Top books

by Eszter Hargittai on November 27, 2004

Since people on CT seem to enjoy book lists (of ones not read, favorites, ones every educated person should read, ones lesser-known) I thought I’d post a link to the OCLC Top 1000 list.

OCLC Research has compiled a list of the top 1000 titles owned by member libraries—the intellectual works that have been judged to be worth owning by the “purchase vote” of libraries around the globe.

The complete list page has links to top lists by genre. The site also features a page with fun facts about the list plus pointers to other top book lists.

Hat tip: Neat New Stuff.



rea 11.27.04 at 4:45 am

#18 Garfield comic book?


Kieran Healy 11.27.04 at 5:13 am

Yeah, I noticed that, too. He outranks Macbeth. But this thread could be about other things besides the end of civilization. For instance, Shakespeare is clearly the most important author in the English language: I count 38 separate works of this (excluding film versions) in the full list, sixteen of which are in the Top 100. But who comes in second? It seems to be Dickens (15 or 16 on the list. After that the race tightens up. Steinbeck and Twain have nine entires apiece. Jane Austen has _all six_ of her novels in the top 500. Toni Morrison (7) does very well, also. All of Joyce’s novels are there, too.

Overall, the main thing that strikes me about the list is its heterogeneity.


Kevin Mulligan 11.27.04 at 5:32 am

From the “fun facts” section:

Which author has the most works on the OCLC Top 1000 list?

William Shakespeare (with 40 works). He is followed by Charles Dickens (16 works) and John Grisham (13 works).


Matt Weiner 11.27.04 at 6:16 am

Garfield at #18 and Peanuts at only #70, that’s bad, though.

(It looks to me as though they bundled all anthologies of the same comic strip together, which would help account for Garfield’s high rank.)


DeAnn 11.27.04 at 6:58 am

Too much good stuff here in one post. I’m bookmarking this exact post and coming back again and again!



Mary Kay 11.27.04 at 9:34 am

You’ll want to keep in mind that lots of OCLC libraries are public libraries which have a different mission and scope than academic or research libraries. Many research libraries belong to RLIN rather than OCLC, though I think some may belong to both. (I’ve worked at both OCLC and RLIN so I don’t think I’m especially biased one way or the other..)



Danny Yee 11.27.04 at 1:22 pm

My “best books” selection has just 60 titles on it – but then I’ve only reviewed 800 books!


Erik 11.27.04 at 10:13 pm

Frankly, I’m amazed that the Critique of Pure Reason beat Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.


Lawrence L. White 11.28.04 at 6:21 am

For those interested in poetry, there are some glaring ommissions: Wordsworth, Keats, Dickinson, Frost, Eliot, Yeats. I suspect these libraries all have books by these folks, but the variety of editions evades the survey.

I nominate Lucretius for highest rated (#47) unread book.


Jonathan Dresner 11.28.04 at 9:31 am

I have a rough survey of the History and Asia books in the list here:

Is it just me or is there an awful lot of 19th century novels on this list?


Doug 11.28.04 at 10:33 am

Is it possible that the Garfield listing is a catch-all for all 40 (or however many) Garfield titles that are available? That would give it a pretty big boost.

It wouldn’t explain Garfield’s position relative to Peanuts, but that may be mostly a matter of tempus fugiting right along.


Keith M Ellis 11.28.04 at 3:39 pm

Yah, I was awfully surprised to see Lucretius way up there. I’ve read it, but aside from my classmates, not a whole lot of folks I’ve known have. It deserves to be there, though.


rea 11.28.04 at 5:58 pm

Mind you, I don’t object to comics lke The Far Side or even Peanuts being on the list. There’s a certain amount of substance there, despite the pop culture format.

But Garfield?


Tom 11.28.04 at 6:56 pm

I’ve read Lucretius, too, and have been planning to read him again, this time in English. Is there a good verse translation?


Kenny Easwaran 11.29.04 at 10:51 am

I was surprised to see how much Robert Louis Stevenson there was up there. I believe four of the top 200 books.


Scott Spiegelberg 11.29.04 at 6:06 pm

Over 10% (137) of the listings are music scores. Of them, a large proportion are operas, with vocal music in general outnumbering instrumental works (78 to 58). I have a post about this, as does Tim Rutherford-Johnson.


Jeremy Pierce 11.29.04 at 9:34 pm

I think they’re collecting all editions together. Otherwise, the Bible would have been way ahead of the 2000 census.

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