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Old 30th Jan 2007, 13:48   #1
beer good
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Default Most popular novel ever?

OK, here's a question someone asked me recently and I couldn't come up with a good answer. I realize it's hard to compile figures from the last 500 years, but any qualified guess is welcome:

What's the most read novel in the history of mankind?

Not the most influential, not the best, but the one that's been read by the most people. "Don Quijote"? "Robinson Crusoe"? "The Sorrows Of Young Werther"? "Jane Eyre"? "Oliver Twist"? "Uncle Tom's Cabin"? "Fellowship Of The Ring"?

I just thought it would be reassuring to know for a fact that it's not... certain recent best-sellers I could name.

If this has already been discussed, I bow in humility and offer this thread up to the deletionary powers of the admins.
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Old 30th Jan 2007, 13:54   #2
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Default Re: Most popular novel ever?

Blimey, that's a difficult question! I guess the answer would have to take into account not just sales figures or library loans, but also all those people who borrow novels from friends, and also the number of times an individual might re-read a book. And such statistics can only be guessed at. On the other hand, I don't think we would need to go back quite as far as 500 years, as the novel form didn't really come into being properly until more recently than that. 17th-18th century?
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Old 30th Jan 2007, 14:06   #3
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Default Re: Most popular novel ever?

I suspect The da Vinci Code has licked the lot of them.
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Old 30th Jan 2007, 14:06   #4
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Default Re: Most popular novel ever?

I imagine The Hobbit.
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Old 30th Jan 2007, 14:09   #5
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Default Re: Most popular novel ever?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lucoid View Post
I don't think we would need to go back quite as far as 500 years, as the novel form didn't really come into being properly until more recently than that. 17th-18th century?
True. Don Quijote is often mentioned as the first "modern" novel, is it not? Came out in 1605. So 402 years.

Quote:
Originally Posted by gil View Post
I suspect The da Vinci Code has licked the lot of them.
*falls to knees*
*raises teary eyes to cloudy sky*
*shakes fists at firmament*

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!
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Old 30th Jan 2007, 14:13   #6
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Default Re: Most popular novel ever?

Not sure, gil. One site I found said that The Da Vinci Code has sold 25 million copies, to 30 million of Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann (which is the usual one given for best-selling novel of all time). But can these books really have beaten others with a 200 year head start, like Pride & Prejudice? I suppose the question is whether the classics of that era that still exist now, were big sellers in their day: or what being a big seller in those days meant, when literacy levels weren't high.

All this deals with sales of course, rather than readership, but frankly the latter is impossible even to guess at with plausibility.
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Old 30th Jan 2007, 14:14   #7
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Default Re: Most popular novel ever?

The Bible?
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Old 30th Jan 2007, 14:15   #8
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Default Re: Most popular novel ever?

If this was QI, Kimberley, you would get a klaxon and flashing screen for giving the wrong-but-obvious-or-just-plain-deliberately-contentious answer!
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Old 30th Jan 2007, 14:19   #9
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Default Re: Most popular novel ever?

Rats, was trying to remember Valley of the Dolls.

Anyway, Wikipedia suggests otherwise.
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Old 30th Jan 2007, 14:24   #10
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Default Re: Most popular novel ever?

Religion, political doublespeak, hobbits and little wizards. That's depressing. Oh well. Thanks, Amner.
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