Top Ten Most-Read Books of the Last Half Century

Have you seen this graph? What a great way to depict the most-read books of the last 50 years. I was expecting to see the Bible at number one, but look at that margin! And I never in a million years would have guessed number two correctly. In fact, some of those books wouldn’t have even entered my mind as making the list at all. For that matter, I’ve never even heard of two of them. Have you heard of them all?

I figure most people have heard of the Bible, but whether people read it is another matter, and (for those who do read it) the way they go about taking in God’s word can be still another matter

There are the Bereans, who listened to Paul and Barnabas preach and then fact-checked them against what Scripture itself said. If even the Apostles’ preaching was subjected to such scrutiny, the same applies even more so to those of us who teach and write today. So if you ever see any discrepancies between what I write and what’s in the Bible, here’s my tip: dump me and go with what the Bible says, please! It’s the noble thing to do.

Then there’s the person who wrote Psalm 119. Now there’s a doozy of a psalm. It’s 176 verses long, and each verse is a shout out in praise of God’s word. Not only that, but the psalm is divided into stanzas of eight couplets, each couplet within a stanza beginning with the same letter of the Hebrew alphabet, each successive stanza employing the next letter, so that the psalmist began the first eight lines with aleph and proceeded to beth for the next eight and so on until reaching taw for the eight couplets of the final stanza. As C.S. Lewis said in Reflections on the Psalms:

It is a pattern, a thing done like embroidery, stitch by stitch, through long, quiet hours, for love of the subject and for the delight in leisurely, disciplined craftsmanship.

Psalm 119 is nothing less than a love poem to God’s word.

And then there’s Ezekiel’s relationship with God’s word, one that is quite literally visceral:

 But you, son of man, listen to what I say to you. Do not rebel like that rebellious people; open your mouth and eat what I give you.”

Then I looked, and I saw a hand stretched out to me. In it was a scroll, which he unrolled before me. On both sides of it were written words of lament and mourning and woe.

And he said to me, “Son of man, eat what is before you, eat this scroll; then go and speak to the people of Israel.” So I opened my mouth, and he gave me the scroll to eat.

Then he said to me, “Son of man, eat this scroll I am giving you and fill your stomach with it.” So I ate it, and it tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth. (Ezekiel 2:8-3:3.)

That’s one way to digest the word of God!


Questions to Ponder:

When did you last read the Bible? What part?

What kind of taste did it leave in your mouth? Why?

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8 Responses to Top Ten Most-Read Books of the Last Half Century

  1. LLM says:

    I saw that graph awhile back. I was surprised by several of the books too! I think the #2 is just b/c so many people speak Chinese and maybe they were forced to read the book.

    The last 3 days I’ve been reading Revelation. Taste? Well, an awesome view of God that makes me want to fall down and worship!

    • Tim says:

      There’s a great connection between the Ezekiel passage noted in this post and John’s vision in Revelation, too. I recently read Darrel Johnson’s Discipleship on the Edge: An Expository Journey through the Book of Revelation, and it was a real eye-opener in many ways. Lots of scriptural connections with other Old and New Testament passages, plenty of historical and political and cultural insights, and written in a very accessible yet scholarly manner.

      Your take on the Mao book is similar to mine. it’s easy to hit the top ten list when you’re the dictator of the most populous country on the planet.

  2. Mary Anne says:

    There’s an Indian restaurant nearby that I like very much and go to often. One of their side dishes is this long crepe-looking object called a masala dosa which looks like a rolled-up antique map or scroll. When I saw it the first time I instantly thought, “They’re eating a MAP!” It’s stuffed with potatoes and spices, is delicious, and is always the first thing I think of when I read those verses about eating a scroll. Not “sweet as honey” but still very tasty. 8-D

    • Tim says:

      That would be a great object lesson for teaching on the Ezekiel and Revalation scroll-eating passages, MA!

    • Aimee Byrd says:

      Yum! No fair, I want some! And I’m with Tim, what a great attitude for me to come at God’s Word.

      • Tim says:

        OK, seriously, one of the worst things about blogging is that us folks never get to sit down and eat together! Then again, Aimee, if you and Matt ever make it to northern California there is a standing invite from us. How do you feel about sushi?

  3. THat is so very sad that so many people have read Mao’s awful book!!!! I guess because it is so pushed in China, at least was for so many years, that is why it is number two. Gone with the Wind is my second favorite book ever (The Bible is number one) and I knew it would be on there. I never finished reading the diary of Anne Frank, though I used to look at the pictures a lot when I was trying to as a child (dyslexia was very tough back then mixed with ADD). I have read the Harry Potter and Twilight books! None of the others. I have heard of the alchemist. Never heard of the think and grow rich book. I don’t want to nor care to ever read da vinci code.

    I have to say that I had read and watched a documentary called The Truth Project from Focus on the Family that stated that only 9% of proclaiming Christians actually ever read the Bible, so I think that many people OWN the book, but little amounts of those have ever read the whole thing. I am still in Kings. . .taking a while. It has been a bit depressing for me to read lately, and I don’t like that. I started the year in the Psalms and Proverbs and adored it and had a blast reading the whole book over afterwards and now that I have been in Kings. . .it is taking a while for me to want to read more.

    • Tim says:

      I think the sales of Mao’s book and the sales of the Bible have something in common. More people buy it than read it.

      I’m praying for your Bible reading, Victoria. Sometimes I find myself upset at what is recorded in God’s word (the end of Judges is nothing to emulate) but still delighting in the fact that I am actually reading the word of God, if that makes sense.


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