A poor performance

The Very Public Sociologist has a list of the Big Read’s Top 100 books.

Apparently the average adult has only read six of these.

This is what the Big Read says to do:

1) Look at the list and bold those you have read.

2) Italicize those you intend to read.

3) Underline the books you love.

4) Strike out the books you have no intention of ever reading, or were forced to read at school and hated.

5) Reprint this list in your own blog so we can try and track down these people who’ve only read 6 and force books upon them

Here is the list.

1 Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
2 The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien
3 Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
4 The 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 Traveller’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger
20 Middlemarch – George Eliot

21 Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchell
22 The Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald
23 Bleak House – Charles Dickens
24 War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy

25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams
26 Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh
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 – AA 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 Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath

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 – EB 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

As you can see I’m not as well read as I thought, having read only twenty-nine on the list. I’ve read other novels by some of the italicised authors – for example, The World According to Garp and Garcia Marquez’s short stories – but it is still a poor show.

I don’t know how to underline on WordPress but the books I love on this list are Nineteen Eighty-Four, The Great Gatsby, The Secret History and His Dark Materials among others. I’ve struck out Da Vinci Code  because, well, why wouldn’t you,  and Tolkien because I’ve always considered him very overrated as a fantasy author. The rest I will try to read.

10 Responses to “A poor performance”

  1. BigReader Says:

    82 down, 18 to go. Woo-hoo!

  2. maxdunbar Says:


  3. Galadriel's Love Slave Says:

    “I’ve always considered him [Tolkien] very overrated as a fantasy author”? What? OK, it’s certainly possible to overrate him as a writer of dialogue, or as a master of characterisation, or for all sorts of other legitimate litcrit-type reasons, but as a fantasy author? The guy reinvented the genre and, for better and for worse (in many cases, far, far worse), his influence has shaped the work of most other fantasy authors for 50 years and more. By what criteria can he be said to be overrated *as a fantasy author*? Who’s better?

  4. Darren Says:

    i think you meant to write smug bastard. 😉

  5. maxdunbar Says:


    Oh no, I’ve offended the hardcore Tolkien net fans!

    Who’s better? Well, Stephen King’s Dark Tower and Philip Pullman’s Dark Materials both piss on the Rings.


    Yes – smug bastard, that was it. Not only can I not read, I can’t write!

  6. LaTale Says:

    Heh, good luck with your reading quest. I’d read only if I had more time, which unfortunately I don’t.

  7. maxdunbar Says:

    Thanks for the vote of confidence.

  8. Rachel Fox Says:

    It’s a very odd list. I’ve read 54 of these but if I had to take exams on them right now I would probably not do brilliantly! Reading is one thing but taking it in and remembering some of it…that’s another story altogether!

  9. maxdunbar Says:

    Yeah, the factor of being seen to have read things is a major one in these kinds of lists.

  10. annie Says:

    you have to read a fine balance rohinton mistry, it’s a beautiful book. I also really liked curious incident.. by mark haddon, I thought it was entertaining and quite sad/funny

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