November 17, 2014
The Folio Society determines that the Bible is the most valuable book to humanity
by Liam O'Brien
The Folio Society is an accomplished publisher. Their books are very pretty, and they would make fine additions to any fire-lit study or drawing room. I hear they have lovely and efficient customer service. And though I’m not saying publishing professionals can be easily bribed with a book, this one would probably work on me.
Fine Books and Collections Magazine, which I swear I only read for the articles, has reported the Society’s latest addition to their considerable curriculum vitae. The Society had commissioned a poll of Great Britons to determine the ten most valuable books for humanity, and results are now in.
Some background: the market research firm that conducted this poll has previously determined that Russell Brand sucks more than Jeremy Clarkson and that Radiohead fans are boring, so they’re right at least half the time. Results were determined in a classicly British manner, by politely requesting that those surveyed put their personal tastes aside.
The study…asked over 2000 members of the British public which three books from a list of 30 they considered to be the most valuable. The measure for selection was not by popularity or by the enjoyment experienced in reading the book, but rather respondents were asked to rate the influence and significance their selected books have had on the modern world.
Onto the very unsurprising results! #1: The Bible. #2: The Origin Of Species. #3: A Brief History of Time. #4: Einstein’s Relativity. #5: Nineteen Eighty-Four. #6-10: Not Harry Potter. (If you’re wondering, the Koran came in at #8.) The Bible (aka the Modern Family of book survey answers) narrowly edged out Origin of Species by 2%, so Darwin better keep an eye out; you come at the king, you best not miss.
This is a very eye-catching headline, and it’s also a story heard far too often. Sentiments shared by a limited sample size are expanded to a vague, socially-undefined degree, and a basic survey gets extruded through multiple limited filters so it can be reported as “Most relevant book to humanity IS…”.
I’m constantly suspicious of polling data, particularly when it comes to books and people’s tastes thereof, but I will put my suspicions aside for this one. I’m so happy the Society ran this poll, because when the Brits do something, the US version isn’t far behind! (See: television, chocolate.) Unless we’re talking about punk music, that was the other way around.
So I gleefully await a poll of Americans to determine the most valuable book for humanity. Please, someone make this happen. In fact, let’s do a full playoff bracket.
We’d need to expand the sample size and the list of choices. I want The Book of Mormon squaring off against Beloved. Catcher In The Rye vs. On The Road. The Jungle vs. The Very Hungry Caterpillar. The liner notes to The Eagles Greatest Hits vs. The Celestine Prophecy. Think of the fantasy teams. Consider the thinkpieces.
And let’s not forget how it would be a fantastic marketing stunt! The Society publishes nine of the books in their top 10 results. What a coincidence!
Think of how many barstool arguments an American poll could solve. How many relationships it could mend. It would be like the World Cup, except it would be books instead of soccer that the American people use to temporarily plug the existential void. The American Humanity Relevance Poll (trademark pending) will allow the healing, and reprints, to begin.
Liam O'Brien is the Sales & Marketing Manager at Melville House, and a former bookseller.