Monday, February 16, 2009

BBC 100 book meme - or is it?

There is currently a book meme going on at facebook, which refers to a list of 100 books that BBC apparently have made, and which they recons that most people will only have read six books from. The rules are simple

pparently the BBC reckons most people will have only read 6 of the 100 books here.
1) Look at the list and put an 'x' after those you have read.
2) Add a '+' to the ones you LOVE.
3) Star (*) those you plan on reading.

I guess the simple fact that most people have read more than six books from the list is an attempt to make people feel superior to the BBC people who though that no-one would have read six. Of course, there is only one problem - no matter how hard I look, I can't find the list anywhere at the BBC website. What I could find, was BBC's The Big Read, which is a list of the 100 most popular books. That list little resembles the list used in the BBC 100 books meme - in fact, only 57 on the original list made it to the new list used in the meme.

Well, being into books and all, I'll make the meme with both lists. Let's first start with the original BBC list (I'm also going to add '-' after those that I dislike)

1. The Lord of the Rings, JRR Tolkien x-
2. Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen x
3. His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman x
4. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams x+
5. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, JK Rowling x
6. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee *
7. Winnie the Pooh, AA Milne x
8. Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell x
9. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, CS Lewis x
10. Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë *
11. Catch-22, Joseph Heller x
12. Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë *
13. Birdsong, Sebastian Faulks
14. Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier x
15. The Catcher in the Rye, JD Salinger x-
16. The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame x
17. Great Expectations, Charles Dickens x
18. Little Women, Louisa May Alcott x
19. Captain Corelli's Mandolin, Louis de Bernieres
20. War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy *
21. Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell
22. Harry Potter And The Philosopher's Stone, JK Rowling x
23. Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets, JK Rowling x
24. Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban, JK Rowling x
25. The Hobbit, JRR Tolkien x
26. Tess Of The D'Urbervilles, Thomas Hardy
27. Middlemarch, George Eliot
28. A Prayer For Owen Meany, John Irving x-
29. The Grapes Of Wrath, John Steinbeck *
30. Alice's Adventures In Wonderland, Lewis Carroll x
31. The Story Of Tracy Beaker, Jacqueline Wilson
32. One Hundred Years Of Solitude, Gabriel García Márquez
33. The Pillars Of The Earth, Ken Follett *
34. David Copperfield, Charles Dickens x
35. Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, Roald Dahl
36. Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson x
37. A Town Like Alice, Nevil Shute
38. Persuasion, Jane Austen x
39. Dune, Frank Herbert x
40. Emma, Jane Austen x
41. Anne Of Green Gables, LM Montgomery
42. Watership Down, Richard Adams x
43. The Great Gatsby, F Scott Fitzgerald x+
44. The Count Of Monte Cristo, Alexandre Dumas
45. Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh
46. Animal Farm, George Orwell x+
47. A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens x+
48. Far From The Madding Crowd, Thomas Hardy
49. Goodnight Mister Tom, Michelle Magorian
50. The Shell Seekers, Rosamunde Pilcher
51. The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett
52. Of Mice And Men, John Steinbeck *
53. The Stand, Stephen King x
54. Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy
55. A Suitable Boy, Vikram Seth
56. The BFG, Roald Dahl
57. Swallows And Amazons, Arthur Ransome
58. Black Beauty, Anna Sewell
59. Artemis Fowl, Eoin Colfer x
60. Crime And Punishment, Fyodor Dostoyevsky
61. Noughts And Crosses, Malorie Blackman
62. Memoirs Of A Geisha, Arthur Golden *
63. A Tale Of Two Cities, Charles Dickens x
64. The Thorn Birds, Colleen McCollough
65. Mort, Terry Pratchett x
66. The Magic Faraway Tree, Enid Blyton
67. The Magus, John Fowles x
68. Good Omens, Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman x+
69. Guards! Guards!, Terry Pratchett x
70. Lord Of The Flies, William Golding x
71. Perfume, Patrick Süskind *
72. The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, Robert Tressell
73. Night Watch, Terry Pratchett x
74. Matilda, Roald Dahl
75. Bridget Jones's Diary, Helen Fielding
76. The Secret History, Donna Tartt x+
77. The Woman In White, Wilkie Collins x
78. Ulysses, James Joyce
79. Bleak House, Charles Dickens x
80. Double Act, Jacqueline Wilson
81. The Twits, Roald Dahl
82. I Capture The Castle, Dodie Smith
83. Holes, Louis Sachar
84. Gormenghast, Mervyn Peake *
85. The God Of Small Things, Arundhati Roy
86. Vicky Angel, Jacqueline Wilson
87. Brave New World, Aldous Huxley *
88. Cold Comfort Farm, Stella Gibbons
89. Magician, Raymond E Feist x
90. On The Road, Jack Kerouac * (actually my next read)
91. The Godfather, Mario Puzo *
92. The Clan Of The Cave Bear, Jean M Auel x
93. The Colour Of Magic, Terry Pratchett x
94. The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho
95. Katherine, Anya Seton
96. Kane And Abel, Jeffrey Archer
97. Love In The Time Of Cholera, Gabriel García Márquez
98. Girls In Love, Jacqueline Wilson
99. The Princess Diaries, Meg Cabot
100. Midnight's Children, Salman Rushdie

And now for the new, meme list, which is a little more high-brow.

1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen x
2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien x
3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte *
4 Harry Potter series - JK Rowling x
5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee *
6 The Bible x
7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte *
8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell x
9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman x
10 Great Epectations - Charles Dickens x
11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott x
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller x
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare x
15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier x
16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien x
17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks
18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger x-
19 The Time Traveller’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
20 Middlemarch - George Eliot
21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell
22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald x+
23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens x
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
28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck *
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
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
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------
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving x-
45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins x
46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery
47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
48 The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood x+
49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding x
50 Atonement - Ian McEwan
51 Life of Pi - Yann Martel
52 Dune - Frank Herbert x
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 x
58 Brave New World - Aldous Huley *
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 *
62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov x
63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt x+
64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold *
65 Count of Monte Cristo - Aleandre 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
70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville *
71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens x
72 Dracula - Bram Stoker x
73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson x
75 Ulysses - James Joyce
76 The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath x+
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 Mitchell x
83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker *
84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro *
85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert *
86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte’s Web - EB White
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle x
90 The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton
91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad x
92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Eupery x
93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks x
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 - Aleandre Dumas x
98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare x
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl
100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo *

Again, the original BBC list is a list of the most popular books, so it would make little sense for BBC to claim that most people have only read six books on that list.

Update: Several people have commented that the list is from the Guardian, and based upon an online poll for World Book Day in 2007. The list can be found here. Again, it's a list of popular books, so there is no claim about people having only read six of those books - on the contrary, people are asked to list the top ten books they couldn't live without, which would mean that the respondents have read at least 10 books on the list.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

The list appears to be from an online poll done for World Book Day in 2007. The entire list was printed in the Guardian on March 1st. The list is in order of popularity.

February 24, 2009 3:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ever notice how these lists almost never have anything older than the Victorians, and nothing in verse? Shakespeare is, of course, usually the sole exception in both cases. What a sad little prose ghetto even the literati inhabit.

Also, didn't like LOTR? That's insane. I don't think anybody who dislikes LOTR is to be trusted in matters literary.

February 24, 2009 4:01 AM  
Blogger Chris "Stu" Stuart said...

Also, notice that "Hamlet" is on the list in one place while "The Complete Works of Shakespeare" is on in a different place? The same is true for "Chronicles of Narnia" and "The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe."

If the BBC was issuing this as a challenge or something for some weird reason, I'd hope their editors would catch the doublecounting going on there.

February 24, 2009 7:10 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Should Harry Potter count as 7 books, Lord of the Rings as 3 books and His Dark Materials as 3 books?

February 27, 2009 3:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Should Harry Potter count as 7 books, Lord of the Rings as 3 books and His Dark Materials as 3 books?"

Should 7 + 3 + 3 = 13?

YES. idiot.

February 27, 2009 8:42 PM  
Blogger Derek said...


I refer to your post and link to it in a post that just went up on my blog. I didn't find a way in the Blogger interface to send you a trackback, so I thought I'd leave a comment to make sure you knew about it.

If you're interested, here's the link to my post:

List-mus Test: How Well-Read Are You?

February 28, 2009 1:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

March 01, 2009 2:09 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Here is a link to the original article in the Guardian (1 Mar 2007) about the World Book Day poll.

March 01, 2009 2:40 AM  
Blogger Kristjan Wager said...

Thanks for posting the link to the Guardian article. I have updated the post with the information and link.

I note that it still didn't make any claims about people having read only six of those books, as the meme claims BBC said.

March 01, 2009 8:16 AM  
Blogger Derek said...

Kristjan, it looks like you pasted the wrong link in your update - I clicked it and it took me to the Columbia Journalism Review article about the reaction to the George Will article.

March 01, 2009 6:29 PM  
Blogger Kristjan Wager said...

Thanks Derek. It should be corrected now.

March 01, 2009 7:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Looks like this one has been around a while but popped up recently in it's BBC 100 book form.

Back around last July there was another proliferation of it in the form "The Big Read reckons that the average adult has only read 6 of the top 100 books they’ve printed.”

Check the link below for details.

March 03, 2009 4:04 PM  
Blogger b. luis grey said...

I just did the list on Facebook and came across a link with your blog. A friend wanted to see if this was really true. I want to do the original again but am satisfied with my seven on the unoriginal 100 list.
Thanks for the research.

March 12, 2009 1:57 PM  
Blogger b. luis grey said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

March 12, 2009 1:57 PM  
Blogger Lil' ol' me said...

with regard to the above idiot who asked if LOtR is three books, it was originally written as one book in six parts, and was only ever published as three 'books' when wartime publishers were concerned about publishing costs

July 26, 2009 12:03 AM  
Blogger Tensuke said...

AnnieD, they only asked that because on the list is 'The Harry Potter Series', 'LOTR', and 'His Dark Materials'. None of these are one book, but they are listed on the list as one book. So that person just wanted to know if you count, when taking this survey, each series as one or each book as one. Personally I just counted each book as one and threw out the books that were listed that also had a series listed(see complete works of Shakespeare and Hamlet).

July 29, 2009 7:37 AM  
Blogger Patti (@TheLoveJunkee) said...

I put the BBC list on my blog but linked to your post to show the difference between the meme and the actual list. Thanks!

August 04, 2009 11:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you have read any number of books on any of these lists it simply means that you like a lot of the same stuff other people like (currently) - it doesn't mean you are well read or especially educated. In fact most people lie about what they have read to impress people anyway, and Britons are no exception apparently:

thought you would find that interesting :)

August 31, 2009 2:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I notice that a lot of the books you haven't read and don't intend to read could be considered 'girls' books. Is that why you aren't interested? I think perhaps you are missing out on a whole range of fun stuff that way - for example Cold Comfort Farm is a sort of parody of Wuthering Heights and / or Rebecca, try it, its hilarious!

September 01, 2010 6:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A frenchman walks into a bar with a parrot on his shoulder. The bartender asks, "Where did you get that?" The parrot replies, "In France, where there are millions of them!"

btw how can we "lease be patient". I can't even "please be patient!" cuz i'm assholleee

November 09, 2010 3:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for this post. Hope you don't mind, but I copied your idea and posted it on my own blog too!

November 19, 2010 4:08 PM  
Anonymous Shawna said...

I like the second list better because I have read 24 of them completely. I started to read about 15 to 20 more. I read most of them in grade school when I was bored... I enjoyed all of them. I noticed that I mostly have read the older books. That must be based on the books in my school and local libraries. I am surprised that "A Thousand and One Nights" wasn't on there. It was an epic too. I read that one in Spanish...

November 22, 2010 5:08 AM  
Blogger G.D. said...

I thought you might be interested to read that, according to this website, the BBC made no such accusation...

November 23, 2010 2:05 AM  
Blogger Kristjan Wager said...

Thanks G.D., but the whole point of this post was to explain that the BBC had not made that claim.

November 23, 2010 6:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Part of me wonders if the Guardian list wasn't just cribbed from the BBC's earlier list and modified to make it seem like original work.

November 24, 2010 5:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

November 29, 2010 2:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I recommend you "Crime and Punishment", truly excellent book.

December 11, 2010 12:24 PM  
Anonymous John Dumas said...

To elaborate on the "Lord of the Rings, one book or three" question (and it's the One Book to Rule them All, of course), Tolkien's publishers worried that sales wouldn't be good on the massive doorstop Tolkien had delivered. Not only were they going to split it into three parts, but each volume was going to get fewer copies printed.

It didn't work that way. By the time The Two Towers was released, The Fellowship of the Ring was already in its second printing. The pyramid was inverted, with each volume getting a larger first printing than the previous.

December 15, 2010 2:52 AM  
Blogger ozogg said...

C.P. SNOW appears to be perfectly correct, where he states in his book "The Two Cultures", (1959) that :

"A good many times I have been present at gatherings of poeple who, by the standards of the traditional culture, are thought highly educated ...

Once or twice I have been provoked and have asked the company how many of them could describe the Second Law of Thermodynamics.

The respnse was cold: it was also negative.

Yet I as asking something which is about the scientific equivalent of : "Have you read a work of Shakespeare?"

This massive ignorance of a major part of our culture, that of: Maths/Science/Engineering/Technology

is perpetuated in these reading lists !!!!

These lists represent the equivalent of ludditism !!!

I doubt that the malady will cured soon.

February 04, 2012 5:14 AM  

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