Rowling is the decade's most successful author

  March 11, 2004 at 9:46 AM ET
  Geri     Yahoo! News (via USA Today)
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That's according to USA Todayopens in new window, which began publishing its "Best-Selling Books" list 10 years ago. A decade later, "Harry Potter" author JK Rowling has turned from a struggling single mother into landing five of the six top spots on this year's list.

Four "major forces" changed the list: An age of abundance and familiarity; The Oprah effect; The Aging of America and The Wizard of Bookselling.

The Wizard of Bookselling: Before Rowling there was J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, a best-selling trilogy before it hit the big screen. But Tolkien "appealed more to the college crowd than to kids," says Gayle Feldman, whose study of the book business, Best and Worst of Times, was published last year. Feldman says Rowling "did nothing less than revive the pre-radio, pre-movies, pre-TV tradition of the family-reading book," the kind popularized by Charles Dickens and Walter Scott that were "both classic best seller and best-selling classic."

Rowling also "showed us that children appreciated complicated story lines," says Fitzgerald of "They live in a world of 15-minute television programming where a story unfolds and warps, often with complex detail. It's changed how they want to read from the moment they get started."


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