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The message of the best-selling books

The "Book Report", which collects the weekly "Spiegel" bestseller lists, has just announced the 20 best-selling books for 2022 in the fiction and non-fiction categories.

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The message of the best-selling books

The "Book Report", which collects the weekly "Spiegel" bestseller lists, has just announced the 20 best-selling books for 2022 in the fiction and non-fiction categories. For cultural journalists, this is, like every year shortly before New Year's Eve, a small apparent defeat, because the feuilleton darlings appear at best at the back. Houellebecq, for example, only ranks 20th, despite having had time to outsell since January. Michelle Obama, on the other hand, who has only been on the market since November with her new empowerment bible “The Light Within”, promptly made it to 12th place in the non-fiction section of the annual accounts.

Yes, rankings can be merciless, because they reveal what's no secret: the best-selling books are rarely discussed in the features section. Or strangely printed. For number 1 in the annual charts in the fiction category, we read the sentence "'A question of chemistry' keeps what its bestseller position promises."

Now, is such a statement about Bonnie Garmus' book qualifying or disqualifying? Okay, without Adorno, who dismissed all mass business as a culture industry, bestsellers have long ceased to be suspect. But they are surprisingly irrelevant thematically. In any case, the seriousness of the world situation (vulgo "turning point") is not reflected in the 2022 list of the best-selling non-fiction books. Only one book on Putin (a top notch one by Catherine Belton) made the top 10. Ukraine books? None!

Is the feuilleton department arrogant in ignoring most of the works that appear on bestseller lists? It's arguable that it's the job of literary criticism to review more books that are already on everyone's lips and in the charts. Or whether journalism shouldn't rather vouch for discoveries and give visibility to books that don't appear anywhere else. Journalists want and need to discover new things as a profession. This is rarely the case on bestseller lists.

Many of the usual suspects cavort in the top 20 of fiction, with Sebastian Fitzek, Dörte Hansen and Charlotte Link. Ditto Mariana Leky, Ferdinand von Schirach, Bernhard Schlink and Isabel Allende. More interesting because they refer to a younger reading community, there are more fantasy phenomena like Rebecca Gablé (“Dragon Banner”, 19th place) or Colleen Hoover with the cinematic double title “It starts with us – Just once more and forever” ( 12th place).

As in previous years, TV celebrities are particularly noticeable in the non-fiction books: 1st place for talk show host Kurt Krömers Depressionen, 3rd place for "Heute Journal" presenter Marietta Slomka, 4th place for media criticism by media people Richard David Precht and Harald Welzer and 8th place for ex-moderator Peter Hahne ("The measure is full") can surprise no one. Successes that are more obviously due to the triad of readability, self-help and kitschy-good titling are Brianna Wiest with "101 essays that will change your life" (ranked 2nd in the annual charts) and Florian Illies with "Love in times of Hasses" (8th place).

The really secret message of the 2022 bestseller list is not in the author names or genres with the telltale titles (annual bestseller fiction, 10th place): "The Book Walker". Bookstore romance as a book genre is booming – for years. Just why? Because everyone buys from Amazon and dreams of the crunchy book store.

no The true message of the top 20 bestseller list is hidden in the retail prices: most hardcovers now cost well over 20 euros. And these are all books that were priced before the paper and energy crises. Let's see if and what pain limits book buyers will know in 2023.

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