Thanksgiving Memeage: The “BBC” Book List

It’s been forever since I’ve done a meme and it’s a holiday and I’m currently in a post-food stupor, so now seems like a good time to answer the “BBC Book Meme” that’s been going on around Facebook and the Crusader challenge. Now, a better name for it would be the one a dear Facebook friend suggested: “An Extremely Subjective List Of Books Someone Else Thinks I Should Have Read.” More on that in a minute, but first the list:

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.

  • Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
  • The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien
  • Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
  • Harry Potter series – JK Rowling
  • To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee (#1 on my top five desert island list)
  • The Bible
  • Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte
  • Nineteen Eighty Four – George Orwell
  • His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman
  • Great Expectations – Charles Dickens
  • Little Women – Louisa M Alcott
  • Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy
  • Catch 22 – Joseph Heller
  • Complete Works of Shakespeare
  • Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier
  • The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien
  • Birdsong – Sebastian Faulk
  • Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger (I’m just going to come right out and say it – Holden Caulfield is a whiner.)
  • The Time Traveler’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger
  • Middlemarch – George Eliot
  • Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchell
  • The Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald (#2 on the Top five desert island list)
  • War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy
  • The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams
  • Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  • Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck
  • Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll
  • The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame
  • Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy
  • David Copperfield – Charles Dickens
  • Chronicles of Narnia – CS Lewis
  • Emma -Jane Austen
  • Persuasion – Jane Austen
  • The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe – CS Lewis
  • The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini
  • Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis De Bernieres
  • Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden (Yeah, I read it. Yeah the movie was a travesty.)
  • Winnie the Pooh – A.A. Milne
  • Animal Farm – George Orwell
  • The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown (Two hours of my life I will never get back.)
  • One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  • A Prayer for Owen Meaney – John Irving
  • The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins
  • Anne of Green Gables – LM Montgomery
  • Far From The Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy
  • The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
  • Lord of the Flies – William Golding
  • Atonement – Ian McEwan
  • Life of Pi – Yann Martel
  • Dune – Frank Herbert
  • Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons
  • Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen
  • A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth
  • The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon
  • A Tale Of Two Cities – Charles Dickens
  • Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
  • The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time – Mark Haddon
  • Love In The Time Of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  • Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck
  • Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov
  • The Secret History – Donna Tartt
  • The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold
  • Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas
  • On The Road – Jack Kerouac
  • Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy
  • Bridget Jones’s Diary – Helen Fielding
  • Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie
  • Moby Dick – Herman Melville
  • Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens
  • Dracula – Bram Stoker
  • The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett
  • Notes From A Small Island – Bill Bryson
  • Ulysses – James Joyce
  • The Inferno – Dante
  • Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome
  • Germinal – Emile Zola
  • Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray
  • Possession – AS Byatt
  • A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens
  • Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell
  • The Color Purple – Alice Walker
  • The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro
  • Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert
  • A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry
  • Charlotte’s Web – E.B. White
  • The Five People You Meet In Heaven – Mitch Albom
  • Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
  • The Faraway Tree Collection – Enid Blyton
  • Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad
  • The Little Prince – Antoine De Saint-Exupery
  • The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks
  • Watership Down – Richard Adams
  • A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole
  • A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute
  • The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas
  • Hamlet – William Shakespeare
  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl
  • Les Miserables – Victor Hugo

To be honest, I look at that list and I think, not so shabby. I read a lot, but I never considered myself very well read and yet, here’s a little evidence that I might just be. (53 books! 53 books!!) Of course, I should add that the reason for all the boldface on this list is that I was an English minor and did a three-year MFA with lots of lit courses. When you’re essentially majoring in English for seven years, you do a lot of required reading.

Now about that alternate title. Of course, any person is going to read the list and think, what’s that doing on there? Is Bridget Jones’ Diary really one of the Great Works of Literature? (Answer: Maybe not, but it did spark some life into the chick lit genre and is notable for that alone.) Did you do that about a title or two? Of course you did. That was the whole point. Kind of.

Anyway, like many I was suspicious when I saw the list and some of it’s weird inconsistencies – Hamlet AND The Complete Works of Shakespeare? So I went poking around the internet and discovered the BBC’s The Big Read List looked quite similar to the list above. Let’s look at the list description, shall we?

In April 2003, BBC’s Big Read began the search for the nation’s best-loved novel, and we asked you to nominate your favourite books. Below and on the next page are all the results from number 1 to 100 in numerical order!

Yeah, not quite a throwdown about most people having read only six of them, is it? Nor does the list say anything about the selections being literature with a capital L. In fact, the spirit of the original list are popular, well-loved reads. Honestly, I kind of like the original list better.

More Google Fu led me to this discussion about how memes start and why this one in particular has become so popular. The author points out how the original list was changed and how it continues to evolve since 2003. It’s worth a read, especially if you’re interested in internet culture and all that jazz.

Anyway, not to rain on anyone’s parade, but while I think it’s good to compare reading lists, I think it’s equally important to know where these things come from and why they appeal to us. There’s no one reading list that’s going to fit everyone’s belief about what literature (again, with the capital L) is or is not.

Happy Thanksgiving, y’all!

4 thoughts on “Thanksgiving Memeage: The “BBC” Book List

  1. I agree, it’s fun to hear what other people read. I’d rather people make their own lists, though. Another thing I don’t like about lists like this is that they kind of encourage people to fudge the truth a bit. I think finishing a book means you’ve read it, but reading just a bit of it or the Spark Notes companion doesn’t count. But immediately we are put on the defensive when we see “throwdowns” like this (great term!). Happy Thanksgiving and thanks for spreading some sanity!

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  2. I’m so happy that someone else in internet-land is as, hmmm, (insert word here) as me. Except that after I looked up the original list, I went back to FB and started berating people (nicely) about believing that “6 books” thing to begin with. 😉

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  3. 🙂 Given there are a million posts on this particular meme this week, I thought it might be bad mannered to mention the fact that the whole origins of the list (and the list itself) are completely, um, fabricated. Like you I went and checked the original BBC list on THEIR website. I think this now classifies as an urban myth akin to the ones which do the email rounds (and which I never forward ‘cos I’m a meanie that way, even if little Violetta does have a rare disease and only has three months to live…back in 2001).

    Even so, well done on having read 53 books on the list – still quite an achievement in anyone’s book (bad pun intended).

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