A many a book nerd knows, Amazon ranks the top 100 best sellers in every conceivable book category on its website. There are just scads of these categories (over 500, according to The Observer) covering everything from Amish Romance to Travel With Pets. Obviously, with such a wide net, there’s bound to be some catch. In other words, there are dozens of cases at any given time where Amazon book categories are completely off.
Before we dive into the howling hilarity of these mistakes, it’s worthwhile to note how they’re probably happening. First of all, the bestsellers are very fluid. They change from hour to hour depending on real-time sales, so enjoy the mis-categorized madness retroactively. By the time this essay gets to your screen, there will be a whole new batch of nonsense in the bestseller categories and I’m not up for the Sisyphean task of continuously cataloging book-placing ineptitude.
Because it’s ludicrously easy to become an Amazon bestseller. That Observer article above details the complex process of breaking into bestseller status on Amazon, which involves getting your friends to buy your book within minutes of it going live. As for why things end up in the wrong categories, well. A category is only as good as the poster is honest and aware. If there are Amazon police who put purposely or accidentally mis-categorized items back in their places, then they haven’t caught these ones yet.
1. Sandra Boynton Cow Puzzle
Sandra Boynton is well-known as the author of such classics as The Going To Bed Book, Snuggle Puppy, and Pajama Time. Amazon has also assigned her authorship of the classic work Hidden Cows Puzzle, which features not only publisher information, but an ISBN. Somehow, this “book” became a bestseller in Mammal Biology recently. Well.
2. Bob Ross Bobblehead
A quick peek at the Landscape & Seascape Art book category at Amazon reveals many misplaced gems, but this #1 bestseller may just be a happy little accident. After all, it’s not crazy that people looking for landscape books might find the Bob Ross Bobblehead: With Sound! a charming gift. Even so, it’s a far cry from a page-turner.
3. Relaxing Flowers in Architecture
Amazon is, of course, chock full of coloring books. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.) However, soothing merits aside, they do seem to have seeped into it so deeply that they appear even in ridiculous places. For example, Relaxing Flowers: Coloring Book For Adults With Flower Patterns, Bouquets, Wreaths, Swirls, Decorations is currently the #2 bestseller in the Architecture book category.
4. The Crystal Bible in Biographies
How The Crystal Bible, which I’m assured is the definitive guide to crystals, ended up as number 77 on Amazon’s biographical bestseller list is, and will remain, an algorithmic mystery. There appears to be no biographical element at all, although maybe I shouldn’t speak too fast. After all, some of these crystals apparently have their own chakras, and anything with a chakra can have an interesting career, right? (Incidentally, it’s also #2 in Survival Biographies.)
5. Buffy the Horse Calendar
I spent several moments of my life trying to determine why this Buffy the Vampire Slayer 2020 Wall Calendar is #71 in the Horse Calendar category. At first, I thought for sure that one of the months would be Buffy on a horse. I’d pay good money for a 2020 calendar featuring Buffy bearing down on her enemies mounted on a ruthless war steed, her sword flashing as she screams to the rescue of her girlfriend, Xena Warrior Princess. Alas, it is only to be in my dreams and fanfic.
6. The Instant Pot Dominates Needlecrafts
To be honest, I’m not sure this one is a mistake in terms of Amazon book categories. The Venn diagram between textile arts people and pressure cooker people is suspiciously round. Nevertheless, I take some joy in the fact that Instant Pot 3 Book Box Set: 250 Recipes and Projects, 3 Great Books, 1 Low Price! is currently the #1 bestseller in Needlecrafts & Textile Crafts. More people need to know about the miracle of the modern electric pressure cooker, and if that happens by crook rather than by hook, I don’t really object.
7. UFO Cow Abduction
The only reason this wonderful UFO Cow Abduction: Beam Up Your Bovine toy is on this list is that it’s mis-categorized as a book and because I love it. I suspect that someone at Hachette, which produces these itty-bitty box toy things, has just got that much Amazon game. Anyway, they made it to #41 on the UFOs bestseller list. If that doesn’t count for something, I don’t know what does.
Looking for the best actual Amazon books in their proper Amazon book categories? We have your 2020 list o’ quality right here!