Good and Trashy
If a book is a runaway best seller, it cant be good, right? These four blockbusters, picked by the Real Simple staff, defy that common wisdom.
• The Carpetbaggers, by Harold Robbins ($8, amazon.com).
No one merges sentimentality and sleaze better than Robbins, who drew on the life of Howard Hughes for this 1961 pulse-racer. One chapter, The Story of Nevada Smith, may be among the best Westerns ever written.
• The Exorcist, by William Peter Blatty ($8, amazon.com).
The 1971 occult shocker is even scarierand, thankfully, more logicalthan the movie version. Trivia: Blatty reportedly based the character Chris MacNeil, the actress mother, on his neighbor Shirley MacLaine.
• Jaws, by Peter Benchley ($17, amazon.com).
True, not one of the characters is particularly appealing. But this 1974 fish tale is a lot like its man-eating villain: fast, streamlined, and relentless.
• Valley of the Dolls, by Jacqueline Susann ($14, amazon.com).
Young women seek success, men, pills, and marriage (not necessarily in that order) in this bicoastal roman à clef set (and first published) in the 1960s. The original sex-and-shopping novel.