Thursday, December 11, 2003

'Code' deciphers interest in religious history
By Bob Minzesheimer, USA TODAY
This season's most common question at bookstores is: "Do you have anything like The Da Vinci Code?"

Author Dan Brown has two books in USA TODAY's top-selling book list, The Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons.

Dan Brown's thriller, which supposes a marriage between Jesus and Mary Magdalene that produced a royal bloodline in France, is more than just the year's best-selling adult novel. (Its sales are topped only by J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix).

The Da Vinci Code is a publishing phenomenon. It has triggered debates about early Christianity and a prime-time special on ABC last month.

Nine months after publication, there are 4.5 million copies in print. It's propelled Brown's earlier novels onto the best-seller list and is boosting dozens of other books, novels and non-fiction, about religion, history and art.

In 20 years as a fiction buyer for Barnes & Noble, Sessalee Hensley says she has seen nothing like it. The only other novel that comes close, she says, is last year's surprise best seller, Alice Sebold's The Lovely Bones, which is narrated by a girl raped and murdered at 14.

"But The Da Vinci Code is outstretching that," she says. "Readers say it kept them up all night. It's the first novel in a long time that people want to lose sleep over."

Its popularity shows that "readers are clamoring for books which combine historic fact with a contemporary story line," says Carol Fitzgerald, president of, a web site for book discussions. "They say, 'I like being able to learn something as well as read a story.' "

It's a novel, but Brown writes in an introductory note that "all descriptions of documents and secret rituals ... are accurate."

Scholars and theologians, both conservative and liberal, dispute that. Some even say Brown is anti-Catholic. But Doubleday Publisher Stephen Rubin says "the accuracy questions have added to the celebrity of the book. People want to read it for themselves."

In a year of poor book sales (adult hard covers are down 6%; paperbacks down 4%, according to the Association of American Publishers), Brown is sending people to bookstores.

Hensley compiled a list of 90 related books — from Katherine Navel's Eight to Singh Simon's Code Book —and says sales are up 25%.

Some stores have tables of other books for Da Vinci Code readers.

Brown's earlier novels have been rediscovered. There were 17,000 paperback copies of Ditigal Fortress in March; now there are 266,000, with a 1-million copy mass-market edition out next month.

Rubin says the paperback of The Da Vinci Code isn't scheduled yet. First, he has his eyes on the record for a hardcover novel: The Bridges of Madison County— 6 million copies.

As for Brown, he's at home, somewhere in New Hampshire, on a month-long hiatus from interviews.

He prefers to keep his hometown a secret. - 'Code' deciphers interest in religious history

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Since it is the time of year for book lists, this one came my way and it's a good one - thanks, Ernie.

New York Public Library's Books of the Century:

"To commemorate our Centennial, librarians identified books that played defining roles in the past 100 years. Included are 'great' books and landmarks in our area of expertise. There are books that influenced the course of events, for good and for bad; books that interpreted new worlds; and books that simply delighted millions of [NYPL] patrons. Our century ranges from 1895 to 1995 -- the Library's first 100 years. The perspective is American urban, but the list ranges worldwide."

Landmarks of Modern Literature:

Chekhov, Anton. The Three Sisters (1901).
Proust, Marcel. Remembrance of Things Past (1913-27).
Stein, Gertrude. Tender Buttons: Objects Food Rooms (1914).
Kafka, Franz. The Metamorphosis (1915).
St. Vincent Millay, Edna. Renascence and Other Poems (1917).
Yeats, William Butler. The Wild Swans at Coole (1917).
Pirandello, Luigi. Six Characters in Search of an Author (1921).
Eliot, T. S. The Waste Land (1922).
Joyce, James. Ulysses (1922).
Mann, Thomas. The Magic Mountain (1924).
Fitzgerald, F. Scott. The Great Gatsby (1925).
Woolf, Virginia. To the Lighthouse (1927).
Garcia Lorca, Federico. Gypsy Balads (1928).
Wright, Richard. Native Son (1940).
Auden, W. H. The Age of Anxiety: A Baroque Eclogue (1947).
Ellison, Ralph. Invisible Man (1952).
Nabokov, Vladimir. Lolita (1955).
Borges, Jorge Luis. Ficciones (1944/1956).
Garcia Marquez, Gabriel. One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967).
Morrison, Toni. Song of Solomon (1977).

Colonialism and its Aftermath:

Conrad, Joseph. Lord Jim (1900).
Kipling, Rudyard. Kim (1901).
Gandhi, Mohandas K. Satyagraha [Non-Violent Resistance] (1921-40).
Forster, E. M. A Passage to India (1924).
Camus, Albert. The Stranger (1942).
Various. United Nations Charter (1945).
Steichen, Edward. The Family of Man (1955).
Achebe, Chinua. Things Fall Apart (1958).
Fanon, Franz. The Wretched of the Earth (1961).
Rhys, Jean. Wide Sargasso Sea (1964).
El-Salih, Tayeh. Mawsim al-Hijra ila al-Shamal [Season of Migration to the North] (1969).
Naipaul, V. S. Guerrillas (1975).
Emecheta, Buchi. The Bride Price (1976).
Kapsinski, Ryszard. Cesarz [The Emperor] (1978).
Menchú, Rigoberta. I, Rigoberta Menchú (1983).
Duras, Marguerite. The Lover (1984).

Protest and Progress:

Riis, Jacob. The Battle with the Slum (1902).
Du Bois, W. E. B. The Souls of Black Folk (1903).
Sinclair, Upton. The Jungle (1906).
Addams, Jane. Twenty Years at Hull House (1910).
Wald, Lillian. The House on Henry Street (1915).
Steffens, Lincoln. The Autobiography of Lincoln Steffens (1931).
Dos Passos, John. U.S.A. (1937).
Steinbeck, John. The Grapes of Wrath (1939).
Agee, James, and Walker Evans. Let Us Now Praise Famous Men (1941).
Smith, Lillian. Strange Fruit (1944).
Goodman, Paul. Growing Up Absurd (1960).
Baldwin, James. The Fire Next Time (1963).
Malcolm X. The Autobiography of Malcolm X (1965).
Shilts, Randy. And the Band Played On (1987).
Kotlowitz, Alex. There Are No Children Here (1991).

Nature's Realm:

Maeterlinck, Maurice. The Life of the Bee (1901).
Curie, Marie Sklodowska. Treatise on Radioactivity (1910).
Einstein, Albert. The Meaning of Relativity (1922).
Peterson, Roger Tory. A Field Guide to the Birds (1934).
Leopold, Aldo. A San County Almanac (1949).
Lorenz, Konrad Z. King Solomon's Ring: New Light on Animal Ways (1949).
Carson, Rachel. Silent Spring (1962).
Various. The Surgeon General's Report on Smoking and Health (1964).
Watson, James. The Double Helix: A Personal Account of the Discovery of the Structure of DNA (1968).
Wilson, Edward O. The Diversity of Life (1992).

Utopias and Dystopias:

Wells, H. G. The Time Machine (1895).
Herzl, Theodor. The Jewish State (1896).
Baum, L. Frank. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900).
Barrie, J. M. Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens (1906).
Gilman, Charlotte Perkins. Herland (1915).
Huxley, Aldous. Brave New World (1932).
Hilton, James. Lost Horizon (1933).
Skinner, B. F. Walden Two (1948).
Orwell, George. Nineteen Eighty-four (1949).
Bradbury, Ray. Fahrenheit 451 (1953).
Burgess, Anthony. A Clockwork Orange (1962).
Atwood, Margaret. The Handmaid's Tale (1985).

Mind and Spirit:

Durkheim, Emile. Suicide: A Study in Suicide (1897).
Freud, Sigmund. The Interpretation of Dreams (1900).
Ellis, Havelock. Studies in the Psychology of Sex (1901-28).
James, William. The Varieties of Religious Experience (1902).
Gibran, Kahlil. The Prophet (1923).
Russell, Bertrand. Why I Am Not a Chirstian (1927).
Mead, Margaret. Coming of Age in Samoa (1928).
Sartre, Jean-Paul. Being and Nothingness (1943).
Spock, Dr. Benjamin. The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care (1946).
Anonymous. The Bible, Revised Standard Version (1952).
Tillick, Paul. The Courage of Be (1952).
Kesey, Ken. One Few Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1962).
Leary, Timothy. The Politics of Ecstasy (1968).
Kübler-Ross, Elisabeth. On Death and Dying (1969).
Bettelheim, Bruno. The Uses of Enchantment (1976).

War, Holocaust, Totalitarianism:

Toynbee, Arnold. Armenian Atrocities: the Murder of a Nation (1915).
Reed, John. Ten Days That Shook the World (1919).
Sassoon, Siegfried. The War Poems (1919).
Has? , Jaroslav. The Good Soldier Svejk (1920-23).
Hitler, Adolf. Mein Kampf (1925-26).
Remarque, Erick Maria. All Quiet on the Western Front (1928).
Akhmatova, Anna. Requiem (1940).
Hemingway, Ernest. For Whom the Bell Tolls (1940).
Koestler, Arthur. Darkness at Noon (1941).
Hersey, John. Hiroshima (1946).
Frank, Anne. The Diary of a Young Girl (1947).
Churchill, Winston. The Gathering Storm (1948).
Zedong, Mao. Quotations from Chairman Mao (1966).
Brown, Dee Alexander. Bury My heart at Wounded Knee (1970).
Solzhenitsyn, Aleksandr I. The Gulag Archipelago, 1918-1956 (1973-75).
Herr, Michael. Dispatches (1977).
Spiegelman, Art. Maus: A Survivor's Tale (1986-91).

Economics and Technology:

Veblen, Thorstein. The Theory of the Leisure Class (1899).
Weber, Max. The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (1904).
Adams, Henry. The Education of Henry Adams (1907).
Keynes, John Maynard. The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money (1936).
Friedman, Milton. A Theory of the Comsumption Function (1957).
Galbraith, John Kenneth. The Affluent Society (1958).
Jacobs, Jane. The Death and Life of Great American Cities (1961).
Leavitt, Helen. Superhighway-- Super Hoax (1970).
Schumacher, E. F. Small is Beautiful: A Study of Economics as if People Mattered (1973).
Krol, Ed. The Whole Internet: User's Guide & Catalog (1992).

Popular Culture and Mass Entertainment:

Stoker, Bram. Dracula (1897).
James, Henry. The Turn of the Screw (1898).
Doyle, Arthur Donan. The Hound of the Baskervilles (1902).
Burroughs, Edgar Rice. Tarzan of the Apes (1912).
Grey, Zane. Riders of the Purple Sage (1912).
Christie, Agatha. The Mysterious Affair at Styles (1920).
Carnegie, Dale. How to Win Friends and Influence People (1936).
Mitchell, Margaret. Gone With the Wind (1936).
Chandler, Raymond. The Big Sleep (1939).
Metalious, Grace. Peyton Place (1956).
Dr. Seuss. The Cat in the Hat (1957).
Heinlein, Robert A. Stranger in a Strange Land (1961).
Heller, Joseph. Catch-22 (1961).
Capote, Truman. In Cold Blood (1965).
Bouton, Jim. Ball Four: My Life and Hard Times Throwing the Knuckleball in the Big Leagues (1970).
King, Stephen. Carrie (1974).
Wolfe, Tom. The Bonfire of the Vanities (1987).

Optimism, Joy, Gentility:

Jewett, Sarah Orne. The Country of the Pointed Firs (1896).
Keller, Helen. The Stoy of My Life (1903).
Chesterton, G. K. The Innocence of Father Brown (1911).
Jiménez, Juan Ramón. Platero and I: An Andalusian Elegy (1914).
Shaw, George Bernard. Pygmalion (1914).
Post, Emily. Etiquette in Society, in Business, in Politics, and at Home (1922).
Wodehouse, P. G. The Inimitable Jeeves (1923).
Milne, A. A. Winnie-the-Pooh (1926).
Cather, Willa. Shadows on the Rock (1931).
Rombauer, Irma S. The Joy of Cooking (1931).
Tolkien, J. R. R. The Hobbit (1937).
Brown, Margaret Wise. Goodnight Moon (1947).
Lee, Harper. To Kill a Mockingbird (1960).
Hughes, Langston. The Best of Simple (1961).
Bishop, Elizabeth. The Complete Poems, 1927-1979 (1983).

Women Rise:

Wharton, Edith. The Age of Innocence (1920).
Catt, Carrie Chapman and Nettie Rogers Shuler. Woman Suffrage and Politics (1923).
Sanger, Margaret. My Fight for Birth Control (1931).
Hurson, Zora Neale. Dust Tracks on a Road (1942).
De Beauvoir, Simone. The Second Sex (1949).
Lessing, Doris. The Golden Notebook (1962).
Friedan, Betty. The Feminine Mystique (1963).
Angelou, Maya. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969).
Morgan, Robin, ed. Sisterhood Is Powerful: An Anthology of Writings from the Women's Liberation Movement (1970).
Brownmiller, Susan. Against Our Will: Men, Women and Rape (1975).
Walker, Alice. The Color Purple (1982).

The People's Choice:

Faulkner, William. The Portable Faulkner (1946).
Paton, Alan. Cry, the Beloved Country (1948).
Beckett, Samuel. Waiting for Godot (1952).
Kerouac, Jack. On the Road (1957).
Rand, Ayn. Atlas Shrugged (1957).
Wiesel, Elie. Night (1958).
Roth, Philip. Portnoy's Complaint (1969).

Favorites of Childhood and Youth:

Potter, Beatrix. The Tale of Peter Rabbit (1901).
Smith, Betty. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (1943).
Lewis, C. S. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (1950).
Salinger, J. D. The Catcher in the Rye (1951).
White, E. B. Charlotte's Web (1952).
Keats, Ezra Jack. The Snowy Day (1962).
Sendak, Maurice. Where the Wild Things Are (1963).
MacLachlan, Patricia. Sarah, Plain and Tall (1985).

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