Saturday, July 2, 2011

The Bestselling Authors of the 1950's

People love to read books by best-selling authors. Once an author makes it onto the top selling list it seems that they will make it on the list at least once again. Just who are the authors who made it onto the annual Top Ten Hardcover Book List for the 1950's?

Using the Top Ten Books of each year in the 1950's as calculated by Publisher's Weekly, here are the authors who made it onto the list more than once.

Francis Parkinson Keyes was at the top of the Best Selling List more than any other author in the 1950's. Her first book on the list was Joy Street in 1950. Her other books on the list were Steamboat Gothic (1952, The Royal Box (1954), Blue Camelia (1957), and Victorine (1958).

What is fascinating about Keyes (rhymes with skies) is that she published at least 60 books starting with The Old Gray Homestead in 1919. Her historical novels gradually showed her increasing interest in the Roman Catholic religion. Keyes husband was a former Governor of New Hampshire and served in the US Senate for 25 years of their married life.

She published 10 other books during the 1950's that did not make it onto the Top Ten List for that year. One of the reasons that she might have been on the best-selling list so many times is that she may have been the author who wrote the most books!

Daphne du Maurier had 3 books that showed up on the Top Ten Best selling List of the 1950's. In 1952 My Cousin Rachel was a best-selling book that was later made into a movie and a serial TV movie. In 1954 Mary Anne was on the top of the charts followed by The Scapegoat in 1957. The Scapegoat was also made into a movie.

Daphne wrote over 25 other books and had 3 other books published during the 50's, all of those books being collections of short stories. Her first book was published in 1931 and her last one was published in 1980.

Edna Ferber had 2 books on the list, and both books were made into block buster movies. Giant (1952) was made into movie starring Rock Hudson, Elizabeth Taylor, and James Dean. This was the movie that James Dean was filming when he died. Ice Palace (1958) was credited for helping Alaska achieve statehood.

Ferber wrote at least 32 books including several that were made into musicals. Giant and Ice Palace were 2 of the last 3 books that she published.

Francoise Sagan was a French author who wrote her first book, Bonjour Tristesse (1955) while on a break from school. Her second book followed closely in 1956 with A Certain Smile. Both books were made into movies.
Sagan wrote 20 other novels and 3 short story collections. She was also a playwright with 9 plays to her credit.

Frank Yerby had four books on the top-selling list in the 1950's. Only one - The Saracen Blade (1952) - was adapted to film. The others were Floodtides (1950), A Woman Called Fancy (1951), and Benton's Row (1954). Yerby was the first African American to write a best-selling novel and to have a book purchased for screen adaption. He wrote at least 33 novels and had 11 books published in the 1950's.

Herman Wouk wrote one of the books that was on the best-seller list for a long time - The Caine Mutiny (1951). That book was adapted into a highly rated movie starring Humphrey Bogart. His other book that appeared on the top of the list was Marjorie Morningstar in 1954. That book was also adapted and starred Gene Kelley and Natalie Woods.

Wouk is a Pulitzer Prize-winning author of over twenty works. He won a Pulitzer Prize for The Caine Mutiny.

John O'Hara has two books on the top list the first being Ten North Frederick (1955) followed by From the Terrace (1958). Both books were adapted to film. Ten North Frederick starred Gary Cooper and From the Terrace starred Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward.

His writing credits include at least 20 novels, two screenplays, two plays, and several newspaper and magazine columns and articles.

Kay Thompson was a children's author whose books sold enough to make it to the top of the Fiction Best Selling List. Her books are about Eloise, a six-year-old who lives in the Plaza Hotel in New York with her mother and her nanny. Eloise (1956), Eloise in Paris (1957), and Eloise at Christmastime (1958) were all at the top of the list. Eloise at Christmastime has been made into a TV Movie while Eloise in Paris will be released in 2012. Thompson was the godmother of Liza Minelli, and it is said that these books are based on her antics.

Battle Cry (1953) and Exodus (1959) were best selling books for Leon M. Uris. Both books were adapted to film. Battle Cry was based on his experiences during WWII. Uris actually helped write the screen play for the movie that was more popular with viewers than the critics. It is said that Uris sold the movie rights to Exodus so he could foot the bill for his research into the novel.

Mika Walteri is a Finnish writer whose books have been translated into more than 30 languages. The Adventurer (1950) and The Wanderer (1951) were his first two books on the best selling list for the 50's. The Egyptian (1954) was adapted to film and Marlon Brando was considered for the lead. After he turned it down it eventually went to a newcomer.

Patrick Dennis hit comic payday when he wrote the novel Auntie Mame (1955). This succesful novel was followed up with Around the World With Auntie Mame in 1958. Patrick Dennis is a pen name for Edward Everett Tanner who based his novel on his own Aunt Marion. The book was adapted and the film starred Rosalind Russel in a hilarious film.

Robert Ruark's novel Something of Value rose to the best-selling list in 1955. This novel is about the Mau Mau rising in colonial Kenya and the movie starred Rock Hudson and Sidney Poiter. In 1959 he also published Poor No More and that was on the top of the book list too. He wrote three other books during the 1950's that were published, but did not make it to the top 10 books of the year.

Taylor Caldwell wrote over 40 novels. Eight of her works were published during the 1950's with two making them to the best-selling list for a year: Never Victorious, Never Defeated (1954) and Dear and Glorious Physician (1959). Dear and Glorious Physician is being adapted to film in 2012.

The Silver Chalice (1952-53), The Tontine (1955), and Below the Salt (1957) were all written by Thomas B. Costain. The Silver Chalice was made into a movie starring Paul Newman. This was his first starring role, and he has since apologized for being in the movie because he felt it was bad.

Find out more about the plots of these books in Books Into Movies

Linda Reavill enjoys writing about movies and books. You can check out other reviews at

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