PWxyz’s Great American Novel Poll closed yesterday, and after nearly 5,000 votes, Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird was the runaway winner, taking almost 20% of the vote. But what did we learn from the poll? Here are a few observations.
1. We included 60 books in the field, and the last four to tally one single vote were: Sister Carrie, The Naked and the Dead, Go Tell It on the Mountain, and The Known World.
2. At least in our prediction, The Catcher in the Rye would’ve ranked quite high, but it was only able to get 2% of the vote.
3. The most popular beat is Kerouac: On the Road outpaced his contemporary Burroughs’s Naked Lunch, and received 77 total votes.
4. The big success story? The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, which received considerably more votes than The Catcher and the Rye, Gone with the Wind, Fahrenheit 451, and Slaughterhouse-Five, despite having fewer ratings on Goodreads (see #7 below). Translation: readers of Kavalier & Clay really, really like it.
5. The case can be made for The New Literary Canon to include Kavalier & Clay (2000), Infinite Jest (1996), and Beloved (1987)–they were the only books written in the last 30 years to secure more than 2% of the vote.
6. While Hemingway and Faulkner are two of the first names that come up in the great American writers discussion, their reputations–by the indication of this poll–are not built on one book alone (like Harper Lee), but rather on the cumulative influence of the entire body of their work. The Sun Also Rises and The Sound and the Fury each only secured 1% of the vote.
7. Were the books that received the most votes also the most read? Here are the number of ratings the top seven books have on Goodreads:
To Kill a Mockingbird: 1,356,936
The Great Gatsby: 1,077,481
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: 677,916
The Grapes of Wrath: 256,087
Gone with the Wind: 436,591
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay: 86,148
The book with the fewest ratings on Goodreads? That would be Play It as It Lays (7,246).
8. What books did we get submitted in the “Other” field? Lonesome Dove was the most voted for. Call It Sleep got a number of write-ins. Some wanted East of Eden to be Steinbeck’s entry over The Grapes of Wrath. Also, a lot of Ayn Rand. A vote for “the constitution.” A vote for “I reject your use of the definite article ‘the’. No single novel fits the bill.” A vote for “all of the above.”