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Seven Best Selling Books of All Time and Lessons to Be Learned

7 Best Selling Books of All Time – Carrying the Message

Best Selling Books

I love books.

I like their feel, their smell, their history…everything about them. They seem new and nostalgic all at once. They carry on ideas long after each of us is gone, and it is this method that my Lord used to carry His message of salvation to the world; through the book.

Let’s take a look at the seven best selling books of all time and see if there are some lessons to be learned.
[NOTE 2-29-12: This is not an up to date list. I did this research several years ago, and it seems the list I used left out several books, and some books, such as the Harry Potter series, had not yet made the list. Nevertheless, it doesn’t take away the fact that all of the books listed below are some of the highest-selling books of all-time. It also should not diminish the point later in the article regarding A Message to Garcia. I am grateful to a comment for pointing this out. For a current list of best-selling books go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_best-selling_books.]

Gutenberg Bible

#1 The Holy Bible (Over 6 Billion)

As we look at the best selling books of all time, it should come as no surprise that The Holy Bible is the #1 best selling book. It is the first book to roll off of Gutenberg’s press  and it is estimated that well over 6 billion copies have been printed since.

#2 Quotations from Chairman Mao (Over 900 Million)

The second best selling book of all time appears to be Quotations from Chairman Mao. With over 900 million copies printed, it has been required reading in Chinese schools for decades.

#3 The American Spelling Book (Over 100 Million)

The American Spelling Book, appears third on the list, and was a standard in American schools for decades in the 19th century. As a side note, many of the exercises in reading are either on morals, or are taken directly from scripture, with headings such as, “Our Savior’s Golden Rule.” If you don’t believe me, take a look for yourself in the first edition on Google Books (Take a look starting on page 72). Can you imagine the standard books in our schools using examples and quotations from the scripture? What were they thinking? Did they have no respect for the separation of church and state? (For those of you who can’t tell, I’m being sarcastic).

#4 The Guinness Book of World Records (Combined over 90 Million)

Familiar to all of us, the Guinness Book of World Records is something practically every child in America has gone through trying to find a record to try and break, thereby earning ourselves a place in the next edition of the book.

#5 The World Almanac (Combine 73.5 Million)

The World Almanac is filled will all sorts of information that you always wanted to know, but never knew where to find. Can’t quite remember the lyrics to all four stanzas of The Star Spangled Banner? You’ll find them here. It is the fourth stanza from which our great motto comes, “In God is Our Trust,” which was slightly changed as it was imprinted on our coins.

#6 The McGuffey Readers (Combined 60 Million)

Again, the standard for schools well into the 20th century. Here too we find the standard school book, looked at by millions of children, and teaching things like “How to tell people bad news,” and more scandalously, several passages teaching from the Bible, using stories based on lessons from the Bible, or even quoting long passages directly from the Bible as reading exercises. Check out pages 167 and following for instance.

 

#7 A Message to Garcia

Now, as I was doing research and pulling this information out I came across the seventh best selling book. I had never heard of it. For a librarian who loves books, it was startling that in the top 100 books of all time there would be one that I hadn’t heard of, let alone in the top ten. I did a little digging, and here is what I found. First, this short essay was printed in a newspaper without a title. Basically it was an extra editorial written on a slow news day to fill up space. It was an immediate sensation, published in pamphlet form, printed over 40 million times and translated into 37 languages.It is just under 1500 words long, and since it is in the public domain, I have pasted the entire text at the bottom of this post.

A Message to Garcia tells the true story of a military man by the name of Rowan. At the outset of the Spanish-American war, President McKinley needed to get a message to Calixo Garcia, the leader of the rebel group in Cuba. There was no way to get the message there at the time. Even his location wasn’t known, just that he was in hiding in the jungle with his band of rebels. President McKinley called Rowan in, handed him the message and told him who it needed to go to. Rowan landed in Cuba four days later, and two weeks later came out the other side of the island, having delivered the message.

The point the author is making is how Rowan knew that the President needed a job done, and he did it. He didn’t ask questions or protest, he just attended to the task at hand and overcame any difficulty to get the job done.

This story inspired millions of people. Imagine how much more productive we would all be if we did not let things such as doubt, laziness, or problems that arise keep us for fulfilling the task at hand.

Here is the takeaway from this. Rowan delivered a message during what is now a little known war, from a little known President, to another man that you have probably never heard of. While it was important in it’s day, the message bears little importance to most of us now. However, we have a message to deliver as well. It comes from the Lord God, and has been given to us by Christ Jesus in the great commission. He has told us to go and share the gospel with every creature. It is a message that is our specific responsibility to deliver, and if it is not delivered billions will be lost forever.

We simply need to spread the good news of the gospel; the death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus. 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 defines the gospel in no uncertain terms. If you have become a Christian, you know how to tell someone else to become a Christian. If that requires you to learn a few passages, so be it. If that requires you to step out of your comfort zone, so be it. If it requires you to learn a method of Bible study such as Searching for Truth, or the Open Bible Study, so be it.

Let us stop looking for reasons to fail in our task, and start concentrating on how we are to get the gospel to a lost and dying world in our generation.

1899

A Message to Garcia

By Elbert Hubbard

Captain Andrew Rowan

Captain Andrew Rowan

In all this Cuban business there is one man stands out on the horizon of my memory like Mars at perihelion. When war broke out between Spain & the United States, it was very necessary to communicate quickly with the leader of the Insurgents. Garcia was somewhere in the mountain vastness of Cuba- no one knew where. No mail nor telegraph message could reach him. The President must secure his cooperation, and quickly.

What to do!

Some one said to the President, “There’s a fellow by the name of Rowan will find Garcia for you, if anybody can.”

Rowan was sent for and given a letter to be delivered to Garcia. How “the fellow by the name of Rowan” took the letter, sealed it up in an oil-skin pouch, strapped it over his heart, in four days landed by night off the coast of Cuba from an open boat, disappeared into the jungle, & in three weeks came out on the other side of the Island, having traversed a hostile country on foot, and delivered his letter to Garcia, are things I have no special desire now to tell in detail.

The point I wish to make is this: McKinley gave Rowan a letter to be delivered to Garcia; Rowan took the letter and did not ask, “Where is he at?” By the Eternal! there is a man whose form should be cast in deathless bronze and the statue placed in every college of the land. It is not book-learning young men need, nor instruction about this and that, but a stiffening of the vertebrae which will cause them to be loyal to a trust, to act promptly, concentrate their energies: do the thing- “Carry a message to Garcia!”

General Garcia is dead now, but there are other Garcias.

No man, who has endeavored to carry out an enterprise where many hands were needed, but has been well nigh appalled at times by the imbecility of the average man- the inability or unwillingness to concentrate on a thing and do it. Slip-shod assistance, foolish inattention, dowdy indifference, & half-hearted work seem the rule; and no man succeeds, unless by hook or crook, or threat, he forces or bribes other men to assist him; or mayhap, God in His goodness performs a miracle, & sends him an Angel of Light for an assistant. You, reader, put this matter to a test: You are sitting now in your office- six clerks are within call.

Summon any one and make this request: “Please look in the encyclopedia and make a brief memorandum for me concerning the life of Correggio”.

Will the clerk quietly say, “Yes, sir,” and go do the task?

On your life, he will not. He will look at you out of a fishy eye and ask one or more of the following questions:

Who was he?

Which encyclopedia?

Where is the encyclopedia?

Was I hired for that?

Don’t you mean Bismarck?

What’s the matter with Charlie doing it?

Is he dead?

Is there any hurry?

Shan’t I bring you the book and let you look it up yourself?

What do you want to know for?

And I will lay you ten to one that after you have answered the questions, and explained how to find the information, and why you want it, the clerk will go off and get one of the other clerks to help him try to find Garcia- and then come back and tell you there is no such man. Of course I may lose my bet, but according to the Law of Average, I will not.

Now if you are wise you will not bother to explain to your “assistant” that Correggio is indexed under the C’s, not in the K’s, but you will smile sweetly and say, “Never mind,” and go look it up yourself.

And this incapacity for independent action, this moral stupidity, this infirmity of the will, this unwillingness to cheerfully catch hold and lift, are the things that put pure Socialism so far into the future. If men will not act for themselves, what will they do when the benefit of their effort is for all? A first-mate with knotted club seems necessary; and the dread of getting “the bounce” Saturday night, holds many a worker to his place.

Advertise for a stenographer, and nine out of ten who apply, can neither spell nor punctuate- and do not think it necessary to.

Can such a one write a letter to Garcia?

“You see that bookkeeper,” said the foreman to me in a large factory.

“Yes, what about him?”

“Well he’s a fine accountant, but if I’d send him up town on an errand, he might accomplish the errand all right, and on the other hand, might stop at four saloons on the way, and when he got to Main Street, would forget what he had been sent for.”

Can such a man be entrusted to carry a message to Garcia?

We have recently been hearing much maudlin sympathy expressed for the “downtrodden denizen of the sweat-shop” and the “homeless wanderer searching for honest employment,” & with it all often go many hard words for the men in power.

Nothing is said about the employer who grows old before his time in a vain attempt to get frowsy ne’er-do-wells to do intelligent work; and his long patient striving with “help” that does nothing but loaf when his back is turned. In every store and factory there is a constant weeding-out process going on. The employer is constantly sending away “help” that have shown their incapacity to further the interests of the business, and others are being taken on. No matter how good times are, this sorting continues, only if times are hard and work is scarce, the sorting is done finer- but out and forever out, the incompetent and unworthy go.

It is the survival of the fittest. Self-interest prompts every employer to keep the best- those who can carry a message to Garcia.

I know one man of really brilliant parts who has not the ability to manage a business of his own, and yet who is absolutely worthless to any one else, because he carries with him constantly the insane suspicion that his employer is oppressing, or intending to oppress him. He cannot give orders; and he will not receive them. Should a message be given him to take to Garcia, his answer would probably be, “Take it yourself.”

Tonight this man walks the streets looking for work, the wind whistling through his threadbare coat. No one who knows him dare employ him, for he is a regular fire-brand of discontent. He is impervious to reason, and the only thing that can impress him is the toe of a thick-soled No. 9 boot.

Of course I know that one so morally deformed is no less to be pitied than a physical cripple; but in our pitying, let us drop a tear, too, for the men who are striving to carry on a great enterprise, whose working hours are not limited by the whistle, and whose hair is fast turning white through the struggle to hold in line dowdy indifference, slip-shod imbecility, and the heartless ingratitude, which, but for their enterprise, would be both hungry & homeless.

Have I put the matter too strongly? Possibly I have; but when all the world has gone a-slumming I wish to speak a word of sympathy for the man who succeeds- the man who, against great odds has directed the efforts of others, and having succeeded, finds there’s nothing in it: nothing but bare board and clothes.

I have carried a dinner pail & worked for day’s wages, and I have also been an employer of labor, and I know there is something to be said on both sides. There is no excellence, per se, in poverty; rags are no recommendation; & all employers are not rapacious and high-handed, any more than all poor men are virtuous.

My heart goes out to the man who does his work when the “boss” is away, as well as when he is at home. And the man who, when given a letter for Garcia, quietly take the missive, without asking any idiotic questions, and with no lurking intention of chucking it into the nearest sewer, or of doing aught else but deliver it, never gets “laid off,” nor has to go on a strike for higher wages. Civilization is one long anxious search for just such individuals. Anything such a man asks shall be granted; his kind is so rare that no employer can afford to let him go. He is wanted in every city, town and village- in every office, shop, store and factory. The world cries out for such: he is needed, & needed badly- the man who can carry a message to Garcia.

THE END-