The Top 100 books in the UK?

I read an article yesterday about the Top 100 most popular books in the UK.

I like lists. I enjoy seeing how I conform, or more often than not, don’t conform to everyone else. So how was this list compiled? Well, according to the Metro:

Researchers trawled literary forums and websites to compile a list of the best-loved books in the country.

The study was commissioned by the website to encourage people back into libraries.

Spokeswoman Elisabeth Robinson said: ‘No doubt literary aficionados will object to the likes of titles by Katie Price and Russell Brand appearing in the list.

‘But our view is that as long as people are picking up books and reading that has to be a positive thing.’

I’m not sure on the scientific value of this list, I would have thought a survey more appropriate. I do agree with anything to keep people reading books.

I did have a poke about the bookmarkyourlibrary website to link back to them, but couldn’t find anything on this commission. I’m sure the Metro didn’t make it up. Anyway, here is their top ten:


1) Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire – JK Rowling

2) The Hobbit – J R R Tolkien

3) The Bible

4) The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown

5) Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban – JK Rowling

6) The Official Highway Code – Department for Transport

7) The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – CS Lewis

8) Fifty Shades of Grey – E L James

9) To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee

10) Lord of the Rings: Return of the King – JRR Tolkein


So JK Rowling and JRR Tolkein make it into the Top 10 twice, but a big shout out to the Department for Transport.

Go the Highway Code!

I’ve read that, obviously. To drive safely on the roads is important if you want to go from A to B and arrive without the need to attend via H, the hospital.

I’ve also read #7 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe albeit a few decades ago when a child, and #9 To Kill A Mockingbird, which I read a few years ago.

Of the other 90, I’ve read The Hunger Games, The Catcher in the Rye, The Lovely Bones, The Picture of Dorian Grey and the Lord of the Flies (again as a school kid). Looking at some of the other titles on the list, I don’t feel like I’m missing out on them. Some are by serious writers. Others, well, not so serious.

Overall, I’m happy with my EIGHT out of 100. There are some that I want to read, Stieg Larsson is waiting on my Kindle, but most of the others will never cross my TBR pile.

If you’ve seen the list, what do you think? An accurate representation of what your bookshelves look like?

If you haven’t seen the full list, it is available on the Metro website HERE. (The Metro is a free newspaper in certain areas of the UK – Not sure who does and doesn’t have access to this. You can pick it up on the bus and at train stations. They even use WORDPRESS to host their website.)

Do you look at lists like the Top 100 of anything and see how you score?

Off topic, this is the view from our back door this morning. MORE OF THE WHITE STUFF! Spring has sprung. Apparently 🙂

Snow covered Magnolia tree

My beloved Magnolia. It better flower this year!

Thanks for reading.

About Pete Denton

I'm a writer working my way through the redrafts of a British crime novel. I also write short stories, flash fiction and some screen writing. Check out my blog for more.
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49 Responses to The Top 100 books in the UK?

  1. I definitely enjoy looking at book lists and seeing how many I have read. 41 in this case, if you’re interested. Most of those came from the top half of the list if that means anything. An interesting list, although quite a few of the books are not my cup of tea. I do however agree with the sentiment that people picking up any book and reading it is a positive thing. Nice post Pete.

    • Pete Denton says:

      Wow, Julian. I think you take the prize with 41! Although a few other responses have come close.

      There are undoubtedly some good books in the list. I probably will read more than my current either. Though 50 Shades and anything by Katie Price will not be on the list 🙂

  2. I do like lists. I’ve only read 15 out of those 100. I agree it’s not particularly scientific though – the fact that they’ve trawled literary forums and websites to compile the list rules out a lot of the population. Elderly people tend to read a lot, but how many of them go on forums etc? I’m not saying none of them, but percentage-wise, you’re going to catch a certain demographic more by basing it on that. Anyway, I guess there’s no ideal way to capture the info, and this gives a general view of what’s popular.

    In other news, we had snow in Kent this morning too, but not as much as you’ve had!

    • Pete Denton says:

      Our snow is still here though it is melting 😦

      I agree about the science. A survey would have captured a more balanced view and as they could have used library members a totally different list probably would have been produced.

      I might compile my own list. Just not today 🙂

  3. billgncs says:

    liking books is subjective, but I never could see the fuss over catcher in the rye. Might be the timing, some books like Hesse’s Sidhartha are meaningful when you’re young and when you revisit them later not so much.

    It’s always fun to look at lists like this. do you have a top ten ?

    • Pete Denton says:

      When I read Catcher in the Rye, I expected more than I received 🙂

      I don’t know whether I have a top ten. Not that immediately spring to mind though I will give it some thought and maybe do a future post on the subject.

  4. My top ten are 9 Harlan Coben books and Pete’s Steel City Writers but last week or next week I may be back reading Harry Potter or LOTR and it all changes again. I find lists like this are dependant upon the where and when for me. At one time I was very into Dick Francis and at that time he would have been in my top 10 if asked.though perhaps he didn’t have the profound effect that Tolkein did so maybe LOTR would always have to feature as favourites. I’d be interested to know how many Indie books were in the Top 100 though.

    • Pete Denton says:

      Aha, good choices for your top ten 😉

      I know what you mean. Once upon a time my top 10 would have all been Dean Kootnz books as that was all I read. I’ve never read LOTR. I enjoyed the films so should I?

  5. I find any list that includes both “To Kill a Mockingbird” AND “50 Shades of Gray” to be immediately suspect. But reading is subjective and the list is about the most popular, as opposed to well-written. I like lists if they suggest other books that I could read, but now my reading list will take me a lifetime to get through!

    • Pete Denton says:

      Thanks, I would never read 50 Shades, and I have read To Kill A Mockingbird, eventually. I found it difficult to read, but persevered. I am thinking of reading a few others off the list, but agree about the amount of reading material I already have. Big list 🙂

  6. ReGi McClain says:

    *snicker* Highway Code.

    I think the forums must have been made up mostly of teenagers around the learning-to-drive age. Or possibly young adults around the learned-to-drive-but-ignored-the-rules age.

    That’s quite a bit of snow!

  7. Some of the books on the list are among my favourites. Curious that they listed part of The Lord Of The Rings separately – Tolkien envisaged the whole book as a single epic and it was divided arbitrarily by a publisher cold-footed by the scale of it. Intriguing that Mr Brown made it – that book has to be one of the worst I have ever read. Mastery of suspense and reader pull-along does not a good book make.

    But it’s all subjective. Here in New Zealand, the criteria apparently used for the English list would probably get the ‘Edmonds Cook Book’ in – a recipie collection that is quintessentially Kiwi and which was originally produced a century ago to promote baking powder. The factory and its products are long gone. The book has not, and it’s shifted over a million copies (I think) – most households have one or more. I think we have a couple of copies.

    • Pete Denton says:

      You’re right about it being subjective. It would be interesting using their criteria to see these lists from around the world. I think a number of cookbooks would make the Top 100

  8. ShannonRaelynn says:

    I wish I had kept a list of all the books I have read in my life time.

    • Pete Denton says:

      Mine wouldn’t be a very long list, but I would like to have the full list too. Thanks to Goodreads I know what I’ve read over the last 18 months or so. In twenty years time Goodreads will be able to to compile a very interesting list. 🙂

      • ShannonRaelynn says:

        I have only found Goodreads recently, and to be honest don’t know anything at all about it. I set up an account and that is it. My reading is so sporadic and at times I have so little time for reading, finding the time for a website about reading, might be just too much.

        • Pete Denton says:

          They are good for helping you promote your books. Many authors do a promotion, maybe a giveaway to help drum up some interest. Everything takes SO MUCH TIME 🙂

  9. Interesting to see To Kill a Mocking Bird by Hemione Lee. I have noticed on my Goodreads account when comparing books with others that this is the most common books that appears on everyone’s lists. I would say for avid contemporary readers, this book represents the common denominator. It’s always the one that everyone has read.

    • Pete Denton says:

      I did enjoy the book, but found it difficult to read at times. It does appear on all these types of lists though. I might have to check my Goodreads friends to see if the same applies.

  10. Out of the top ten I’ve only read the da Vinci code and the Highway Code, that one made me chuckle 🙂

  11. Reblogged this on PeterGermany's Blog and commented:
    Check out number 6 😀

  12. Vasiliki says:

    Oh you have snow! Snow is so beautiful! it doesn’t snow as much here :/
    I’m quite disappointed 50 Shades of Gray is in the top 10 :S Personally i don’t believe it belongs anywhere near the top 100 it really badly written :S

  13. I’ve never been a reader of recent popular fiction. I’ve always out of step with pop culture, even as a child/teenager. I tend to question assumptions, such as the one that pops up in the beginning of this article, that “best loved books” are somehow related to “essential” books. So, bravo to you, for not letting the popular vote determine your reading preferences.

    On the other hand, I do believe heartily in the people’s right to read whatever they choose, to have library access to books I wouldn’t choose to read. In other words, I believe in democracy–but I don’t think it’s a valid indicator of what is “essential” in life. It only speaks about what is currently popular (usually because of clever marketing). That’s my soapbox speech for today.

    I’ve read 1/4 of the books, but then, I’m an American and don’t count in the list of what’s “normal” in Britain. Herman Melville is called Herman Neville on your side of the Atlantic? Made me smile. Over here, we often forget to put the “Sir” in front of “Paul McCartney.”

  14. ioniamartin says:

    Funny that the bible came in third, I wonder where it is on th

  15. ioniamartin says:

    I wonder where the bible falls on the US list lol

  16. jmmcdowell says:

    Thirteen on the list for me, although I’m not sure I’d consider any of them essential. We all like different things, and I doubt we could all agree on a “must read.” I loved The Lord of the Rings, but I know people who referred to it as “Bored of the Rings.” 🙂

    • Pete Denton says:

      I haven’t read LOTR. It is one of those books I thought I would read at some stage. Maybe now I’m reading for eclectically I might give it a try some time.

  17. 4amWriter says:

    What an interesting list, and no, I haven’t read many that they cite. I would love to know exactly how they formulated their picks, though. The official highway code is a real head scratcher! But I’m glad a lot of people care about driving safely, lol!

    • Pete Denton says:

      They should have removed the highway code. I mean, we have to read that one if we’re going to drive. Some of the others are interesting and judging by the comments so far, shouldn’t really be on the list, but they are recent and probably fresh on their minds or discussion boards.

  18. jmlibby says:

    Waving from the US with a score of 10/100. Sadly, though, I haven’t heard of most of the books listed. My bookshelves are a veritable who’s who in the SciFi/Fantasy world, with the majority of authors being Indie or American…or both. Nice find! And thank you for sharing 🙂

  19. EllaDee says:

    I love these lists, to tick off the books I’ve read. 25-ish in full and about 10 in part eg, the Bible, Romeo & Juliet to name just a few. I haven’t read #’s 1, 5, or 8! I also love these lists to get new books ideas – and will be keeping it just for that. Thanks 🙂

  20. We’re getting more snow AGAIN today — even though the tulips are coming up!

    Lists are fun, but I don’t take them too seriously. Sometimes there are interesting “finds” — often it’s just a reflection of who paid the most for advertising and created a phenomenon, not necessarily what’s “good” — which is relative anyway.

    But it’s a fun distraction.

    • Pete Denton says:

      Thanks for commenting. You raise a great point though about depending on which forums etc they picked, if they were influenced by advertising rather than a simple ask the readers.

      A fun distraction indeed 🙂

  21. Book lists are great for someone like me, if only to see what I could read next…but then “ooooooo shiny” happens and I forget 😉

    While I’ve read most of the UK’s top 10, I doubt I’ll read the Highway Code. I’m sure the plot is old and overdone. I will NEVER, EVER, in a billion kajillion years ever EVER read 50 Shades….
    but I’ve always wanted to read “To Kill a Mockingbird” 😛

    I’m stopping by from the A to Z challenge. Just thought I’d say hey! If you need a bit of encouragement throughout the challenge, or any day really…come on by!

    • Pete Denton says:

      Thanks for stopping by. I’m looking forward to next week’s A post. Should be fun and I will stop by later,

      50 Shades is NOT on my TBR pile either. I enjoyed To Kill A Mockingbird. I thought it was difficult to read with the style of the writing, but I’m glad I persevered.

      Happy blogging in April 🙂

  22. Nanny_cool says:

    I had to read fifty shades just to see what everyone was talking about! You cannot beat a good list, I have a book of list’s. lol x

  23. Pingback: Essential Reading Guide | Pete Denton - Writer

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