in less than a week. My kids would remind me that I told them they would have to make their own dinner because I had to finish the book to find out whether Bella would turn into a vampire or not. I guess the fact that I ordered the other three books in the series from Amazon also gives me away.
I’m not sure what I expected, but I found the book to be juvenile in a way that Harry Potter wasn’t. The seductive thing about the book is the way that Meyer creates an alternative vampire universe that is embedded into our own world, where the reader ends up liking the vampires more than the people. That, I think, was the secret to the Harry Potter books as well. Somehow both Meyer and J.K. Rowling manage to create a fantasy world that is absurd, and yet somehow vaguely believable.
Now we just need to figure out how to work some vampires into SuperFreakonomics to boost our sales.