Are you well read?

There’s a thing going around on Facebook which purports to be a list of the 100 “best” books rated by the BBC Book Club. I’m a bit confused by this because the list actually published by the BBC Book Club is rather different. Apparently the BBC thinks that most people have read only 6 of them anyway. Anyway, I’ve put the list here and marked the ones I’ve read in bold. I am interested to see how many my discerning readers have read, so please count the ones you have read and answer the quick poll.

In order to count you have to have read the whole book, not just bits!

1 Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen

2 The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien

3 Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte

4 Harry Potter series – JK Rowling

5 To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee

6 The Bible

7 Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte

8 Nineteen Eighty Four – George Orwell

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

13 Catch 22 – Joseph Heller

14 Complete Works of Shakespeare

15 Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier

16 The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien

17 Birdsong – Sebastian Faulks

18 Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger

19 The Time Traveler’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger

20 Middlemarch – George Eliot

21 Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchell

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 in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll

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

35 Persuasion – Jane Austen

36 The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe – CS Lewis

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 – A.A. Milne

41 Animal Farm – George Orwell

42 The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown

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

49 Lord of the Flies – William Golding

50 Atonement – Ian McEwan

51 Life of Pi – Yann Martel

52 Dune – Frank Herbert

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 Haddon

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

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

72 Dracula – Bram Stoker

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

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

88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven – Mitch Albom

89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

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

95 A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole

96 A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute

97 The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas

98 Hamlet – William Shakespeare

99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl

100 Les Miserables – Victor Hugo

Any opinions on great books not on the list welcome through the comments box!



35 Responses to “Are you well read?”

  1. telescoper Says:

    Can’t see why The Da Vinci Code is on there, but I have to admit I have read it!

  2. Why is Harry Potter on there? It’s barely a children’s book

    • Many of these are children’s books – the Hobbit, Alice in Wonderland, Secret Garden and Winnie the Pooh to name a few, but I doubt many would argue that these don’t deserve to be there. That’s not really your point is it?

  3. And how come TLTWATW is different to the chronicles of Narnia?

  4. telescoper Says:


    I think if you’ve read all the Narnia books that’s different from just reading one of them

  5. Bruce Etherington Says:

    Wow, surprised myself! Thought I’d get about 6 rather than 44!!

  6. Bryn Jones Says:

    Read Lord of the Flies?

    When I was at school our teacher in English chose it as a text for the class to study when I was aged 12 years. He liked it so much he chose it again the following year. Then it was a set text for the O-Level class the year after. I ended up having to study the ******* book formally on three different occasions.

    That ******* Piggy.

  7. The list is heavily biased towards books published in the last 5-10 years – currently fashionable but which, I suspect, will be recognized for badly-written claptrap in another decade or two.

    In the meantime – no Trollope? No Proust? No Wodehouse? No Mark Twain? No E.M. Forster? No H.G. Wells? No Evelyn Waugh, for God’s sake?

  8. Also, I bet JK Rowling is behind most of this stuff. Should be illegal to mention her mediocre, clunking, adolescent prose in the same paragraph as most of the novelists listed here. The idea that ploughing through 2000 pages of it could make you ‘well read’ is grotesque and sad.

  9. John Peacock Says:

    The interesting thing is that some of these books are extremely well known but little read (Moby Dick an example from my guilt list; Gulliver’s Travels would have been another had it been on the list). These are books that every civilized person has to have some knowledge of at a bluffer’s level. Eventually, you might even fool yourself into believing you did actually read them once. The Grauniad’s “digested read” column is dangerously helpful in this regard.

    • telescoper Says:

      I’ll stand up and say I have read Moby Dick – I even remember when (during a conference in Cargese 24 years ago). I bought the cheap Everyman edition. It’s heavy going in places, but a majestic work.

    • telescoper Says:

      I assumed people would think I was lying.

  10. telescoper Says:

    I fear it might remind me too much of work.

  11. um, #23 and 26 are missing…?

    • telescoper Says:

      Good point! I hadn’t noticed. I just copied the list off facebook and that’s what it was like. I guess it got mangled somewhere down the line.

    • Steve Jones Says:

      And number 6 is missing the author name – to save you time looking it up, it was of course written by God.

  12. Anton Garrett Says:

    All but two of these books (the Bible and Bill Bryson’s Notes From A Small Island) were written by their authors as fiction, so it’s not clear to me what the criteria are.

    • telescoper Says:

      I think it’s just books that have been popular with book clubs. Since I always read books on my own I’m not too familiar with the way these things work.

    • Anton Garrett Says:

      Then I’m amazed how much more popular fiction is than non-fiction in general.

    • Bryn Jones Says:

      Yes, the list is a list of fiction, primarily novels, reflecting the enthusiasms of the compilers; plus a tiny number of non-fiction books that seem to have been included because of their influence or quality.

      I have read only a smallish minority of the works because I’m not particularly enthusiastic about fiction.

      Compiling a similar list of non-fiction works would be very difficult because of the breadth of subjects that would have to be included, though such lists have probably been compiled.

  13. Peter,

    As I enjoy your Opera blogs, can I suggest a follow-up list? Something along the lines of Top 100 operas/’classical music’ pieces that people couldn’t identify?

    This is inspired by the fact that I was spending Thanksgiving with about a dozen astro-postgraduate students at a well known Northern California university, and when the Overture to Die Zauberflöte come on over dinner, no one recognised it!!

    (Though, I have a feeling that with Radio 3 and Classic FM, this may be more a UK – US thing per se…)


    P.S. Only 19 of the books for me, and most of these were from my school days!

  14. Anders Ehrberg Says:

    Of your unread I can only recommend Swallows and Amazons

    • Monica grady Says:

      The faraway tree by Enid blyton- now that makes Harry Potter seem like literature! Have you really read Ulysses, from start to finish? I have started it several times, and never managed to get past the first 30 or so pages. But then, I enjoyed HP, so maybe I’m simply a philistine. Shadow of the wind is definitely worth reading, but skip captain Corelli.

    • telescoper Says:

      Yes, I have read all of Ulysses…it’s not as difficult to read as Finnegans Wake! In fact I remember buying it when I returned from a trip to Trieste many years ago where I’d been in a cafe that Joyce used to frequent; he lived in Trieste for 11 years, in fact.

    • Anton Garrett Says:

      An Irish friend told me to read Finnegan’s Wake as if it were spoken and it helped; but this good advice still did not make me to want to finish it. As for Ulysses, one critic contemporary to it spoke of its great energy and its great pessimism, and memorably described it as “like an explosion in a cesspit”.

  15. > the Hobbit, Alice in Wonderland, Secret Garden and Winnie the Pooh

    Those are good children’s books – HP is (and, of course, IMHO) terrible. I know that there are those that would disagree.

  16. Any list which does not include Kurt Vonnegut is no good.

  17. I scored 41 probably due to my great age. Having been ‘schooled’ in Classic literature (as opposed to educated) I much prefer to read and enjoy contemporary fiction. I can just about accept the Brontes with their deprivation coming through and Dickens for his perception of working class life (maybe), Shakespeare I can fully appreciate when performed, but NOT as literature, the works were never meant to be ‘read’. Jane Austen and her ilk, even as a student came across as nothing more than middle class twaddle, written for the er.. middle class. On an annual basis I re-read LOTR, the Pliocene novels of Julian May and the Steven Donaldson.s ‘ Thomas Coventant Chronicles’. So Sci-fi is my thing. But Margaret Atwood – I have read every word she has written – likewise Jeannete Winterson, Margaret Drabble and her sister AS Byatt. Tag on Iain Banks (in SF mode and otherwise) Will Self and Ben Elton. These latter address real life in our world as it is today. Throw away your primers!

  18. Beth Venus Says:

    I really recommend reading number 39, Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden. It’s very beautifully written and stirring. Interestingly, I think the author posted on this blog once. I was browsing through it, and an Arthur Golden left a comment on your About Me page, saying he was a writer fascinated by cosmology. Maybe it’s not him, but it caught my eye.

  19. Alex Rogers Says:

    I unfortunatley only got 26 out of 100, but I’m still young 🙂

    I would disagree in certain areas. I would certainly say that ‘Farenheit 451’ by Ray Bradbury is on a par with ‘A brave New World’, or ‘Catch 22’. I think that they also missed a trick on ignoring Rudyard Kiplings ‘Just so Stories’

    The inclusion of Dan Brown’s ‘Da Vinci Code’ is a let down. The book is okay, but the format and plot is essentially a photocopy of every other Dan Brown book.

    Chapter 1 – Death that sets the scene
    Chapters 2 onwards – Following meaningless clues
    Final Chapter – Oh look the baddie is the mentor of the hero/heroine

    I am also to be said more of a science fiction fan (even if once in awhile my physicist brain refuses to be switched off) or fantasy fan, and thus a lot of books on the list are not quite my cup of tea. But I still have another 60 odd years left in me, so I book a year will be fine.

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