Atlas Shrugged 9th in Harris Poll

The 2008 Harris Poll is out, and Atlas Shrugged comes in at #9 in the list of "Favorite books of all time." The #1 book in America? You guessed it... the Bible. From a poll of 2,513 US adults, the list is:
  1. The Bible
  2. Gone with the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell
  3. Lord of the Rings (series), by J.R.R. Tolkien
  4. Harry Potter (series), by J.K. Rowling
  5. The Stand, by Stephen King
  6. The Da Vinci Code, by Dan Brown
  7. To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
  8. Angels and Demons, by Dan Brown
  9. Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn Rand
  10. Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger

The details of the Harris poll can be found here, including a breakout of the results by age, sex and race, education level, etc.

Considering the content of the the list, I am both heartened that Atlas Shrugged is ranked, and discouraged at the heavy leaning toward religion (see italicized items in the list) or fantasy. Should we be optimistic that Atlas made it despite the preponderance of religious mysticism, or disappointed that not only does the average American still think this way, but also that this viewpoint appears to be growing?

I suppose my answer to that either/or question is... yes.


A note about the Harris poll and other polls like this... I wasn't able to find any lists from past years, either by Harris or other pollsters. I'm curious how this type of "favorite book" list has changed over time, so if anyone has any links to resources, please post them in the comments.


Jenn Casey said...

Interesting. It's always nice to see Atlas Shrugged make these kinds of lists. From a literary standpoint, it's in good company, with the exception of the Dan Brown books, which are entertaining, but will hardly become part of the literary canon, and of course Catcher in the Rye, which is horrible. (I haven't read Stephen King's book, so can't say.)

I also wonder about the methodology of the poll. But still, go Atlas Shrugged!

Monica said...

I'm less concerned about the fantasy books than I am that Gone With the Wind is second. (seriously, *Gone With the Wind?!?*)

I actually think the fact that Harry Potter is up there is a very good sign. This series has an excellent sense of life and philosophy.

I blogged a half year ago or so on the fact that, at the time, Fountainhead and Atlas were in the top ten audiobooks on Audible in terms of sales. One of them was ranked third, to my recollection.

C. August said...

Careful there, Monica. I think Jenn likes Gone with the Wind! ;-) But I agree with you on that one. It seems like the perfect "Gosh, I can't think of a 'literature' book to name because I haven't actually read more than People magazine since high school, so I'll just say Gone with the Wind."

Re: the fantasy books, now that I think about it again, I agree with you. I've heard many good things about Harry Potter (especially from Jenn!). LOTR I can take or leave as a work of literary art. They're just stories with monsters and wizards, and a good bit of altruism thrown in for good measure. I enjoyed the series, but I certainly wouldn't put it in my top 10 list.

Jenn: I know you haven't read Stephen King's book, but do you really need to? I'd say his body of work leaves little doubt that The Stand is, well... awful.

Jenn Casey said...

Yes, GWTW is an excellent book! (You knew I wouldn't be able to resist another comment, C!) The movie is a faithful adaptation, but still merely an adaptation.

The book is beautifully written--a tragedy for sure--but Margaret Mitchell does not depict a Glorious South that should have remained the way it was. Instead she uses her story to illustrate, eloquently and accurately, the fundamental reason why the culture of the South could not and should not have survived. Scarlett and Rhett are the realists, who can see the flaws in their culture (not right away, of course) and were better able to embrace the changes that necessarily happened after the War. Other characters were never able to break free of the "dream" of the Old South and were unable to cope. It's a study in characters who were and were not able to see their culture for what it was. Obviously this is just an overview and there are many other themes, too.

It's really quite a good book and deserves its place in the canon. I do recommend it. Out of curiosity, why does it strike you as out of place?

Although, depending on how the survey was conducted, I can see that it might be a "fall back" book, as C. suggests. Still, I don't recall it as being one of the required books in school--I'd think more people would have chosen Huck Finn (excellent) or some Steinbeck (blech) or Faulkner instead.

Monica said...

You've got to read Harry Potter. My boyfriend has been an O'ist for 35 years and scoffed at the notion of reading Harry Potter. After the first book he was hooked and read all 7 books within 3 months of Christmas. With a few minor caveats, he loved these books.

C. August said...

I was hoping you'd respond, Jenn. I haven't read GWTW, so I just assumed it was the fall back book. Based on your quick review, I may possibly, one day, read it.

Monica, I've heard that I simply must read the Potter books. I'm actually holding off a bit, though. My daughter is almost 4 1/2, so I anticipate that within the next couple of years we may be able to read them together.

Off topic, I'm going to a wedding in the Westminster/Boulder area this weekend. How's the weather out there now? Since I grew up in Littleton, I know that one day I might need a parka, and the next a pair of shorts.

Monica said...

Most days now it's between 40 and 60. There's no snow down on the flats right now. It could all change, though, as you know! I'd just check the weather before come. As a newcomer myself, I've learned to check weather forecasts here!!

Jenn, I've actually never read GWTW, my comment was totally unjustified. Full disclosure: I never read the book. *GULP!* I hated the movie and just assumed the book was similar. I ought to know better by now than to make broad assumptions that movies conform to the book.

Unknown said...

With a couple of exceptions, this list could be "What is your favorite movie?" The favorites of those people who don't read very much would be a more accurate title. Atlas Shrugged is validated by the fact that is is a brisk seller and it's not even a film (yet.)

C. August said...

Good point, Misterioso.

Of the list of ten, all but the last three have been movies, and many of the first seven were recent hits.

However, I'd say that the mid-nineties TV movie of The Stand didn't impact this list too much. I suppose I could be wrong though...