Borders have just published the Nation’s top ten books. As always with these lists, you have to wonder what influences the people who vote. Remember these are ‘all-time favourite books’, but what does that actually mean? Each individual’s all-time favourites, or the combined all-time favourites? I never really know.
Apparently more than 20,000 people voted online. So for a start that tells us something: these the atfs of people who use computers and who go online. They are the atfs of people who actually bothered to vote. And these are people who actually read. Furthermore, the list is a good solid list, so these are people who read above a certain level. There are no Mills and Boons here, for starters, or John Grishams. (Not that either of those is at the bottom of any of my lists: I’ve read both Mills and Boon and Grisham.)
I think the puzzle is why books as longstanding as Lord of the Flies and the Gerard Durrell and The Colour Purple are on the list. My suspicion is that the outside two are books that have been read in school. Maybe they made an impression at that time. But are people still reading them?
Wild Swans has to be one of the most gloomy books ever written - and it’s very visible in op shops (charity shops) across the land. Sorry, Angela’s Ashes is gloomier and equally visible. It’s interesting to see Bryson’s book on the list, because it’s a book that requires reading and thinking. I don’t know Atonement (apart from the fact that it’s just become a movie) or Toast, or the Kundera (I know that by name). The Handmaid’s Tale has been in my hands more than once in a secondhand shop, but I’ve never actually got to the point of purchasing it. Maybe now is the time!
A Short History of Everything - Bill Bryson
Lord of the Flies - William Golding.
My Family and other Animals - Gerard Durrell
Angela’s Ashes - Frank McCourt
The Colour Purple - Alice Walker
Wild Swans - Jung Chang
The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood
Atonement - Ian McEwan
Toast - Nigel Slater
The Unbearable Lightness of Being - Milan Kundera.