The most wanted used books, according to Bookfinder

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Sex sells. And so does Madonna’s ‘Sex,’ a book so racy that when it was published in 1992 it came in a foil wrapper. In 2011, as it has been before, ‘Sex’ was the most popular out-of-print book people searched for.

That’s according to, which released its annual Top 100 Out-of-Print books list this week. Bookfinder searches 150 million books for sale from dozens of used booksellers, including EBay, Alibris and AbeBooks (which now owns Bookfinder).


Madonna’s ‘Sex’ perennially tops the list. Stephen King has two books in the top 10: ‘Rage’ (as Richard Bachman) and 1989’s ‘My Pretty Pony.’ If you’re not a regular bestseller like King or Nora Roberts, whose ‘Promise Me Tomorrow’ is at No. 2, being plain old famous helps. Johnny Cash’s autobiography ‘Man in Black’ is at No. 7, while Norman Mailer’s ‘Marilyn: A Biography,’ is at No. 8.

Did I mention that sex sells? That’s part of the appeal of ‘Codex Seraphinianus’ by Italian artist Luigi Serafini. Clearly the strangest book high up on the list, one cover of ‘Codex Seraphinianus’ featured an illustration of a couple coupling and becoming a crocodile. The illustrations are unique, surreal, and, according to some, beautiful -- and expensive. According to Bookfinder, copies of ‘Codex Seraphinianus’ range from $135 to $2,700.

Though many of the books are collectible, not all popular out-of-print books are so far out of reach. Cash’s memoir can be bought for less than $5, plus shipping. Carl Sagan’s ‘Murmurs of Earth: The Voyager Interstellar Record’ (No. 15) is only a few dollars more. There are plenty of copies of Marie Simmons’ cookbook ‘Pancakes A to Z’ (No. 58) and ‘Fly Fishing: Memories of Angling Days’ by J.R. Hartley (No. 17), both of which will run you about $10.

A fascinating debut on the list is the work of author Barbara Newhall Follett. Follett was just 13 when her first novel ‘The House without Windows’ was published in 1927, when she’d already been writing for years. A story that aired in December 2010 on NPR -- here in longer form in Lapham’s Quarterly -- showed that Follett was a gifted writer, even a prodigy. But after her father left her mother, the girl essentially gave up writing and went to work. She married before she turned 20, and at age 25 she disappeared, never to be heard from again. Interest in Follett has raised her literary stakes: Copies of ‘The House without Windows’ now sell for $500 to $700.

-- Carolyn Kellogg