Posted by: biblioglobal | June 27, 2014

Reading the world logarithmically

I do in fact come from a whole family of nerds. After reading my post yesterday about the infeasibility of reading the world proportionately while not ignoring the small countries altogether, my clever brother pointed out that this was a problem that clearly called for logarithms!

I find base 10 logarithms the most intuitive, so I used that as my base. (This time using the U.N. population estimates for 2012, again found on Wikipedia.) I calculated the number of books for each country as log(that country’s population)-log(smallest country’s population)+1, rounded down to the nearest whole number.

For those that don’t like the math, with a few exceptions that works out to one book per digit beyond 1,000. So one book each for countries with populations between 10,000 and 100,000, two books each for countries with populations between 100,000 and 1,000,000 and on up to 6 books per country with populations over a billion. (The exceptions to this rule are driven by the fact that the smallest country, Tuvalu in this data set, has a population of just under 10,000)

This method produces a total of 629 books. That’s a lot, but (unlike the 721,000 books my original calculation method required)  it seems like a feasible number. It’s only about 3 times as many as I’m reading for the book-from-every-country project in the first place.  And it is substantially less than all those people trying to read the 1,001 Books You Must Read Before You Die list. And it seems like a nice way to balance representation of different countries. (Not to mention a nice demonstration of the usefulness of logarithms!) So… maybe when I finish reading one book from every country…

Here’s the list of the number of books for each country:

Country: Population: Books:
China 1,385,566,537 6
India 1,252,139,596 6
United States 320,050,716 5
Indonesia 249,865,631 5
Brazil 200,361,925 5
Pakistan 182,142,594 5
Nigeria 173,615,345 5
Bangladesh 156,594,962 5
Russia 142,833,689 5
Japan 127,143,577 5
Mexico 122,332,399 5
Philippines 98,393,574 4
Ethiopia 94,100,756 4
Vietnam 91,679,733 4
Germany 82,726,626 4
Egypt 82,056,378 4
Iran 77,447,168 4
Turkey 74,932,641 4
Congo, Democratic Republic of the 67,513,677 4
Thailand 67,010,502 4
France 64,291,280 4
United Kingdom 63,136,265 4
Italy 60,990,277 4
Myanmar 53,259,018 4
South Africa 52,776,130 4
Korea, South 49,262,698 4
Tanzania 49,253,126 4
Colombia 48,321,405 4
Spain 46,926,963 4
Ukraine 45,238,805 4
Kenya 44,353,691 4
Argentina 41,446,246 4
Algeria 39,208,194 4
Poland 38,216,635 4
Sudan 37,964,306 4
Uganda 37,578,876 4
Canada 35,181,704 4
Iraq 33,765,232 4
Morocco 33,008,150 4
Afghanistan 30,551,674 4
Venezuela 30,405,207 4
Peru 30,375,603 4
Malaysia 29,716,965 4
Uzbekistan 28,934,102 4
Saudi Arabia 28,828,870 4
   Nepal 27,797,457 4
Ghana 25,904,598 4
Mozambique 25,833,752 4
Korea, North 24,895,480 4
Yemen 24,407,381 4
Australia 23,342,553 4
Madagascar 22,924,851 4
Cameroon 22,253,959 4
Syria 21,898,061 4
Romania 21,698,585 4
Angola 21,471,618 4
Sri Lanka 21,273,228 4
Côte d’Ivoire 20,316,086 4
Niger 17,831,270 4
Chile 17,619,708 4
Burkina Faso 16,934,839 4
Netherlands 16,759,229 4
Kazakhstan 16,440,586 4
Malawi 16,362,567 4
Ecuador 15,737,878 4
Guatemala 15,468,203 4
Mali 15,301,650 4
Cambodia 15,135,169 4
Zambia 14,538,640 4
Zimbabwe 14,149,648 4
Senegal 14,133,280 4
Chad 12,825,314 4
Rwanda 11,776,522 4
Guinea 11,745,189 4
South Sudan 11,296,173 4
Cuba 11,265,629 4
Greece 11,127,990 4
Belgium 11,104,476 4
Tunisia 10,996,515 4
Czech Republic 10,702,197 4
Bolivia 10,671,200 4
Portugal 10,608,156 4
Somalia 10,495,583 4
Dominican Republic 10,403,761 4
Benin 10,323,474 4
Haiti 10,317,461 4
Burundi 10,162,532 4
Hungary 9,954,941 4
Sweden 9,571,105 3
Serbia 9,510,506 3
Azerbaijan 9,413,420 3
Belarus 9,356,678 3
United Arab Emirates 9,346,129 3
Austria 8,495,145 3
Tajikistan 8,207,834 3
Honduras 8,097,688 3
Switzerland 8,077,833 3
Israel 7,733,144 3
Papua New Guinea 7,321,262 3
Jordan 7,273,799 3
Bulgaria 7,222,943 3
Togo 6,816,982 3
Paraguay 6,802,295 3
Laos 6,769,727 3
El Salvador 6,340,454 3
Eritrea 6,333,135 3
Libya 6,201,521 3
Sierra Leone 6,092,075 3
Nicaragua 6,080,478 3
Denmark 5,619,096 3
Kyrgyzstan 5,547,548 3
Slovakia 5,450,223 3
Finland 5,426,323 3
Singapore 5,411,737 3
Turkmenistan 5,240,072 3
Norway 5,042,671 3
Costa Rica 4,872,166 3
Lebanon 4,821,971 3
Ireland 4,627,173 3
Central African Republic 4,616,417 3
New Zealand 4,505,761 3
Congo, Republic of the 4,447,632 3
Georgia 4,340,895 3
Liberia 4,294,077 3
Croatia 4,289,714 3
Mauritania 3,889,880 3
Panama 3,864,170 3
Bosnia and Herzegovina 3,829,307 3
Oman 3,632,444 3
Moldova 3,487,204 3
Uruguay 3,407,062 3
Kuwait 3,368,572 3
Albania 3,173,271 3
Lithuania 3,016,933 3
Armenia 2,976,566 3
Mongolia 2,839,073 3
Jamaica 2,783,888 3
Namibia 2,303,315 3
Qatar 2,168,673 3
Macedonia 2,107,158 3
Lesotho 2,074,465 3
Slovenia 2,071,997 3
Latvia 2,050,317 3
Botswana 2,021,144 3
Gambia 1,849,285 3
Guinea-Bissau 1,704,255 3
Gabon 1,671,711 3
Trinidad and Tobago 1,341,151 3
Bahrain 1,332,171 3
Estonia 1,287,251 3
Swaziland 1,249,514 3
Mauritius 1,244,403 3
Cyprus 1,141,166 3
Timor-Leste 1,132,879 3
Fiji 881,065 2
Djibouti 872,932 2
Guyana 799,613 2
Equatorial Guinea 757,014 2
Bhutan 753,947 2
Comoros 734,917 2
Montenegro 621,383 2
Solomon Islands 561,231 2
Suriname 539,276 2
Luxembourg 530,380 2
Cape Verde 498,897 2
Malta 429,004 2
Brunei 417,784 2
Bahamas 377,374 2
Maldives 345,023 2
Belize 331,900 2
Iceland 329,535 2
Barbados 284,644 2
Vanuatu 252,763 2
São Tomé and Príncipe 192,993 2
Samoa 190,372 2
Saint Lucia 182,273 2
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 109,373 2
Grenada 105,897 2
Tonga 105,323 2
Micronesia, Federated States of 103,549 2
Kiribati 102,351 2
Seychelles 92,838 1
Antigua and Barbuda 89,985 1
Andorra 79,218 1
Dominica 72,003 1
Saint Kitts and Nevis 54,191 1
Marshall Islands 52,634 1
Monaco 37,831 1
Liechtenstein 36,925 1
San Marino 31,448 1
Palau 20,918 1
Nauru 10,051 1
Tuvalu 9,876 1
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Responses

  1. […] Update: Following up on the suggestion below to use logarithms, I’ve written a new post calculating how to read the world in 629 books. […]

  2. Well done, a great tool, I just won a Brazilian novella, a country I don’t think I have ever read anything from, so happy that it will be on the reading list for this year.

    • I’ll look forward to hearing your thoughts on it. I haven’t picked out a book for Brazil yet.

      • This novella I will be reading soon is called Family Heirooms by Zulmira Ribeiro Tavares, translated by Daniel Hahn.

  3. This is something that has bugged me for a while. I do come across a lot of books from some Asian countries and I feel the need to read them even if I had already read one from that country. But this calculation redeems that. I started off with one book from a country and over time I realized I didn’t want that restriction. I still do mostly one book from a country but I also allow myself to read from the same country again. Oh well.

    • Of course you should allow yourself to read from the same country again! I definitely do that sometimes, although I usually only blog about one book. But I do like the idea that those extra books can ‘count’ towards this longer list.

  4. Well done, it indeed looks like a more manageable number! I never realized that Brazil is 5th in population (I always knew the top 4, especially since Indonesia is number 4). My take from this list is that I need to make a priority to fill in the countries of 5 and 6 books first, which for me are Brazil, Mexico, and possibly Russia and Indonesia (for the last two I don’t have books that I would “count” yet for the project).

    • I actually argued this with someone the other week (before doing these calculations). I had thought Brazil was #4. Clearly I was wrong!

  5. This might as well be written in another language haahaa. Although I bet it’s even harder to choose six books representative of a country than just one. At least with one you can say well I only get one what do I want to read, with six you’d be stuck trying to accurately represent 1+ billion people!?!?

    • I hadn’t thought about that, but you’re probably right. With one book for each country I can cop out and say ‘No one book can represent a country, so I’m just not going to worry about it’. With 6 books, there’s a lot more opportunity to be representative. But maybe that’s a good thing!

      • It most definitely is, I’d be afraid of picking six books by the same author or from the same region as we all have what we like and what we don’t. But it does sound like a great way to keep the blog going after you’re finished with the first round.

  6. Yes, this is much more manageable!

    Your opening line made me laugh. I could say the same of my family, though I’m less math inclined than the rest of them.

    • Although I was referring to math nerdiness here, I am strongly of the opinion that there are lots of other ways to be nerdy!

  7. LOL. I love that you went back and actually did this. As with most sets of data plotted logarithmically, I think this list is much more interesting this way! There are many countries that are much more populated than I realized–Fiji for one!

    • There are also some that are surprisingly small, like Chile. There’s also a lot of variability in the availability of books for countries of similar population. Ivory Coast and Niger are similarly sized, francophone, African countries, but while four books for Ivory Coast seems feasible, it’s hard to find any books from Niger.

      • That’s really interesting actually. Hopefully the few books you can find on Niger are good…since it sounds like you won’t have much to pick from. Didn’t you touch on this a few posts ago (the lack of translations from African countries in general)? Does it seem to you that more translations are coming out every year or it is sort of stagnant?

  8. This is some serious maths! Now at least I know where I can come to steal data, because me and numbers – we’re not best of friends… =)
    You really inspire me with this dedication of yours!

    • Don’t worry, I’m not actually planning (yet anyway) to try to complete this list! It was just fun to figure out what it would look like.

  9. […] “Reading the world logarithmically” This person is my newest hero. I’m not even […]

  10. […] the process of putting together the numbers for my post on reading the world logarithmically, I noticed that some countries with similar population sizes vary widely in how easy they are to […]

  11. […] one of the world’s newest countries and also quite small! (Though still big enough to require three books if I were reading the world logarithmically) Luckily I came across the blog of TheBlackTwig who was working and traveling in the country and […]

  12. This is so clever, I love it.


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