Debunking/worshipping the Facebook BBC 100

It’s making the rounds on Facebook – a list of 100 books supposedly compiled by the BBC.  I was tagged by my friend Betsy, with the following note:  The BBC believes most people will have read only 6 of the 100 books listed here. 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 an excerpt. Tag other book nerds. Tag me as well so I can see your responses!

I looked at the list and immediately got suspicious.  For a list supposedly compiled by the BBC, it’s awfully heavy on American novels.  Plus Shakespeare is on the list as “The Complete Works of Shakespeare,” just as the JK Rowling series is “The Harry Potter books.”  This is lumping an awful lot of reading into a single clump, while Charles Dickens, for example, has numerous books listed separately.

So, I tried to go to the source.  But the only thing similar to this actually tied directly to the BBC is the 2003 Big Read – a search for the nation’s best loved book.  A check of Snopes.com revealed nothing relevant.  Everything else was either a repeat of the FB post or a blog post related to the FB posts – including many from other skeptical folks like me.  The word “meme” came up frequently.

Now “meme” is a word that I have a passing acquaintance with.  Like “trope,” it’s a word you don’t use often and kind of understand when you read it in context. So I looked it up:   a meme is a cultural unit (an idea or value or pattern of behavior) that is passed from one person to another by non-genetic means (as by imitation); “memes are the cultural counterpart of genes.”

Of course, there is nothing more fascinating than measuring yourself against a completely arbitrary and meaningless yardstick.  It’s pretty clear that the “most people haven’t read more than six” measure is made completely of cotton candy.  And yet, I am proud to announce that I have read 67 of the 100 books.  I can also faithfully promise that I am not going to make an effort to read all 100.  (Although I may dip into the list a little bit – I am intrigued by #9, His Dark Materials.)

So, just as all the other ninehundredninetyninemillion bloggers did, here is the list of 100 books. I bolded the 67 I read.  Feel free to amuse yourself by counting up the ones you read and share with the blogosphere your personal number via the comments section.

  • 1 Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
  • 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 (bold for the Old Testament, italics for the New)
  • 7 Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte
  • 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 Faulk
  • 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

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