The bestsellers of yesterday
When I was college age I read everything including best sellers. The Daily Beast ran a piece today about some of the Beach Reads of the Sixties.
As for the ones shown above at the time I was a big Harold Robbins fan. The Carpetbaggers and A Stone For Danny Fisher being my favorites among his novels. I've reread both these books in the years since and they hold up (for me) very well. He was a story teller in the grand tradition but when he got into writing sex books I gave up on him. Places like Midwood and Nightstand were publishing far more interesting and entertaining books with far more realistic stories and characters. I'm serious. Ditto "sex shock" novels like The Chapman Report. Not as much fun as the Midwoods.
Rona Jaffe was an excellent storyteller and a talented observer of life in New York City. I know a number of female novelists who credit The Best Of Everything as being an important novel in the creation of feminist literature. I read many of her books over the years. She was very good.
I always preferred Irving Wallace to Sidney Sheldon. Wallace was the better novelist, storyteller and observer. Sheldon's stuff was so over the top it got boring after about thirty pages.
Jacqueline Susann was one of the nastiest people I ever saw on TV so I had no interest in reading her books, the godmother to Ann Coulter and Michelle Malkin sans politics. Her perpetual self-promotion was her least irritating trait if that tells you anything. She insisted she wrote her books herself which I never believed.
Nothing Arthur Hailey wrote ever interested me.
One name missing here is Herman Wouk. My high school friend Steve Schwartz recommended Marjorie Morningstar as a way to learn about certain kinds of Jewish life. I was dating a Jewish girl at the time as well. Her mother kept raving about it. Hell of a good solid serious fascinating novel. I liked Youngblood Hawk and a few others by Wouk too. He was in the tradition of popular novelists who really had something to say about how we lived such as Jerome Weidman. I wish we had novelists like those today.
For me Peyton Place remains my favorite best seller of all-time. It came damned close to being real literature far more than the sudsy Gone With The Wind. I reread it every few years and it never lets me down. I just wish poor Grace Metalious' had played out more happily. Another name that should appear here is Maritta Wolff. Her Whistle Stop is well in league with Peyton Place. Popular but serious and lasting fiction.