The Big Read

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For the United States communal reading program, see One City One Book.

The Big Read was a survey on books carried out by the BBC in the United Kingdom in 2003, where over three quarters of a million votes were received from the British public to find the nation's best-loved novel of all time.[1][2] The year-long survey was the biggest single test of public reading taste to date,[3] and culminated with several programmes hosted by celebrities, advocating their favourite books.[4]


The BBC started the Big Read with the goal of finding the "Nation's Best-loved Novel" by way of a viewer vote via the Web, SMS, and telephone. The show attracted controversy for adopting an allegedly sensationalist approach to literature, but supporters praised it for raising the public awareness of reading.[5] The British public voted originally for any novel that they wished.[5] From this, a list of 200 was drawn up, with the highest 21 then put forward for further voting, on the provision that only one book per author was permitted in the top 21. As the poll was based on novels, the plays of William Shakespeare were not part of the survey.

Top 200 novels in the United Kingdom[edit]

Authors with multiple novels on the list[edit]

Multiple novels in the Top 25

In the first stage, all four extant Harry Potter novels by J. K. Rowling were among the 25 leaders. So were both Middle-earth novels by J. R. R. Tolkien. The second stage featured 21 books by distinct authors: the top 25 with Rowling represented only by her fourth volume, Goblet of Fire, and Tolkien only by The Lord of the Rings. Those two novels finally placed fifth and first; the other preliminary leaders by Rowling and Tolkien nominally led the also-rans in ranks 22–25.

Multiple novels in the Top 50
Multiple novels in the Top 100
Multiple novels in the Top 200
  • Fifteen: Terry Pratchett
  • Fourteen: Jacqueline Wilson
  • Nine: Roald Dahl
  • Seven: Charles Dickens
  • Four: Thomas Hardy, J. K. Rowling
  • Three: Jane Austen, Anthony Horowitz, Stephen King, John Steinbeck
  • Two: George Eliot, John Irving, Gabriel García Márquez, George Orwell, J. R. R. Tolkien, Leo Tolstoy

See also[edit]

Contests similar to the Big Read were conducted in other countries:

Other lists:


External links[edit]