Here’s a fun one, from Priceonomics: “What is the Internet’s Favorite Book?” Where does one even start with such a question? Perhaps the main caveat from the catchy title is to mention that this is one crowdsourced list specifically on Goodreads.com rather than the whole Internet — short answer is that The Hunger Games books outpaces classics such as War and Peace by a large margin.
The reason why I find this kind of thing interesting is that it surveys a large and diverse group of readers (albeit all users of the same online community), but this in itself gives perhaps insight into what might be the most collectively popular book right now. With an estimated 20 million users, GoodReads is as good a place to look as any that I can think of. This did get me thinking about what the internal calculus that goes into making a book your favorite book. Come to think of it, what if there were a Rotten Tomatoes-like aggregator of book reviews from curated sources? Wouldn’t that be neat?
Anyways, here’s where Priceonomics really delves into their exploration of the favorite books on GoodReads:
“Rather than collect the rating for every single book, we chose to collect data on the ten most popular books by each of the 9,000 authors who appear on Goodreads’ Best Books Ever list – a list which is independent of user ratings and voted on by particularly active members. We ended up with a dataset of over 23,000 notable books.”
The results? Calvin and Hobbes was way up there among favorite books, along with some more and less surprising findings: “the books people are most exuberant about include Calvin and Hobbes, manga and South American poetry. And if you want to read a classic blessed by both the critics and the Internet, you should pick up a novel by Robert Graves or Vladimir Nabokov—and avoid James Joyce like the plague.”
There’s a lot of interesting tidbits on the Priceonomics site, including Favorite Authors, Most Liked Classic Books, and The Worst Books of All Time. My favorite question, which is definitely worth further exploration, is their comparison of book popularity vs. user rating: how much does popularity correlate to positive reviews?
I wonder in general how such rankings will in turn influence other future book discovery and lead to further favorite book rankings. What might such a list look like in five years, or ten years? Plus, I have always had a fascination with book lists because they are fun to debate (and sometimes, even lists of book lists — see Book Riot’s “The 10 Best Top 100 Book Lists“).
For a totally different approach to the question, here’s a 2012 list via The Guardian: “The top 100 bestselling books of all time“* (spoiler: The Da Vinci Code was #1, followed by basically all of the Harry Potter books).
*edit: UK sales