Public Editor Clark Hoyt wrote his column this weekend about the Times Bestseller List. What does it do and how does it work, he wanted to know; also, why was Elie Wiesel’s Night retired from the list last month despite the fact that it was still selling well enough to chart at number nine on the paperbacks list the week before?
According to Deborah Hofman, who edits the bestseller list, Night got the boot after 80 weeks on the list because editors decided it was an “evergreen,” which means it is likely to keep selling forever because so many students are reading it for class (kind of like To Kill a Mockingbird and Catcher in the Rye). Ms. Hofman told Mr. Hoyt that the “editorial spirit of the list is to track the sales of new books…We simply cannot track such books indefinitely.”
Another interesting revelation: Ms. Hofman and Janet Elder, editor of the news surveys department (they’re the ones who crunch the numbers every week), both told Mr. Hoyt that The Times is considering starting a classics list, “which would include the perennial best sellers.”
One wonders whether such a list—declaring as it would in strict mathematical terms what does and doesn’t count as “perennial”–could begin to help solve some of the problems the culture is having with respect to the modern canon!