Tuesday, July 28, 2009

List of the Day: The BBC's Big Read

In April 2003, the BBC's Big Read began the search for Britain’s best-loved novel. Viewers voted for their favorite book until December 13, 2003, when the final list was complete.

The Top 100 list is below. The contest tallied the top 200 vote-getters, with the books ranked 101 to 200 sometimes referred to as the Bigger Read. This is definitely a people’s choice list that, while it includes many very good books, reflects popular tastes as much as literary merits.

I have read 51 of the 100. I may never get through all of these because the list includes four Harry Potter books, too many kids books, and a lot of sci-fi. There are at least 29 that I do not plan to read. Those I have read are in red. Those currently on my TBR shelf are in blue.

If anyone else is tracking this list, please feel free to leave comment with a link to your progress report and I will add it to this post.

1. The Lord of the Rings, JRR Tolkien

2. Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen

3. His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman

4. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams (reviewed here)

5. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, JK Rowling

6. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee

7. Winnie the Pooh, AA Milne

8. Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell

9. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, CS Lewis

10. Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë

11. Catch-22, Joseph Heller

12. Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë

13. Birdsong, Sebastian Faulks

14. Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier (reviewed here)

15. The Catcher in the Rye, JD Salinger

16. The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame (reviewed here)

17. Great Expectations, Charles Dickens (reviewed here)

18. Little Women, Louisa May Alcott

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

23. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, JK Rowling

24. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, JK Rowling

25. The Hobbit, JRR Tolkien

26. Tess of the D'Urbervilles, Thomas Hardy

27. Middlemarch, George Eliot

28. A Prayer for Owen Meany, John Irving

29. The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck

30. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll

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

35. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Roald Dahl

36. Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson

37. A Town Like Alice, Nevil Shute

38. Persuasion, Jane Austen

39. Dune, Frank Herbert

40. Emma, Jane Austen

41. Anne of Green Gables, LM Montgomery

42. Watership Down, Richard Adams

43. The Great Gatsby, F Scott Fitzgerald

44. The Count of Monte Cristo, Alexandre Dumas

45. Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh

46. Animal Farm, George Orwell

47. A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens

48. Far From the Madding Crowd, Thomas Hardy

49. Goodnight Mister Tom, Michelle Magorian

50. The Shell Seekers, Rosamunde Pilcher (reviewed here)

51. The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett

52. Of Mice and Men, John Steinbeck

53. The Stand, Stephen King

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

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

64. The Thorn Birds, Colleen McCollough

65. Mort, Terry Pratchett

66. The Magic Faraway Tree, Enid Blyton

67. The Magus, John Fowles (notes here)

68. Good Omens, Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman

69. Guards! Guards!, Terry Pratchett

70. Lord of the Flies, William Golding

71. Perfume, Patrick Süskind

72. The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, Robert Tressell

73. Night Watch, Terry Pratchett

74. Matilda, Roald Dahl

75. Bridget Jones's Diary, Helen Fielding

76. The Secret History, Donna Tartt

77. The Woman in White, Wilkie Collins

78. Ulysses, James Joyce

79. Bleak House, Charles Dickens

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 (reviewed here)

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 (reviewed here)

89. Magician, Raymond E Feist

90. On the Road, Jack Kerouac

91. The Godfather, Mario Puzo

92. The Clan of the Cave Bear, Jean M Auel

93. The Colour of Magic, Terry Pratchett

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 (reviewed here)


List updated on January 4, 2019.


(If you would like to be listed here, please leave a comment with your links to any progress reports or reviews and I will add them here.) .


  1. I'm guessing green are the ones you won't be reading. The Stand is one of my favourites from years back and Wilkie Collins is a classic I thoroughly enjoyed as well.

  2. You've read more than half the list. That's very commendable. I'm embarassed to say I've only read 37, although I have read Anna Karenina 3 times. That's gotta count for something, right? I would never read the Harry Potter or sci fi either.

  3. There are some in green that I will read someday -- they are just not sitting on my TBR shelf right now. The Wilkie Collins book is one of them. I want to read The Woman in White and The Moonstone. But probably not The Stand, although people really like that one.

    Anna Karenina is one of my "shame" books. I can't believe I haven't read it yet! Part of the reason is that I one got halfway through it, left it at the gym by mistake, and it was gone for good. By the time I got another copy, I was on the fence about starting over or picking up where I left off. I dithered too long, now I have to start over. But that bugs me, so I procrastinate. All silly, I know.

  4. There certainly is too many Terry Pratchett books on that list. But I have read 56 of them. I'm quite impressed that by number is so high. Mostly down to reading all the kid's books!

  5. I haven't read the Harry Potter books either, but I am told by adult readers they are quite good. You might want to give Dune and Watership Down a chance, too.

  6. Michelle -- 56 is quite an accomplishment, no matter what! If you make a blog post about it, link it here and I will add it.

    CS -- Watership Down is one I will read someday. I can't make a promise about Dune. The movie almost killed me dead.

  7. Oh, Dune is definitely worth it. Not the sequels, but it's a great book. I find it interesting, though, that most of my app. 40 books read are precisely those childrens' books that you and most adult readers are avoiding. I'll check this list again in ten years from now, see how I've improved...

  8. Whoa! You knocked off LOTR and didn't tell us?????

    I agree The Woman in White and Watership Down are well worth your time. Dune, too, probably, though I haven't read it yet.

    Also agree with your resistance to Harry Potter. I suspect 4 slots out of 100 are at least 3 too many.

  9. wow that does have a lot of children's and YA when it comes to best books in English. But I guess it's not best books in English: it's MOST LOVED which is totally different.

    I've only read 34 of them, but many are on my to read list. I'm in the middle of Woman in White and loving it. I read Dune a year or so ago. It was okay, but I'm not about to read the sequels.

  10. I meant Children's books and Sci Fi, not YA

  11. I've read 29 (including every single Harry Potter, some twice), but if you factor in the number of pages of the books I didn't finish I think I should get credit for at least 32!

  12. OOPS! Sorry to say, I have NOT finished LOTR. I did finish the first one, The Fellowship of the Ring, two weeks ago. For some reason (probably overheated brain because of our heat wave) I thought Fellowship was the book on this list and marked it as read. But I unmarked it now. The other two are on my TBR shelf and I plan to finish the whole trilogy this year.


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