Tolkien ranks among the “Top Ten Books that stayed with us” on Facebook

A recent meme-like status has appeared with Facebook asking you and your friends to name “10 books that have stayed with us.” Now, you may like such questions or not but if something like this goes viral it does tend to make an impact – in many ways. Lada Adamic and Pinkesh Patel of the Facebook data science team have now taken more than 130,000 statuses to find out which books have indeed made an impact – and as you may already guess Tolkien is very high up on that list.

In a note published on September 8, 2014, Adamic and Patel explain how they gathered 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.

Those pieces of information are interesting in themselves but I’ll leave you with the top 20 of this list; the number up front is the percentage of all statuses taken with the particular title.

  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

It is a bit confusing to see C.S. Lewis at both #10 and #19 – there still seems to be an issue on how data was merged – the Harry Potter series, for example, includes statuses of both single titles in the series as well as the series itself. I hope there will be another clarification on this soon.

Out of the ten books that stayed with us 6 are fantasy books

It is interesting to note the immense success of fantasy classics with this particular list. And yes, I am lumping in Douglas Adams in the wider definition of “fantastical literature” where both Science Fiction and Fantasy are one of a kind. Because I can – and everybody needs to be reminded of the awesome author that Adams was!

One of the prejudices critics have with fantasy literature doesn’t really seem to work here – it’s not necessarily kids reading those books: The average age was 37 and yes, far more women than men read. Question would only be – in general, with that particular topic or not? Many questions are still unanswered but this material is definitely interesting to see.

P.S.: Do try and have a look at the cluster map in the note. It is fascinating to see what books people consider similarly gripping. If you want to have a higher resolution cluster map and some more background info on this particular piece of research have a look at the Atlantic article.

The list includes the top 100 – have a look for yourself: The original post on Facebook.

Marcel R. Bülles

Marcel R. Bülles is the author of, a specialist blog centering on worldwide Tolkien fandom, geekdom and research. He works as a freelance translator, journalist and writer and is the founder of the German Tolkien Society as well as a co-founder to RingCon, Europe's formerly biggest fantasy film convention. You can find him in cafés all over the world sipping an espresso blogging, writing, reading. At one point he was married to an extremely lovely French lady by the nickname of Sauron. Yes, that Sauron. He is also active with the International Tolkien Fellowship on Facebook and the Tolkien Folk on Instagram.