The Big Read - The Outcome

1 Conversation

Last Saturday night on BBC2 saw the culmination of what

has been a nearly year long process in discovering the

British nation's favourite book. It all started off in the

spring with a request from the Beeb for the nation to get in

touch and nominate their favourite books. The public made

over 140,000 suggestions, listing a total of 6,200


During the summer this was collated to produce a list of

the nation's top 100. Though they were very tight-lipped as to

the order they came in, as this was to be the subject of an

autumn series of programmes.

On Saturday 18th October the BBC launched a series of Big

Read programmes, with an accompanying tie-in on BBCi and in

advertising promotions in book shops up and down the country.

The first show counted down the list from 100 to 22, with a

studio panel of talking heads describing the pros and cons of

the various books. The show then listed the top 21 books in

alphabetical order and asked the nation to vote for them by

phone, text and e-mail.

Over the next seven Saturdays, in a one-and-a-half hour TV

show, three celebrities per week would have the chance to

promote their choice for the best book. These were done as

half-hour films, all specially commissioned and filmed in

locations right around the world. Some were really good,

particularly Ray Mears for The Lord of the Rings and Phil

Jupitus for Winnie the Pooh. Others less so, particularly

Sanjeev Bhaskar's rather self-indulgent examination of The

Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy

The final show in the series brought together the

proponents of the top 5 books in the voting to have another

pitch live from the Royal Opera House for their nomination.

The programme opened with a quick run down of places 21 to 6.

Then the telephone lines were opened until the end of the

show for the public to carry on voting (at 15p per call).

The atmosphere in this final programme was quite heated.

There were many barbed comments about certain recent

block-buster Hollywood movies helping out with the voting for

one particular book. A typical comment being that this was

supposed to be the 'Big Read' not the 'Big Watch'. But it was

all no avail, when the final votes were announced The Lord of

The Rings had won by a landslide, some 174,000 votes or 23%

of the total votes cast for the top 21.

So what did we learn from all this?

The British love books and can get really passionate about

them when they so chose. Already the British buy more books

per head of population than any other county in Europe, and

this 'Big Read' project has helped give the reading habit a

further boost as shown by some of the shows statistics

  • Viewing figures have been consistently over 2 million for

    each of the 9 programmes in the series.
  • 750,000 votes in total were cast for the top 21

  • Sales of books listed in the top 100 have topped 3

    million during the year.
  • Some books on the list have increased their sales by up

    to 500% since the show launched in October.
  • The bookies know nothing about books. The starting price

    for LoTR was 5-1 when the book opened, with Pride and

    the favourite at 3-1. The book closed within a

    couple of days when they realised that all the money was

    going one way!

And what of the h2g2 Community's voting

As the tables below show, we follow along pretty much the

same lines as the rest of the country with one or two

exceptions. Yes, LoTR won our vote by a landslide, and yes

Hitch-Hikers did well - could it do otherwise?

Pride and Prejudice did less well, coming in at joint 9th

against 2nd for the nation as a whole; and nobody here at all

voted for Harry Potter.

~smiley - cracker~smiley - cracker~smiley - book~smiley - cracker~smiley - cracker

The Nation's

1Lord of the Rings -

JRR Tolkien
2Pride and Prejudice -

Jane Austen
3His Dark Materials -

Philip Pullman
4The Hitchhiker's Guide to

the Galaxy
- Douglas Adams
5Harry Potter and the

Goblet of Fire
- JK Rowling
6To Kill a Mockingbird

- Harper Lee
7Winnie the Pooh - AA

8Nineteen Eighty Four

- George Orwell
9The Lion, the Witch and

the Wardrobe
- CS Lewis
10Jane Eyre -

Charlotte Brontë
11Catch 22 - Joseph

12Wuthering Heights -

Emily Brontë
13Birdsong - Sebastian

14Rebecca - Daphne du

15The Catcher in the

- JD Salinger
16The Wind in the

- Kenneth Grahame
17Great Expectations -

Charles Dickens
18Little Women -

Louisa May Alcott
19Captain Corelli's

- Louis de Bernieres
20War and Peace - Leo

21Gone with the Wind -

Margaret Mitchell

~smiley - cracker~smiley - cracker~smiley - book~smiley - cracker~smiley - cracker

The h2g2 Community's

1Lord of the Rings -

JRR Tolkien
2The Hitchhiker's Guide to

the Galaxy
- Douglas Adams
3To Kill a Mockingbird

- Harper Lee
4=Catch 22 - Joseph

Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell
6=The Catcher in the

- JD Salinger
His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne
9=Captain Corelli's

- Louis de Bernieres
Jane Eyre - Charlotte Brontë
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe - CS Lewis
Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
Rebecca - Daphne du Maurier
War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame
Wuthering Heights - Emily Brontë
11=Birdsong -

Sebastian Faulks
Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
Gone with the Wind - Margaret Mitchell
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire - JK Rowling
Little Women - Louisa May Alcott

Christmas banner by Wotchit


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