By Daniel Okrent, contributorApril 29, 2010: 4:46 AM ET
(Fortune) — Twenty-five years ago, when he was asked to assemble a list of the “Ten Books That Shaped the American Character,” critic Jonathan Yardley summoned the works of the great ones: Thoreau and Whitman, Twain and Hemingway, Thorstein Veblen and W.E.B. Du Bois. And standing next to them in this pantheon of the nation’s literary giants, he also placed the man who once told America to read his work “with a crayon, pencil, pen, magic marker, or highlighter in your hand. When you come across a suggestion that you feel you can use, draw a line beside it.”
Since then, more than 30 million people worldwide have been embellishing, bedecking, and otherwise disfiguring their copies of How to Win Friends and Influence People, by Dale Carnegie. Upon its release in February, an iPhone app loaded with videos, charts, and homilies immediately became the top-selling paid business app in the iTunes store (it just landed on the iPad as well), and a new edition of the book — only the second since its original publication — may be arriving in stores next year. Not that Dale’s heirs need the money; HTWF is already the most successful business advice book in the history of the solar system. Originally published in 1936, it has been translated into 47 languages, including Hindi, Nepalese, and Telugu. Last year alone, the very fortunate Simon & Schuster, which has controlled the rights to HTWF since its birth, sold 300,000 copies — hardcover, paperback, and audio — just in the U.S. By comparison, Malcolm Gladwell is a parvenu.
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