For those who are looking for the New York Times Business Best Seller List – There hasn’t been one lately

For a few years, I have listed the titles and linked to the New York Times list of Business Hardcover Best Sellers.  I prefer this list.  Amazon updates its list hourly; other sources (e.g., the Wall Street Journal) publish a weekly list.  But I know enough to know that an hourly, or even a weekly list, can be very misleading.  One radio or tv interview can spike the hourly list.  A speaker who buys a few thousand copies of his own book to distribute can spike the weekly list (and, even, a monthly list).  But I have always sensed that the once-a-month New York Times list was most representative of books that have some level of “staying power.”

Our blogging colleague, Bob Morris, reminds us that Best Sellers are not necessarily good and valuable books.  He is right about that.  And, conversely, some really good and valuable books never make the Best Sellers list.  For example, if you make me choose the first book I would recommend as we constantly wrestle with innovation, it would probably be Get There Early: Sensing the Future to Compete in the Present by Bob Johansen.  It is a really good book, and is the book that introduced me to the “VUCA” world we live in.    I don’t think it ever hit the New York Times list.  At this hour, it is # #350,322 on the hourly updated list for Amazon, far from being a best seller.

{But, Amazon, finds a way to create many “additional “ best seller lists.  At this hour, Get There Early in its Kindle version, after factoring in 4 categories and sub-categories is #42:

Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #189,952 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
#42 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Nonfiction > Business & Investing > Management & Leadership > Planning & Forecasting}

On this thought, I recently read a terrific essay on this year’s Pulitzer controversy:  A Passion for Immortality: On the Missing Pulitzer and the Problem with Prizes by Benjamin Hale.  Here’s an insightful excerpt:

As the Pulitzer is awarded to a work of fiction published in the previous year, all it can take stock of is a book’s vertical life, which sometimes can be deceiving. I’m sure this helps explain some of the more embarrassing retrospective head-slaps in the Pulitzer’s history, such as when, in 1930, it awarded the prize to Oliver La Farge’s Laughing Boy — a second-rate and now utterly forgotten book by an utterly forgotten writer — for the year in which both Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises and Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury were published. It’s perfectly natural they would make that mistake; back then, Faulkner and Hemingway were not yet Faulkner and Hemingway, they were just a couple of young writers who happened to be named Faulkner and Hemingway. The Pulitzer Board would try to atone for their sin years later by awarding them both (Faulkner twice) prizes for far lesser works after their reputations were already secure. The hype of the moment does not necessarily translate into lasting luminance. Just scroll down the list of all the past winners of the prize, and count how many you’ve ever heard of. Start at the bottom and move upward chronologically, and you’ll find the occurrence of familiar names increases as we move closer to the present. This is not because the Pulitzer Board has gradually been growing wiser — it’s because we’re living now, not a hundred years in the future. Then we’ll see. We can’t help it — we’re blinded by our own times; all prizes are like that, and that is why, as a measure of what is good and what is not in art, they are not exactly the trustworthiest oracles.

But, back to the issue before me now. I think we need some place to go to ask something like this:  “What books in business are generating the most conversation right now?”  I prefer the New York Times monthly list for this purpose.  There have been a few months here and there when they apparently just “skipped” the business list entirely.  And right now, they have not had a Business Hardcover Best Seller list since March, 2012.  I don’t know why.

I have tweeted New York Times writers, I have called a finance writer at the New York Times, and he gave me the phone number for the books section to call.  But I have been unable, after a few phone calls, to reach a human being in the books section to ask the question.  The phone number that gets me to that section has no “voice mail” capability, so I cannot even leave a message.

Does anyone know what happened to the list?  I would love to know.  Does anyone have a better number for me to call?  I would love to try.  Help me if you can.  Just leave a comment below in the comments section.

In the meantime, I cannot post a current list.  Sorry about that.

Here’s the link to the last New York Times list I posted in March:  Here’s the New York Times Hardcover Business Best Sellers List for March, 2012.  Here’s the link to the current hourly Amazon “Best Sellers in Business and Investing.”  (As I write, Steve Jobs is back up at #1).  Does anyone know of a better list to suggest?  I’m open to your help.  Just let me know in the comments section below.

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