Harris Interactive surveyed 2,234 U.S. adults online between March 12 and 17, 2014, asking “What is your favorite book of all time?”
The compiled results:
- The Bible
- Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
- Harry Potter (series) by J.K. Rowling
- The Lord of the Rings (series) by J.R.R. Tolkien
- To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
- Moby Dick by Herman Melville
- The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
- Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
- The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
- The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
After the Bible, these are the most popular books, per group:
- Millennials (18-36): Harry Potter (series)
- Gen X (37-48): The Lord of the Rings (series)
- Baby Boomers (49-67) and Matures (68+): Gone with the Wind
Republicans, Democrats, and Independents all loved Gone with the Wind, except liberals, who preferred Harry Potter.
Post-graduates (some education beyond college) across all generations preferred Lord of the Rings to Harry Potter or Gone with the Wind.
My impression for much of this list is, “These are the books I was forced to read in high school, and I haven’t read anything since.” I don’t know anyone who read Moby Dick or The Great Gatsby voluntarily (and I taught high school English, briefly).
The majority of Americans do not read even one book a year after finishing school, regardless of level — though of course college grads and beyond are more likely to read for pleasure. A big part of this list, for me, is simply a sign of laziness: You read a small part of the Bible every week at church. You read most of the other books in high school or college as required for some English class you were forced to take, and you had a friend who talked you into reading Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter (or you’re younger than me, and got into the movies first).
In short, this isn’t encouraging. It’s a boiler plate response.
What would I like to see? Slaughterhouse-5. A Confederacy of Dunces. Lonesome Dove. More stuff written after WWII.