There is a meme going round on Facebook about the top 100 books the BBC thinks you should have read and their supposed belief that most folks have only read six of them. Doubting the provenance of the stated meme, and being the nerd that I am, I armed myself with Google to try and ascertain the validity of its origin. After my exhaustive search (it lasted all of 15 or 20 minutes – am I exhausted) I have determined that while this is a fun meme, and one I fully intend to pass on, it probably did not originate from the BBC – at least not in its current form.
The list seems to be a hodgepodge (god, I love that word) of several lists. Karina, at The Guiri Dispatches, speculates it may have originated as a variation on the 2003 BBC’s Big Read project (which was a listener’s/reader’s poll). One of her readers counters that the list may be a mutant (my word, not theirs) of the March 2007 book list from the Guardian – Books You Can’t Live Without: the Top 100. (By the way, I have not read all 100 on the Guardian list and am still living, so there might be something wrong with their list.)
Nowhere could I find a definitive link back to the BBC for the current meme. Nevertheless these memes are great good fun and I am going to participate, with bells on. tinkle tinkle tinkle Hear ‘em? So here is the meme from Facebook, despite its questionable veracity:
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.
• Bold those books you've read in their entirety.
• Italicize the ones you started but didn't finish or read only an excerpt.
Tag other book nerds. Tag me as well so I can see your responses! (Or not, after all reading is not a competition!
I'm betting that we're all well over 6 books, and I am curious to see the common ground).
In all my exhaustive research I never was able to come up with where the “only 6″ notion came from. Nor was I ever able to determine who the elusive “I” is.
Below is my annotated response. I (me – Jon, the guy writing this post) really am curious to see which ones you have read, and which ones you know you never will. No need to annotate your responses, though it might be fun.
1 Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
2 The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien: My all time favorite book.
3 Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
4 Harry Potter series – JK Rowling
5 To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee: My all time second favorite book.
6 The Bible: In my attempt to read it cover to cover I made it as far as Exodus.
7 Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte: I did not expect to like this. I loved it.
8 Nineteen Eighty Four – George Orwell: Nothing like a little light reading to brighten your mood.
9 His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman
10 Great Expectations – Charles Dickens: I’ve read other Dickens’ stuff. How come I can’t get credit for them?
11 Little Women – Louisa M Alcott: Bonus points if you know what the M stands for.
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy
13 Catch 22 – Joseph Heller: Read this as an adult. Must have slept through it in school.
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare: Bits and pieces, here and there. Much prefer to see them as plays.
15 Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier
16 The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien: Can’t wait for the movie. Go New Zealand!
17 Birdsong – Sebastian Faulk
18 Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger: Not quite sure how I avoided this throughout school.
19 The Time Traveler’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger: On my list of things to read.
20 Middlemarch – George Eliot
21 Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchell: I tend not to read books I’ve already seen movie versions of. Even if the book is better the sense of discovery is ruined.
22 The Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald
24 War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy: As a slow reader I can tell you, size does matter. Not even tempted.
25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams: I’m a failure as a geek.
27 Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28 Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck
29 Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll: Dude, what were you smoking?
30 The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame: Gorgeous.
31 Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy: I bought this long ago, but never got around to reading it.
32 David Copperfield – Charles Dickens
33 Chronicles of Narnia – CS Lewis: I’ve read several, but not all. Interesting they list The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe separately.
34 Emma -Jane Austen
35 Persuasion – Jane Austen
36 The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe – CS Lewis
37 The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini: Excellent, excellent book. I highly recommend it.
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis De Bernieres
39 Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden: I listened to the abridged version.
40 Winnie the Pooh – A.A. Milne: I’ve got two kids. Of course I’ve read this.
41 Animal Farm – George Orwell: I’m sure I had to read some of this in high school.
42 The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney – John Irving: Only because it was one of my book club’s selections. I never would have picked this up on my own.
45 The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables – LM Montgomery: Maybe, maybe not.
47 Far From The Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy
48 The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood: My wife read this and warned me off – too damned depressing.
49 Lord of the Flies – William Golding: Loved it. Yeah, I know, like this isn’t depressing.
50 Atonement – Ian McEwan
51 Life of Pi – Yann Martel
52 Dune – Frank Herbert: One of the best SciFi ever written.
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: Pretty sure I had to read some of this in high school.
58 Brave New World – Aldous Huxley: I know, shame on me.
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time – Mark Haddon: Terrific. Read this book.
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: As the father of two girls the concept just sounded too depressing for me.
65 Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas: It’s all fuzzy… Maybe, maybe not.
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: Great title. I mean that.
70 Moby Dick – Herman Melville: Thank God for audio books.
71 Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens: I may or may not have read all of this in junior high, but am fairly certain I had to read at least part of it.
72 Dracula – Bram Stoker: Holds up amazingly well.
73 The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett: One of those “wussy” books I ended up thoroughly enjoying.
74 Notes From A Small Island – Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses – James Joyce
76 The Inferno – Dante: I keep meaning to. Honest.
77 Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal – Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray: Don’t you just love that middle name?
80 Possession – AS Byatt
81 A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens: While on my Dickens kick.
82 Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell
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 – E.B. White: I have fond, is somewhat sketchy, memories.
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven – Mitch Albom
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle: Several times.
90 The Faraway Tree Collection – Enid Blyton
91 Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad
92 The Little Prince – Antoine De Saint-Exupery: I was unimpressed.
93 The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks
94 Watership Down – Richard Adams: Just re-read this within the last year or two. Still good.
95 A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole: Got maybe a third of the way through. I could not stand it. If it wasn’t against my religion to burn books it would make good kindling.
96 A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute: Simply excellent. I highly recommendable it.
97 The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas: Started to read this to my daughters but they lost interest about a third of the way through so we never finished it.
98 Hamlet – William Shakespeare: Again, maybe, maybe not. Does “The Story of Edgar Sawtelle” count? Read that and it’s the same thing.
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl: Though I do love chocolate.
100 Les Miserables – Victor Hugo
It looks like I have 26 under my belt – certainly nothing to brag about. I really should have read many more of these. Conversely, I have read many great books they did not have on their list, and they count for something. I’ll follow this post up with one on Thursday of the top five books that should have been on this list. Drop by then to see if you agree, or to add your own.
For links to many more 100 Best lists check out this post from Nicholas Whyte, first dated in May of 2003 and updated in April of ’07. Seems it’s hard to keep a good list down.
P.S. Consider yourself tagged.