October 13, 2020

A list of the most popular books set in each country is full of revelations


This is a windmill, used as the illustrative image in honor of the very popular book The Fault in Our Stars which is famously set in the Netherlands. (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

NetCredit, an online loan marketplace that provides unsecured personal loans, audited the most popular books set in various countries using data from GoodReads. (Wait, what?)

I’m supposed to write two or three cheerful paragraphs here about how this is a way we can travel, what with the viral pandemic. “Want to see the world? Pick up a book!”

Instead, I opened up a vortex in my web browser called “the+fault+in+our+stars+netherlands” which resolved itself pretty quickly, and the thornier hole called “netcredit+goodreads+what?”

So, on the first very strange thing I discovered on encountering this bit of Book News: the list claims that the John Green’s one-of-these-children-will-die-of-cancer YA smash-hit is set in the Netherlands. [Record scratch]

Time Out New York mentions this with nary a batted eyelash:

‘The Fault in Our Stars’ by John Green is the most popular book set in the Netherlands, Europe and, well, the world actually. The YA novel is about a love story between teenage cancer patients, and is quite the tearjerker.

And then they roll right into the next paragraph where they casually mention that the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry is apparently located in Scotland.

Anyhow, I Googled it and apparently, the kids who are dying of cancer take a trip to Amsterdam and share their first kiss in the Anne Frank house. I would say that’s in poor taste, but I guess it’s romantic for teens who are dying? I know I’m late to this, but… okay, just moving on … Mystery solved.

Next mystery: why is NetCredit churning out data visualizations of the most popular books set in each country?

The answer is again bathetic—NetCredit runs a blog where they mostly cover more obviously topical areas like credit health, personal finances, and budgeting, but occasionally stray into random data visualizations that include “The Craziest Corn Mazes Across America” and our list of most popular books set in each country. So this endeavor is, again, making me wonder what on earth I can put in my web browser that won’t elicit a “huh, oh okay” followed by a peek into the abyss called “there is nothing left to think about or even see online”. Please, please, give me a Google vortex! I’ll take a vortex over an abyss any day of the week…

You know what, I’ve come to a full circle. This actually IS a blog post encouraging you to read books. They definitely don’t simulate the experience of travel, but trust me, they’re better than the internet!

Check out the data visualization (and get a personal loan!) here.



Athena Bryan is an editor at Melville House.