That BBC book list

I searched around to see if I could find the source of this BBC list. Its origins, like much on the Internet, are murky and mysterious. I found a list that was almost, but not quite, the same. Anyway, apparently the BBC assumes most people will have only read 6 of the 100 books on the list. This seems odd to me. “Most people” as in “most people who don’t read?” “Most people who live under a rock?”

Clarity, BBC. Clarity.


1) Bold those you have read.
2) Star the ones you loved.*
3) Italicize those you plan on reading.
4) (my addition) Underline those you have partially read (series) or gave the OCT (Old College Try)

001 Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen*

002 The Lord of the Rings– JRR Tolkien

003 Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte*

004 Harry Potter series– JK Rowling

005 To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee*

006 The Bible

007 Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte

008 Nineteen Eighty Four – George Orwell*

009 His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman

010 Great Expectations – Charles Dickens

011 Little Women – Louisa M Alcott*

012 Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy

013 Catch 22 – Joseph Heller

014 Complete Works of Shakespeare (How about the incomplete works of Shakespeare?)

015 Rebecca– Daphne Du Maurier*

016 The Hobbit– JRR Tolkien

017 Birdsong – Sebastian Faulks

018 Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger

019 The Time Traveller’s Wife– Audrey Niffenegger*

020 Middlemarch – George Eliot

021 Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchell

022 The Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald*

023 Bleak House – Charles Dickens

024 War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy

025 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams*

026 Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh

027 Crime and Punishment– Fyodor Dostoyevsky OTC-I tried, and tried to read this

028 Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck

029 Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll*

030 The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame

031 Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy

032 David Copperfield – Charles Dickens

033 Chronicles of Narnia – CS Lewis*

034 Emma – Jane Austen

035 Persuasion – Jane Austen

036 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – CS Lewis* (Didn’t we cover Narnia? Never mind.)

037 The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini

038 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis De Berniere

039 Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden

040 Winnie the Pooh – AA Milne

041 Animal Farm – George Orwell

042 The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown up to page 79, then I stopped.

043 One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez

044 A Prayer for Owen Meaney – John Irving

045 The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins

046 Anne of Green Gables– LM Montgomery*

047 Far From The Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy

048 The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood

049 Lord of the Flies – William Golding

050 Atonement – Ian McEwan

051 Life of Pi – Yann Martel

052 Dune – Frank Herbert

053 Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons I made it halfway through.

054 Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen

055 A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth

056 The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon

057 A Tale Of Two Cities – Charles Dickens

058 Brave New World – Aldous Huxley

059 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time – Mark Haddon

060 Love In The Time Of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez

061 Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck

062 Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov

063 The Secret History – Donna Tartt

064 The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold

065 Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas

066 On The Road – Jack Kerouac

067 Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy

068 Bridget Jones’s Diary – Helen Fielding

069 Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie

070 Moby Dick – Herman Melville

071 Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens

072 Dracula – Bram Stoker

073 The Secret Garden– Frances Hodgson Burnett*

074 Notes From A Small Island – Bill Bryson

075 Ulysses – James Joyce

076 The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath

077 Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome

078 Germinal – Emile Zola

079 Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray

080 Possession– AS Byatt I have this book, somewhere.

081 A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens

082 Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell

083 The Color Purple – Alice Walker

084 The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro

085 Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert

086 A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry

087 Charlotte’s Web – EB White

088 The Five People You Meet In Heaven – Mitch Albom

089 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

090 The Faraway Tree Collection – Enid Blyton

091 Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad

092 The Little Prince – Antoine De Saint-Exupery

093 The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks

094 Watership Down – Richard Adams

095 A Confederacy of Dunces– John Kennedy Toole

096 A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute

097 The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas

098 Hamlet – William Shakespeare

099 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl

100 Les Miserables – Victor Hugo


Filed under Books

24 responses to “That BBC book list

  1. ok as I read through the list, here is some of what i thought:

    first of all, you really really haven’t read The Little Prince???? You must MUST read it. It’s one of the best books ever. Ever.

    Here’s other ones that made me think/react:
    ones you haven’t read and didn’t mark as intending to that I think are worth reading (jmho of course): the kite runner, memoirs of a geisha, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, Love In The Time Of Cholera, Count of Monte Cristo

    I’ve read and loved those.

    Ones a bit more open for interpreation i think are Cloud Atlas which I did like a lot and Lovely Bones which was just so so sad. (so was kite runner but i still think that’s more essential reading)

    the one i really didn’t like (especially in retrospect) was life of pi.

    here’s my 2cents. (even tho you didn’t ask for it 🙂 )

  2. Charity

    Actually, that was me, being lazy. I own many of these books, intend to read them, I just stopped highlighting them all.

    Pretty much I want to/will read just about all of these on this list. They’ve all hit my book-radar.

  3. Amy

    Huh, between college and high school, I’ve read over half that list!

    Wouldn’t #98 be a gimme if you’d highlighted #14?

  4. Abby

    If you ever read ‘The Kite Runner’ a lot of it takes place in Fremont. I took Andrew and Kyra to Lake Elizabeth-which is mentioned in the book. I believe you went with us too once or twice ( I think they called it Lake Elizabeth). There is a kite festival every year-just like the book mentions.

    Sean and I used to live in an apartment not too far from ‘Little Kabul’.

  5. I’ve read 21 (though some were under duress like, “Of Mice and Men” — but I’ve discussed how much I despise Steinbeck before). And, yeah — why break out “Hamlet” from the complete works of Shakespear? And “The Lion…” from “The Chronicles of Narnia”?

    I don’t consider myself a “classics” reader, and I’ve read plenty of them. Huh.

  6. Veronica Vazquez

    I too have been trying to find the original source for the 6/100 figure. I suspect that it is fabricated to get indignant readers to blog about the list.

  7. Jenn

    I looked for the original when I posted mine but all I could find was an old one from the late 90s. I thought 6 was awfully low too but when I talked to people in my real life most of them hadn’t even read 6 of them, haha.

  8. I found your post when I went on a hunt for “BBC book list.” Murky and mysterious origins, indeed! My secret belief is that a bored grad student took an old list, monkeyed with it a bit, then slapped “BBC” on it for cred. Anyway, I couldn’t help writing about the infamous list on my own blog today. It is certainly all the rage this week.

  9. PM

    Just heard about this list on KFOG this morning & found your blog when I also was looking for the origins of the list. I’ve read 17, but thanks to this I just added 17 more to my “To Read” list!

  10. I suggest you add a new category: those that you haven’t read, but you have seen the movie!

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  12. Sarah Miller

    I’ve read 11 of them. And I’m only going into 10th grade this year.

  13. Erica

    Lots of great books on this list. But how is it that they managed to forget to put anything by Mark Twain up there? It’s not like every author on the list is British.

  14. Daný

    This is not the same list I found on There aren’t a very many differences though. I’m not even a native speaker of English and I’ve read 44 and half-read another 7. I am an English lit student though, so I guess that evens it out.

    The list is based on people’s favourites and they don’t necessarily equal high literature. Still, the list was doing ok until I came across “Bridget Jones’ Diary”… I’ve read it too, but how on earth did that make the list…


  15. Aleris

    Sorry! Didn’t see the comment before mine.

  16. ladynimue

    the 6/100 figure is the key to people reading and noticing this list ! like me !!! will make a tally of my standing on my blog soon 🙂

  17. Jim

    The origin of the list actually has nothing to do with any belief that people don’t read. It has to do with finding the MOST popular books being read. The origin is @

  18. Pingback: BBC List of 100 Books | Foothill Thoughts

  19. Sophie

    I’ve read 15 and i’m only twelve years old 😛

  20. Zac

    I’m 14 and I’ve read more than 6 and plan on reading more and more because I have them around the house. Of course, most of my friends haven’t read more than 6 and they might go their whole lives without reading most of these. So, i guess they took into account all of the people who despise reading with a passion (which I find impossible to do :))

  21. Pingback: How many of these books have you read? « The Willow Papers

  22. Cassie

    I’ve read 27….but that’s because my high school has most of these as mandatory books, and then freshman English in college. Some of them I loved, and others I LOATHED. Thanks for sharing!

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