March 14th, 2015


Links I found interesting for 14-03-2015


What is the best-known book set in Macedonia?

See note on methodology

Where the literature associated with some countries is defined by a single historical event, the literary associations of Macedonia are dominated by a single historical figure - which is a problem, because although his realm very clearly included most if not all of the territory of today's Republic of Macedonia, most of his life was spent far away - indeed, very far away - so none of the many books about him is going to contain much of relevance for my purposes. For the record, anyway, the top three books about him on both LT and GR are the 1972 middle book of a famous trilogy, followed by the 1969 first book of that trilogy (it's unusual, I think, for a middle book to be the best known), followed by a 1974 biography. They are:

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The top book actually set in Macedonia is not so much a "kiss and tell" story as a 2005 "spy and tell" story by a former CIA agent, who was posted there as her only real clandestine field assignment from 1998 to 2001. I must have been in the same room as her on a number of occasions, though I must say I barely recognise the Macedonia she portrays. Less than half the book is set in Macedonia (the first two-thirds are about her spy school training), so I'm noting it here for the record rather than awarding it today's prize. It is:

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The top book in Macedonian on Goodreads is a 1952 children's book by a well-known Macedonian writer. It's not clear to me if it actually is set in Macedonia, but I've been inclined to be generous in similar cases in the past. It does not appear to have been translated into English. It is:

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It is, however, invisible on LibraryThing, which seems generally less good on Macedonian literature than GR. so I'm giving today's prize to a 2007 graphic novel by two Americans about the international peace-building effort in Macedonia after the 2001 conflict. It's generally well-observed - indeed, several friends of mine appear in it, though drawn to look very different from their real appearances - and it's the best I could find on LT, and only just behind the children's book on GR. It is the approriately named:

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Has Neil Gaiman outsold Heinlein and Herbert?

Over on Twitter, Neil Gaiman says:

The page he links to puts him at #17 for all time, with 40+ million sales; Heinlein at #26, with 30+ million; and Herbert at #30 with a rather precise 26 million.

I have checked the figures with my favourite stats sites, Goodreads and LibaryThing, which of course provide information only about their users. But the evidence from them is that, if anything, the article underestimates Neil Gaiman's lead over the other two.

On Goodreads, users have logged 694,192 individual books by Frank Herbert, 702,287 by Robert A. Heinlein and 2,847,588 by Neil Gaiman.

Dune, with 388,489 ratings, is more popular than any individual Gaiman book. But the next in sequence, Dune Messiah, has a mere 65,006 ratings, putting it behind all 7 of Gaiman's novels and the first volume of Sandman.

Stranger in a Strange Land, with 180,117 ratings, is behind American Gods (329,853), Coraline (238,266), The Graveyard Book (223,809), Neverwhere (201,508), Stardust (194,633) and The Ocean at the End of the Lane (195,817).

Starship Troopers (100,823) is also behind Anansi Boys (117,069) and only just ahead of The Sandman, Vol. 1: Preludes and Nocturnes (99,446).

It's a similar story on LibraryThing, where users have logged 75,177 books by Frank Herbert, 112,044 by Robert A. Heinlein and 242,073 by Neil Gaiman.

Here, American Gods (24,118) is ahead of Dune (23,110).

Good Omens (21,345), Neverwhere (18,145), Stardust (14,980), Anansi Boys (14,594), The Graveyard Book (12,813) and Coraline (12,578) are ahead of Dune Messiah (9,747) and Children of Dune (8,645).

All of the above, plus The Sandman: Preludes and Nocturnes (8,003), are ahead of Starship Troopers (7,975) and Stranger in a Strange Land (7,557).

One could object that Gaiman's career started forty years after Herbert's, and fifty after Heinlein's, and that therefore the online catalogues are missing all the books that were sold in the decades before the internet made it possible to track these things. I think Gaiman will still come out on top, even allowing for that: in the course of his career is that sf and, particularly, fantasy have acquired a mass appeal that was unthinkable at the peak of Herbert and Heinlein's times. Obviously, all of Gaiman's books have been sold in the last thirty years, since he didn't start publishing until the late 1980s; I wouldn't be surprised if three quarters of Heinlein's and Herbert's total sales have happened in that period as well.

So, the answer to the question is, yes - Neil Gaiman probably has sold more books than Robert A. Heinlein or Frank Herbert; and quite possibly he has sold more than both combined.