Iconic books are texts revered as objects of power rather than just as words of instruction, information, or insight. In religious and secular rituals around the globe, people carry, show, wave, touch and kiss books and other texts, as well as read them. This blog chronicles such events and activities. (For more about iconic books, see the links to the Iconic Books Project at left.)

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Favorites vs. Best Sellers

A Harris Poll released April 7th asked "What is your favorite book of all time?" The 2,513 American adults surveyed mentioned the Bible most often, followed by nine novels starting with Gone With the Wind.

It's interesting that when people think of their "favorite books," they think of scripture and novels. Sales figures suggest that they actually buy a much wider range of genres. Wikipedia's list of all-time best sellers ("most published" would be more accurate, since many of these are often given away) also starts with the Bible, but novels have to compete for space in the rest of the list not only with other scriptures (unlike the Harris Poll, this list attempts to span the globe) but also with prayer books, scouting manuals, dictionaries, etc. Wikipedia's list unaccountably omits cookbooks, which are perennial sales leaders.

The difference between "favorites" and best sellers points again to the relative iconicity of different kinds of books. Scriptures and novels have the most iconic status, while handbooks, dictionaries, and especially phone books may have little or virtually none.

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