Evolution of a Book Meme

Books!Today I was tagged 3 different times in a Facebook meme targeted to “nerds”. The premise is that there is a list of 100 books, and “The BBC believes most people will have read only 6 of the 100 books listed here.”

Apparently, I really am a nerd. I know how these things go, and was fairly certain that this would turn out to not be the original list. For one thing, it included series of books and counted them as a single book, and then overlapped them with individual books in the series (ie. the list included both The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe individually as well as The Chronicles of Narnia), and there appeared to be no common theme whatsoever in the list (classics mixed with pop culture mixed with some rather obscure titles). Also, it was quite obvious that it wasn’t a list of “must reads”, since there wasn’t a single Neil Gaiman book included.

Out of curiosity and being the geek that I am, I decided to track down where it started and see how much people modified the original list to suit themselves. It looks like this list actually started as BBC’s Big Read, which was a viewers poll the BBC conducted back in April 2003. The list itself was from the search for the UK’s “best-loved novel”, and was composed the top 100 books chosen by the BBC’s audience, in order. According to that list, the top “novel” was JRR Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings” (which is also a series and not a single book, and probably there at least in part due to the fact that the Peter Jackson movies of that series came out from 2001 – 2003), followed by Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice” at #2 and Philip Pullman’s “His Dark Materials” (which again, is a trilogy, the first book of which the 2007 movie The Golden Compass based upon) at #3.

Some interesting (if you really are a nerd) differences between the two lists are:

  • In the original, only 4 of the Harry Potter books were included (only 4 were written back then), whereas in the current list the entire series is listed as a single book.
  • Somewhere along the line after 2003 but before March 2007, someone added in the Bible.
  • The original list did include 1 Neil Gaiman book, or at least one he co-authored, “Good Omens” (by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman).
  • Not sure where the “will have read only 6 of the 100 books” bit started, but usually that’s the kind of things people add in to get other people to spread the meme. That claim is not made in the original list
  • In the current version, which is mostly from a list that was going around in 2007, there is no order at all to the books listed.
  • In the version I was tagged in, and which I see others tagged in when I search Google, the “100 books” only have 98 actually listed. No idea why they were dropped, but both #23 and #26 are missing. Based on the 2007 version I found, those two were:
    23 Bleak House – Charles Dickens
    26 Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh

And now, the meme itself, using the current version of the list:

“The BBC believes most people will have read only 6 of the 100 (minus 2) books listed here.”

  • Bold those books you’ve read in their entirety.
  • Italicize the ones you started but didn’t finish or read only an excerpt.

Tag other nerds (including me.)

1. Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
2. 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
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 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
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

So, based on the fact that I have only read 17 of these books (or 29, if you count each book in the ones that are trilogies or series) it would seem that maybe I am not that nerdy after all… although, based on the fact that I actually did do the research for this post, I probably am. 😀

Books image attribution goes to zimpenfish.
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5 thoughts on “Evolution of a Book Meme

  1. I got tagged for this too, but I hate those things so I ignore them. But I do wonder at a list that includes Jane Austen, William Thackeray and *Mitch Albom* (not a fan)

    And for the record, I’ve read 49 of ’em to the finish.

  2. I am the kind of jerk that changes these lists when I get them, then reposts and tags everyone. Not to give myself a better score, but because I get tagged so often on facebook, it’s a point of pride to be a jerk about it.

    It all started with one of those questionnaires that had the question, “What’s on your desktop?” and I answered “Blood”. It went downhill from there.

    I can’t be the only one that does this…

  3. The list is flawed.
    First blush omissions:
    The Federalist Papers, and
    The Art of War.
    Certainly both these books are more widely read than those on the list.
    There are more, indeed. Oxford Dictionary, Black’s, etc.
    A list of classic fiction really means nothing, since knowledge comes primarily from non-fiction tomes. Imagination may change the world, but only when it intersects with reality… The list is dismissable.
    FYI: Have read 17 and never used anything contained within any one–except to correct mis-quotes, of course.

  4. Stumbled on this and felt obligated to add my nerdy two cents in and point out that “The Lord of the Rings” is not in fact a trilogy, but a single novel that was just too large to be printed as one.

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