27 November 2010

The BBC test: how literary are you? (Based on a somewhat skewed reading list compiled from British listeners & viewers)

 This list had been making the rounds among my Facebook friends, one of whom actually read more than 80% of these titles.  How much of that is his own inherent brilliance (which he has in spades) and how much of that is chalked up to the fact that he's always on the prowl for English-language books whilst living in Germany, I couldn't possibly say.  But here's the list...

 The BBC believes most people will have read only 6 of the 100 books listed here.


• Copy this list.
• Bold those books you’ve read in their entirety.
• Italicise the ones you started but didn’t finish or read only an excerpt.
• Tag other book nerds.

Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien
Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
Harry Potter series – JK Rowling
To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
The King James Bible
Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte  
Nineteen Eighty Four (1984) – George Orwell
His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman
Great Expectations – Charles Dickens 
Little Women – Louisa M Alcott 
Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy
Catch 22 – Joseph Heller
Complete Works of Shakespeare
Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier
The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien
Birdsong – Sebastian Faulk
Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger 
The Time Traveler’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger
Middlemarch – George Eliot
Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchell
The Great Gatsby- F. Scott Fitzgerald
War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams
Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh
Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck
Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll 
The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame
Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy
David Copperfield – Charles Dickens 
Chronicles of Narnia – CS Lewis
Emma -Jane Austen
Persuasion – Jane Austen
The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe – CS Lewis 
The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini
Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis De Bernieres
Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden

Winnie the Pooh – A.A. Milne
Animal Farm – George Orwell
The DaVinci Code – Dan Brown
One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez (God knows I TRIED!)
A Prayer for Owen Meaney – John Irving 
The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins
Anne of Green Gables – LM Montgomery  
Far From The Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy
The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
Lord of the Flies – William Golding
Atonement – Ian McEwan
Life of Pi – Yann Martel
Dune – Frank Herbert
Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons
Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen
A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth
The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon
A Tale Of Two Cities – Charles Dickens
Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time – Mark Haddon
Love In The Time Of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck
Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov
The Secret History – Donna Tartt
The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold
Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas
On The Road – Jack Kerouac
Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy
Bridget Jones’s Diary – Helen Fielding
Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie
Moby Dick – Herman Melville
Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens
Dracula – Bram Stoker
The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett 
Notes From A Small Island – Bill Bryson
Ulysses – James Joyce
The Inferno – Dante
Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome
Germinal – Emile Zola
Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray
Possession – AS Byatt
A Christmas Carol- Charles Dickens  
Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell
The Color Purple – Alice Walker
The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro
Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert
A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry
Charlotte's Web- E.B. White
The Five People You Meet In Heaven – Mitch Albom
Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle 
The Faraway Tree Collection – Enid Blyton
Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad
The Little Prince – Antoine De Saint-Exupery

The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks
Watership Down – Richard Adams
A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole

A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute
The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas
Hamlet – William Shakespeare
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl
Les Miserables – Victor Hugo

Considering I'm a bookseller, and therefore practically a professional reader, I'm disappointed by my showing;  on the other hand, this is one of the most bizarre compilations of 100 Books I've ever seen.  Really, BBC?  I get that you're trying to get a mix of classics and modern fiction, and that you're trying to represent literature for both adults and children, but how did Dan Brown, Helen Fielding, and Mitch Albom end up on this list?  Were you otherwise afraid that the average responder had only read 3 of the titles?  And what's with the redundancy with Shakespeare and C. S. Lewis?   

Still, I'm surprised with so many of my omissions on this list.  I've read very little Hardy and none of Eliot and it shows here.  Dickens, mezzo-mezzo, but just not the ones on this list for the most part.  1984, anything by the dead Russians-- I really should have read these and more.  Alas!


  1. You've read a bunch of these! I've completed 22, which I guess is not too bad but I wish I'd read more. It is a strange compilation---Bridget Jones' Diary was the biggest surprise for me. :)

  2. I have only read 8 titles on the list. Not so literary, I guess!

  3. We all have our reading niches--there was very little fantasy, contemporary YA, or much modern US fiction on that list. I don't know where y'all are from, Kelli and Julie, but I suspect that if the CBC, or NBC or ABC or NPR were to compile a list of 100 titles for Americans to judge by, the list would be very different, as would our scores.

  4. Hi there,
    We Broads over at the Brazen Broads Book Bash are passing on an award to you and your site! Stop by our site for more information. It's a great way to get your blog noticed, and to notice other blogs.


    Hope to see you soon! I noticed many books that were not on the list that suprised me also....what about these:
    The Illiad
    The Odyssey
    The Art of War
    Phantom of the Opera
    Any Mark Twain......
    Just a few I thought of from the top of my head. Interesting list.
    Take Care

  5. hi, Brazen Broads-- Congrats on winning your award, and thank you so much for passing it along to me!

    And I agree with your ommissions on the BBC list. Maybe add some Henry James & Edith Wharton, a Toni Morrisson novel, maybe some Richard Wright and Elie Wiesel and Cormac McCarthy and William Faulkner...the list could just go on.

  6. Hia thanks for dropping by on my blog.

    I think the list is the top 100 for the BBCs Big Read, so the books were nominated by readers. This list has been around quite a while


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