Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Tuesday Thingers: Popularity

Today's Question from Marie at The Boston Bibliophile:

What's the most popular book in your library? Have you read it? What did you
think? How many users have it? What's the most popular book you don't have? How does a book's popularity figure into your decisions about what to read?

According to the LibraryThing Zeitgeist, the most popular book in my library is Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J. K. Rowling. Evidently my copy is just one of 32,518 listed in LT catalogs.

I read the book several years ago. My cousin had actually loaned me several of the Harry Potter books, but I returned them unread. I am not a big fan of YA fiction and Harry Potter didn't really interest me. As I heard more and more about it though, my curiosity grew, and I decided to give it a try. It turned into one of those instances where I wanted to kick myself for waiting so long to give the book a try. I loved it.

The most popular book listed on the LibraryThing Zeitgeist that I do not have in my library is Life of Pi by Yann Martel, a book 31,281 LT members have listed in their libraries. This is one book that has never really appealed to me despite the numerous attempts by fans of the book to make me give it a try.

Popularity in terms of who has what in their library at LT has nothing to do with my reading choices. I have never really paid close attention to the Zeitgeist page before. There are some interesting statistics listed, but I do not imagine any of those stats would have an impact on my own reading or library content. It is hard not to be impacted, however, by frequent book chatter about a popular book. Whether it is in book groups, through advertisements, displays in the store, on blogs, and other websites, it is a given that the book will come to my attention. Whether I choose to read it or not will depend on if the book catches my fancy. Sometimes blogger reviews or word of mouth recommendations influence my decision. A book's popularity in and of itself is not enough to get me to read a book. I am most interested in what a book is about and whether or not the subject matter interests me. Whether it makes a bestseller's list or wins a popularity contest makes no difference.


  1. Hi Literary Feline,
    (my kindred spirit) :-)
    I agree with you about popularity - it really doesn't matter to me if I am the only person in the world who likes a book - if I like it, I like it.

  2. I agree with you. Whether a book gets a lots of attention or not, or if it's all over the critics' radar doesn't really matter to me. I'm interested in what the book is about. I haven't checked my LT for a while but from my wordpress blog stat, A Separate Peace has outnumbered all other book reviews in terms of viewing.

  3. Life of Pi didn't do it for me. I thought it was interesting, but it was missing something that I just can't put my finger on. It is definitely one that I could revisit, though not any time soon. :) While book browsing the other day I saw another one by him but let it pass by...

  4. I really liked Life of Pi and I never would have picked it up without the online Book Club I'd belonged to back then.

    I'm probably swayed by the popularity of books to NOT read them. The anti-Oprah backlash kind of thing. I try to rise above it - just because millions of people loved the book doesn't mean it's mediocre trash. It's so elitist. And I hate that. You know. In *other* people. ;)

  5. I've all the HP books, but I haven't finished reading them yet!! :P

    Like you, I haven't picked up Life of Pi although I've heard raves about it. I don't know why.

    I do swayed by the popularity of books, at least I'll pick it up to read the blurb out of curiosity but if the book doesn't interest me, I'll not buy it.

  6. I too wasn't interested in the HP books at first. But like you I'm glad I bit the bullet and tried them!

  7. Library Cat - Other bookish kitties are always welcome here! :-)

    Popularity might draw my attention to a book, but it won't make me read it nor will it necessarily turn me away from it. As you said, if you like it, you like it.

    Matt - To me that's all that matters really, what the book is about. I don't want to waste my time reading something I wouldn't be interested in.

    A Separate Peace is a great book. My stats aren't good enough to tell me which book I've reviewed of all of them has the most hits, but I do seem to get a lot of hits for Anna Karenina. That's probably one of the favorites that people look at on my blog.

    Trish - It's readers like you who validate my reason for not wanting to bother with Life of Pi despite all the rave reviews. :-)

    Carrie K - I know what you mean. Sometimes I am reluctant to try a book that has received a lot of hype. Other times it doesn't bother me at all. I'm very unpredictable that way. Ultimately though, it comes down to whether I would want to read the book, good press or not.

    Melody - You have to read them all! Hurry up! ;-)

    That's it exactly! I get curious too after hearing so much about a book and will take a closer look often times. If it doesn't interest me, I don't bother with it further.

    Kathleen - They are such fun books, aren't they? I can't wait for the next movie to come out this winter.

  8. I agree that a book that is popular doesn't make me want to read it. But I'm that way with most things in my life. My college boyfriend wasn't popular with my friends but he's now my husband. You can't go by what others think. It will make you miserable.

  9. I've got The Life of Pi on Mt. TBR. I'll read it because it's on the 1001 list, but I'm not sure if I want to. I've heard a lot of bad things about it, and only a few people say they like it.

  10. I'm sure how to even check this at my library!

  11. I totally agree with you... If the book subject interests me then I don't care if it's popular or not. Granted, when a book is being talked about a lot by book bloggers then it goes on my radar. I trust you guys :)

  12. Add me to the list of those who wouldn't wholeheartedly endorse Life of Pi. I'm sure I'm in the minority, but I'll go a step further to say that I found it disturbing and not enjoyable at all. The biggest compliment I can give it is that it wasn't predictable.

  13. I have and have read both HP and Life of Pi. While I enjoyed Life of Pi, it was so unusual, that I have no idea who would enjoy it as well. With your wide and varied tastes, you might like it though.

    I have to agree about popularity. I never look at those things let alone let them influence what I read.

  14. I'm with you, the popularity of a book doesn't make much of a difference to me. If something about it doesn't catch my interest, then I move on. I've already got so many things and books I'm interested in reading that I don't pay too much attention to lists. I do, on the other hand, consider what others are reading when I know we have similar reading interests. Also, if I think someone knows my reading tastes I do listen when they suggest a book. I do have a few people in my family that give me books that they like without any consideration for what I actually like and read (i.e. self-help books). They honestly think that I like that kind of thing when really it is they that like it and because they liked it soooo much then I will definitely like it too. Confused people.

  15. I must add that I find reading blogger book reviews to be fun and helpful. Sometimes I've avoided a book for some arbitrary (or maybe not so arbitrary) reason and then I read a review that will intrigue me and make me want to read the book. Then of course there are the books I've never heard of and maybe wouldn't have discovered without perusing the blogs.

  16. The stat shows 1930 views of A Separate View and recently a big jump in The Master and Margarita. Must be some reading project in school! :)

  17. I have yet to read Life of Pi. I am not even sure if it is one that I will ever read. I do love all of the HP books, however. When I see or hear of a book's popularity, I may be curious about it and take a look at it, whereas if I had not heard much about it prior to that, I may not have given the book a second thought. Popularity is not something I base my reading on though.

  18. It took me a long time to read the HP books. My reasoning was more of the pretentious jerk variety. I thought if they were so popular, they couldn't be that good. I was so wrong!
    I also haven't read Life of Pi though I pick it up 9 out of 10 times I'm at the store. I have no idea why it's taking so long!

  19. Nikki - And it limits your options if you only go for what's popular.

    Koolaidmom - Hopefully you will like the Life of Pi when you read it despite what you've heard. :-)

    Jen - It took me a while to figure it out too, Jen. If you follow the above link for LT's Zeitgeist, it will take you to the page where most of the responders are getting their information from. A person doesn't have have to be a member to view the page.

    Iliana - It's hard not to notice books that are being talked about a lot. Sometimes it does make me mroe curious, especially when the book is getting so many positive reviews, but as you said, it's not the reason I decide to read a book.

    Traci - Not being predictable is something, I guess. LOL At least you are firming up my decision not to read it.

    Trisha - People keep telling me I would probably like it. Maybe I'll change my mind about reading Life of Pi one day, but it probably won't be any time soon.

    I do sometimes pay attention to the award nominee lists and glance at the best sellers' lists out of curiosity, but being on a list like that isn't enough to convince me I must read the books.

    Terri - Very well said, and I concur wholeheartedly.

    I have had people give me books as gifts based on their own interests rather than my own, but it hasn't been a bad experience for me--at least not mostly. If anything, it has exposed me to authors I might not have tried otherwise. But then there are the cookbooks . . . I don't like to cook and so getting me a cook book is really pointless, much less thoughtless on the gift giver's part. I understand if it's someone who doesn't know me, but when it's family or a friend . . .

    I also find reading blogger reviews to be helpful as well as fun. You all probably have the most influence over my reading material these days. :-)

    Matt - How funny!

    April - Exactly!

    Jaimie - I am sure that when the time is right, you will finally pick up Life of Pi to try. I get that way about some books too.


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