More Than 80 Percent of the Most Popular Novels Are Written by Men

iStock.com/rihard_wolfram
iStock.com/rihard_wolfram

What do The Great Gatsby, Nineteen Eighty-Four, Of Mice and Men, and The Lord of the Rings all have in common? Sure, they’re among America’s most popular fiction books, but they also happen to be written by men. Over 80 percent of the 100 most popular novels were written by male authors, according to an interactive infographic created by Wordery.

Using data from Ranker on the best books (as voted on by users), Wordery broke the picks down by male and female authors, as well as the books preferred by male and female readers. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien was the second most-popular book overall, followed by George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, then Tolkien’s The Hobbit.

If there’s any silver lining, it’s the fact that Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird is the most popular book overall. Among women voters, it was the top choice. Among men, it came in second after Nineteen Eighty-Four. Lee’s classic tale was also named America’s Favorite Novel following a nationwide survey last October.

Other female-authored books to make Wordery’s list include Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, and several of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter novels. However, this contingent is still in the minority. A study from 2018 found that three of the leading literary publications devoted less than 40 percent of their coverage to women authors the previous year. Another analysis from last year found that female authors and female characters in literature both steadily declined from the Victorian era to the mid-20th century.

On the bright side, progress has been made in recent years, and female authors dominated the bestseller lists in 2017—at least in the UK. If you’re looking to make your reading list a little more gender-balanced, check out our list of 25 amazing books by women authors.

Harry Potter Fans Don’t Want to See the Movies Rebooted, Surprising No One

© 2011 Warner Bros. Harry Potter Publishing Rights (c) J.K. Rowling
© 2011 Warner Bros. Harry Potter Publishing Rights (c) J.K. Rowling

Although the Harry Potter franchise has one of the most dedicated fan bases in the world, that doesn’t mean fans are ready to see the series rebooted just yet. Yes, that would mean more movies to feed one’s obsession, but the general consensus is that it would be entirely too soon. Don’t believe us? A new poll might just prove it.

ComingSoon.net asked more than 2000 Potterheads if Warner Bros. should reboot the Harry Potter movie series, and a whopping 72 percent said they’re against it. The website also asked fans if reboots were made, how they should be done. Of those polled, 41 percent voted for it to be a direct sequel about Harry’s son, 35 percent voted for a spinoff TV series, 13 percent wanted another Fantastic Beasts spinoff, and a measly 11 percent showed support for a remake of all eight original films.

While it doesn’t look like a reboot will be in the works anytime soon (J.K. Rowling’s representatives just debunked a report about a TV series), that doesn’t mean it’s impossible for the future. Even star Daniel Radcliffe has entertained the idea, saying he believes he won’t be the last Potter portrayal he’ll see in his lifetime. But as long as Rowling and fans are against it, we probably won’t have to worry about it for a while.

Why Beatrix Potter Ended Up Self-Publishing The Tale of Peter Rabbit

Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

The Tale of Peter Rabbit was Beatrix Potter’s first book—and is still her best known. But had the beloved author not had the confidence to publish the book on her own terms, we might not have ever known her name (or Peter Rabbit's) today.

The origin of Peter Rabbit dates back in 1893, when Potter wrote the beginnings of what would become her iconic children’s book in a letter she sent to Noel Moore, the ailing five-year-old son of Annie Carter Moore, Potter's friend and former governess. “I don't know what to write to you, so I shall tell you a story about four little rabbits whose names were—Flopsy, Mopsy, Cottontail and Peter,” the story began.

According to The Telegraph, it was Carter Moore who encouraged Potter to turn her story and its illustrations into a book. Initially, she attempted to go the traditional route and sent the book to six publishers, each of whom rejected it because Potter was insistent that the book be small enough for a child to hold while the publishers wanted something bigger (so that they could charge more money for it). It wasn't a compromise that Potter was willing to make, so she took the matter into her own hands.

On December 16, 1901, a 35-year-old Potter used her personal savings to privately print 250 copies of The Tale of Peter Rabbit. The book turned out to be a hit—so much so that, within a year, Frederick Warne and Co. (one of the publishers that had originally rejected the book) signed on to get into the Peter Rabbit business. In October 1902, they published their own version of The Tale of Peter Rabbit, complete with Potter's illustrations, and by Christmastime it had sold 20,000 copies. It has since been translated into nearly 40 different languages and sold more than 45 million copies.

In August 1903, Frederick Warne and Co. published Potter's next book, The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin. A few months later, Warne published The Tailor of Gloucester, which Potter had originally self-published in 1902 for reasons similar to her decision to self-publish The Tale of Peter Rabbit.

"She was very dogmatic about what she wanted it to look like and couldn’t agree with Warne," rare book dealer Christiaan Jonkers told The Guardian about why Potter self-published The Tailor of Gloucester. "Also he wanted cuts, so she published 500 copies privately. By the end of the year Warne had given in, cementing a relationship that would save the publishing house from bankruptcy, and revolutionize the way children's books were marketed and sold."

Mental Floss is partnering with the Paper & Packaging – How Life Unfolds® “15 Pages A Day” reading initiative to make sure that everyone has the opportunity (and time) to take part in The Mental Floss Book Club. It’s easy! Take the pledge at howlifeunfolds.com/15pages.

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