Wednesday, April 09, 2008

What's Your Favorite Book?

I'm reeling. The Truth of the Publishing Universe has just been handed to us, and I'm going to be mulling it over for days. Harris Interactive surveyed American adults to find out "What is your favorite book of all time?" The answers:

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

The results of the poll are fascinating, in a first-time-you've-seen-water-through-a-microscope way. You can see Harris's release here. One of the things we learn there is that every demographic group, bar none, chose (in unprompted results!) the Bible as their favorite book. But the #2 through #5 slots have more to do with the distribution of the sample than anything else: GWTW is #1 among women, LOTR among men, for example, and we all know more women than men bother with reading. The next few slots are heavily influenced by age and regional and ethnic identities.

What I take away from it:

1. I am going to have to finally sit down and read Atlas Shrugged, which can't seem to find its way off my long list.
2. The BIBLE??? Seriously???
3. To Kill a Mockingbird sucked. Just sucked. Why do people love it?
4. OMG, the BIBLE. No pun intended.
5. The DaVinci Code doesn't really surprise me. I mean, when's the last time you were flying someplace that you didn't see at least one person toting that piece of crap around? But he's got two books on the list. This makes me shudder for the reading public.
6. Dan Brown needs a really good editor almost as badly as THE BIBLE.
7. Books of Large Size win Fanbases.
8. It's good to be an SFF writer. I'm including Dan Brown for the purposes of this exercise, btw.
9. The Catcher in the Rye only made the list because they didn't interview anyone under 18. I spend a lot of time explaining to people who are now reaching its supposed target age that it was a mind-blowing book in its era, but its era is not our era, and that's why they can't figure out what the hell the fuss is about.
10. People need to read more.

I know I'm weird, but if someone had asked me that question, none of those books would have occurred to me. Oh, sure, LOTR blew me away when I read it--30 years ago. I've read works in whose company LOTR would hang its head in shame since. What is my favorite book now? (Besides the one I'm working on, of course.)

Twofold answer, of course:
Nonfiction (perennially): The Hero With a Thousand Faces, by Joseph Campbell
Fiction (today): Cryptonomicon, by Neal Stephenson

What are your favorite books? Leave me a note & help restore my faith in the future of reading.



Shoqua said...

Dude, there is a ton of fun stuff in the Bible but, yeah, I can see your point.

Favorite books so far?

non-fiction: Forensics and Fiction
although, Tolkien's On Fairy Stories is running a close second

fiction: Small Gods by Terry Pratchett with Night Watch running a very close second

I'm going to have to re-read Hogfather, too. I just saw the movie and OMG, he quotes the Inklings. Yeah, okay, I'm weird.

Barbara, Goddess of Champagne said...

Forensics and Fiction--I didn't know until today that I NEED that book. My Amazon Cart runneth over...

Yeah, I agree there is tons of wonderful stuff in the Bible. It's like an archaeological dig in a box. But it is also the most-misused book in human history, and probably the least understood.

This is going to come out all wrong, but IMO there should be some sort of entrance exam for the Bible: some way of ensuring that people lay the necessary groundwork to understand the thing before they go basing their whole world-views on it.

'Scuse me, I gotta go put on my asbestos underwear...