Book Business

Bestselling Books in 1974

Starting today, and every six months, we are going to take a ride in the “way-back” machine (with special acknowledgment to Mr. Peabody and Sherman), traveling back in time to grab a snapshot of what books were selling on a particular date and year. To get an idea where publishing is today, it’s good to get an idea where we have been.

Forty years ago this week, half-way through 1974 here were the books on the New York Times Best Seller list:


  1. Watership Down, by Richard Adams (Macmillan)
  2. Jaws, by Peter Benchley (Doubleday)
  3. The Fan Club, by Irving Wallace (Simon & Schuster)
  4. The Snare of the Hunter, by Helen McInnes (Harcourt Brace)
  5. Cashelmara, by Susan Howatch (Simon & Schuster)
  6. Burr, by Gore Vidal (Random House)
  7. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, by John le Carre (Knopf)
  8. The Partners, by Louis Auchincloss (Houghton Mifflin)
  9. I Heard The Owl Call My Name, by Margaret Craven (Doubleday)
  10. The Other Side of Midnight, by Sidney Sheldon (Morrow)


  1. All The President’s Men, by Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward (Simon & Schuster)
  2. Times to Remember, by Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy (Doubleday)
  3. You Can Profit From A Monetary Crisis, by Harry Browne (Macmillan)
  4. Plain Speaking, by Merle Miller (Putnam)
  5. Alive: The Story of the Andes Survivors, by Piers Paul Read (Lippincott)
  6. The Gulag Archipelago, by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (Harper & Row)
  7. Thomas Jefferson, by Fawn Broodie (Norton)
  8. Working, by Studs Terkel (Pantheon)
  9. Management, by Peter Drucker (Harper & Row)
  10. The Memory Book, by Harry Lorayne and Jerry Lucas (Stein & Day)

The prices were interesting to note as well.  The hardcover editions were right around $10.  Trade paperback editions were from $6.95 to $8.95. (Everyone used fives in prices)  Inexpensive mass paperbacks were $1.95.

Of course, in 1974, the average household income in the United States was around $12,000 per year, so everything is relative.

Christian publishing in 1974 was dominated by a few extremely fast-selling titles.

The Living Bible (Tyndale) was selling millions, but the best selling book of the year in the Christian market was The Total Woman by Marabel Morgan. It sold ten million copies while it was in print.

A sampling of other Christian books published in 1974:

A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23, by W. Phillip Keller

Discover Your Spiritual Gift and Use It, by Rick Yohn

How to Live Like A King’s Kid, Harold Hill

Peace Child, by Don Richardson

Something More, by Catherine Marshall

Truths That Transform, by D. James Kennedy

Have any of the books in today’s post had an affect on your life?

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