Thursday, January 20, 2011

Looking back: The most popular Story of the Week selections and Reader’s Almanac posts

The beginning of the year prompts moments of reflection. Looking back on 2010 The Library of America has been heartened by the warm reception readers gave to two of the year’s initiatives. In January LOA launched Story of the Week to a base of thirty thousand subscribers. That number is now approaching seventy thousand and increasing every week.

The swelling numbers may account for the most popular stories occurring in the past five months. What else connects them? We’ll leave that to you, although watching thousands of readers vault a lesser-known gem like "The Little Room" to the #2 spot makes us think "a good yarn” is as good a guess as any.
  1. “Hunting the Deceitful Turkey,” Mark Twain – week of November 22
  2. “The Little Room,” Madeline Yale Wynne – October 18
  3. “The Train,” Flannery O’Connor – October 4
  4. “I’ll Be Waiting,” Raymond Chandler – December 6
  5. “The Nature of Liberty,” H. L. Mencken  – September 6
In July LOA launched the Reader’s Almanac with daily posts seeking the “enduring” in American literature. The most popular posts often surprised us by spiking traffic five to seven times the average volume. Finding a pattern among them is a bit of a puzzle. Who knew so many readers would find sales data so interesting? Or a decades-old video of ethnographic research? Or an anonymous rejection letter?
  1. The Best-Selling Titles in The Library of America’s First Three Decades – January 3, 2011
  2. Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, and Bob Dylan: Desolation Angels led to “Desolation Row” – October 21, 2010
  3. Vladimir Nabokov: Lolita first published in the U.S. 52 years ago – August 18, 2010
  4. Mark Twain, Huckleberry Finn, and How to Sell a Banned Book – September 29, 2010
  5. Zora Neale Hurston: Video of her ethnographic work in Florida in 1928 – July 26, 2010
We know that no one would get a greater kick over his appearance on both lists than Mark Twain, this year’s most beguiling best-selling author, but he probably would have expected no less.

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