Rare Book Monthly

Articles - October - 2009 Issue

BookFinder's Top 10's: A Sign of the Times

Author Aimee Crocker led the good life her way.


By Michael Stillman

BookFinder.com has issued its annual lists of the most sought after out-of-print books. The times they are a-changin'. A lot has happened since last year's lists were compiled at the end of August 2008. The stock market collapsed and the world economy fell into a tailspin. People lost their jobs and houses. A new President was elected in America unlike any we've seen before. And, people's tastes in out-of-print books changed with the times. Eight of the ten categories of books tracked by BookFinder have new titles at the top of their popularity lists for the twelve months ending with August 2009.

As a note of explanation, BookFinder searches dozens of book listing sites such as AbeBooks, Alibris and Amazon for matches. The result is BookFinder knows what titles people are trying to find. These are searches for used books, so they are not likely to be new titles. Additionally, they aren't necessarily the most frequently purchased old books. Old books that are popular yet easy to find don't require much searching. What you have here is a list of books that are highly desirable yet very hard to find. You won't find any $1 books on this list as the demand-supply imbalance makes this group a more pricey lot than the typical out-of-print book.

A clear sign of changing times is that Madonna no longer tops the Arts and Music category. Her bluntly titled book, Sex, led this category every year since the lists were first compiled in 2003. This year the ageless icon slips to number 2. Number 1 goes to a book as proper as Madonna is risqué: Currier & Ives: Printmakers to the American People, by Harry Twyford Peters. Let's just say the images in this book are very different from those in Madonna's kinky picture-book. Picturesque America and A Treasury of American Prints at 3 and 4, along with the disappearance of last year's number 2, Drawn Blank, by Bob Dylan, are further signs the times they are a-changin'.

Hard times can increase our dreams of how the very wealthy live. Perhaps that explains why Norman Mailer's Marilyn has been replaced atop the Biography list with Aimee Crocker's And I'd Do It Again. Ms. Crocker was an extremely wealthy railroad heiress who lived life her way, traveling the world, spending lavishly, marrying five times and conducting countless other affairs. She was not always a proper lady, but she could afford to be whomever she wished. Her book was published during the last hard times - 1936.

In Children's Books, this is the year for pink. Number 1 is Anne Alexander's The Pink Dress, number 2 Christine Noble Govan's The Pink Maple House. Robb White's The Lion's Paw, last year's number 1, is nowhere to be found, probably because a reprint late last year made copies easier to obtain.

Crafts, Hobbies & How-To (including sports) is filled with titles that could help you get through a recession, starting with number 1: Carpentry for Beginners, by Charles Harold Hayward. Other titles cover topics such as knitting, food preparation, woodworking, and operating a consignment shop. Last year's number 1, Steve Belichick's football book, Football Scouting Methods, is gone from the top ten. Survival trumps sports in tough times.

Rare Book Monthly

  • Bonhams, Ending Feb. 21: A JAMES MADISON THANKSGIVING PROCLAMATION. $12,000 - $18,000
    Bonhams, Ending Feb. 21: A JAMES MONROE PRESIDENTIAL SERVICE SOUP BOWL. $6,000 - $9,000
    Bonhams, Ending Feb. 21: A FRANKLIN PIERCE BRUSHED SILK TOP HAT. $10,000 - $15,000
    Bonhams, Ending Feb. 21: LINCOLN ENDORSEMENT: "I AM ALWAYS FOR THE MAN WHO WISHES TO WORK." $15,000 - $20,000
    Bonhams, Ending Feb. 21: A RUTHERFORD B. HAYES CIVIL WAR-ERA TRAVEL DESK. $4,000 - $6,000
    Bonhams, Ending Feb. 21: FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT'S FINAL PRESIDENTIAL AUTOMOBILE FLAG. $20,000 - $30,000
    Bonhams, Ending Feb. 21: GARFIELD LS AS PRESIDENT ALLUDING TO THE "STAR-ROUTE" SCANDAL: "REGRETTING THE EMBARRASSMENTS WHICH THE EVENT HAS CAUSED US BOTH." $25,000 - $35,000
    Bonhams, Ending Feb. 21: AN 18K GOLD AND ENAMEL WILLIAM MCKINLEY INAGURATION POCKETWATCH. $15,000 - $20,000
    Bonhams, Ending Feb. 21: A JOHN F. KENNEDY PRESIDENTIAL MOTORCADE FLAG. $80,000 - $120,000
    Bonhams, Ending Feb. 21: PRESIDENT KENNEDY'S LAST DAY: OFFICIAL SCHEDULE ANNOTATED BY SPECIAL ASSISTANT DAVE POWERS WITH A MINUTE-BY-MINUTE DETAIL OF THE DAY'S ACTIONS. $40,000 - $60,000
  • Sotheby’s
    Modern First Editions
    Available for Immediate Purchase
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Winston Churchill. The Second World War. Set of First-Edition Volumes. 6,000 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: A.A. Milne, Ernest H. Shepard. A Collection of The Pooh Books. Set of First-Editions. 18,600 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Salvador Dalí, Lewis Carroll. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Finely Bound and Signed Limited Edition. 15,000 USD
    Sotheby’s
    Modern First Editions
    Available for Immediate Purchase
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Ian Fleming. Live and Let Die. First Edition. 9,500 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: J.K. Rowling. Harry Potter Series. Finely Bound First Printing Set of Complete Series. 5,650 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Ernest Hemingway. A Farewell to Arms. First Edition, First Printing. 4,200 USD
  • Il Ponte, Feb. 27-28: KUPKA, Frantisek (1871-1957) - Quatre histoires de blanc et noir. Paris: Marcel Baque, 1926. €5.000-€8.000
    Il Ponte, Feb. 27-28: VASI, Giuseppe Agostino (1710-1782) - Raccolta delle più belle vedute antiche, e moderne di Roma disegnate ed incise secondo lo stato presente. Rome: A. Vasi, 1786. €4.000-€6.000
    Il Ponte, Feb. 27-28: SALAMANCA, Antonio (1478-1562) - [First map depicting the bay of Naples]. [Rome: 1538]. €3.000-€5.000

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