The comments to the post in which I excerpted parts of Neal Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon reminded me of the poll I ran about the book in 2007. Of the 917 voters — naturally, an unrepresentative sample of our readers, who are an unrepresentative sample of anything — 40% said “It’s one of my favorite novels.”
Now never mind the other statistics; that only 12% said they didn’t like it or didn’t finish it, or that nearly 70% said it was either one of their favorites or at least was excellent, might well just reflect differing response rates among those who like the book and those who don’t. But my sense is that for many novels, it’s hard to find 368 people, much less 368 people who are all reading one Web site (even a Web site with our particular political and intellectual profile), who would say it’s one of their favorites. Cryptonomicon arouses that reaction in quite a few people.
That’s why I recommend it to so many people. There’s a decent chance you won’t like it; but (especially if you’re the sort of person who likes this site) there’s also a decent chance that you’ll think it’s fantastic. That’s more than can be said of most books.