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Books that have stayed with you: a Facebook study
Mon, 13th Oct 2014
FYI, this story is more than a year old

The latest thing making the rounds on Facebook is the “Top 10 books” craze, where a friend will tag you in their comment and asks you tolist 10 books that have stayed with you in some way. Don't take more than a few minutes, and don't think too hard. They do not have to be the 'right' books or great works of literature, just ones that have affected you in some way”.

While it could be considered just another Facebook chainmail status, there has been some real research done on the topic.

A sample of over 130,000 status updates that included “10 books” or “ten books” that appeared in the last two weeks of August (although the meme has been active over at least a year).

Below are some of the findings from Facebook:

Note: The demographics of those posting were as follows: 63.7% were in the US, followed by 9.3%in India, and 6.3% in the UK. Women outnumbered men 3.1:1. The average age was 37.  Therefore it was expected the books chosen to be reflective of this subset of the population.

Here are the top 20 books, along with a percentage of all lists (having at least one of the top 500 books) that contained them.

  1. 21.08 Harry Potter series - J.K. Rowling
  2. 14.48 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
  3. 13.86 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien
  4. 7.48  The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien
  5. 7.28  Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
  6. 7.21  The Holy Bible
  7. 5.97  The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
  8. 5.82  The Hunger Games Trilogy - Suzanne Collins
  9. 5.70  The Catcher in the Rye - J.D. Salinger
  10. 5.63  The Chronicles of Narnia - C.S. Lewis
  11. 5.61  The Great Gatsby - F. Scott Fitzgerald
  12. 5.37  1984 - George Orwell
  13. 5.26  Little Women - Louisa May Alcott
  14. 5.23  Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
  15. 5.11  The Stand - Stephen King
  16. 4.95  Gone with the Wind - Margaret Mitchell
  17. 4.38  A Wrinkle in Time - Madeleine L'Engle
  18. 4.27  The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood
  19. 4.05  The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe - C.S. Lewis
  20. 4.01  The Alchemist - Paulo Coelho
Harry Potter reigns supreme, although the clustering algorithm that was used lumped all the Harry Potter books into the same cluster, giving it an advantage. And while kids’ books may not normally be considered great works of literature, many of them ‘stayed with us’, which was the whole point of the status.

Another part of the study was to see if friends tended to like the same books.

Some people shared the meme without tagging anyone in it, calling on all of their friends to make their own posts, while others tagged specific friends either because they wanted to know what their favourite books were, or because they knew that a post like this would be of interest to them.

The study found that the low overlap of titles on friends’ lists underlined that even in a world of relatively few highly successful bestsellers, lists of favorites tend to be rather different, even between friends.

You can see the Top 100 books that appeared on Facebook here