Is this the first bestseller by a Mormon not written in English?

10.3.12 | | 22 comments

desperte o milionário que há em você carlos martins wizard multi holding livro2A few weeks ago a book by the Brazilian language entrepreneur and LDS Church member Carlos “Wizard” Martins, who started the massive Wizard Language Schools chain (similar to Berlitz), reached the bestseller lists in Brazil. I’m fairly sure that the book Desperte o milionário que há em você (Awake the Millionaire Inside of You) is, I believe, the first by a Brazilian Mormon to reach the bestseller list.

I first heard of his book just before it was launched in April, and I didn’t give it much thought then—I’m not really in the book’s the target audience of those seeking a financial fortune and I suspect I could just as easily get a copy of the book that started this genre, Napoleon Hill’s 1937 self-help classic Think and Grow Rich, to say nothing of the various similar books penned by Mormons here in the U.S. But now that Martins has achieved a Mormon milestone in Brazil, I have to wonder if he is the first Mormon to reach the best seller list with a book not originally written in English?

I have never heard of any other Mormon author who has done this, but that clearly doesn’t mean that it didn’t happen. But other than my own impressions, I don’t know how to research it. To be honest, I don’t even know of very many Mormon authors getting published in other languages.

There are, of course, a lot of Mormon authors translated from English into other languages. I know that both Orson Scott Card and Stephen Covey have reached the best seller lists in Brazil and elsewhere. There are also Mormons from outside the U.S. who have made the best seller lists in English and in other languages in translation—Anne Perry, for example. But these authors, to my knowledge, have all originally written in English.

Is Martins the first? It seems likely to me, but I can’t say for sure. We might start by trying to put together a list of Mormon authors who write in languages other than English. I assume tht there aren’t many. If some other Mormon author writing outside of English has reached a bestseller list, perhaps such a list will lead us to that author.

Until then, I will assume that Martins is the first.

22 comments: “Is this the first bestseller by a Mormon not written in English?

  1. Mark B.

    I’m just wondering what language this sentence was written in:

    “I’m fairly sure that the book Desperte o milionário que há em você (Awake the Millionaire Inside of You) is, I believe, the first by a Brazilian Mormon to reach the bestseller list.”

    : )

  2. Courtney Santo

    Fascinating. I’d love to know of other Mormon writers who are writing outside of English. Is there a list (bestseller or not) anyplace?

  3. James Goldberg

    I am certainly interested in learning more about Mormon writers in other languages.

    I have been thinking that the Everyday Mormon Writer semi-annual literary contest next fall should be for works originally written in languages other than English. By presenting both the original and an English translation together, I think we could do good work broadening the exposure of English-reading Latter-day Saints to other areas.

    But the trick is that we’d have to figure out how to effectively get a contest announcement out around the world first…

  4. MLewis82

    Question: What constitutes a best seller list? Japan has one of the strongest publishing industries in the world, but I am not aware of an industry wide best seller list. Normally each publisher and most booksellers will put out their own list. The Amazon.co.jp best seller list is probably the most comprehensive as far as covering all publishers, but Amazon is a relatively small online retailer compared to competitors like Kinokuniya and Asahiya.

    Second question: How high on the list does the book have to reach? I easily found a book by a LDS Japanese author ranked 85,598 on Amazon.co.jp’s best seller list (ranked 183 when one narrows to the field of general investment literature), but that doesn’t seem like it is what you’re looking for.

    Depending on how those questions are answered, there are at least three contenders in Japan for the title of best-selling LDS non-English language author who pre-date our Brazilian friend, but it would be hard to pull up the historical rankings to prove it. All three are famous entertainers, and like many of their American counterparts, they wrote books that likely made it into the charts.

    The first is Kent Gilbert, an American return missionary who made it into the Japanese entertainment industry almost by accident, because he was a white guy who happened to be fluent in Japanese (very rare in the 1980s). He published at least 12 books between 1984 and 1998, all originally written in Japanese for the Japanese. His books covered a variety of topics, from views on the Japanese constitution (he studied law before going back to Japan), mistakes Japanese make when trying to speak English, and raising your children to be international citizens.

    There is a second “Kent,” named Kent Derricott. He hosted a comedy/talk show, and some have referred to him as the Japanese Jay Leno. I found three books written by him, published in 1989, 1992, and 2005. Two deal with learning English (which is one of the more common genres to top the best seller lists, especially if written by a celebrity) and they were clearly written in Japanese for the Japanese. The third is a picture book for children and is co-authored with what sounds like an American, so this may have been translated into Japanese, but originally written in English (therefore not qualifying under your criteria).

    Though both of these authors may have required ghost writers to help write their books (as neither of them is a native Japanese speaker), the third potential best-selling author is a native Japanese. Yuki Saito (斉藤 由貴) has been an active entertainer since 1984, starting out as a singer and moving into acting. She had at least four photo albums published between 1985 and 1988, and she has authored at least 11 books, published between 1989 and 2000. Her books tend to be more literary in nature, including at least one collection of poetry. Considering the extent of her fame in the late 80s and early 90s, I would be surprised if she didn’t hit the best-seller list at least once.

    There are several other LDS Japanese authors, such as Shinji Takagi (高木 信二), a professor of Economics who has published several books on international monetary transactions, and Seiji Katanuma (潟沼 誠二), whose recently published book is about the current state of Christianity in Japan, but these other LDS authors either write books targeted to the LDS community (or even a niche within the LDS community, such as a small run of a history of one of the Tokyo wards) or they are too specialized in their field to be of general interest, making them unlikely candidates for the best seller list.

  5. William Morris

    Very interesting MLewis82. I believe that my grandparents (who traveled to Japan several times during the 1970s-1990s) met one or both of the Kents.

  6. Kent Larsen Post author

    I agree, MLewis82. I think that you have a lot more information than anyone else (perhaps even more than Andrew — he still lives there, right?)

    I’m not sure how things work in Japan, but I think in most countries (I know for a fact in the U.S. and in Brazil and Portugal) the most respected bestseller lists are compiled by newspapers (such as the New York Times’ widely cited list).

    But, I must admit that I haven’t really tried to define this carefully at all — I assumed that all other countries have a widely-cited list like the Times’ list here or Veja’s list in Brazil.

    And, for what its worth, I’m not sure that defining this too carefully is quite the point. Rather, its a rough gauge as to whether the book or author has received significant attention.

  7. Th.

    .

    To MLewis82: THANK YOU. I wish we could get a response like that from every nation.

  8. MLewis82

    To Kent: I can’t say I know which Andrew you’re talking about, but I’m sure there’s got to be at least one Andrew who still lives in Japan.(I saw an Andrew Hall used to post on here, so maybe it’s him. Sorry I don’t follow the blogs as closely as I should, so I don’t really know much about that guy if he’s the one.)

    As far as the ranking system goes, you’re right. The definition isn’t that important, but I think in trying to compare across countries a clear definition helps. I agree though that the real issue is looking for substantial national recognition for an LDS author.

    I did some digging on the newspaper lists. The three most prestigious newspapers in Japan are probably the Yomiuri Shimbun, the Asahi Shimbun, and the Nikkei (think Washington Post, New York Times, and Wall Street Journal), though some may disagree and add a publication like the Mainichi Shimbun (USA Today). All have periodic best seller lists for books, of which the Yomiuri looks the most consistent and similar to the New York Times Best Seller list, but my concern is that there appears to be zero overlap in what each is reporting (each of the major newspapers are linked to major publishers, or are publishers themselves, so they may only be reporting sales for certain publishers they have a close relationship with and not others).

    I found out that Oricon, basically the Japanese equivalent of the music billboards, also does a short best seller book list, but not splitting into as many categories (they only split between comics and normal books, which comics frequently dominate the combined list on all of the charts). Again, I’m worried about the lack of overlap with other lists I see, but it seems pretty legitimate and a little broader in scope.

    For each of these lists I would need archive access to see if any of my candidates made the list at the peak of their popularity. One other site claims to have best seller information dating back to 1866 (yes over a hundred years ago), and it references Oricon for one list, but that is not the source for the archived list, so I don’t know what to make of it.

    Anyhow, if I get some time (and this post doesn’t go too stale) I’ll do some more digging and see what I can find.

    On an unrelated topic, I noticed that you put together a list of 2011 books and articles on Mormonism from around the world on the Times and Seasons blog awhile back. I know there was some stuff in Japan, so maybe I can dig that up while I’m at it.

    To Th: Japan is definitely my strong point, but maybe I can adopt another second home somewhere else and start getting info for there as well. Where’s a smiley face emoticon when I need one?

  9. Raymond Takashi Swenson

    To MLewis82: Thanks for that update on Japan. I knew Gilbert slightly in Tokyo in 1980 before he became famous. I was Professor Takagi’s home teacher in Virginia when he was working at the International Monetary Fund. Last time I saw him he stopped by my house in Idaho Falls after visiting Yellowstone. He said he was interested in seeing a potato farm, so I took him out on my back deck and pointed across the irrigation canal to the center pivot irrigated field. He was back at IMF after teaching in Japan, where he was.bishop of the Kobe ward during the big earthquake there. He has written several artucles about the history of the Church in Japan, published in English in BYU Studies and in shorter.form in the Japanese Liahona. Most of the articles in economics I saw by him were focused on pretty abstract analyses with lots of partial differential equatons, or concerned the Middle East.

    Seiji Katanuma was a counselor to Russell Horiuchi in the Japan East Mission in Sapporo when I was mission financial secretary. That is great to hear he has a book out. What is the title?

  10. Raymond Takashi Swenson

    I was wondering if Mr. Martins the entrepreneuer is related to Elder Helvecio Martins, who has one son who is a professor at BYU.

  11. Kent Larsen Post author

    Raymond, I’m almost certain that they are not related (it doesn’t work racially).

    And, so that it is clear, Helvecio’s son, Marcus, works at BYU-Hawaii.

  12. JP

    Presidente Martins was my mission president in Brazil….let’s just say I have no interest in reading the book.

  13. Andrew Hall

    Hi MLewis82, I live in Fukuoka. I look forward to hearing what you find out about the bestseller lists and Mormons publishing in Japan.

  14. MLewis82

    To Raymond: Seiji Katanuma’s (潟沼誠二) latest book is called 「そこが知りたい日本のキリスト教の今」 [Soko ga shiritai Nihon no Kirisuto-kyō no ima – roughly translated as “I Want to Know About the Current State of Christianity in Japan”]. The first publication was released 22 August 2012 by Ichida Printers (primarily used for self-publishing like Lulu.com). The secondary jacket states that “Mormonism is suddenly gaining attention because Mitt Romney, the American Republican presidential nominee, is a member of this religion – a religion which existing Christianity calls a ‘heresy’ or a ‘cult’!? Sociologist Stark predicted that Mormonism would become a world religion, and it is growing not just in Japan, but around the world. Now, the Japanese will be able to see clearly the truth about Christianity which they could not see before.” For those who don’t know, in Japanese publishing, most books come with a full cover/dust jacket, and a second half-cover, which is frequently an advertisement for a related book or movie, but sometimes gives more insight into the content of the book. In this case I believe it is the latter.

    The book appears to be much more LDS specific than the more general title would suggest. It makes sense that Brother Katanuma would try to get out an LDS-authored book on Mormonism before the American election. There is already another two volume set of books (written by 大川 隆法 [Ōkawa Ryūhō], not a member of the Church as far as I know) that came out in February and March this year called モルモン教霊査 (Morumon-kyō Reisa – roughly translated as “Mormonism Spiritual Investigation”).

    As far as Seiji Katanuma goes, he has three other books, published in 1984 (儒学と国学―「正統」と「異端」との生成史的考察), 1989 (幸田露伴研究序説―初期作品を解読する), and 2002 (司書教諭のための学校図書館概論―図書館が変わる・学校が変わる).

    Professor Takagi also translates, including Ballard’s Our Search for Happiness.

    I asked some co-workers about the best-seller lists (all of my co-workers are Japanese natives) and they gave me some good leads, but agreed with my findings that there really isn’t a list that carries the same weight as the New York Times list. I think if I could get some archived materials I could do a better search, but based on what I have found (archived bestseller of the year lists) it does not appear any of my three contenders made the list. I still think they may have made a weekly bestseller list, but I have to concede the title to Carlos Martins for the time being.

    Nice to meet you Andrew! I have some friends from Fukuoka, I know it’s a big city, but the LDS community is small enough, who knows, maybe we have some friends in common.

  15. Stephen R. Marsh

    There is a related book that won awards and has been credited for some of the Church’s missionary successes in Chile. I need to run down the actual title and author.

    The book I linked to merely discusses part of that narrative.

    I need to relearn Spanish. Sorry I don’t have better links or the proper name to support a search.

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