Do you want to read better but don’t know where to start? Do you wonder how everyone else seems to know what to read but you don’t? I’ve got an awesome cheat sheet for you: The WorldCat Library 100. It’s a list of the 100 novels ranked in order of the number of libraries who own it. If so many libraries find the book worth the space, it stands to reason that a lot of people consider it important. Libraries also choose what to purchase and keep by circulation and customer demand. If it just sits on the shelf, eventually it goes.
This checklist is compiled by the OCLC (Online Computer Library Center), which is a worldwide organization that builds cooperation between libraries. They maintain a worldwide catalog, called WorldCat, that allows anyone to find any book in the world.
Read The Lois Level on WorldCat here: Prowling with WorldCat: How to Find Any Book in Any Library
The OCLC, who compiled this list, is made up of many university/research libraries in addition to public libraries, so this is a good mix of what’s popular and what’s meaningful.
There are a heck of a lot of books that are assigned in a heck of a lot of schools here, which makes sense because libraries are always sure to stock school-assigned books because people come in needing extra copies for one reason or another.
When they counted how many libraries have the book, they only counted print books because public domain books are automatically included with the services that libraries use, and they only wanted to count the books the library deliberately purchased.
Yes, it could be more diverse. You don’t need me to tell you why it isn’t. But that doesn’t make the books that are on the list bad books. You can find a bit more diversity if you expand into the Top 500 novels.
I didn’t check every single book, but my rough estimate is that about 1/3 of these books are in the public domain, which means you can probably get a e-book version for free at Project Gutenberg. If you are a teacher, that means you can easily access legal copies for your students as long as they all have access to some device.
Of course, by definition you should be able to locate all of these in the library books if you have access to a decent one, especially if it’s a member of the OCLC (most U.S. public and university libraries are).
In the U.S., books go into the public domain 90 years after the book was published. Note that if the book was originally written in a language other than English, the book may go out of copyright in its original language long before the translation enters the public domain.
If you have been wanting to start a self-improvement program through reading, this is a great way to go.
Here are some lists to get you started: