Tuesday, November 08, 2005

10 Most Popular Books in The World

According to SoYouWanna.com, the 10 are (in that order, please):

1. Bible (six billion copies sold)
2. Quotations from the works of Mao Tse-tung (800 million sold)
3. American Spelling Book (100 million sold)
4. The Guinness Book of Records (81 million sold)
5. The McGuffey Reader (60 million sold)
6. A Message To Garcia (40-50 million sold)
7. World Almanac (40 million)
8. The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care (39.2 million)
9. Valley of Dolls (30 million sold)
10. In His Steps: What Would Jesus Do?

ACTUALLY, if you were to apply logic and reason into the listing of the world's 10 most popular books, there are probably as many lists as there are member nations in the United Nations.
First, every country has its own preference. For example, in China where English is not the main language and Mandarin is, the list will of course reflect the population make-up of the country and its people.
We should not forget that China has about 10,000 years of history but only 5,000 years of recorded history of civilisation is recognised. India also has a similar length of civilisation. At this juncture, we shall not go into Egypt, Incan or the Aztecs. Too complicated.
Anyway, as I was saying, each community or group of people has its own list of great books. The West being the dominant sector of the globe tends to be overly prominent in the record of 10 most popular books.
By right, we should actually saying what are the 10 most popular books in the English language?" Or, what are the "10 most popular books in Spain, China, Malaysia or Japan?" That would be more accurate.
The 10 most popular books mean simply that - popular. The list does not mean the 10 are the most significant. Now, if you were to ask "what are the 10 most important books that have altered the history of mankind?" Perhaps we will get nearer to the truth.
But then what is the truth? Truth about what? Truth about the 10 most significant books in the world. Honestly, people are apt to disagree on just about anything, and if it is books, all the louder the protests.
The Chinese in mainland China will disagree and they have the numbers to prove it. The West will frown on anything that does not jell with its Western history and civilisation. Thus, a stalemate looms large even at the outset of such a debate.
Over in America, there's an interesting story about censorship. It all started in 1872 with this guy called Anthony Comstock. Comstock was the pioneer of modern American Censorship. In 1872, Anthony Comstock founded the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice.
The following year (1873), he managed to convince the US Congress to pass what was known as the Comstock Law which banned materials found to be "lewd, indecent, filthy, obscene".
Comstock's winning slogan at that time was "Morals, not art and literature." Surprisingly, many people took his side at that time in American history.
According to the First Amendment Center Organisation, Between 1874 and 1915, as special agent of the U.S. Post Office, he is estimated to have confiscated 120 tons of printed works. Under his reign, 3,500 people were prosecuted although only about 350 were convicted. Books banned by Comstock included many classics: Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, The Arabian Nights, and Aristophanes’ Lysistrata. Authors whose works were subsequently censored under the Comstock Law include Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Victor Hugo, D.H. Lawrence, John Steinbeck, Eugene O’Neill and many others whose works are now deemed to be classics of literature.
Shocking, isn't it? Well, times have changed and people have broadened their outlook and obscenity has taken different hues. This again is a matter of debate.
Then there are the Most Challenged Books and Most Controversial Books categories. In US again, there were complaints against books like Maya Angelou's "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings," J.D. Salinger's "The Catcher in the Rye," John Steinbeck's "Of Mice and Men" and Mark Twain's "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn."
Even Harry Potter series were not spared by the iron-claded moral-fibred protestors. This goes to show that if society allows anyone to guard the morals of others, then you may just end up reading Beano and Dandy comics.
Shockingly, some of the banned titles were children's favorites as Maurice Sendak's "In the Night Kitchen" and R.L. Stine's "Goosebumps" series. Acclaimed adult novels on the list include Margaret Atwood's "The Handmaid's Tale," Kurt Vonnegut's "Slaughterhouse-Five" and Nobel laureate Toni Morrison's "Beloved."
Also cited are William Golding's "The Lord of the Flies," Aldous Huxley's "Brave New World" and Harper Lee's "To Kill a Mockingbird," removed in 1996 from an advanced placement English reading list in Lindale, Texas, because it "conflicted with the values of the community."
However, the good news is that the law and society in general do not really follow up with these so-called "bans". People still continue to read whatever pleases them or strikes their fancy.
In fact, the general notion is that if the word "banned" comes into the picture, it becomes popular overnight. So some writers actually welcome the banning by the authorities. If the authors are not popular or a big name in the literary circle, all the more they want the attention. Heck, they demand it.
Meanwhile, you should just read the classics. There are some great books there.

P.S. The passages marked in bold are taken from an Associated Press report.

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