Books Everyone Should Read

Monday, March 14th, 2011

A “consensus-cloud” of most mentioned titles from various book polls & top 100 lists. For The Guardian.

An updated version from my book. Data and analysis here:

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Show Comments ( )

  • Tim S Holm

    I noticed that my personal favorite, “As I Lay Dying,” did not show up. And then I noticed in your Time 100 field that it was entered as “A I Lay Dying.” Perhaps if that was fixed, the algorithm would snatch it up?

    • david

      thanks for that Time – I’ll take a look

    • Akif Shamim

      My personal favourite are “as i Lay Dying” and “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”

  • Pronoiac

    The lengthy source descriptions on line 2 are really messing up the layout. You might switch Word Wrap off on it, or move the divider up a line, so it’s not showing by default.

  • Nils Montan

    What a fantastic cloud. I would like to buy a print of this!


  • Thomas

    You should totally be doing a film version.

    I think perhaps if it was laid out in now many “hits” a book/film.

  • Andrew Pennebaker

    I love your blog, but I dislike this post’s title “Books Everyone Should Read”.

    First, popularity doesn’t mean a book is good. Second, just because a book is mentioned a lot doesn’t mean it’s good, either; Third, “To Kill A Mockingbird” and other titles are required reading in English classes. Even if they are worth reading, odds are we’ve already read them. Fourth, there are positive feedback loops: A few friends recommend Dan Brown’s crap, and suddenly it’s a national best-seller, and readers trust the best-seller list.

  • Barbara Duvivier

    Have you watched this video?
    It has very interesting visualization forms.

  • Gertjan

    Great graphic, but where are The Catcher in the Rye and The Great Gatsby? They are high in the list but I not in the cloud, or I must have a huge blind spot.

  • Denise Brown

    I’d like to see some indication of which titles showed up most often in the top 10 of these top 100 lists (if there’s is a ranking involved in its composition.) I think that might give an insight into which might be more ‘should read’ as opposed to ‘most mentions.’

  • Ravi Khalsa

    I love the blog, do not like “Tag Clouds.”

  • Matt

    “The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy” was mentioned more than “War and Peace?”

  • Brick Meathook

    You do realize the massive typo in your otherwise beautiful graphic?

    The book is titled “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.” There is no “The” in the title.

    Given the text size, it is not a minor error. It is a great ripping yarn of a book, though, and highly recommended by me.

  • elizabeth

    this is a rant i bring out every single time i see one of these lists – i hate them. i loathe how they are dominated with English, French, German, and North American writers – as though the rest of the world has not written a single book worthy of inclusion. oh, yeah, there might be some Cotzee, or a little touch of Russian writing, but the overall negation of the works of Asian, Middle Eastern, African, South American and Pacific writers utterly infuriates me.

    • Victoria

      The author Marquez wrote One Hundred Years of Solitude….he is Colombian. But I should like to have seen The Color Purple and Memoirs of a Geisha on the list…

    • Victoria

      Beloved…on this list… was written by African American author Toni Morrison…but I liked her book The Bluest Eye best.

  • John Francis

    The book is titled “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.”

    The article “The” is not in the title.

  • Siener

    Great idea, but I can’t say I like the colour scheme. The lightest colours are literally unreadable (at least on the crap monitor I have here at work).

    Apart from that it’s also quite confusing. I assumed that there was a reason why some of the smaller words were printed in a solid, dark colour while some bigger words are faded. On closer inspection I realised that all words of the same size are the same colour, so there’s no independent significance to the colour.

    I find it very puzzling that the second lowest category have the darkest colour. If you look at the line just above The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Winnie the Pooh and The Name of the Rose jump out at you while The Sound and the Fury and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest fade into the background. Little Women is all but invisible.

  • Chris Lamke

    I disagree about Twilight being in your “Books Everyone Should Read” cloud. I looked at the sources that list Twilight and they are without exception lists of currently popular books, which is fine except that you certainly know most books that are temporarily “popular” or for “regular people” are flash in the pan junk (when viewed over time) and represent a current fad or cultural meme rather than good literature. This would be fine if you hadn’t labeled your post “Books Everyone Should Read” rather than “Books People Are Reading Right Now”.

    Just a nitpick. I love your site and am a fan of beautiful presentation of information generally, but to see Twilight as a book everyone should read (over books like Heart of Darkness and The Plague) was too much.

  • RussHux

    Was Fountainhead so big I can’t see any letters? If not, I want to see the data.

    • miriam

      Hiya RussHux,

      Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead is indeed on there, on the left hand side of the graphic, and was mentioned four times in the lists analysed. If you want to check out the data, it can be found here:


  • Gregg Bowers

    Along with 1984 and Brave New World, I would add Fahrenheit 451. Read together, these three science fiction novels of the 1950′s predicted the essence of the world we live in today. They should not be read separately because they gain in power as a package deal.

  • mark

    Love this blog.Very inspiring.