Friday, August 06, 2010

Contest: World champion!

by Lauren

Well, the USA may have bowed out to Ghana back in June, but thanks to Harper Lee's classic To Kill a Mockingbird, we are the victors in this contest.  Let's take a moment to pause for chants of "USA! USA!" and maybe a round or two of "We are the Champions." 

OK, so now that that's done, here's the results:

1) USA: Harper Lee's TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD: 36.59%
2) England: George Orwell's 1984: 26.83%
3 - tie) Chile: Isabel Allende's THE HOUSE OF THE SPIRITS: 9.76% and Spain: Carlos Ruiz Zafon's THE SHADOW OF THE WIND: 9.76%
4)  Netherlands: Anne Frank's DIARY OF A YOUNG GIRL: 7.32%
5) Argentina: Jorge Luis Borges's LABYRINTHS: 4.88%
6 - tie) South Korea: Hwang Sok-yong's THE GUEST: 2.44% and Paraguay:  Augusto Roa Bastos's I, THE SUPREME:  2.44%

So, our winner is...Anonymous.  Email me at to claim your prize, which you'll recall is a copy of one of the fine books in the contest. 

And while I did promise to read the winner and report back, I've actually read both #1 and #2 on this list.  I love them both (and still fear being in close quarters with rats as a result of the latter), so I certainly support their victory.  But since the goal was to get me reading more foreign lit, I'll skip on down to the tie for #3.  I have long meant to read both, so they're both moving up to the "to read soon" pile.  Tell me which to start with below!

Thanks to everyone who participated, and I hope we all at least got some good book recommendations out of it!


  1. Interesting. Not to disparage either of the excellent top 2 books, but do you think these results reveal/come from an American bias against translated books? (*are* the readers of this blog primarily American?)

  2. Great question, Caitlin! I was wondering the same thing!

  3. I think bias is a bit loaded a term, so it's not quite how I'd describe it. I'd guess that the majority of our blog's readers ARE American (because the majority of people looking to be published first in the US are presumably American), and I think it's natural for people in any country to be more likely to have read books written in their own language (and originating in their own country or their formal colonial parent). I think that would still hold true in a country with a stronger market for books in translation. (I think that it's true that the American market is somewhat hostile to imported books, but I'd guess that's more cultural insularity than bias against translation.)

    I also think it's a factor here that, unless I'm mistaken, with the exception of the notably complicated Borges, the only books old enough to be near universally taught in high school are Lee, Orwell, and Frank. I'm pleasantly surprised that enough people have read the two tied for third for it to have beaten out the much more likely to have been read number 4.

    Maybe someday we'll come up with a different kind of poll that'll be more telling on the translation front--it'd certainly be interesting to see if, for example, certain languages are more likely to be read in translation than others. Is there anything to the fact that the first translated books were both written in Spanish?

    Thanks for your feedback!!


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