Bookish friends of mine have been sharing their ten books that "stayed with" them in their FB statuses for a while now. Facebook data scientists, intrigued, took the last 130,000 or so such statuses, and found that many of you are stuck in a Harry-Potter-and-Tolkien-decorated prison of the mind.

Someone is surely going to write another Slate piece about this. The researchers admit their demographic is limited to the mostly-American, mostly female, and average-age-of-37 sort of Facebook user.

The top 20 books that recurred in these statuses contained mostly the usual suspects. Here they are by rank — the second number is the percentage of FB statuses in which they appeared:

  • 21.08 Harry Potter series - J.K. Rowling
  • 14.48 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
  • 13.86 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien
  • 7.48 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien
  • 7.28 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
  • 7.21 The Holy Bible
  • 5.97 The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
  • 5.82 The Hunger Games Trilogy - Suzanne Collins
  • 5.70 The Catcher in the Rye - J.D. Salinger
  • 5.63 The Chronicles of Narnia - C.S. Lewis
  • 5.61 The Great Gatsby - F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • 5.37 1984 - George Orwell
  • 5.26 Little Women - Louisa May Alcott
  • 5.23 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
  • 5.11 The Stand - Stephen King
  • 4.95 Gone with the Wind - Margaret Mitchell
  • 4.38 A Wrinkle in Time - Madeleine L'Engle
  • 4.27 The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood
  • 4.05 The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe - C.S. Lewis
  • 4.01 The Alchemist - Paulo Coelho

I actually find the list pretty heartening, first because Jane Austen and Fitzgerald elbow their way to the front of the line, and second because the percentages in each case are low. Even Lord Potter himself manages only to get into about a fifth of these. Which means that people are influenced by a wide range of books. It suggests those worried that most people are "only" reading young adult fiction are wrong. Good.

(Far more worrisome to my mind is that the list includes Kathryn Stockett's The Help at number 48.)

Facebook also neatly includes this bit of data visualization, in which you can see which books are commonly linked with other books in each cluster. The dot color for each book also tells you the gender breakdown of its readers: red for female, blue for male.

I choose to believe that On the Road-related cluster is composed exclusively of men who read it in college and then later realized it wasn't as mindblowing as they deemed it at the time. Self-awareness in the matter of former book devotions is key.

[Book cover detail from the UK edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone.]