We began by selecting 10 separate lists of best books that we thought represented an eclectic mix of readers' tastes, not just a narrow Great Books of the Western World canon. To be considered, the list had to be of books that were either originally written in English or books that had been translated into English. The lists we selected range from the highly erudite (the St. John's College reading list) to the much more accessible (Oprah's Book Club and Wikipedia's list of the bestselling books of all time). Some of the lists only featured novels, while others included a mix of fiction and nonfiction. Some contained only 20th-century works, while others reached all the way back to the beginnings of Western civilization. Our goal was to take into consideration a range of factors—including a book's impact on history, intellectual contribution to our culture, modern relevance, and enduring popularity. It was meant not to be a comprehensive list of the best books ever, but rather a reflection of the passions and judgments of smart readers and critics of our time.
The complete list of 10 previously published lists that we drew upon includes The Telegraph’s 110 best books/The Perfect Library, The Guardian’s top 100 books, Oprah’s Book Club, the St. John’s College reading list, Wikipedia’s list of all-time bestsellers, the New York Public Library’s books of the century, the Radcliffe Publishing Course’s list of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century, The Modern Library’s 100 best novels and 100 best works of nonfiction, Time’s 100 best English-language novels from 1923 to the present, and NEWSWEEK’s own list of current top 50 choices, which is being published this week.
Once all the lists were selected and the titles entered into a database, we devised a weighting system so that each individual title would be scored equally, no matter whether it came from a long list or a short list, a list of only fiction or a mix of genres, or whether the list included only books written in the 20th century or titles that went back much further in time. The weighting adjusted for these individual differences between lists. In the final result, the book with the highest combined score is ranked No. 1 on our list, the second is ranked No. 2, and so on down the list. In the case of ties—of which there were many—we broke the tie by awarding the higher ranking to the book returning the greater number of Google results, when a search was done by author and title.
In our meta-ranking, we note which books were recommended on which list or lists. If you click through to the individual lists, you'll see where each book falls on that respective list (although some of the book lists from which we drew were not ranked in order and some were, which we took into consideration in assigning each book a rank).
Kat: "JCam, you may quote me now, but you are quite wise".
Kat: "JCam knows, we do not doubt in him".