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Amazon Tracks House

Circle Gives Reading Snapshot

What has the United States House of Representatives been reading lately? Apparently, books by Al Franken, Rick Reilly, the latest Harry Potter novel, the ultra popular “Da Vinci Code” and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s “Living History,” according to’s House “purchase circle.”

Started five years ago by the online shopping behemoth, purchase circles take information from shopping members in similar areas or professions or with matching interests and compile the data into lists that tell anyone interested what those in the selected group are reading, watching or listening to.

While it’s not surprising that many of the books listed in the House purchase circle deal with politics or history, the legislative body’s musical taste is more eclectic.

Emmylou Harris’ album “Stumble into Grace” tops the House chart at No. 1; the album comes in at 207 overall on Amazon’s most purchased albums.

Other albums making the list include Led Zeppelin’s live album “How the West Was Won,” the Black Eyed Peas’ “Elephunk,” Sarah McLaughlin’s latest and, in a slight bit of wordplay, Radiohead’s “Hail to the Thief,” which one could assume isn’t being ordered by staffers in Majority Leader’s offices.

Showing that those in the Cannon, Longworth and Rayburn buildings do indeed have a sense of humor, “Animal House: Double Secret Probation Limited Edition” is the House’s No. 1 purchased DVD. Remember at the end of the movie when it’s revealed John Belushi’s character will become a U.S. Senator? Perhaps those at National Lampoon were more prophetic than they realized, even if they did get the wrong side of the Capitol. Maybe those Members looking for inspirational words to inspire their floor speeches purchased the DVD to hear Belushi’s infamous and historically inaccurate rhetorical question, “Did we give up when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?”

With “The Simpsons’” season three DVD collector’s set also making the list along with Oscar winners “Chicago” and “Lord of the Rings,” it’s a safe bet that staffers and interns aren’t using their computer time solely for responding to mail or entering constituent information into their Member’s database.

Although it’s likely those on the Senate side also use Amazon for their at-work purchasing needs, their numbers are too small to meet the requirement of a purchase circle, according to Amazon spokesman Drew Herdener.

“ only creates purchase circle lists based on groups including at least 200 customers, so it is likely that this group of customers is not large enough,” Herdener said.

Herdener also insists that all of the purchases are anonymous and that does not release any of the information it collects.

“Customer privacy is assured because purchase circle lists are generated by aggregating anonymous data. None of this data is associated with any individual’s name,” Herdener said.

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