Popular Books are Quickly Forgotten

Love your beloved classics now—because even now, few people read them, for the most part, and fewer still love them. In a century, they’ll probably be forgotten by all but a few eccentrics.


If it makes you feel any better, all fiction, even the books people love and rush to buy in droves, is subject to entropy. Consider, for example, the bestselling fiction novels of the week I was born, which was not so long ago. I’ve bolded the ones my local library currently has in stock.

  1. Hawaii, by James A. Michener
  2. The Last of The Just, by Andre Schwarz-Bart
  3. Advise and Consent, by Allen Drury (available in audio only)
  4. To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
  5. A Burnt-Out Case, by Graham Greene
  6. Sermons and Soda Water, by John O’Hara
  7. Winnie Ille Pu, by A.A. Milne
  8. Decision at Delphi, by Helen MacInnes
  9. Pomp and Circumstance, by Noel Coward
  10. The Chess Players, by Frances Parkinson Keyes
  11. The Dean’s Watch, by Elizabeth Goudge
  12. Midcentury, by John Dos Passos
  13. The Listener, by Taylor Caldwell
  14. Through the Fields of Clover, by Peter De Vries
  15. The Key, by Jun’ichirō Tanizaki
  16. In A Summer Season, by Elizabeth Taylor



Social values ebb and flow over decades, but the values expressed in a book are fixed. It may be that science fiction is more affected by values dissonance than other genres by nature of being (often) set in the future. A book written and set in the 1950s might have quaint expectations regarding the proper roles of men and women (not to mention the assumption that those are only two choices), but they would be the quaint expectations of the era in which the book is set. A novel written in the 1950s but set in 2019, one that assumed the social views of the 50s (white supremacy, women denied control of their own bodies, nebulous menaces used to justify outrageous security measures) would surely be off-putting to a modern reader. [Ha ha ha. We wish.]


Folksonomies: social norms best sellers

/art and entertainment/books and literature (0.653535)
/art and entertainment/books and literature/science fiction (0.613747)
/society (0.561744)

American novelists (0.965396): dbpedia_resource
John Dos Passos (0.505248): dbpedia_resource
Pomp and Circumstance Marches (0.495626): dbpedia_resource
Graham Greene (0.483201): dbpedia_resource
1950s (0.464336): dbpedia_resource
Pulitzer Prize for Fiction (0.456730): dbpedia_resource
Winnie-the-Pooh (0.442835): dbpedia_resource
A Burnt-Out Case (0.436765): dbpedia_resource

 The Sad But Inevitable Trend Toward Forgotten SF
Electronic/World Wide Web>Internet Article:  Nicoll, James Davis (2019-05-24), The Sad But Inevitable Trend Toward Forgotten SF, Retrieved on 2019-11-07
  • Source Material [www.tor.com]
  • Folksonomies: history books reading literary trends best sellers