Top 10 Books of the Last 50 Years

[From the archives.]


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.

I think of 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.)

Ezekiel sure knew how 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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15 Responses to Top 10 Books of the Last 50 Years

  1. Very interesting. Some of them are disappointing but not surprising. We helped boost sales on HP, LOTR, and The Alchemist. 🙂

  2. Laura Droege says:

    I’ve heard of, but not read, all these books (or their authors, as in the case of Napoleon Hill). In fact, the Bible is the only one that I have read in its entirety!

    • Tim says:

      You’re better informed than I, Laura. I have no clue who Hill is (was?)!

      • Laura Droege says:

        I’m fairly certain that he’s dead. Without googling his name, I think he was a big name in the think-positive-optimism movement in the 19th/early 20th century, health-wealth-prosperity idea. Laura Martin would probably know, since her book deals with that topic. Seems like he might have been a salesman.

  3. Bev Murrill says:

    Of course, Chairman Mao led a nation of people who had to buy the book! Doesn’t mean they read it. At least 50 shades of ridiculously stupid readers wasn’t on it.

  4. Bill M says:

    For about half I can’t say I’ve read them but seen the movie. Is there a movie on Mao? To show he wasn’t good at capitalism he truncated sales by murdering 50 million of his country’s inhabitants.
    Besides Mao, I don’t get the appeal of Twilight Saga and vampires either.

  5. Opa Bear says:

    Happy New Year, Tim, a very interesting chart. For myself, I’ve never heard of “Get Rich” and somehow doubt I’m missing much. Dan Brown and Coehlo I wouldn’t read if my life depended on it. I had Chairman Mao back in the day, and skimming it was enough. As for the Bible lately, Amos (I love the guy, “I’d sure be happy to get this prophecy over with so I can get back to the farm”), the last chapters of Acts, the elegaic 2nd Timothy.

    • Tim says:

      Amos and the shorter prophetic books are so rich. And in 2 Timothy, don’t you love the line “Do your best to come before winter”? It says much about what Paul was going through.

      • Opa Bear says:

        Right you are, Tim. I recall the first time I actually read Habbakuk and paid its message real attention. It left me pinned me back in my chair. (BTW, have you ever known of Habbakuk used as a given name? I haven’t.) And yes indeed, I do love that line even as it breaks my heart.

  6. Kathi says:

    Given that Harry Potter is not one book, but a series of seven books, I wonder if the number reflects the entire series or if it is only the first book.

  7. Mary Anne says:

    Hmmm, interesting. Yes, I’d heard of all of them, but hey, I’m a librarian: it’s what we do. 😎

    Last reading of the Bible: last night, the end of the book of Judges, which for me is marked with the dismal refrain of “every man did what was right in his own eyes.” You might as well go ahead and add the unwritten statement that’s hanging in the air: “And there was chaos.”

    • Tim says:

      I just finished Judges the other day. I am so glad it is followed by Ruth, because otherwise I’d be tempted to close the Bible and give it all up as a hopeless business. Can you imagine what the faithful few – like Boaz, for instance – were experiencing at the time?

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