The rise of the Internet revolutionized book-selling. The bibliophile actually visiting bookstores has become passÃ©. The thrill of finding a treasure-trove in some remote New England village or investigating the wares of a dusty shop in a distant city is basically gone. All one needs to do these days is to summon up a major BookSearch Engine (try BookSearch which includes multiple searches, including ABE), fill in the form, and click.
ABE is perhaps the leading individual book search engine. They send promotional emails from time to time containing features about books. The latest contained their calculation of the most searched-for books (according to Bookfinder) last year. I thought the results were rather interesting.
The most searched for out-of-print book in 2017, according to the annual BookFinder.com report, was a collection of short stories addressing the issues facing Indian girls and women in arranged marriages who come to live in the United States as immigrants.
Highly topical due to the current focus on women’s rights in India and the debate on immigration in the States, Arranged Marriage by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni was published in 1996, but is now winning a new readership.
Divakaruni, who lives in the US, is best known as a poet and this was her first foray into short story writing. The 11 stories detail numerous problems associated of arranged marriages – from physical abuse to psychological torment – and also highlights the problems in starting a new life in a country with a radically different culture.
Divakaruni was born in Kolkata and came to the United States in 1976 to study at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio and the University of California, Berkeley. Since writing Arranged Marriage, she has produced several novels and her latest, Before We Visit the Goddess, was published in 2017. Her novel, The Mistress of Spices, published in 1997, was shortlisted for the Orange Prize.
Arranged Marriage was not the only book about immigration to appear on the BookFinder.com list. The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri, first published in 2003, is a novel about coming to the United States that spans Kolkata, Boston and New York. The last edition to be published was in India in 2012.
The BookFinder.com list of in-demand out-of-print titles also contains novels from bestselling authors Neal Stephenson, Dave Eggers, and Jonathan Lethem. Aside from books that appear year after year (Sex by Madonna, Fast Times at Ridgemont High etc), there is also a sprinkling of books covering niche subjects such as knots, reptiles and coins.