bbc’s popular books list

In 2003 the BBC Website began a program they called the BIG READ. Their mission was to find out that nation’s best loved novel, so they asked people to nominate their favorite books. They discontinued monitoring that page after one year, but the list or a list, continues to make the rounds on the internet, though the focus seems to have changed from “favorite novel” to “100 books everyone should read”.

The list I have here seems to be the latest in circulation, but  who knows how accurate it is. I confess I’m a sucker for reading lists, however, and I like to compare my book choices with those of others. I’m notoriously behind, however, being born in the deep south and only privy to an extremely small country school that had a smaller library to service all 12 grades than the one I have in my own “library” today. To my knowledge there was no city library at the time, and had there been it would have been of little use since I grew up 13 miles away on a farm in the country. There would have been little or no time to avail ourselves of a library, even if the family had considered it important enough. Be that as it may, I’ve wasted little time over the past years trying to catch up.

Turns out I’ve only read 28 of them, if I’m perfectly honest, but I’m very familiar with most of the others having been exposed–despite my poor country upbringing–to my older brothers’ collection of Classics Illustrated comic books (which I read voraciously), plus the myriad of movies based on many of them. When Hubby went through the list, he counted 35 reads of his own. How many for you?

  1. Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
  2. The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien
  3. Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
  4. Harry Potter series – JK Rowling
  5. To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee      (This one rates high on my favorites list!)
  6. The Bible (much of what I know of the Bible I got from my cousins’ bible stories for children, scary enough to make any child bow and yield I tell you!)
  7. Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte
  8. Nineteen Eighty Four – George Orwell
  9. His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman
  10. Great Expectations – Charles Dickens
  11. Little Women – Louisa M Alcott
  12. Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy
  13. Catch 22 – Joseph Heller
  14. Complete Works of Shakespeare
  15. Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier
  16. The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien
  17. Birdsong – Sebastian Faulks
  18. Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger
  19. The Time Traveller’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger
  20. Middlemarch – George Eliot      (I tried, I really did, and I’m sure it was a great story but it was a boring read.)
  21. Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchell       (I read this as an adult, and as much as I loved the movie, the book was–in my opinion–not very well written and would never have been published if it were submitted today. It excelled as a good story though, as well as a period piece on the antebellum South.)
  22. The Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald
  23. Bleak House – Charles Dickens
  24. War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy
  25. The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams
  26. Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh
  27. Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  28. Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck
  29. Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll
  30. The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame
  31. Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy
  32. David Copperfield – Charles Dickens
  33. Chronicles of Narnia – CS Lewis
  34. Emma – Jane Austen
  35. Persuasion – Jane Austen
  36. The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – CS Lewis
  37. The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini
  38. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis De Bernieres
  39. Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden
  40. Winnie the Pooh – AA Milne
  41. Animal Farm – George Orwell
  42. The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown
  43. One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  44. A Prayer for Owen Meany – John Irving
  45. The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins
  46. Anne of Green Gables – LM Montgomery
  47. Far From The Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy
  48. The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
  49. Lord of the Flies – William Golding
  50. Atonement – Ian McEwan
  51. Life of Pi – Yann Martel       (This was a fascinating read, for–just as life for Pi must have been surviving the shipwreck–it was not the easiest to finish. I felt devastated but stuck it though to the end and felt somewhat cheated at the end. I keep hoping M. Night Shyamalan will make it into a movie and tie the loose ends for me! It does provide lots to talk and ponder.)
  52. Dune – Frank Herbert
  53. Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons
  54. Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen
  55. A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth
  56. The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon
  57. A Tale Of Two Cities – Charles Dickens
  58. Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
  59. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time – Mark Haddon
  60. Love In The Time Of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  61. Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck       (Steinbeck became my favorite writer in the 1960’s because of this book and Cannery Row.)
  62. Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov
  63. The Secret History – Donna Tartt
  64. The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold     (A true psychological mystery! Not as an easy feat as a writer.)
  65. Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas
  66. On The Road – Jack Kerouac
  67. Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy
  68. Bridget Jones’s Diary – Helen Fielding
  69. Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie    (I confess this was a real reach for me, but I stuck it out and thought it was brilliant.)
  70. Moby Dick – Herman Melville
  71. Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens
  72. Dracula – Bram Stoker
  73. The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett
  74. Notes From A Small Island – Bill Bryson
  75. Ulysses – James Joyce
  76. The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath    (Somehow I’m drawn by these tortured artist type books, and this was one of the best to me.)
  77. Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome
  78. Germinal – Emile Zola
  79. Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray
  80. Possession – AS Byatt
  81. A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens
  82. Cloud Atlas – David Mitchel
  83. The Color Purple – Alice Walker    (Loved it! Loved it! Loved it!)
  84. The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro
  85. Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert      (Ok, I admit, I read only the titillating parts just because it was banned. Don’t remember how I came to have it.)
  86. A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry    (I wonder if it helps to be a mathematician, as Mistry is or was, to write such a delicately “balanced” novel that I loved so much during the reading.)
  87. Charlotte’s Web – EB White       (I only discovered this when my youngest was in kindergarten, but that didn’t stop me from loving it!)
  88. The Five People You Meet In Heaven – Mitch Albom
  89. Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
  90. The Faraway Tree Collection – Enid Blyton
  91. Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad      (I gave it a scholarly try, honest I did!)
  92. The Little Prince – Antoine De Saint-Exupery
  93. The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks
  94. Watership Down – Richard Adams
  95. A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole
  96. A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute
  97. The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas
  98. Hamlet – William Shakespeare
  99. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl
  100. Les Miserables – Victor Hugo

Although I’m not offering it as such, it does occur to me this would make a great theme for a  meme. If any of my blogging friends are interested, consider this an invitation but be sure and let me know about it so I can stop by. Or–if you’d like to see other reading lists–look online. Canada has one too, I discovered.

1 Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen X
2 The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien X
3 Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte X
4 Harry Potter series – JK Rowling X
5 To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
6 The Bible X (bits…in college)
7 Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte X (truly an awful book)
8 Nineteen Eighty Four – George Orwell X
9 His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman X
10 Great Expectations – Charles Dickens X (several times)
11 Little Women – Louisa M Alcott X
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy (I think so?)
13 Catch 22 – Joseph Heller X (One of the funniest books ever written)
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare X (most of them)
15 Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier (not sure)
16 The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien X
17 Birdsong – Sebastian Faulks
18 Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger
19 The Time Traveller’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger  (attempted it and quit)
20 Middlemarch – George Eliot (not sure, maybe in college)
21 Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchell
22 The Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald X
23 Bleak House – Charles Dickens
24 War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy
25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams X
26 Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh
27 Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky X (being forced to read this was a crime and punishment!)
28 Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck X
29 Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll X
30 The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame X
31 Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy
32 David Copperfield – Charles Dickens X
33 Chronicles of Narnia – CS Lewis X (many, many rereads)
34 Emma – Jane Austen  X
35 Persuasion – Jane Austen  X
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – CS Lewis X
37 The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini X (in the tbr pile)
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis De Bernieres
39 Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden
40 Winnie the Pooh – AA Milne X
41 Animal Farm – George Orwell X
42 The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown X (bleh.)
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney – John Irving
45 The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables – LM Montgomery
47 Far From The Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy
48 The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood (been meaning to ever since the movie came out)
49 Lord of the Flies – William Golding X (this is the reason I hate Survivor and similar shows.)
50 Atonement – Ian McEwan
51 Life of Pi – Yann Martel  X (I quit in the middle, this was unreadable to me)
52 Dune – Frank Herbert X
53 Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen X
55 A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth
56 The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities – Charles Dickens X
58 Brave New World – Aldous Huxley X
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time – Mark Haddon X (A wonderful book!)
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61 Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck X
62 Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov (I think so, but I’m not sure)
63 The Secret History – Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold X (another great book)
65 Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas
66 On The Road – Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy X (I think I read this one, anyhow.)
68 Bridget Jones’s Diary – Helen Fielding
69 Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick – Herman Melville X (the first book I ever checked out of the library…at five)
71 Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens X
72 Dracula – Bram Stoker X
73 The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett X
74 Notes From A Small Island – Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses – James Joyce (tried and quit)
76 The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath
77 Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal – Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray
80 Possession – AS Byatt
81 A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens X
82 Cloud Atlas – David Mitchel
83 The Color Purple – Alice Walker
84 The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro
85 Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert (not sure, I think I read it in college, though)
86 A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte’s Web – EB White X
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven – Mitch Albom (in the tbr pile)
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle X (Some of them)
90 The Faraway Tree Collection – Enid Blyton
91 Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad
92 The Little Prince – Antoine De Saint-Exupery X
93 The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks
94 Watership Down – Richard Adams X
95 A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas X
98 Hamlet – William Shakespeare X
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl X
100 Les Miserables – Victor Hugo (I quit early on.  This is almost as bad as attempting War & Peace.)

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10 thoughts on “bbc’s popular books list

  1. Sometimes I can’t remember whether I’ve really read something or just know so much about it that it seems like I’ve read it. I don’t think it’s a great list. Several of those books are really trash.
    Ruthe

    • Can’t help agreeing with you about the trashy part, Ruthe. For instance, how did Time Traveler’s Wife get on there? Is it really that good? Well, I think the answer lies in what I wrote in reply to the comment from Prairie Gourmet. But I still like reading lists. Thanks for commenting.

  2. I counted 42, but most were older classics and children’s. I agree with Ruthie, there’s some books on that list that I don’t think should be on any list of books one MUST read (i.e. any Mitch Albom book)

    • I think so too, Colleen! Thanks for commenting. Now I’m going to look for more lists; I’m sure there are plenty out there. Just as soon as I finish eating my pear cake that just came out of the oven.

    • Hi Mage, I’m always the last one at the party. But I get there. Usually! I know what a prolific reader you are! I wonder how many books you would have read so far in your life if you could remember them all?

    • I think the 35 you’ve read are the hardest on the list. I noticed that JOHNATHAN STRANGE AND MR. NORRELL wasn’t there. Can you imagine all those Britains not reading how magic created their country? That still stands out as one of the hardest but most interesting books (and strange) I’ve ever read!

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