Faithful readers of Page 854 will no doubt be aware of my (hopefully not unhealthy) fascination with odd contests and strange lists. Earlier this week, courtesy of the invaluable Book Bench blog (see link on this page) I was introduced to a jaw-dropper: Wikipedia's "list of best-selling fiction authors." Supposedly, this is "a list of best-selling fiction authors to date and in any language" based on "approximate numbers provided or repeated by reliable sources" of "all fiction books written or co-written by an author." The resulting list is full of enough incoherencies and weird juxtapositions to give anyone a case of near-fatal literary whiplash. The first three places, for example, are held by William Shakespeare, Agatha Christie and Barbara Cartland (well, at least all three are English). Further down in the top ten we find Danielle Steel, Dr. Seuss and Gilbert Patten. (Who?? Evidently he was a dime novelist from early in the last century.) And so on down the line with, for example, Mickey Spillane, C. S. Lewis (they're right next to each other), Ann Martin of The Babysitters Club and -- no surprise here -- James Patterson.
In a classic understatement, the article notes that this is "an incomplete list which may never be able to satisfy certain standards for completion." And since Wikipedia is open source it's possible you might be able to briefly add your own favorite author -- or even yourself -- to the list. Who knows -- Leo Tolstoy, Nora Roberts and Frank G. Slaughter might enjoy your company.