Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Speaking of the "10 Book" Challenge...

Just saw this article on a colleague's Facebook page.  Facebook's data science team analyzed the "10 Books That Have Never Left Me" lists that FB users posted and found that the most commonly cited works were:

Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling - 21.08% 
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee - 14.48%
The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien - 13.86% 
The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien - 7.48% 
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen - 7.28% 
The Holy Bible - 7.21% 
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams - 5.97% 
The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins - 5.82% 
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger - 5.70% 
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald - 5.61% 
1984 by George Orwell - 5.37% 
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott - 5.26% 
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte - 5.23% 
The Stand by Stephen King - 5.11% 
Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell - 4.95% 
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle - 4.38% 
The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood - 4.27% 
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis - 4.05% 
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho - 4.01% 
Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery - 3.95%

I (and many people I know) read these books for middle/high school English classes, and ALL of the books except for the Bible were written by white people of European descent.  (I think Paulo Coelho is Euro-Brazilian, but correct me if I'm wrong.)

What does this list tell us about the people who took part in the challenge and about books are commonly assigned in schools?  What does it tell us about books that sell well and are widely read?  This is great data that can feed the discussion about diversity in the world of literature.  Just some food for thought!

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