The Big Read

Published on July 2, 2008 by

There’s a meme going around the blogosphere right now that begins with:

The Big Read reckons that the average adult has only read 6 of the top 100 books they’ve printed.

I’ve also seen a variant:

According to "The Big Read", the average adult has only read 6 of the top 100 books on their list.

It then gives this supposed top 100 list.

At least the second version is more realistic, because it doesn’t claim to be a list of the top 100 books printed. (Whether "they" refers to The Big Read or the great and nebulous They Who Do Things, it matters not.)  That would explain how the Bible managed to fall to 6th place and why the Koran doesn’t make an appearance.

The first time I encountered the list, I thought it looked fishy.  After all, it is supposed to be a list of 100 books, but includes:

4 Harry Potter series – JK Rowling

Last time I counted, that was seven books.  Same with this:

33 Chronicles of Narnia – CS Lewis

But then there’s this:

36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – CS Lewis

Hmm.  What do I do if I’ve read #33, but not #36?  Or #14 without reading #98?

14 Complete Works of Shakespeare
98 Hamlet – William Shakespeare

After seeing so many people blog this meme, I decided to do a little checking.

So far, I have been unable to find anyone who actually links to The Big Read’s list of 100 books, or to The Big Read’s claim that the average adult has only read six of the books.

I did find one person who linked to The Big Read at this site: http://neabigread.org.  However, a search of that site reveals no list of 100 books, or any page that mentions the #1 book on the list, "Pride and Prejudice" — the only mention is, strangely, for a screening of the movie.

There was a BBC programme called "The Big Read" that held a vote for the UK’s best-loved book, and they have a list of the top 100.  But it doesn’t match up with this list.

Apparently I wasn’t the only person to have doubts.  The Rabid Paladin has tracked down the source of the list, at least, and a possible source for the (probably wrong) 6 out of 100 number.

Somehow, I doubt that the correct information meme will spread as far and wide as the original meme.

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2 comments on “The Big Read”

  1. […] a Living and thought I would participate. Purplesque has also posted the list. Apparently, it is a bit of a scam, but I can look beyond […]

  2. Maureen says:

    This list is from a survey taken in connection with World Book Day. The books are listed here:
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2007/mar/01/news

    You can read more about World Book Day here:
    http://www.worldbookday.com/

    The NEA\’s Big Read only has 24 books on its list.
    http://www.neabigread.org

    I think the claim about the average person only reading six books was taken from the NEA\’s Reading at Risk: A Survey of Literary Reading in America. That\’s probably how the NEA\’s Big Read got connected to the World Book Day\’s survey and list.

    \”The 2002 SPPA asked all respondents how many books they read in 2002. Respondents who answered affirmatively indicated that they read approximately six books.\”

    The 2002 Survey of Public Participation in the Arts (SPPA) was conducted as a supplement to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Current Population Study (CPS), which scientifically selects households to represent the socio-economic characteristics of the U.S. population.