May 17, 2022

OCLC Releases “The Library 100: Top Novels of All Time”; List is Based on Titles Cataloged by More than 18,000 Libraries Worldwide

From OCLC:

OCLC has published The Library 100: Top Novels of All Time, a list of the novels most widely available in libraries today. The list is based on data in WorldCat, the world’s most comprehensive database of information about library collections.

Produced and maintained by OCLC and individual member libraries and library organizations, WorldCat reflects the collections of more than 18,000 libraries worldwide. It includes information about more than 2.7 billion copies of more than 447 million titles. This aggregate worldwide library collection is likely the best view of the global scholarly and published record.

“Libraries provide a unique opportunity to track long-term trends in published literature,” said Skip Prichard, OCLC President and CEO. “WorldCat is a unique resource that can tell us more about publishing patterns and, by extension, cultural patterns.”

Top 5

According to WorldCat, “Don Quixote,” by Miguel de Cervantes, is the most widely held novel in libraries worldwide. “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,” by Lewis Carroll is second, followed by “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” and “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer,” both by Mark Twain. “Treasure Island,” by Robert Louis Stevenson, takes the fifth spot.

“Of course, the list of top novels emphasizes classics,” Prichard continued, “and so reflects dominant cultural views over the years about the canon and its formation. Librarians are aware of this and are more mindful than ever of the need to think critically about their collections. Librarians are actively seeking out and preserving overlooked, minority and marginalized perspectives.” 

“These classic novels are published in multiple versions, translated, retold for younger readers and widely distributed in core collections,” noted Lorcan Dempsey, OCLC Vice President of Membership and Research. “We cluster these algorithmically, sometimes pulling together hundreds of different versions and editions.”

“The top novels list is an example of what is possible when we study aggregate library data,” Dempsey added. “We have also done other work, notably looking at the characteristics of the national published record in several individual countries. This aggregate collection can help us track both presences and absences across the library system, and help libraries take a more critical look at collections. At OCLC, we will be examining aspects of these topics in more depth.”

Direct to Complete The Library 100: Top Novels of All Time”

Direct to Blog Post by OCLC CEO Skip Prichard, “What Is The Top Novel Of All Time?”

Here are a Few Insights From the Library 100 List that Prichard Points Out in His Blog Post:

The three most widely held authors in terms of number of books on the list are Dickens with six, Jane Austen with four and Mark Twain, also with four.

Some novels have different names based on region. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (#45) in the US is the equivalent of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in the UK. The Library 100 synthesizes these title variations.

Fantasy fiction (the Harry Potter series, #45 and #66) is the second most common genre with 13 titles. Historical fiction (The Three Musketeers, #26) and psychological fiction (Moby Dick, #9) tie for the third most common genre with 12 titles each.

The most “storied location” on the list—the setting for the most novels—is clearly the United Kingdom. Combined, all the subsets of the UK—England, Scotland, London, etc.—account for more than a third of the novels on the list!

Direct to Prichard’s Complete Blog Post”

Direct to Complete The Library 100: Top Novels of All Time”

About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.