by Lada Adamic and Pinkesh Patel (Facebbok)
Favorite books are something friends like to share and discuss. A Facebook meme facilitates this very interaction. You may have seen one of your friends post something like “List 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.” If not great works of literature, what are the books that have stayed with us?
The following analysis was conducted on anonymized, aggregate data.
To answer this question we gathered a de-identified sample of over 130,000 status updates matching “10 books” or “ten books” appearing in the last two weeks of August 2014 (although the meme has been active over at least a year). 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. We therefore expect the books chosen to be reflective of this subset of the population.
We programmatically segmented the posts into lists, and found the most frequently occurring substrings, which corresponded to different books, e.g. “Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy”. However, the same book could appear as different substrings: e.g. just “Anna Karenina” or “Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy”. We clustered similar variants programmatically, hand tuning where the algorithm had failed to merge two popular variants. We then used the clusters to automatically match the book lists against the common variants of the top 500 most popular books.
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.
- 21.08 Harry Potter series – J.K. Rowling
- 14.48 To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
- 13.86 The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien
- 7.48 The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien
- 7.28 Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
- 7.21 The Holy Bible
- 5.97 The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams
- 5.82 The Hunger Games Trilogy – Suzanne Collins
- 5.70 The Catcher in the Rye – J.D. Salinger
- 5.63 The Chronicles of Narnia – C.S. Lewis
- 5.61 The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald
- 5.37 1984 – George Orwell
- 5.26 Little Women – Louisa May Alcott
- 5.23 Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
- 5.11 The Stand – Stephen King
- 4.95 Gone with the Wind – Margaret Mitchell
- 4.38 A Wrinkle in Time – Madeleine L’Engle
- 4.27 The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
- 4.05 The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe – C.S. Lewis
- 4.01 The Alchemist – Paulo Coelho