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America’s Favorite Books

April 9th, 2008 · 4 Comments

Let’s just assume that a polling population of 2,513 people is representative of the entirety of the United States.

OK.  That accomplished, take a look at what the entirety of the United States claims as its ten favorite books:

10.  The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
9.  Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
8.  Angels and Demons by Dan Brown
7.  To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
6.  The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown
5.  The Stand by Stephen King
4.  Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling (I guess this means all of them)
3.  The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
2.  Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
1.  The Bible

The poll was conducted by the Harris Poll folks.

Who’s missing?  Mark Twain, for one.  Ask anyone you know which book they enjoyed more, Huckleberry Finn or Atlas Shrugged, and you are likely to get a unanimous choice favoring the former.  Or Tom Sawyer, for that matter.  How about the “Big E,” Ernest Hemingway?  John Steinbeck?  Charles Dickens?  Kurt Vonnegut?  Jane Austen?  This list is endless, of course.  Instead, we get Stephen King, plus Dan Brown twice.  Together, that’s 30% of America’s favorite literature, folks.  Why don’t we just penalize Dan Brown for having one past his limit, and then give that 10% to Robert Ludlum.

Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoy reading Stephen King books.  But I can’t possibly make a claim that any of them represent the best books I’ve read in my near half-century of existence.  Here’s what I’d pick, if asked, and some from the above poll results are on my list:

[in no particular order, but numbered, nonetheless]
1.  To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
2.  Ragtime by E.L. Doctorow
3.  U.S.A. by John Dos Passos
4.  The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
5.  Fifth Business by Robertson Davies
6.  Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
7.  The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
8.  The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
9.  The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
10.  The Palace Thief by Ethan Canin

That is a very difficult thing to do, to list ten favorite anythings.  But I would put any of those up against any book by Dan Brown or Stephen King – that is, if we are talking about writing and not marketing.

As for Ayn Rand: I enjoy her books, but come on, Atlas Shrugged is poorly written propaganda and only seems GREAT in comparison to its modern-day analogues such as Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot and Other Observations by Al Franken.  Methinks that some bodies in that polling sample thought they were being impressive.

So what’s in your wallet on your list?

Tags: books · fiction

4 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Elisa M // Apr 10, 2008 at 9:10 PM

    While I will admit that Ayn Rand is one crazy bitch, that book is actually one of my favorites. I love it and reread it once a year. And I am not trying to be impressive…I would mention things like my record of being the person who comments on blogs the most…or something like that.
    btw-nice to meet you in person tonight!

  • 2 spitballarmy // Apr 10, 2008 at 9:44 PM

    Back atcha, E.

    So, what’s on your list, huh?

  • 3 Elisa M // Apr 10, 2008 at 10:17 PM

    In no particular order (and subject to change at any time):
    Survivor by Chuck Palahnuik
    Atlas Shrugged/The Fountainhead ( I fight internally over which I love more)
    White Oleander
    Blue Like Jazz
    Jayber Crow
    Little Women
    A Complicated Kindness
    A Wrinkle in Time
    To Kill a Mockingbird

  • 4 Boyce // Apr 15, 2008 at 8:32 PM

    Amy reads Atlas Shrugged about once a year. I read Anthem once. I loved it, but I can’t imagine reading it again instead of something I haven’t read before.

    My ten, in case you ask, would be:
    10) Complete works of Authur Rimbaud translation by Schmidt (it’s not the best translation, but it was my first).

    9) Candide by Voltaire

    8) The Wild Party by Joseph Moncure March

    7) The Stranger by Camus (the Matt Ward translation)

    6) Tae Te Ching by Lao-tzu (Thomas Cleary Translation)

    5) Fox in Sox by Dr. Seuss

    4) Mockingbird Wish Me Luck by Charles Bukowski.

    3) Still Life w/Woodpecker by Tom Robbins

    2) Marriage of Heaven & Hell (illustrated by author) by William Blake.

    1) still looking for it.

    Like the previous responder, my list is subject to change at a moments notice. These are the ones that come quickly to mind, which I guess makes them pretty damn good candidates.

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