Month: January 2011

The alleged BBC book list Facebook meme

It’s time to catch up on the bandwagons that passed me by over the past few months.

Without the pressure of feeling as though I needed to share my list alongside everybody else, I spent some time trying to figure out where this list really came from. Most importantly, there’s no such list on the BBC website. However, there is a similar list that the BBC published in 2003, with many of the same books in a different order.

There are interesting differences between the 2003 BBC list and the 2009-2011 Facebook version — both in terms of the list itself and the context provided with each. The Facebook version alleges that the “BBC believes most people will have read only 6 of the 100 books,” while the original site only states that the BBC “began the search for the nation’s favorite novel, and … asked you to nominate your favourite books.” Variations also exist among the versions of the instructions that accompany the list, adding or removing formatting, asterisks, comments, and so on to indicate the variety of ways in which the individual has consumed the book.

Whoever compiled the list I’m using consolidated books in a series but also left individual books from the same series. For example, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe made the BBC list at #9, while both the book (#36) and the series (#33) made the list on Facebook.

What’s most thought-provoking to me, though, is how a list of books sorted by popularity among Britons at a particular point in time has been transformed into an apparent challenge from an authority figure and a competition within our social circles. How very American…

Verbatim, the instructions making their way around Facebook:
Instructions: Have you read more than 6 of these books? The BBC believes most people will have read only 6 of the 100 books listed here. Copy this into your NOTES. Bold those books you’ve read in their entirety, italicize the ones you started but didn’t finish or read an excerpt, and underline the ones for which you’ve seen the movies.

My list (after the jump): (more…)