Readers respond to the 10 books challenge

At the DWL Forums and on our Facebook page, we are proud to have a membership with diverse literary tastes and we always try to find out more about the reading habits of our community. So when we noticed a cool literary exercise doing the rounds on Facebook, we naturally thought of sharing it with our Facebook followers. The challenge is simple: People are requested to list down 10 books that have stayed with them in some way. These are not supposed to be the best books ever written in the history of humankind (although they can be) but these should be books that have affected the reader or books with which the reader connected in some profound way. The only conditions are that the people participating in the challenge don’t take too long to compile their lists and not think too hard about their book choices.

And boy, did we get a thumping response! Within a few hours of the post going up, we had dozens of comments from our followers. The post is still attracting attention a couple of days later but during those first few hours, as we scrolled through the comments, we noticed that some similarities and differences were emerging in the thread. Some books were appearing across multiple lists. Some famous writers were becoming favourites and there were glimpses of other new, lesser-known writers refreshingly entering the lists. We were amazed at the variety of influences – books that were separated by geography, languages and time were united by the readers’ experiences – the readership was confessing to in the comments. So we decided to analyse the comments and see if there were some cool results and patterns we could identify. We looked at the first 50 comments. We’ll update our findings as we receive more comments on the post. (If you haven’t commented yet, you can do it now at the 10 books challenge post.)

First up, the Writers Word Cloud: The word cloud shows all the writers who were mentioned by the commenters. The names are scaled by frequency of occurrence in the comments, so the writer mentioned most often has the largest name in the word cloud.

[Click on the image to view interactive version]


As you might have figured out already, J K Rowling was the most mentioned author in the comments. Books by the 49-year-old British novelist were listed more times than books by any other writer. Rowling was nominated mostly for her extremely popular Harry Potter series. But she also got one mention for her 2012 novel The Casual Vacancy and another for the 2013 crime fiction novel The Cuckoo’s Calling, which Rowling published under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith.

Runner-up: Paulo Coelho – multiple books by the Brazilian writer were mentioned by the readers in their lists. We’re guessing the accessible paperback editions of his books have helped his popularity.

Now for some numbers:TenBooks (1)*Some of the comments were users commenting on the lists posted by other users.

Moving on, we have some more results and observations:

Most Mentioned Novel: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee was the winner with 10 mentions. The Pulitzer Prize-winning book is Lee’s only published book and is definitely a 20th Century classic. With its themes of racial injustice, courage and class differences and unforgettable characters such as Atticus Finch, Scout and Boo Radley, it is not a surprise that the book has moved readers in the DWL community. If you haven’t read Mockingbird yet, you need to do it ASAP.

Runners-up: Gone with the Wind (Margaret Mitchell) and The Kite Runner (Khaled Hosseini)

Most Mentioned Series: You know this one. It’s Harry Potter, of course. Since this was not a survey, we didn’t have information on the people who participated in the challenge. But we are assuming most of the commenters are in their teens and 20s and they probably grew up reading the Harry Potter books.
Runner-up: The Lord of the Rings (J R R Tolkien)

Most books in the top 20: Two writers shared this honour. George Orwell (1984, Animal Farm) and Gabriel Garcia Marquez (100 Years of Solitude, Love in the Time of Cholera) had two books each in the top 20 most mentioned books list compiled from the readers’ comments. Magical realism, political satire and dystopian fiction, sounds about right.

George Orwell (left)
and Gabriel Garcia Marquez (right)

We weren’t able to do an extensive genre analysis of the books. But at a glance, fantasy novels got much more traction with the readers compared to science fiction. Romance and classics were some of the popular picks. Young adult novels and children’s literature were prominent in the age-based category.

Thank you to our commenters for also mentioning books in Urdu and Hindi. There are few things as authentic as a book in your mother language leaving an impact on your life and thought processes.

Let us know about your 10 books here. The full list accumulated so far is given below. Happy reading!

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