Another Year, Another Round of Da Vinci Contenders

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As the days of 2005 fade away and we prepare to launch into 2006, CNN features an AP report on what surely will become a New Year’s tradition… picking the next batch of contenders to The Da Vinci Code crown. The article, Next ‘Da Vinci Code’? Plenty of choices, highlights three new novels that are poised to follow in Da Vinci’s footsteps as well as giving some background to the phenomenon.

Labyrinth, by Kate Mosse, is already a bestseller in Europe and is getting a 100,000 first print run here in the US. The Templar Legacy, by Steve Berry, is the subject of a 200,000 first print run. And The Last Cato, by Matilde Asensi, is also getting a 100,000 first printing. Amounts of the advances aren’t given, but with print runs like that, the dollars should certainly be high.

The article features quotes from editors at Dutton, Rayo, and Ballantine on the Da Vinci phenomenon and it also gives a quick plot capsule of each of the novels featured.

What I thought was most interesting, however, is that this article is almost identical to articles that were published last January. For example, on January 24, 2005, Publishers Weekly ran an article entitled Most Likely to Succeed, that covered “the five titles booksellers say are the most likely to win over the Da Vinci faithful.” Included in that roundup were Adam Fawer’s Improbable, Jon Fasman’s The Geographer’s Library, Matt Bondurant’s The Third Translation, James Rollins’ Map of Bones, and Elizabeth Kostova’s The Historian.

Almost a year later, The Da Vinci Code still rules the bestseller list. This past weekend, it was number seven with 142 weeks on the list and shows no signs of being dethroned. The books included in the Publishers Weekly roundup were thrilling novels and this isn’t a snide commentary directed towards them. And I’m sure the books in the CNN article are just as good. I’m just fascinated by The Da Vinci Code‘s dominance and how the media and publishing industry keeps holding up the next whatever. Will the book trade become like sports where every year someone else is annointed the next Michael Jordan? When UCLA won ten consecutive national championships in college basketball, each fall sports reporters wrote about the next team to beat the Bruins.

I suppose it’s natural. After three years of dominating the bestseller list and more than 25 million copies sold worldwide, The Da Vinci Code is a high watermark that can’t be ignored. Whether you think that is a good thing or not is immaterial. The numbers speak for themselves.

I just wonder if we’ll be here at the end of 2006 and see another article proclaiming the next round of contenders. And maybe by that point, I will have finally gotten around to reading The Da Vinci Code.

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