The UK’s favourite books – but are they yours?

Published by Emma Lee-Potter in on Tuesday 22nd May 2012

I nearly fell off my chair when I read this morning’s report in Stylist magazine about the UK’s favourite books. My friend Constance clearly did too. “If The Da Vinci Code is really one of the UK’s best-loved books then I’m emigrating,” she tweeted. Her reaction reminded me of Salman Rushdie, who in 2005 described it as “a novel so bad that it gives bad novels a bad name.”

But sure enough, Dan Brown’s cryptic thriller was top of the list, followed by The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe by CS Lewis, 1984 by George Orwell, Great Expectations by Charles Dickens and then JRR Tolkein’s The Fellowship of the Ring.

Following hot on their heels came another classic from Tolkein, The Hobbit, then The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, Charotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre and in tenth place, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.

Well, I don’t know about anyone else, but apart from Jane Eyre, none of the others would make my top ten. Off the top of my head, I started compiling my favourite books. Let me know your most-loved novels, but here’s my current list:

1. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

2. North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell

3. Germinal by Emile Zola

4. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

5. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

6. A Kind of Loving by Stan Barstow

7. How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff

8. I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith

9. Burnt Shadows by Kamila Shamsie

10. Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín

PS. The survey, carried out by eye health supplement company ICaps, polled more than 1,000 adults across the UK.

12 comments so far

  • It seems to me that the original list suggests lots of people stop reading when they hit adulthood, which seems a very great pity. After that, most people buy what’s recommended, so, something like the Dan Brown only has to strike a chord… It’s a pity.

    I’m not sure I could begin to make a top ten list, but it’s certainly food for thought.

  • For me I would have to include The Shadow of the Wind, Carlos Ruiz Zafon, The Time Traveller’s Wife, Audrey Niffeneiger, The Floating Book, Michele Lovric, The Well Beloved, Thomas Hardy, …

    I did Jane Eyre for O’Level and have never quite recovered.

    Can’t decide on others right now, sorry!
    But it does occur to me that no Harry Potter, which is possibly surprising given some of the others

  • Trouble with all these surveys is that they poll people who read one book a year. If that!
    Thank you for reminding me about Stan Barstow; years since I read that, but I loved it. I’d be hard put to whittle it down to ten favourites; but apart from the obvious – P&P, Hardy, Trollope – I’d probably include Crossing to Safety (Wallace Stegner), The Rector’s Daughter (FM Mayor) and something by Willa Cather. And The Tortoise and the Hare (Elizabeth Jenkins). And I’d have to have an Elizabeth Taylor … Oh dear, we could be here all day.

  • Thanks Nicola. I think you’ve got a very good point. I was stunned to see so many children’s classics on the list. Not saying it’s bad, just surprising…

  • Thanks so much, Mary. Some great suggestions on your list. I agree it’s hard to come up with a list but it’s fun too. I’m thrilled you loved Stan Barstow – I’m a big fan.

  • I’ve always loved Jane Eyre and I Capture the Castle. 1984 is a book you never forget. I would include in my list Silas Marner and Never No More by Maura Laverty.

  • I’m never one to resist making a list so – here goes in no particular order
    The English Patient – Michael Ondaatje
    Cold Mountain – Charles Frazier
    The Crow Road – Iain Banks
    The Waves – Virginia Woolf
    War and Peace – Tolstoy
    Persuasion – Jane Austen
    Time Traveller’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger
    Far From The Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy
    Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
    and because it’s all about lists Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity

    Ask me again tomorrow and it will probably be a totally different list!

  • Glad you agree about Charlotte Bronte and Dodie Smith. And I’m ashamed to admit I’ve never read Silas Marner and don’t know Never No More at all. Trip to the library needed, I think.

  • I’m not a fan of all Hardy’s work. Tess of the d’Urbervilles suffered from being studied at school (though I always thought she whined too much) but I love FFTMC, perhaps influenced by the Julie Christie/Terence Stamp film.

    Can’t believe I forgot AS Byatt’s Possession yesterday. Something will have to go from the list!

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