Throughout history, people have turned to works of literature for guidance, entertainment, and education. Modern businesses aim to tell stories that leave a long-lasting impact as well, and should look to examples of historical success to influence how they create their own content.
The above infographic looks at 20 of the most popular books in the world. All of the books listed, even those published decades or centuries ago, have made an enduring impact on readers to this day. They have achieved this by stirring discussion and sparking debate wherever they are read.
Controversy: The Evergreen Theme
One of the important traits shared by every book on this list is the controversy that has swirled around each of them. This can be seen across different time periods and genres.
People have questioned the identity and authorial authenticity of Homer and decried the upending of creationism proposed by Darwin. Even a children’s book like the modern bestselling series, Harry Potter, can be a magnet for discussion over what is morally right and wrong.
It is often the case the that most popular and enduring literary works will not only captivate, but also address controversial issues in such a way that people will be talking about them for generations.
Lessons From History
The recent bestselling streak of George Orwell’s 1984, first published in 1950, is an interesting illustration of this trend.
The dystopian novel was banned upon its translation and release in the former USSR due to its implicit critique of Stalinist political ideology. By contrast, in the 1970s and 1980s, several American counties challenged 1984 on the grounds that it might promote communist ideals. In the 21st century, Orwell’s best-known work has been revisited by a new generation of readers as the American political climate continues to create new uncertainties about governance, the distortion of facts, and social control.
For Business Content, Bold Will Hold
The most popular books ever written can teach modern businesses a great deal about what it takes to make content that is evergreen, meaningful, and primed to engage their readers. Creating discussion is key in the age of the reactive “hot take” style of article. Your ability to stand out in the cultural, historical, or political context for having a point of view that many people find worthy of debating will give your work the staying power it needs.
Considering that within any given minute there are 2.4 million Google searches taking place and over 700,000 people logging into Facebook, this is no easy task. But whether it’s through a new product or via customer engagement, creating meaningful discussion is key to making a business’ voice heard through all the noise.
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