Popular fiction eclipses ghost-written celebrity biographies in book charts

His novels have been described as "the literary equivalent of painting by numbers, by an artist who can't even stay within the lines".

But for Dan Brown, the millionaire American author, there were more significant numbers to consider yesterday after his latest thriller, The Lost Symbol, was crowned Britain's Christmas bestseller in a chart dominated by popular fiction.

The novel snatched the top spot from Guinness World Records 2010 in a late "stocking-filler flourish" that saw 58,468 copies sold last week and 1.2 million overall – 655,227 more copies than its record-keeping rival.

It capped a year in which the public appetite for ghost-written celebrity biographies waned in favour of a flurry of popular fiction. They included Eclipse and Twilight, two tales in Stephanie Meyer's vampire saga that is fast putting her in contention for JK Rowling's blockbuster crown. Other offerings included Stieg Larsson's The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and Jodi Picoult's Handle With Care.

Celebrity offerings in the top 10 included work from Ant and Dec, Delia Smith and Frankie Boyle, but sales figures were dramatically down on previous years. Philip Stone, chart editor at The Bookseller, said: "Last year's celebrity offerings were littered with affirmed national treasures included Dawn French and Michael Parkinson. This year we've seen the likes of Ant and Dec and Frankie Boyle that may not command the same levels of public affection that drives those sort of numbers."

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