Saturday, January 19, 2008

favorite books by language

The previous post was about millions of books in different languages and translations. What about the most popular books to read? How do we rate languages according to how much good stuff is available to read in each language?

Modern Library's list of top 100 English-language novels of all time is interesting. The eggheads voted for James Joyce and Ulysses. The top book on the readers' list is Ayn Rand. Brrrr.

Time's list in similar vein.

Madison's 100 Best Novels English only.

British reading public has somewhat different tastes. The list includes some foreign authors.

Top 100 novels of all time voted by regular people

Guardian's The top 100 books of all time as determined from a vote by 100 noted writers from 54 countries.

There's more, but you get the idea. Now, for the cool part. LibraryThing advertised as the world's largest book club, lists over 22 million books (copies) catalogued by some 344,000 members. I say advertised as you can enter some 200 books for free and there's a membership fee for extra features etc. What's really interesting here is the catalogue that can be searched by language. The most popular languages ranked by the nuber of copies (translations or originals) on the members' bookshelves are:

French (403,907)
German (306,566)
Japanese (207,903)
Spanish (127,231)
Russian (111,171)
Italian (107,347)
Greek (Ancient) (96,300)
Latin (68,919)
Dutch (58,395)
Swedish (41,332)
Portuguese (34,583)
Chinese (29,015)
Norwegian (24,620)
Hebrew (22,920)
Danish (20,909)
Czech (17,141)
English (Middle) (17,046)
Arabic (14,924)
Polish (14,787)
Old English (7,386)
Finnish (7,085)
Sanskrit (6,031)
Turkish (5,813)
Persian (5,035)

Foreign languages by my estimate account for some 1.8 million copies, lol. Admittedly, the reading public is predominantly English-speaking and for Japanese you'll find "books" like Fruits basket and Death Note but it's a jury of some 344,000 people who generally like books and reading. And manga IS fun. Very funny situation with some languages where most copies are from very few writers.

Finally — "the intellectual works that have been judged to be worth owning by the "purchase vote" of libraries around the globe". In 2005 Worldcat was described as still heavily oriented toward North American libraries but the list includes 60,000 libraries many of which are from all around the world.

Top 1000 Books Owned by Libraries Around the World

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