Yesterday, I posted about the 10 Most Read Books in the World over the last 50 years. Today, I am curious as to how that compares to the Most Read Books in the United States in 2011. While poking around Nielsen listings I found that USA Today already did all of the math back in January 2012, so that’s the source here. I also did some combining. So if Suzanne Collins’ series took up three spots, I only gave it it’s top slot and brought the #11 and #12 best-sellers into the list.)
So, here’s the may-or-may not-be-statistically valid merged and arranged 2011 list of Best Sellers in the United States:
1. The Help – Kathryn Stockett
2. The Hunger Games (Series) – Suzanne Collins
3. Heaven is for Real – Todd Burpo
4. Water for Elephants - Sara Gruen
5. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Cabin Fever – Jeff Kinney
6. Steve Jobs: A Biography – Walter Isaacson
7. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (Series) – Stieg Larsson
8. Unbroken – Laura Hillenbrand
9. Inheritance – Christopher Paolini
10. The Son of Neptune: Heroes of Olympus – Rick Riordan
The books really seem to stack up evenly when compared to the last 50 years’ global numbers. Almost the same number of fiction vs. non-fiction, subject matter, etc. What is interesting is the overall consistency of the Young Adult books, between the two lists. The books aimed at younger readers do seem to be gaining steam. I wonder what the global list will look like in 50 years. . .
Here is a graphic posted over on Squidoo showing the Top 10 Most Read Books in the World, based on the last 50 years of sales. I honestly never thought that Think and Grow Rich (1937) would be on the list and we haven’t had time to add up all of the 50 Shades of Grey numbers. We live on a really interesting planet. . . I’ll leave it at that.
I also think it’s neat that Harry Potter (1997), The Da Vinci Code (2003) and Twilight (2005) all made the list even though all having been released in just the past 15 years. That’s pretty good pick up. And it’s interesting that they’re all fiction. In fact, over half of the books are fiction. I wonder what this list looked like in 1996 prior to Potter taking up his wand. . . was it more non-fiction or has fiction always had the larger slice of the pie?
I recently read Arthur C. Clark‘s 1973 Rendezvous with Rama, thanks to a friend’s recommendation. I thought it was great. Especially if you like the Golden Age and old-school science fiction. If you don’t, then you might want to pass. It was fun. Anyway, I went out and picked up Clark’s sequel (the not-so-enigmatically titled) Rama II. I am not enjoying it as much as Clark is doing sooooo much world building that things are kind of slow (we’ll see how far I make it). But what I wanted to share was the passage, written in 1988, in which The Chaos of 2133 is explained for the downfall of planet Earth and why space exploration was halted:
“By the end of of the year in 2133, it had become obvious to some of the more experienced observers of human history that the “Raman Boom” was leading mankind toward disaster. Dire warnings of impending economic doom started being heard above the euphoric shouts of the millions who had recently vaulted into the middle and upper classes. Suggestions to balance the budgets and limit credit at all levels of the economy were ignored. Instead, creative effort was expended to come up with one way after another of putting more spending power in the hands of the populace that had forgotten how to say wait, much less no, to itself . . . The global stock market began to sputter in January 2134 . . . World leaders insisted that they had finally found the mechanisms that could truly inhibit the downturns of the capitalistic cycles. And the people believed them – until early May of 2134 . . . the global stock markets went inexorably down . . . three of the world’s largest banks announced that they were insolvent because of bad loans . . .”
Pretty crazy, isn’t it!? This sounds like it’s “ripped from the headlines” of 2010-2012, but it was written over 20 years ago. Maybe Wall Streeters need to read more fiction and science fiction. I mean other than being 120 years off (and the whole alien thing) Arthur C. Clark kind of called it didn’t he?
This article by author Julian Barnes has been making the rounds the past couple of days. I love this bit from the end:
“When you read a great book, you don’t escape from life, you plunge deeper into it. There may be a superficial escape – into different countries, mores, speech patterns – but what you are essentially doing is furthering your understanding of life’s subtleties, paradoxes, joys, pains and truths. Reading and life are not separate but symbiotic.”
The whole article is Barnes’ take on the future of reading, the future of the book and bookstores. Nothing super new presented in it. This one just has a well thought out personal take on things, without overly romanticizing, which makes it worth sharing.
Clay Johnson’s The Information Diet (published by O’Reilly) is one of those books that I want everyone to read. It is very short. So it won’t take long. But it does get you thinking (and hopefully talking) about some very important points that many of us have not yet thought about.
In order for our country and culture to remain stable we must be well informed. Johnson does a good job of quickly outlining how and why we are becoming less informed these days. To be honest, half of the stuff he mentions – you probably already know, but you just haven’t thought about the implications. The “diet” metaphor isn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be. Mainly because it’s not so much ‘counting calories’ but thinking about the quality of what you are consuming and where it comes from (hint: local is better in food and information.)
Things like ‘what’s the difference in getting your news via Facebook rather than straight from a new source’ or ‘just how much do CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, Washington Post, NY Times alter a story/headline to make it “more compelling”‘ and so on. This is one of those books that you will read and then will find yourself bringing it up in conversations for the next two weeks. It helps that the author is so up front with his political leanings so that we know where things are coming from. It allows the reader to follow him honestly and listen to the causes of much of what is changing in the media landscape.
The book not only does a good job of quickly showing how our news sources alter and filter information for us, but it also begins to explain why. Which starts us down the path of trying to fix the problems. The last bit of the book does contain some concrete “how to”‘ information and a pretty strong call to action, with a companion website.
My only complaint is that this wake up call/manifesto is as short as it is. The call to action and tool set offered at the end would have been a little more compelling if backed by some deeper discussion. But then the book would have been longer… and thus, not as approachable. This is one I wish everyone would take an afternoon to read. It’s a solid 4 out of 5 for me.
(In the spirit of full disclosure I did receive this book as part of the LibraryThing Early Reviewer program.)
I love stories like this… The NY Times published the recent account of a Brown University archivist finding, what is believed to be one of only five copies of a print done by revolutionary heavyweight Paul Revere himself. No doubt the chance of this happening increases if your job is handling books from the 1700′s. But it’s still pretty cool to think that such a unique rarity was just stuck in the back of a book on physics. Revere was quite the engraver and printer, flooding the colonies with pamphlets and political information. He’s certainly not known for any kind of iconic or religious art, which ups the “cool factor” of the find. Be sure to click through to read the article on the library archivist and see the photos.
If nifty old archives of historical significance interest you then you should tune into Book TV (on CSPAN2) this weekend. At noon, on Saturday, they will be touring old bookstores and the Nichols Collection at the University of Oklahoma. They have books going back as far as the 15th century! They also have a History of Science Collection with papers and books from Galileo, Copernicus and other famous people in white lab coats. I think it’ll be fun to watch.
Three times this week I have been asked about book recommendations (I hope you have as cool and bookish friends as I do). Anyway, each time I found myself repeating the same titles, so I thought I’d share here as well.
Tonight, I finished Pearl’s The Technologists which left me a little flat. It was fantastic in the sense of time, place and setting, but just lacked some of the “thrill” part that was there when I read his “The Dante Club”.
How about you?
What are you recommending to friends?
Chabon’s next book Telegraph Avenue doesn’t come out until September of this year, but Harper Collins did release the final cover a couple of days ago, via their catalog site. I wonder how many revisions they went through before everyone agreed on the red and the label was just retro enough… very cool! The blurb they offered up on the site:
The fictional world of Telegraph Avenue is grounded in Chabon’s deeply researched, lovingly painted pop culture of Kung Fu, Blaxploitation films of the ’70s, Jazz, and Soul.
This is one book that I can not wait to read this year.
Last week, novelist Richard Russo mentioned that he is working on a screenplay based on Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods. This very cool… if Hollywood doesn’t mess it up (I mean c’mon what are the chances of that?). A Walk in the Woods, which logs Bryson’s travels and experiences along the Appalachian Trail, was my first introduction to Bryson and I have now read every book of his except At Home, which is currently sitting about half-way in my TBR pile. So maybe by 2016… at the rate I’m going… anyway…
I did some digging and found out that Robert Redford is slated to play Bryson and *maybe* Nick Nolte as Bryon’s buddy Stephen Katz. Seems this project has been in the works since 2005 and has dragged on so long that no one is really paying attention. I hope they keep moving though. I think Russo could do well with it.
The Flame Alphabet is one of those books that seems to have it all on the front end, for me:
- GREAT cover
- in the syfy-ish category
- back cover blurb by MichaelChabon (he’s never lead me astray)
- interesting book trailer (ok, so I’ve yet to jump on the book trailer bandwagon, but this one was particularly creepy & creative)
I just hope it delivers. It’s certainly seems to have a lot going for it. We’ll see…
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