Madonna, Stephen King Top List of Most Sought-After Out-Of-Print Books

Sex by Madonna

Online retailer AbeBooks and exactly-what-it-sounds-like search engine BookFinder have released their annual list of the 100 most searched-for books no longer in publication. For the third year in a row, Madonna's Sex nailed the top spot. The 1992 art book, limited to just three million copies in the U.S., has appeared in the top five since BookFinder began compiling their reports in 2003.

Since the first edition of Sex sold out in three days, the second just slightly slower, copies are quite rare, and therefore, expensive. The cheapest copy I could find on Amazon was $55.00, and though the seller marks the book's condition as Very Good, the "minor dents" and "discoloration" are probably worse than they'd have you believe. Unopened copies fetch anywhere from $300-400.

Coming in at number two, up one slot since last year, is Stephen King's Rage, a novel first published in 1977 under his pseudonym Richard Bachman. The plot revolves around an all-too familiar scenario: a fatal high school shooting and hostage situation. The scarcity of this book is due to King himself, who convinced his publisher to yank it from shelves following a string of real-life incidents in which the shooters either had a copy of Rage in their locker or commended the text for its relatable content. King talks at length about his decision to self-censor, as well as the tricky relationship between art and life in a speech delivered to the Vermont Library Congress in 1999, which you can read in full here.

Speaking of King, his short story "My Pretty Pony" came in at number four, just behind Nora Roberts' debut Promise Me Tomorrow, a book the author denounces. Johnny Cash's autobiography Man In Black and Luigi Serafini's surreal encyclopedia of an imaginary world Codex Seraphinianus also appeared in the top ten. You can read the entire list here.

It's no surprise to me that the two most sough-after books contain sex and violence-- I mean, one's titled Sex, the other Rage. Sex satisfies our societal need for titillation, with bonus points for celebrity involvement, while Rage feeds our morbid curiosity toward a horrible subject, particularly since the author has asked us not to read it (see also Nora Roberts). Given the texts on BookFinder's lists seem to play musical chairs from year to year, 2012's results clearly aren't just topical, but rather a reflection of who we are, and what our culture is.

What does everyone else think? Are there any books further down the list that should be higher? Any books not represented that should be? Who owns Sex, or Rage, or any of the books on the list? Let's hear it.

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Jack Campbell Jr.'s picture
Jack Campbell Jr. from Lawrence, KS is reading American Rust by Phillipp Meyer January 4, 2013 - 2:09pm

I have a copy of Rage. I never realized it was hard to get. It's insane to think of any novel-length book by Stephen King being hard to find.

Joshua Chaplinsky's picture
Joshua Chaplinsky from New York is reading a lot more during the quarantine January 4, 2013 - 4:24pm

Codex Seraphinianus looks awesome.

jyh's picture
jyh from VA is reading whatever he feels like January 4, 2013 - 8:33pm

Hard to believe a run of 3mil would be so scarce, even 20 years later. Maybe people were throwing Sex away after a few years of not reading it. Or some clever sellers bought and hoarded them up after the craze died down a bit.

Bradley Sands's picture
Bradley Sands from Boston is reading Greil Marcus's The History of Rock 'N' Roll in Ten Songs January 6, 2013 - 12:57am

Perhaps Rage initially went out of print once it was collected in The Bachman Books (later printings of the book no longer had it).

Michael Sean LeSueur's picture
Michael Sean LeSueur from Arizona is reading The Drowning Girl: A Memoir by Caitlin R. Kiernan January 8, 2013 - 11:40am

My highschool library still has a copy of Rage on their shelves (it's a Mormon heavy area too). While I don't own the original release, I did track down an affordable copy of The Bachman Books that contained Rage. It's a hardcover, and I believe I payed $45 for it. There is wear and tear on the dust-jacket, and the pages are a little yellow, but it's not torn anywhere.