Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Top 100 Books according to...somebody

For the last couple of years, every so often I get a note from friends on Facebook asking which of the BBC's Top 100 books I've read, plan to read, liked, loved, and so on.  It purports to be the classics, as defined by the BBC, and notes that the BBC estimates suggest that most people have read only six of the titles.  I've shared this note myself, and tallied up how many I've read (52, in case you're curious).  It turns out that the list that's been circulating isn't really from the BBC at all, nor has the BBC ever estimated how many of these books most people have read.  What they did do was commission a survey of the British public in 2003 to find what their favorite novels are.  That list totalled 200 titles and can be found here.  They had no estimate of how many of these most people had read. 

Whether it's the list circulating on Facebook or the original BBC list, or a different one altogether, like the Radcliffe Publishing Course's 100 Best Novels, I think the idea of using a list like this is fascinating.  I so often get caught up in what's new that I lose sight of the old classics, especially those I wouldn't normally even consider reading.  Added to this, I recently re-read Nick Hornby's complete Polysyllabic Spree collection (which also includes Housekeeping vs. The Dirt and Shakespeare Wrote for Money) in which he writes about the books he reads.  His apparent love of Charles Dickens and other classic authors has inspired me to delve into the past a bit more.


In the spirit of the new year, I resolve to read at least ten books from one of these lists.  In the meantime, I welcome your suggestions of how I should do this: Which list should I use?  Should I work my way through the list in order (1 - 100) or should I start with the books that sound most interesting to me?  However I end up choosing titles, it's likely to be the only resolution I keep this year, so I'll let you know how it goes. 

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