Authors most in demand

Screenshot 2018-10-18 12.32.43With a bookshop in Charing Cross Road , in the centre of London, it occurred to us to find out which authors are most asked for and  sell the quickest. So we asked around. The answers are in  three tiers.

1. Asked for a lot

Jane Austen, Beckett,The Bible, Brontes, Lewis Carroll, Angela Carter, Agatha Christie, Churchill, Aleister Crowley,  Roald  Dahl, Conan Doyle, Darwin,  Dickens, Dostoyevsky, Scott Fitzgerald, Ian Fleming, Heaney, Joyce, Kafka, Kerouac, Stephen King, CS Lewis, AA Milne, Orwell,  Beatrix Potter, Pratchett, Rackham,  Ayn Rand, JK Rowling, JD Salinger, Shakespeare,  Bram Stoker,Tolkien, V Woolf, Waugh,Wilde, Wodehouse

2 Quite a lot

Jeffrey Archer, Marcus Aurelius, L Frank Baum, Enid Blyton, William Burroughs, Byron, Cervantes,  Baron Corvo, T.S. Eliot, Faulkner, Neil Gaiman, Kenneth Grahame, Graham Greene, Thomas Hardy, Hemingway,  I Ching, Keats, Kipling,  D.H. Lawrence, HP Lovecraft, Milton,  Nabokov,Sylvia Plath,  Pinter, Edgar Allan Poe, Anthony Powell, Rilke, Seneca, G B Shaw,  Dr Seuss, Mary Shelley (and PB), Tao Te Ching, Dylan Thomas, John Wyndham,

3. Fairly often

Douglas Adams, Martin Amis, W H Auden, James Baldwin, J G Ballard, Baudelaire, Francis Bacon, Julian Barnes, John Betjeman, Bonfiglioli,  Borges, Paul Bowles, William Boyd, Bukowski, Bulgakov,  A Burgess, Richard Burton, Robert Burton Raymond Chandler, Cioran, Paulo Coelho, Coleridge, Joseph Conrad, Dante, De la Mare, Philip K Dick, Emily Dickinson, Norman Douglas, Gerald Durrell (and Lawrence), Bob Dylan, Ronald Firbank, EM Forster, Mrs Gaskell, Stella Gibbons,  Kahil Gibran, Edward Gorey, Christopher Hitchens, A Huxley, Huysmans, W.E. Johns, Kierkegaard, Le Fanu, Ursula Le Guin, Lees Milne, John Lennon, Ada Leverson, Wyndham Lewis, Machen, Thomas Mann, Marquez, Marx, George RR Martin, Du Maurier, Ian Mcewan, Melville (Moby Dick) Thomas Merton, Nancy Mitford,  Montaigne, William Morris,  Morrissey, Murakami, Musil, V.S. Naipaul, Edith Nesbit, Patrick O’Brian, Flann O’Brien, Pepys, Mervyn Peake ,Powys Bros, Proust,  Pynchon,  Ian Rankin, Ruth Rendell, Rimbaud, Rushdie, Saki, Ronald Searle, Dodie Smith, Vita Sackville West, De Sade, St Exupery (Little Prince) Will Self, Iain Sinclair, R L Stevenson, Theroux, Tolstoy, B Traven, P L Travers, John Updike, Veblen, Von Hayek, Patrick White, Jacqueline Wilson, Wittgenstein, Wordsworth, Yeats

We also solicited the wants of a couple of country booksellers who said that Enoch Powell is asked for, also ‘B.B.’ (Watkins-Pitchford) Henry Williamson, Brent Dyer, Powys Bros, Patrick Leigh Fermor, Colin Wilson, Ronald Blythe, Rider Haggard, Lees Milne, Belloc etc., In London we are asked all the time  for 84 Charing Cross Road by Helen Hanff. By the way these are not always the most collectable writers, the listed is based mostly on books people want to read – although every author here, with very few exceptions, is collectable. It should be noted that generally people who ask for books are not  secondhand bookshop habitués, the regular customer tends to know where to look and quietly buys the books he or she wants without asking questions- there are exceptions to this.

Rackham should not really be in here as he is  an illustrator not an author. Other wanted illustrators include Ravilious, Keith Vaughan, Hockney, Chapman Bros, Jessie M King, Herge, Dulac, Nielsen, Harry Clarke, Beardsley, Austin Spare, Pogany, Ed Ruscha, Charles and Heath Robinson, William Nicholson, Quentin Blake,  Robert Gibbings, Louis Wain, Doyle, Beresford Egan, E.H. Shepard, Ralph Steadman, Dore, Raverat, Ardizzone, Von Bayros, Bewick, Bawden, Kate Greenaway, E McKnight Kauffer -to name but a few, then you have photographers…

Probably left someone vital out and included a few duffers..

4 thoughts on “Authors most in demand

  1. rainer

    great list but not exhaustive, I guess it would have mohave several 100 names but just at M
    maugham, machen, melvile, Henry miller, murdoch

  2. Coby

    You say, “. . . the listed is based mostly on books people want to read . . .” but is that really true? For example, perhaps more questions come from customers looking for a gift. As you say, ” . . . a regular customer tends to know where to look and quietly buys the books he or she wants without asking questions . . .” Even people who rarely visit a used bookstore may know enough to go to the “U” section to find Updike, but not have any idea where Pepys may be waiting for them. So the chance of someone requesting help can be due to the purpose of the book, whether or not the customer is a regular patron, and whether or not the books is fiction, etc. etc. Seems like it would be complicated to find the reasons behind customers’ questions. I think you’d have to give up book selling and take up statistics in order to do a proper study.

    Can you shed light as to who is asking for help? I would assume tourists would ask more questions than a Londoner. I realize your customers don’t wear tags with their country of origin but perhaps you see tendencies based on customer accents? As an American, I know if I were lucky enough to be in your shop (actually, I was, about 8 years ago) I’d probably be looking for a Waugh, not a Hemingway.

    Alas, you’ve given me more questions than answers! Would absolutely love to see a tongue-in-cheek Venn diagram from you on who asks for what and why, etc.

  3. Jot 101 Post author

    As you say Coby people don’t announce where they are from, but I would say questions come mostly from tourists and out of owners, i.e. benighted persons living outside the M25. Regulars ask questions like ‘what’s new?’ and ‘who’s estate did you get?’ and a lot of people ask for subjects and categories. Anything on freemasonry, Charles II, Real Tennis or the Bloomsberries…? Will ask a jotter who does diagrams but it might not happen. There are ethnic traits– French often ask for Oscar Wilde, Japanese customers want stuff on the Romantics, Italians want incunables (not that we have any!)

  4. R.M.Healey

    It is depressing that so few poets figure in your lists. I cannot find a single poet of the Auden generation, unless you count Dylan Thomas, who is still hugely overrated, as he only wrote about five good poems. Seamus Heaney, who is also overrated, is a lonely figure in your list among poets writing from c1950.Perhaps the preponderance of fiction writers is a sign that many people want literature that is intellectually unchallenging, as most novels are.


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