Recently, a status update ran around Facebook asking people to “List 10 books that have stayed with you in some way. Don’t take more than a few minutes, and don’t think too hard. They do not have to be the ‘right’ books or great works of literature, just ones that have affected you in some way.” Facebook’s data scientists went though 130,000 responses and came up with a list of the 100 most common entries.
It should be noted that though the books may not have had to be the “right books” or “great works of literature,” human nature being what it is, most of the titles on the list are, in fact, the ‘right books,’ by which i mean, books you can proudly define yourself as a reader of. (“I am the type of person who was affected by To Kill A Mocking Bird.” “I am the type of person whose political opinions were formed by 1984.”) No one is listing Fifty Shades of Gray. They are listing books that they think say something complimentary about who they are as a person.
Almost all of these books are YA. They may not be in the YA section at Barnes & Noble, but children and adolescents are their primary audience. On the one hand, duh: People are most open to being affected by books when they’re young. Also, duh duh: Most people probably stop reading much fiction when they leave high school and are no longer required to. On the other hand, one of the books that probably affected me when I was growing up was the forgettable crime novel Silent Witness by Richard North Patterson. I read it when I was about 10 because my father was reading it and I wanted him to like me and for us to have something to talk about. That’s not to say you too were influenced by Silent Witness, but that, I think, that phenomenon—reading books aspirationally for social reasons—is pretty common and I’m surprised there aren’t more straightforward adult titles on this list.
One other fun fact: There are no Ayn Rand books on this list.
Without further ado, here are the top 20 along with what percent of responses included the title:
1. Harry Potter series – J.K. Rowling – 21.08%
2. To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee – 14.48%
3. The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien – 13.86%
4. The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien – 7.48%
5. Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen – 7.28%
6. The Holy Bible – 7.21%
7. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams 5.97%
8. The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins – 5.82%
9. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger – 5.70%
10. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald – 5.61%
11. 1984 by George Orwell – 5.37%
12. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott – 5.26%
13. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte – 5.23%
14. The Stand by Stephen King – 5.11%
15. Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell – 4.95%
16. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle – 4.38%
17. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood – 4.27%
18. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis – 4.05%
19. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho – 4.01%
20. Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery – 3.95%
Head on over to Facebook for the full 100 titles and some neat data visualizations.