Bestselling Books of 2003

Another in a twice-yearly offering looking back at a certain year and its bestselling books. There’s no better way to get an idea where we are now than looking back to see from whence we came. Fifteen years ago this week:

New York Times Bestseller List, July 6, 2003


  1. THE DA VINCI CODE, by Dan Brown. (Doubleday) Mega-selling book which became a blockbuster film in 2006 starring Tom Hanks with weird hair.
  2. THE LAKE HOUSE, by James Patterson. (Little, Brown) A 2006 film starring Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock.
  3. WHITE DEATH, by Clive Cussler with Paul Kemprecos. (Putnam)
  4. THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA, by Lauren Weisberger. (Doubleday) Film released in 2006 starring Meryl Streep and Anne Hathaway.
  5. THE LOVELY BONES, by Alice Sebold. (Little, Brown) Film released in 2009.
  6. THE FACE, by Dean Koontz. (Bantam)
  7. DIE IN PLAIN SIGHT, by Elizabeth Lowell. (Morrow)
  8. THE GUARDIAN, by Nicholas Sparks. (Warner)
  9. THE KING OF TORTS, by John Grisham. (Doubleday)
  10. THE DOGS OF BABEL, by Carolyn Parkhurst. (Little, Brown)
  11. NAKED PREY, by John Sandford. (Putnam) Fourteenth book in the “prey” series by Sandford. In April 2018, book #28 released.
  12. ARMAGEDDON, by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins. (Tyndale) The 11th volume of the “Left Behind” series.
  13. FLIRTING WITH PETE, by Barbara Delinsky. (Scribner)
  14. THE SINISTER PIG, by Tony Hillerman. (HarperCollins)
  15. DEAD RINGER, by Lisa Scottoline. (HarperCollins)


  1. LIVING HISTORY, by Hillary Rodham Clinton. (Simon & Schuster)
  2. A SHORT HISTORY OF NEARLY EVERYTHING, by Bill Bryson. (Broadway)
  3. MONEYBALL, by Michael Lewis. (Norton) Classic baseball book. Film starring Brad Pitt released in 2011.
  4. BEYOND BELIEF, by Elaine Pagels. (Random House) Author of “The Gnostic Gospels.”
  5. AN UNFINISHED LIFE, by Robert Dallek. (Little, Brown) A biography of John F. Kennedy.
  6. WHO’S YOUR CADDY? by Rick Reilly. (Doubleday) A sportswriter recounts his experiences caddying for famous people.
  7. THE TEAMMATES, by David Halberstam. (Hyperion) Baseball book focused on the Boston Red Sox in the 1940’s.
  8. OPEN, by John Feinstein. (Little, Brown) Book about golf.
  9. DERELICTION OF DUTY, by Robert (Buzz) Patterson. (Regnery) A retired Air Force colonel tell-all from his time in the Clinton White House.
  10. CHARLIE WILSON’S WAR, by George Crile. (Atlantic Monthly) Political intrigue in the 80’s made into a 2007 film starring Tom Hanks with a better haircut.
  11. OFF WITH THEIR HEADS, by Dick Morris. (ReganBooks/HarperCollins) Former White House insider.
  12. LEAP OF FAITH, by Queen Noor. (Miramax) An autobiography by the widow of King Hussein of Jordan.
  13. A PATRIOT’S HANDBOOK, selected by Caroline Kennedy. (Hyperion) Essays, letters, speeches, poems and song lyrics about America.
  14. REEFER MADNESS, by Eric Schlosser. (Houghton Mifflin) A study of society’s dark side.
  15. THE CLINTON WARS, by Sidney Blumenthal. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux) Political memoir by a senior adviser to President Clinton.

Best Selling and other significant nonfiction Christian books in 2003 included:

Blue Like Jazz, Donald Miller
Beauty for Ashes, Joyce Meyer
The Servant Leader, Ken Blanchard
Point Man, Steve Farrar
I Kissed Dating Goodbye, Joshua Harris
Don’t Waste Your Life, John Piper
Something Beautiful for God, Malcom Muggeridge
Max Lucado, several titles

Christian novelists doing well in 2003 included:

Lynn Austin
Terri Blackstock
Robin Jones Gunn
Liz Curtis Higgs
Jerry Jenkins & Tim LaHaye
Karen Kingsbury
Beverly Lewis
Janette Oke
Frank Peretti
Tracie Peterson
Francine Rivers
Bodie & Brock Thoene

12 Responses to Bestselling Books of 2003

  1. Jennifer Henn July 3, 2018 at 5:14 am #

    Thanks for the memories. I haven’t seen some of these names in a while. How long is the average author career of someone who makes the bestseller list?

    I guess there are those that only write one or two, but have a huge platform.

    • Dan Balow July 3, 2018 at 6:46 am #

      Average career length would be a combination of authors who are high profile for a couple years and those who might be around for a generation. In other words, averaging might show ten years, but in reality the average is a combination of many writers with 1-3 year careers and some with 20-25 year careers, but then some much longer.

      So, really hard to put an average on it.

      Platform in fiction is “sell a lot.” In non-fiction, in 2003, platform consisted of journalists and people with a known name from their careers in politics, etc. Some where famous simply for being famous, just like today!

  2. Loretta Eidson July 3, 2018 at 5:47 am #

    Goodness! Has it really been fifteen years? Where did the time go?

  3. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser July 3, 2018 at 6:44 am #

    Well, at least Erich von Daniken wasn’t on the list…

  4. Mark Alan Leslie July 3, 2018 at 7:34 am #

    Hillary’s “Living History” outsold “Moneyball”?
    No way!

    • Dan Balow July 3, 2018 at 8:30 am #

      For one week in June, 2003, it did. The list was the New York Times list for one week as a snapshot only.

  5. Sheri Dean Parmelee, Ph.D July 3, 2018 at 9:12 am #

    Thanks for the blast from the past, Dan. It was interesting to see how many of those books and folks I’ve read. Or not.

  6. claire o'sullivan July 3, 2018 at 10:48 am #

    Great post. Pushed me to look at the 2017 list.

    For non-Christian works, the players are the same for several years. Only one interests me as it could help me think through a noir I have in the works.

    I read both fiction/non-fiction but have given up on those authors whose books are co-co-co authored by others and the drama is no longer there.

    The Christian sector is seeing an upswing again (yay!) according to this article: . This was for the 2017 year.

    Even large/non-Christin PHs are accepting Christian fiction. The two that seem to be succeeding the best are suspense or Amish romance.


    Again, I recognize a lot of the names writing fiction, and have read.. including K. Kingsbury. T. Blackstock.

    Great post. Keeping up with the market is something every writer should do. This is our livelihood and as in every field, the experts keep up. Imagine your insurance agent who is trying to sell you something from the 70’s? Or the doctor / surgeon who has no idea how to perform small to large surgical procedures?

  7. Brennan S. McPherson July 3, 2018 at 12:41 pm #

    Fascinating. The names of the Christian authors doing really well in 2003 are still doing very well today.

    I was twelve years old in 2003.

    • Judith Robl July 3, 2018 at 3:01 pm #

      Oh, wow! You were twelve – and I was 64. We need to get together to exchange viewpoints, Brennan.

  8. July 5, 2018 at 7:17 pm #

    Wow! Four books by or about the Clintons (counting Off With Their Heads, which I assume was about them too?)!

    And they are still being written!

  9. Bailey T. Hurley July 9, 2018 at 9:40 am #

    I had just become a Christian when these titles were released as a Middle School girl, I really ate up Max Lucado books as well as, I Kissed Dating Goodbye! I mean wasn’t that book every girl’s dream for a true romance?

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