On the Reading of Books

   Posted by: Brent Toderash   in Books

There’s a book meme going around Facebook again, which I’ve seen there and on the Writers’ Collective website. It runs thusly:

Have you read more than 6 of these books? The BBC believes most people will have read only 6 of the 100 books listed here. Instructions:
• Copy this into your NOTES to respond on Facebook.
• Bold those books you’ve read in their entirety.
• Italicize the ones you started but didn’t finish or read only an excerpt.

Older versions of the meme differ slightly, and include the instructions

Add a ‘+’ to the ones you LOVE.
Star (*) those you plan on reading.

So I did that too, but change “LOVE” to ” particularly enjoyed”. My list (below) shows “[M]” after the ones where I’ve seen the movie or stage production.
1 Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen [M]
2 The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien [M] +
3 Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
4 Harry Potter series – JK Rowling [M] +
5 To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee *
6 The Bible
7 Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte
8 Nineteen Eighty Four – George Orwell [M]
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 [M]
13 Catch 22 – Joseph Heller
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare
15 Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier
16 The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien +
17 Birdsong – Sebastian Faulk
18 Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger *
19 The Time Traveler’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger [M]
20 Middlemarch – George Eliot
21 Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchell [M]
22 The Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald
24 War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy
25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams
27 Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28 Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck *
29 Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll [M]
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 [M]
35 Persuasion – Jane Austen
36 The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe – CS Lewis [M]
37 The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis De Bernieres [M]
39 Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden
40 Winnie the Pooh – A.A. Milne [M]
41 Animal Farm – George Orwell [M] +
42 The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown [M]
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 [M]
49 Lord of the Flies – William Golding
50 Atonement – Ian McEwan [M]
51 Life of Pi – Yann Martel +
52 Dune – Frank Herbert [M]
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 Addon *
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61 Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck
62 Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov
63 The Secret History – Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold
65 Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas [M] *
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 [M]
72 Dracula – Bram Stoker [M]
73 The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett
74 Notes From A Small Island – Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses – James Joyce
76 The Inferno – Dante
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 [M] *
82 Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell
83 The Color Purple – Alice Walker [M]
84 The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro [M]
85 Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert
86 A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte’s Web – E.B. White
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven – Mitch Albom [M] +
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle [M] +
90 The Faraway Tree Collection – Enid Blyton
91 Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad
92 The Little Prince – Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93 The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks
94 Watership Down – Richard Adams [M]
95 A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas [M] *
98 Hamlet – William Shakespeare [M]
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl [M]
100 Les Miserables – Victor Hugo [M]

Okay, only 28, but I can add another 12 if I can include movie and stage productions… which is cheating, I know. And I admit it, I never finished Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Yes, it’s really quite sad. And I’ve not yet read Catcher in the Rye, but it’s on my shelf and I mean to read it soon. Really. And I suppose I should say I enjoyed the Bible, and I did enjoy some parts… but to be honest, I didn’t necessarily enjoy all of it.

And what’s with some of the items on this list, anyway? I mean, The Da Vinci Code? Like Kate said, seriously?. I want to replace that with Mitch Albom’s Tuesdays with Morrie, which I’ve read and thought it just as good as The Five People You Meet in Heaven. And did the list’s creator not know that The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe is part of C.S. Lewis’ Narnia Chronicles? Or that Hamlet is part of Shakespeare’s Complete Works? What’s up with that?

What about The Diary of Anne Frank or Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five, neither of which I’ve finished, but have started and seen the movies — was even part of a stage production of Anne Frank, so at least I’ve read the play. And although the list has some sci-fi and fantasy, it isn’t much for classical mystery… it could use some Agatha Christie, like Ten Little Indians (aka And Then There Were None), The Mousetrap, or my personal favorite, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. And we should include Mario Puzo’s The Godfather, which I can vouch for as being even better than the movie.

And oh, I think the list may be weighted toward women. I count at least 16 of these titles which are generally considered romance or otherwise classics for women or girls, excluding Alice in Wonderland, but including the likes of Little Women. And then there’s Bridget Jones’ Diary, which, well… you see my point. So Kate scored 51 and Hilary scored 46. Hilary’s meme list included George Orwell’s 1984, which I have read. Score another one for me. It looks like I’ve really got to stretch the rules just to crack into the 40’s, so I give up. I’ll just have to read more.

For the record, the fact that the list varies and contains duplicates makes me question the veracity of the BBC as the source. And I’m not the only one to say it, either. Indications are that the list was adapted from BBC’s The Big Read list from 2003, which is based strictly on popularity (and where three entries for Harry Potter reflect the fact that the series was not then complete). The meme list makes 37 changes to include more of “the classics” and more American (and Canadian) titles. There is no actual claim whatsoever by the BBC that people will have read less than six of these novels, but the claim is evidently brash enough to make people grab the list and prove them wrong and say, “Humph! We look down our collective noses at you, BBC! Take that!” But no, it’s just a baseless meme.

Hey, if you can’t beat ’em, debunk ’em.

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This entry was posted on Sunday, November 28th, 2010 at 9:45 am and is filed under Books. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

2 comments so far


You’d be a better source for a reading list than the BBC, if the BBC ever did get the kihones to take such a chance, I’ll tell you that much!

I’d like to see a sci/fi-cyberpunk list myself. And a list on behavioral economics books. … of course, that’s just me. :-)

November 30th, 2010 at 12:24 pm

Behavioral economics… nope, not just you!

November 30th, 2010 at 12:37 pm

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