Bestselling Books in 1974

Starting today, and every six months, we are going to take a ride in the “way-back” machine (with special acknowledgment to Mr. Peabody and Sherman), traveling back in time to grab a snapshot of what books were selling on a particular date and year. To get an idea where publishing is today, it’s good to get an idea where we have been.

Forty years ago this week, half-way through 1974 here were the books on the New York Times Best Seller list:


  1. Watership Down, by Richard Adams (Macmillan)
  2. Jaws, by Peter Benchley (Doubleday)
  3. The Fan Club, by Irving Wallace (Simon & Schuster)
  4. The Snare of the Hunter, by Helen McInnes (Harcourt Brace)
  5. Cashelmara, by Susan Howatch (Simon & Schuster)
  6. Burr, by Gore Vidal (Random House)
  7. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, by John le Carre (Knopf)
  8. The Partners, by Louis Auchincloss (Houghton Mifflin)
  9. I Heard The Owl Call My Name, by Margaret Craven (Doubleday)
  10. The Other Side of Midnight, by Sidney Sheldon (Morrow)


  1. All The President’s Men, by Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward (Simon & Schuster)
  2. Times to Remember, by Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy (Doubleday)
  3. You Can Profit From A Monetary Crisis, by Harry Browne (Macmillan)
  4. Plain Speaking, by Merle Miller (Putnam)
  5. Alive: The Story of the Andes Survivors, by Piers Paul Read (Lippincott)
  6. The Gulag Archipelago, by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (Harper & Row)
  7. Thomas Jefferson, by Fawn Broodie (Norton)
  8. Working, by Studs Terkel (Pantheon)
  9. Management, by Peter Drucker (Harper & Row)
  10. The Memory Book, by Harry Lorayne and Jerry Lucas (Stein & Day)

The prices were interesting to note as well.  The hardcover editions were right around $10.  Trade paperback editions were from $6.95 to $8.95. (Everyone used fives in prices)  Inexpensive mass paperbacks were $1.95.

Of course, in 1974, the average household income in the United States was around $12,000 per year, so everything is relative.

Christian publishing in 1974 was dominated by a few extremely fast-selling titles.

The Living Bible (Tyndale) was selling millions, but the best selling book of the year in the Christian market was The Total Woman by Marabel Morgan. It sold ten million copies while it was in print.

A sampling of other Christian books published in 1974:

A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23, by W. Phillip Keller

Discover Your Spiritual Gift and Use It, by Rick Yohn

How to Live Like A King’s Kid, Harold Hill

Peace Child, by Don Richardson

Something More, by Catherine Marshall

Truths That Transform, by D. James Kennedy

Have any of the books in today’s post had an affect on your life?

9 Responses to Bestselling Books in 1974

  1. Rick Barry July 1, 2014 at 6:30 am #

    Fun little list, Dan. Also makes me smile because last week I finally bought A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23 at a yard sale. Some of us are a little slow climbing aboard the bandwagon, but we eventually get there. Amazing how some of these titles now seem like ancient history even though it wasn’t all that long ago.

    Looking forward to seeing where (or when) your Flux Capacitor takes you next!

    • Jeanne Takenaka July 1, 2014 at 7:31 am #

      Rick, I hope you like that book as much as I did. And, I can only imagine the cover’s, um, uniqueness. 🙂

  2. Dan Balow July 1, 2014 at 6:41 am #

    That’s great. Knowing that the design world of 1974 created leisure suits and the Ford Pinto, my guess is the cover is pretty spiffy!

  3. Cecelia Dowdy July 1, 2014 at 7:17 am #

    The Other Side Of Midnight!!! I loved that book! I didn’t read it in ’74 (too young to read it back then). But, I read it sometime in the late eighties! Sidney Sheldon was one of my favorite authors!

    I didn’t realize that the movie JAWS was from a novel? Never saw the movie or read the novel, but, have heard awesome things about the movie.

  4. Jeanne Takenaka July 1, 2014 at 7:36 am #

    I’m surprised at how many of these titles I’ve heard of from your list. I was too young to read most of these books when they first came out. 🙂 It’s interesting to see/guess at the themes that were popular in 1974—the gulags, war stories . . .

    The only one I’ve read is, A Shepherd’s Look at the 23rd Psalm. I got so much out of that book. 🙂 I’ll look forward to more of these posts.

  5. Ann Shorey July 1, 2014 at 7:56 am #

    Something More by Catherine Marshall is the book that brought me to salvation during a very trying time in my life. I treasure my copy, and have purchased and given the book to others.

  6. July 1, 2014 at 12:18 pm #

    AH! A Shepard Looks At The 23rd Psalm!

    I knew Phillip Keller when I was a kid, as much as a child can know a legend. But oh, what a tender, sweet soul and a great wit. He kind of was a rock star in our church and camp cirlces, but would happily sit and talk to a bunch of curious city kids about sheep and how hard it was to walk in a hillside. He’d smile when people asked about Africa, and tell a few stories. He had a lovely, deep voice and was a natural born orator. When we’d see him at camp, where he was the speaker, he was always smiling, and almost always leading a pack of kids. At family camp, he was everyone’s favourite grown up. Of the kids, he could pick out the Lonelies, and make them feel like they counted as much as some hoity toity grown ups. And he’d remember our names.

    A truly godly man.

    • Rick Barry July 1, 2014 at 12:24 pm #

      Sounds like you have enough personal memories to start a fascinating article. Interview a few others who knew him, add a dash of research, and you could have an inspiring article on your hands!

  7. Glenda Fowlow July 1, 2014 at 2:32 pm #

    Peace Child by Don Richardson was an interesting book, but the movie grabbed me from start to finish. So amazing that God has created a culturally relevant way of showing His love for humanity!

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