My BBC Big Read Book List

Have I read the “classics”?

You know I can’t say no to lists and statistics.

I originally started compiling this list almost 2 years ago as a blog entry, but since I just got tagged by Andrle on Facebook, I thought I’d finally finish and post it. I’m not sure on the provenance of the list, other than I know it’s from one year of the BBC Big Read project. I found one version of the list on their website, but that differs slightly from the list below (which oddly enough is the same ordered ranking as the version with which I was just tagged).

There are of course numerous quibbles to be had with the exact construction (and ordering) of the list, but it’s a reasonable metric for one’s familiarity with “the classics”. It also appears to avoid the common online book list voting problem where Ayn Rand ends up all over the top 10. This particular list is skewed towards 19th Century British classics, with a few books that were very trendy at the time it was compiled (for example, on a list from about two years ago I would have expected to see Eat, Pray, Love in the Top 100). There are also several books I’ve never heard of, although in some cases I’m familiar with the author.

I’ve read 30 of the entries (some of which are multiple books), started but never finished 3 books, and been exposed to another 13 in various other forms. Not too shabby for an engineer who took effectively one humanities course in college, and that in another language! If anything, it’s a demonstration of the quality of my high school’s required English program, that I was exposed to a number of books I otherwise wouldn’t have elected to read. That all said, I don’t read a lot of fiction these days, and when I do, it’s typically new fiction. That means there’s a good chance I’ll never tackle any of those that I’m missing, or never finished.

Full list below the cut.


Read in its entirety
Started but never finished
Exposed to in another form (movie, children’s condensed, or comic book version)
[my comments]


  1. Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
  2. The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien [all three at least 4 times]
  3. Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
  4. Harry Potter series – JK Rowling [all 7, some 3-4 times]
  5. To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee [at least twice]
  6. The Bible [a lot, but not the more obscure books]
  7. Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte
  8. Nineteen Eighty Four – George Orwell
  9. His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman [all 3, at least twice]
  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 [been in and read various plays, but nowhere near complete]
  15. Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier
  16. The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien [at least 3 times
  17. Birdsong – Sebastian Faulk
  18. Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger
  19. The Time Traveller’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger [the movie sucked]
  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 [gift from mom, too thick for middle school me]
  25. The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams [twice, first time at the right age]
  26. Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh
  27. Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky [tried tackling this twice]
  28. Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck
  29. Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll [read Through the Looking Glass as well, plus multiple movie versions]
  30. The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame [Just the Disney movie]
  31. Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy
  32. David Copperfield – Charles Dickens
  33. Chronicles of Narnia – CS Lewis [read all 7 at least 6 times]
  34. Emma – Jane Austen [movie]
  35. Persuasion – Jane Austen
  36. The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – CS Lewis [read at least 6 times]
  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 [various stories, plus the Disney animated and live action episodes]
  41. Animal Farm – George Orwell
  42. The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown [never saw the movie though]
  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 [plus both movie versions]
  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 [read twice]
  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 [plus the movie]
  62. Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov
  63. The Secret History – Donna Tartt
  64. The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold
  65. Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas [just the recent movie]
  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 [classic movie version, plus blog reordering, plus kid novel version]
  73. The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett [’90s movie version]
  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 [read it, but the Muppet version is the best]
  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 [read a number of collected stories, but definitely not all]
  90. The Faraway Tree Collectaion – Enid Blyton
  91. Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad
  92. The Little Prince – Antoine De Saint-Exupery [can’t remember why I didn’t finish it – boring?]
  93. The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks
  94. Watership Down – Richard Adams [plus the trippy movie]
  95. A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole
  96. A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute
  97. The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas [Classics Illustrated comic book!]
  98. Hamlet – William Shakespeare
  99. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl [plus both movie versions]
  100. Les Miserables – Victor Hugo [musical]


2 responses to “My BBC Big Read Book List”

  1. Benjamin R. George Avatar
    Benjamin R. George

    The two main biases I see in this list are for stuff that’s assigned in high school, and for relatively recent stuff (by which I mean roughly past twenty years).

    Not that this makes it any more ridiculous than other such lists.

  2. Rachel Sapiro Avatar
    Rachel Sapiro

    Wow, that’s a pretty skewed list. I’m not that well-read according to most “classics” lists, but I’ve read 31 of those all the way through, read substantial portions of 6 more (4 series where I didn’t read at least one book all the way through but didn’t read all the books (including the Bible), 1 I put down, and 1 abridged but in the original language (Three Musketeers)). Plus 16 where I either haven’t read it or haven’t read all of it, but have seen at least one movie version (and I didn’t bother counting how many where I’d read the book and seen the movie).

    Maybe the list is skewed toward things that have movie versions. I’m not sure I even knew Atonement was a book, for example, but I’ve certainly seen the movie.

Nurd Up!