Neutral Milk Hotel's 'In the Aeroplane Over the Sea' is Best-Selling Book in 33 1/3 Series
The distinctive collection of music nerd tributes has published 86 volumes since 2003, among them tomes dedicated to Radiohead, The Smiths, Beastie Boys and the Pixies in addition to such rock perennials as The Beatles and Bob Dylan.
The acclaimed Bloomsbury-published book series of music writing, 33 1/3, recently released a ranking of its best-selling titles to date. Topping the list is Neutral Milk Hotel's In the Aeroplane Over the Sea by Kim Cooper, an oral history of the 1998 cult-classic. Somewhat surprising to casual observers, Celine Dion's Let's Talk About Love by Carl Wilson ranked second on the list.
David Barker PhD, publishing director of Bloomsbury Academic US, explained via email: "Looking at the list, I'm struck by its mix of predictability and unpredictability, if that makes any sense. Clearly (unless it's very bad), a book about the Beatles, or Dylan, or the Stones, or the Beach Boys, is likely to sell more copies than a book about the MC5 or Van Dyke Parks or A Tribe Called Quest or Big Star. On the other hand, it's fascinating to see books about My Bloody Valentine and the Pixies so high up on the list -- and then, of course, the top 2 sellers are both outliers in a sense, and almost exact opposites: the Neutral Milk Hotel book is the one source of information in book form for fans of a purely cult band; the Celine Dion book is not bought or read by *any* fans of Celine's music -- it's a think piece about the nature of taste and criticism and the very definitions of good and bad." (Author Wilson was interviewed about the book on The Colbert Report.)
Barker said sales on these books range around 20,000 copies at the top of the list down to, more typically, 7,000 or 8,000 for most of the books in the Top 25 list. His personal favorites from the Top 25 include Erik Davis' book on Led Zepplin's Led Zeppelin IV or Dan Le Roy's book on The Beastie Boys' Paul's Boutique.
Amidst a mass of Facebook wallposts reacting to this list, Cooper posted a response to her book landing the top spot. "I still don't quite know how I happened to write the best-selling book in one of the coolest series of music books ever published, but seven years on, I am still so glad I got the chance to tell the story of a group of lovely artists who helped their friend Jeff Mangum paint his masterpiece," she wrote. "Most great rock and roll stories are full of selfishness and ego and drugs and infidelity and financial malfeasance and arrogance, but this one is about faith and love. Isn't is nice to know that you don't have to be a monster to make great art?"
See the Top 25 list below:
1. Neutral Milk Hotel (In the Aeroplane over the Sea by Kim Cooper)
2. Celine Dion (Let's Talk About Love by Carl Wilson)
3. Rolling Stones (Exile on Main St. by Bill Janovitz)
4. Radiohead (OK Computer by Dai Griffiths)
5. The Kinks (The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society by Andy Miller)
6. Velvet Underground & Nico (The Velvet Underground by Joe Harvard)
7. Joy Division (Unknown Pleasures by Chris Ott)
8. Beastie Boys (Paul's Boutique by Dan Le Roy)
9. The Smiths (Meat Is Murder by Joe Pernice)
10.The Beatles (Let It Be by Steve Matteo)
11. Bob Dylan (Highway 61 Revisited by Mark Polizzotti)
12. David Bowie (Low by Hugo Wilcken)
13. The Beach Boys (Pet Sounds by Jim Fusilli)
14. My Bloody Valentine (Loveless by Mike McGonigal)
15. The Pixies (Doolittle by Ben Sisario)
16. Led Zeppelin (Led Zeppelin IV by Erik Davis)
17. Pink Floyd (The Piper at the Gates of Dawn by John Cavanagh)
18. DJ Shadow (Endtroducing..... by Eliot Wilder)
19. Neil Young (Harvest by Sam Inglis)
20. The Band (Music from Big Pink by John Niven)
21. Talking Heads (Fear of Music by Jonathan Lethem)
22. Love (2 Forever Changes by Andrew Hultkrans)
23. The Replacements (Let It Be by Colin Meloy)
24. The Jimi Hendrix Experience (Electric Ladyland by John Perry)
25. Black Sabbath (Master of Reality by John Darnielle)
The 33 1/3 series started in 2003 with Warren Zanes love affair with Dusty Springfield's record Dusty in Memphis. Since then, 86 volumes in all have been published. For the full list of the collection's sales rankings, visit the 33 1/3 Facebook page.