One Hundred is as One Hundred Does

I went online just before the Super Bowl on Sunday to see if I could find out just how many books had been written about the Super Bowl. To most of you; the answer to this question is about as important as finding out how many calories in a hot fudge sundae.  Once you know the answer then what?  I had no plans to take the information and maybe justify to myself why there is room for yet another book about the Super Bowl and then go to work composing. Nope, that wasn’t the reason. I just wondered that’s all.  I think the connection between being a writer and wondering about who wrote what- about- who just comes naturally. When I explain this natural wonder to others who don’t write, I get the slow back up and the patronizing nods of the head that seem to have as a purpose warding off a bigger meltdown.

Ah but I digress. (Another statement that convinces people I am certifiable) Anyway, I was not able to get the answer. I did come across some tidbits that I thought could be used during slow moments at wakes and cocktail hours.  Did you know that Google has estimated that there are 129,864,880 books in the entire world? What is really interesting is to go on-line and actually read how Google came to that estimate which includes all the books published ever. This estimate was developed in spite of the fact that the ISBN system has only been available in the Western World for less than forty years.  I can just see you walking up to some hapless innocent at your next cocktail reception and holding them in rapt attention. “Can you believe that there are only 129,864,880 books on the planet so I guess there is room for my next million seller.”  Wow what an impact.

I also found a list of what Martin Seymour-Smith a British poet thinks are the top 100 most influential books ever published. His book is titled The 100 Most Influential Books Ever Written: The History of Thought from Ancient Times to Today. Although done in 1998 it is an interesting compilation.

My observation: The first eighty books were published prior to 1900.  It is probable that none of us have working knowledge of too many of the books written prior to the twentieth century. Of course, some of them were required reading in specific courses of study (Dante’s Divine Comedy for example). The remaining twenty have familiar themes and are basically non-fiction, but here they are as published on Wikipedia.

# Author Book Title Year Published
81 William   James Pragmatism 1908
82 Albert   Einstein Relativity 1916
83 Vilfredo   Pareto The Mind and Society 1916
84 Carl Jung Psychological Types 1921
85 Martin   Buber I and Thou 1923
86 Franz Kafka The Trial 1925
87 Karl Popper The Logic of Scientific Discovery 1934
88 John   Maynard Keynes General Theory   of Employment, Interest, and Money 1936
89 Jean-Paul   Sartre Being and Nothingness 1943
90 Friedrich   von Hayek The Road to Serfdom 1944
91 Simone   de Beauvoir The   Second Sex 1948
92 Norbert   Wiener Cybernetics 1948,   revised 1961
93 George   Orwell Nineteen Eighty-Four 1949
94 George   Gurdjieff Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson 1950
95 Ludwig   Wittgenstein Philosophical Investigations 1953
96 Noam   Chomsky Syntactic Structures 1957
97 Thomas Kuhn The Structure of Scientific   Revolutions 1962,   revised 1970
98 Betty   Friedan The Feminine Mystique 1963
99 Mao Zedong
Quotations from Chairman Mao Zedong (Little   Red Book) 1966
100 B.   F. Skinner Beyond Freedom and Dignity 1971

The entire list can be seen at:


  1. robitille · ·

    Is it weird that I’ve read maybe 2/3 to 3/4 of the list and when I homeschooled my kids I made them read a good 1/3 of it?


    1. I am not surprised that you are well read, and no it is not weird. Your kids are very lucky to have an erudite mom and home schooled as well. Thanks for the comment. – John


  2. I totally get reading about other writers. Yup, makes sense to me. Another interesting blog. Cheers.


    1. Of course who has the time???


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