Remember These?

Ogden Nash wrote a poem in which he considered aging bestsellers which drift into the libraries at vacation resorts, and speculated about the books which would be there a generation hence. His focus was on sexy bestsellers, and he wasn’t too far off.

But how often we forget there is also a Nonfiction Bestseller list. These books can linger on the list for months and then, ten years later, start the exodus toward back rooms and Book Fairs. I was curious about the minds behind the things that make Book Fair sorters wail “Another?” So here is a kind of “Whatever Became Of….” Column, because anyone who reads this blog is bound to be interested in trivia, and also because, ahem, if I can increase the number of people hunting for these space-fillers…I mean, these classics of American thought, so much the better. I picked five at random, and I mean no disrespect to Jane Fonda, Robert J. Ringer, or any other laborers in the field.

THINK AND GROW RICH, 1937: Napoleon Hill (1883-1970) was a reporter challenged by Andrew Carnegie to interview 500 successful people and analyze what they had in common. This led to several books, but Think and Grow Rich was his classic, in which he gives you clues to the secret but doesn’t exactly tell you what it is. (On the principle that if you can’t figure it out for yourself, you’re not going to get there anyhow.) The book has many adherents, but it was Chicago millionaire W. Clement Stone who is probably responsible for its plentitude at the Book Fair, as he gave copies to everybody he thought could use it.

PSYCHO-CYBERNETICS, 1960: Maxwell Maltz (1899-1975) was a charismatic cosmetic surgeon with literary leanings, who wrote a play and an autobiography before, at the age of 61, he came out with this orange-covered classic, which concentrates on success through a positive self image. The first paperback edition of his classic was just the right size to be carried and read in the spare time of those who wanted to study it, and the right size to sit in bookshelves for decades until the Newberry Library Book Fair came along.

INNER TENNIS, 1974: W. Timothy Gallwey (1938- ) combined his knowledge of tennis with a commitment to meditation and began his career as a bestselling author with this green-jacketed volume. It has been succeeded by books on the inner games of skiing, golf, music, work, and stress. This year the Book Fair will include a copy of this we sold to a volunteer, whose books came to us when she died, whereupon we sold it to a staff member, whose books came to us when she died. These things will happen if you stay in this business 27 years.

THE 8-WEEK CHOLESTEROL CURE, 1987: Robert E. Kowalski (1945-2007) had his second bypass surgery at 42, and decided there had to be a better way to take care of his heart. Cutting cholesterol, not smoking, and getting more exercise were parts of the plan he hoped to pass along to the next generation. I presume that all these copies that are donated come from people who are so healthy after reading it that they don’t need it any more. I hope so.

CALLANETICS, 1989: Barbara Pinckney (c. 1940- ) was born with serious health problems and was christened with the wrong first name. Throwing up her old life, she changed her first name to Callan, and developed an exercise program she dubbed Callanetics. This big, light-brown paperback was a sleeper, but she pushed it through Oprah, Sally Jesse, and others, and it caught on. There are not as many print sequels to this as to some of the other books on this list, because she followed it up primarily with video instruction tapes.

It did not surprise me to find that all five of these authors have Websites, but surely you want the original text as well as mere cyber versions. If this year’s donations are like last year’s and the years before that, all of these books will be available in bulk in July, 2011 when we open for the book-hungry. If you come too late and they’re all gone (don’t I wish) you can be sure they’ll be back in 2012, too. We will always show off plenty of these, unless, of course, we have to make room for five bookcases full of The DaVinci Code. 

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