A web-developer named Christopher Pound has carried out a text data mining trawl (I shall write about text data mining in another post – it is a bit of a hot topic in some publishing sectors at the moment) to reveal the 100 most popular books by different authors to be accessed via the Project Gutenberg free e-book site. Books for both adults and children are included. The top 10 from both categories are:
1 Pride and Prejudice (Austen, Jane)
2 Jane Eyre (Brontë, Charlotte)
3 Little Women (Alcott, Louisa May)
4 Anne of Green Gables (Montgomery, L. M. [Lucy Maud])
5 The Count of Monte Cristo (Dumas, Alexandre)
6 The Secret Garden (Burnett, Frances Hodgson)
7 Les Misérables (Hugo, Victor)
8 Crime and Punishment (Dostoyevsky, Fyodor)
9 The Velveteen Rabbit (Bianco, Margery Williams)
10 Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Twain, Mark)
Can you spot the odd one out? Or am I just revealing my own crass ignorance when I say that I have never heard of The Velveteen Rabbit? According to Wikipedia, this book, which was published in 1922, was selected as one of ‘Teachers’ Top 100 Books for Children’ by the (American) National Education Association in 2007. Apparently it has also been the subject of numerous film adaptations, talking books, etc. Wikipedia sums up the plot as follows: A stuffed rabbit sewn from velveteen is given as a Christmas present to a small boy, but is neglected for toys of higher quality or function, which shun him in response. The rabbit is informed of magically becoming Real by the wisest and oldest toy in the nursery as a result of extreme adoration and love from children, and he is awed by this concept; however, his chances of achieving this wish are slight.
Peter Rabbit, Alice in Wonderland, Heidi and Uncle Tom’s Cabin all appear in the Top 100, but considerably lower down in the list.
Statistics like these always make me want to know more. Why has The Velveteen Rabbit proved so popular, at least when accessed via Project Gutenberg? It isn’t because it’s not available in print: Amazon lists it and states that there are both print and talking book versions available. Is it because American teachers are more likely to direct pupils to e-book sites than teachers in other countries? Do they perhaps even download it and arrange for it to be printed for their classes via a Print on Demand company? Or, as I’ve suggested, is it just that there’s been a blip in my education? In fact, several blips, because in all my years as a bookseller and library supplier, I have never come across either this book or its author.
Here is Christopher Pound’s full list.