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  • Writer's pictureSteve Haywood

Top Bestselling Books of 1972

Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach – Richard Bach is an American writer who was very popular in the 1970s. Jonathan Livingston Seagull is one of his most popular books. The main character is a seagull who grows bored with the meaningless life as part of the flock. He seeks to learn everything he can about flying and life. He leaves the flock and starts a happy life, meeting other outcasts along the way and teaching others how to live. A short book, just over 100 pages, but one to make you think.

August 1914 by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn – A huge historical fiction novel covering the outbreak of World War One and the ill fated Russian offensive into East Prussia, it also deals with the assassination of tsarist Prime Minister Pyotr Stolypin a crucial event in the lead up to the Russian Revolusion of 1917. This book is the first in the author’s series ‘The Red Wheel’, each book covering a different crucial moment in the build up to the Russian Revolution. Book Two is November 1916. 

The Odessa File by Frederick Forsyth – The first of two entries in this list by Frederick Forsyth. The Odessa File is a brilliant thriller about a chain of events leading to the discovery of the Odessa organisation, whose mission it is to re-establish the power of the SS and carry out Hitler’s final solution. I think this book was the first Forsyth book I read – I can’t remember much about it now, but remember being completely hooked at the time!

The Day of the Jackal by Frederick Forsyth – This was 1971’s bestselling book, and still very popular in 1972. A secret assassin plots to kill the French President, and the hunt is on to capture him before it is too late.

1972 books

The Winds of War by Herman Wouk – Another book that made its entry on last year’s list, this is also another epic 900 page historical fiction novel, and the first in a series.

Captains and the Kings by Taylor Caldwell – Another giant 800 page novel, a penniless Irish immigrant arrives in America as a 13 year old. 70 years later, the once poor immigrant narrates how he clawed his way to colossal wealth as well as what he regrets and what he missed out on. If anything this sounds like something Jeffrey Archer might write today,

Two from Galilee by Marjorie Holmes – This book is subtitled ‘The Story of Mary and Joseph’ and is the story of a teenage girl and a young carpenter who fall in love, but then are given an awesome responsibility. You might think you already know the story of Mary and Joseph but this book will show them in a whole new light. A short book, not much more than 200 pages, but could be a good one to read especially around Christmas time.

My Name is Asher Lev by Chaim Potok – A Jewish novel about a young man who is a gifted painter, but his life becomes a struggle between his father who wants his to live a more orthodox life, and his desire to express himself through his gifts.

Semi-Tough by Dan Jenkins – A comic sports novel, this is a book about a tough halfback for the New York giants, who has been tasked by a New York book publisher with keeping a journal of the events leading up to a big game. Ranked as no. 7 in Sports Illustrated’s top 100 funnies sports books of all time, it was also turned into a hilarious film starring Burt Reynolds and Kris Kristofferson.

A really interesting selection of books. The only books I’ve read before are the Frederick Forsyth books. Which of these books has sparked my interest however? Well I do like thrillers, and The Word sounds like a really good one. On a similar theme, but a very different type of book, I do like the sound of Two From Galilee too. To be honest I like the sound of a lot of them, but if there’s one other one I can imagine I might read it’s the top book, Jonathon Livingston Seagull. It sounds an intriguing book and somewhat philosophical book, and is quite short so may be worth a punt.

What other books are there? For this I’m resorting to Goodreads’ Most Popular Books Published in 1972. There is no particular rhyme or reason to these picks, but this is what piqued my interest. First up is All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot. It’s the first of many books about the Yorkshire Vet and his experiences, which also spawned a very successful TV series. It isn’t the sort of book I’d normally read, but I’d be interested in reading the first one just to see.

1972 books

“An elderly artist and her six-year-old granddaughter while away a summer together on a tiny island in the gulf of Finland. Gradually, the two learn to adjust to each other’s fears, whims and yearnings for independence, and a fierce yet understated love emerges – one that encompasses not only the summer inhabitants but the island itself, with its mossy rocks, windswept firs and unpredictable seas.”

I don’t know why, but this description quite captivated me, and I’d really like to read it.

Also on the list of most popular books is The Great Bridge: The Epic Story of the Building of the Brooklyn Bridge by David McCullough. This guy is a great writer of historical non-fiction, a sort of fusion of popular and academic writing. I loved his book 1776, and all of his books are supposed to be really good.

If you like science fiction, there’s some great books published this year including the first book in the Elric saga, Elric of Melnibone by Michael Moorcock, The Gods Themselves by Isaac Asimov and The Halloween Tree by Ray Bradbury (okay it is more horror than sci-fi but by a great science fiction author).

If I’ve missed any  good books, do let me know!

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