For men and women, the answers appear to be quite different, according to British researchers, who recently asked that very question to 500 men (many of whom worked in literature-related fields). The guys’ top three? Albert Camus’s The Outsider, J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye and Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five. In a 2004 poll, the same team asked 14,000 women the same question (thanks, Metafilter, for the link) with Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, and Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre topping the list.
So let’s try our own PopWatch survey in the comments section below: What novel most changed your life? (Be sure to let us know your gender, too.) I’d have to say that as a kid, Walter Farley’s The Black Stallion fueled what became a lifelong obsession with horse racing, but as an adult, nothing quite moved me like Carl Sagan’s Contact. Which, yes, probably means I’m a complete dork, but doesn’t that make you less self-conscious about revealing your own favorite?