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BBC’s Big Read: Top 200 Books in the U.K.


After researching for the piece I wrote a week and a half ago on Peter Boxall’s 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die booklist started back in 2006, I got curious about what other booklists there are floating around on the Internet. Turns out, there are a *lot* of them out there, put together by all sorts of different establishments, including (but *definitely* not limited to) The Guardian, Random House, the New York Times, and even the Museums, Libraries, and Archives Society. The one that pops up time and time again, however, is the one I briefly mentioned in the 1001 books article, which is the BBC’s Big Read.The Big Read was started over a decade ago back in April of 2003 (man, I feel old now) when the BBC asked Great Britain to nominate their favorite books of all time in an attempt to figure out what the U. K.’s most-loved novel is. It was the largest single test of public reading taste ever to be conducted, and literally hundreds of thousands of avid readers cast their vote. One year and 750,000+ votes later, and the winner was declared to be J. R. R. Tolkien’s fantasy classic The Lord of the Rings, with Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice coming in second. The BBC didn’t stop there, though; in addition to picking the winner, they also compiled a list of the top 21, top 100, and top 200 books in the country. The top 100 list was fairly widely circulated, and attached to its description was the declaration that the BBC believed that most people had only read 6 out of the 100 books listed.

6 out of 100? That seems a bit low, especially since four of the seven Harry Potter books are featured on the list. But what do I know? I’m a self diagnosed bookworm; maybe more people just watched the movies instead of reading the books than I thought (if so, I’m sorry about The Deathly Hallows Part 1. Splitting the last book into two was a terrible mistake, considering the first half of that book was literally only camping).

That said, there is an embarrassingly large number of books on this list that I’ve not only not read, but I hadn’t even heard of until I saw them on this list. Since I prefer longer booklists to shorter ones, I’ve written out the top 200 list here, bolding the ones that I’ve read. Just like with 1001 books, I can’t believe how many of these have been sitting on my shelf waiting to be read, so I’m off to go finish A Song of Ice and Fire so I can get cracking on these guys!

How many have you read, dear reader?

  • The Lord of the Rings~J. R. R. Tolkien
  • Pride and Prejudice~Jane Austen
  • His Dark Materials~Philip Pullman
  • The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy~Douglas Adams
  • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire~J. K. Rowling
  • To Kill A Mockingbird~Harper Lee
  • Winnie the Pooh~A. A. Milne
  • Nineteen Eighty-Four~George Orwell
  • The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe~C. S. Lewis
  • Jane Eyre~Charlotte Bronte
  • Catch-22~Joseph Heller
  • Wuthering Heights~Emily Bronte
  • Birdsong~Sebastian Faulks
  • Rebecca~Daphne du Maurier
  • The Catcher in the Rye~J. D. Salinger
  • The Wind in the Willows~Kenneth Grahame
  • Great Expectations~Charles Dickens
  • Little Women~Louisa May Alcott
  • Captain Corelli’s Mandolin~Louis de Bernieres
  • War and Peace~Leo Tolstoy
  • Gone with the Wind~Margaret Mitchell
  • Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone~J. K. Rowling
  • Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets~J. K. Rowling
  • Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban~J. K. Rowling
  • The Hobbit~J. R. R. Tolkien
  • Tess of the D’Ubervilles~Thomas Hardy
  • Middlemarch~George Eliot
  • A Prayer for Owen Meany~John Irving
  • The Grapes of Wrath~John Steinbeck
  • Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland~Lewis Carroll
  • The Story of Tracy Beaker~Jacqueline Wilson
  • One Hundred Years of Solitude~Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  • The Pillars of the Earth~Ken Follett
  • David Copperfield~Charles Dickens
  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory~Roald Dahl
  • Treasure Island~Robert Louis Stevenson
  • A Town Like Alice~Nevil Shute
  • Persuasion~Jane Austen
  • Dune~Frank Herbert
  • Emma~Jane Austen
  • Anne of Green Gables~L. M. Montgomery
  • Watership Down~Richard Adams
  • The Great Gatsby~F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • The Count of Monte Cristo~Alexandre Dumas
  • Brideshead Revisited~Evelyn Waugh
  • Animal Farm~George Orwell
  • A Christmas Carol~Charles Dickens
  • Far from the Madding Crowd~Thomas Hardy
  • Goodnight Mister Tom~Michelle Magorian
  • The Shell Seekers~Rosamunde Pilcher
  • The Secret Garden~Frances Hodgson Burnett
  • Of Mice and Men~John Steinbeck
  • The Stand~Stephen King
  • Anna Karenina~Leo Tolstoy
  • A Suitable Boy~Vikram Seth
  • The BFG~Roald Dahl
  • Swallows and Amazons~Arthur Ransome
  • Black Beauty~Anna Sewell
  • Artemis Fowl~Eoin Colfer
  • Crime and Punishment~Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  • Noughts and Crosses~Malorie Blackman
  • Memoirs of a Geisha~Arthur Golden
  • A Tale of Two Cities~Charles Dickens
  • The Thord Birds~Colleen McCollough
  • Mort~Terry Pratchett
  • The Magic Faraway Tree~Enid Blyton
  • The Magus~John Fowles
  • Good Omens~Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman
  • Guards! Guards!~Terry Pratchett
  • Lord of the Flies~William Golding
  • Perfume~Patrick Suskind
  • The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists~Robert Tressell
  • Night Watch~Terry Pratchett
  • Matilda~Roald Dahl
  • Bridget Jones’s Diary~Helen Fielding
  • The Secret History~Donna Tartt
  • The Woman in White~Wilkie Collins
  • Ulysses~James Joyce
  • Bleak House~Charles Dickens
  • Doubt Act~Jacqueline Wilson
  • The Twits~Roald Dahl
  • I Capture the Castle~Dodie Smith
  • Holes~Louis Sachar
  • Gormenghast~Mervyn Peake
  • The God of Small Things~Arundhati Roy
  • Vicky Angel~Jacqueline Wilson
  • Brave New World~Aldous Huxley
  • Cold Comfort Farm~Stella Gibbons
  • Magician~Raymond E. Feist
  • On the Road~Jack Kerouac
  • The Godfather~Mario Puzo
  • The Clan of the Cave Bear~Jean M. Auel
  • The Color of Magic~Terry Pratchett
  • The Alchemist~Paulo Coelho
  • Katherine~Anya Seton
  • Kane and Abel~Jeffrey Archer
  • Love in the Time of Cholera~Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  • Girls in Love~Jacqueline Wilson
  • The Princess Diaries~Meg Cabot
  • Midnight’s Children~Salman Rushdie
  • Three Men in a Boat~Jerome K. Jerome
  • Small Gods~Terry Pratchett
  • The Beach~Alex Garland
  • Dracula~Bram Stoker
  • Point Blanc~Anthony Horowitz
  • The Pickwick Papers~Charles Dickens
  • Stormbreaker~Anthony Horowitz
  • The Wasp Factory~Iain Banks
  • The Day of the Jackal~Frederick Forsyth
  • The Illustrated Mum~Jacqueline Wilson
  • Jude the Obscure~Thomas Hardy
  • The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 3/4~Sue Townsend
  • The Cruel Sea~Nicholas Monsarrat
  • Les Miserables~Victor Hugo
  • The Mayor of Casterbridge~Thomas Hardy
  • The Dare Game~Jacqueline Wilson
  • Bad Girls~Jacqueline Wilson
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray~Oscar Wilde
  • Shogun~James Clavell
  • The Day of the Triffids~John Wyndham
  • Lola Rose~Jacqueline Wilson
  • Vanity Fair~William Makepeace Thackeray
  • The Forsyte Saga~John Galsworthy
  • House of Leaves~Mark Z. Danielewski
  • The Poisonwood Bible~Barbara Kingsolver
  • Reaper Man~Terry Pratchett
  • Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging~Louise Rennison
  • The Hound of the Baskervilles~Arthur Conan Doyle
  • Possession~A. S. Byatt
  • The Master and Margarita~Mikhail Bulgakov
  • The Handmaid’s Tale~Margaret Atwood
  • Danny the Champion of the World~Roald Dahl
  • East of Eden~John Steinbeck
  • George’s Marvellous Medicine~Roald Dahl
  • Wyrd Sisters~Terry Pratchett
  • The Color Purple~Alice Walker
  • Hogfather~Terry Pratchett
  • The Thirty-Nine Steps~John Buchan
  • Girls in Tears~Jacqueline Wilson
  • Sleepovers~Jacqueline Wilson
  • All Quiet on the Western Front~Eric Maria Remarque
  • Behind the Scenes at the Museum~Kate Atkinson
  • High Fidelity~Nick Hornby
  • It~Stephen King
  • James and the Giant Peach~Roald Dahl
  • The Green Mile~Stephen King
  • Papillion~Henri Charriere
  • Men at Arms~Terry Pratchett
  • Master and Commander~Patrick O’Brian
  • Skeleton Key~Anthony Horowitz
  • Soul Music~Terry Pratchett
  • Thief of Time~Terry Pratchett
  • The Fifth Elephant~Terry Pratchett
  • Atonement~Ian McEwan
  • Secrets~Jacqueline Wilson
  • The Silver Sword~Ian Serraillier
  • One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest~Ken Kesey
  • Heart of Darkness~Joseph Conrad
  • Kim~Rudyard Kipling
  • Cross Stitch~Diana Gabaldon
  • Moby Dick~Herman Melville
  • River God~Wilbur Smith
  • Sunset Song~Lewis Grassic Gibbon
  • The Shipping News~Annie Proulx
  • The World According to Garp~John Irving
  • Lorna Doone~R. D. Blackmore
  • Girls Out Late~Jacqueline Wilson
  • The Far Pavillions~M. M. Kaye
  • The Witches~Roald Dahl
  • Charlotte’s Web~E. B. White
  • Frankenstein~Mary Shelley
  • They Used to Play on Grass~Terry Venables and Gordon Williams
  • The Old Man and the Sea~Ernest Hemingway
  • The Name of the Rose~Umberto Eco
  • Sophie’s World~Jostein Gaarder
  • Dustbin Baby~Jacqueline Wilson
  • Fantastic Mr. Fox~Roald Dahl
  • Lolita~Vladimir Nabokov
  • Jonathan Livingstone Seagull~Richard Bach
  • The Little Prince~Antoine De Saint-Exupery
  • The Suitcase Kid~Jacqueline Wilson
  • Oliver Twist~Charles Dickens
  • The Power of One~Bryce Courtenay
  • Silas Marner~George Eliot
  • American Psycho~Bret Easton Ellis
  • The Diary of a Nobody~George and Weedon Grossmith
  • Trainspotting~Irvine Welsh
  • Goosebumps~R. L. Stine
  • Heidi~Johanna Spyri
  • Sons and Lovers~D. H. Lawrence
  • The Unbearable Lightness of Being~Milan Kundera
  • Man and Boy~Tony Parsons
  • The Truth~Terry Pratchett
  • The War of the Worlds~H. G. Wells
  • The Horse Whisperer~Nicholas Evans
  • A Fine Balance~Rohinton Mistry
  • Witches Abroad~Terry Pratchett
  • The Once and Future King~T. H. White
  • The Very Hungry Caterpillar~Eric Carle
  • Flowers in the Attic~Virginia Andrews

7 thoughts on “BBC’s Big Read: Top 200 Books in the U.K.

    • Aww, but I like Harry Potter! I mean, they’re not literature, but they were fun books to read growing up. As a female, I was very happy that I spend my pre-teen and teen years reading them as opposed to Twilight, which I think is a HORRIBLE book for girls to be reading considering it’s basically encouraging abusive relationships that ultimately culminates in the girl quite literally dying because abortions are a no no for Stephanie Meyer (who is Mormon). Harry Potter at least is a decently-written modern day bildungsroman.The only part I fault them on is giving me false hope that I’d get to go to wizarding school when I was 11. I’m still waiting on that owl!

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