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Thursday, March 1, 2007

What Books the Brits Can’t Live Without

posted by on March 1 at 14:00 PM

It can’t be helped. I’m drawn to lists. Here’s a new one: An organization called World Book Day—which is, uh, today, as you probably don’t know—has conducted a survey of 2,044 people in the UK to find out the books “they can’t live without.” The Guardian published the list today.

At the very top? Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien, and Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. The fourth? Freakin’ Harry Potter, which beats out the Complete Works of William Shakespeare, Catcher in the Rye, Anna Karenina, The Great Gatsby, Alice in Wonderland, etc., etc.

And don’t get me started on Moby Dick’s position on the list versus Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code’s.

Here’s the whole list. Here’s some scant Guardian analysis. Here’s the website for World Book Day, the quality of which should indicate how seriously to take all this…

RSS icon Comments

1

I'm so embarrassed by humans.

I certainly can't live without my BRIDGET JONES'S FUCKING DIARY. I wonder which Five People I'll Meet in Heaven?

Also, hey everybody: Life of Pi SUCKS.

Posted by Lindy | March 1, 2007 2:19 PM
2

That proves it. The British are the Americans of Europe.

Posted by keshmeshi | March 1, 2007 2:31 PM
3

But can you imagine what the actual American list would look like?

Posted by Lindy | March 1, 2007 2:35 PM
4

Lindy @3:
More Clancy, Crichton, and Steel than you can shake a stick at. 8 different versions of the Bible. Stephen King, Dean Koontz, and a bunch of people insisting that "'People' is a book, right?"

Posted by Jessica | March 1, 2007 2:39 PM
5

Cool to see His Dark Materials up there. Some good stuff up there, and definitely a higher good/bad ratio than would appear on a similar American list.

To be honest, I can't think of any books "I couldn't live without." If I've read them, I don't need to read them again, even if I love them, and if I haven't, I don't know what I'm missing. Maybe a dictionary? Or a phone book?

Posted by Levislade | March 1, 2007 2:48 PM
6

Lindy @ 1: I don't think Life of Pi sucks -- it's lumpy oatmeal, sure, but it's an interesting experiment. Obviously you've never had to justify to yourself (via allegory) an embarrassing lapse into cannibalism. On the other hand, how it could rank ahead of Dune is beyond me.

Posted by MvB | March 1, 2007 2:56 PM
7

Right now I can't live without The archaeology of the Industrial Revolution by Brian Bracegirdle et al.

Posted by Fnarf | March 1, 2007 2:58 PM
8

I agree with Lindy. It took me about 3.14 seconds to wretch at Life of Pi. What a waste!!

Posted by HATER | March 1, 2007 3:16 PM
9

HATER @ 8: I see what you did there! 3.14, that's pi!

But I think you probably retched, and then felt wretched.

Posted by MvB | March 1, 2007 3:23 PM
10

repeating!

Posted by SEAN NELSON, EMERITUS | March 1, 2007 3:29 PM
11

MvB:
I thought it was self-satisfied and precious and hollow. And tedious. I wanted the prose to be lovelier.
And I wanted everyone's mom to shut up about it.

Posted by Lindy | March 1, 2007 3:48 PM
12

Lindy:
I expected self-satisfied and precious and hollow, and was surprised to find an extended allegory. Perhaps I'm being overly kind because of that. But it didn't make me want to beat my head against a wall to make it stop, like Da Vinci Code for instance.

"I wanted the prose to be lovelier.
And I wanted everyone's mom to shut up about it."

Welcome to my world.

Posted by MvB | March 1, 2007 5:00 PM
13

When Yann Martel was in Seattle for Life of Pi, someone in the audience breathlessly asked him how they should interpret the novel. Martel then gave a little chuckle and said, "There are three ways you could look at the book," and he went on to provide windbaggy litcrit explanations of his own book. And the crowd was lapping it up. I've never seen anything like it, before or since, and I just couldn't help but think, "Man, what a wad..."

Posted by Paul Constant | March 1, 2007 5:53 PM
14

ooohhh, I can not WAIT to hear about how many evangelicals are pissed off that Harry Potter beat out the Bible on this list!

I should go pop in Jesus Camp for another watch just to giggle at the Harry Potter scenes again.

Posted by Dee in SF | March 1, 2007 6:39 PM
15


Argh. I'm soverytired of the whole Books Must Be Appreciated as High Literature thing. There's nothing wrong with people enjoying stories for stories. And no need, even if you absolutely adore James Joyce, to have his oeuvre represent your go-to reading experience.


Posted by lauren | March 2, 2007 10:32 AM
16

P.S.: They asked "what book can't you live without?" not "which book educated you the most," "which book changed your world view," "which book had the loveliest prose" or "which book impresses your intellectual neighbors the most."

Posted by lauren | March 2, 2007 10:36 AM
17

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Posted by ixvrqjwk glaob | March 10, 2007 3:30 PM

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