Thursday, March 01, 2007

"The Public Has Chosen.."

Today, Thursday March 1st, is World Books Day; today is also its 10th Anniversary.
For the past seven years, the event has been sponsored by National Book Tokens.
This year, over 2000 people cast their votes on line, choosing 10,000 books in all. And the winners do not surprise..

UK readers (dreaming of other historical times, other social worlds) placed Jane Austen's " Pride and Prejudice" first, swiftly followed by " The Lord Of The Rings" ( JR Tolkien) and the magical "Jane Eyre" ( Charlotte Bronte).
Then came the entire Harry Potter series by JKRowling, Harper Lee's thrilling " To Kill A Mockingbird" ( incredibly, the only book she's ever written ) and, of course, The Holy Bible, followed by Orwell's stunning " 1984" ( a year now long gone...but when I was thirteen, reading the book for the first time, "1984" seemed a long, long time off....)
Next: Philip Pulman's " Dark Materials" trilogy, "Great Expectations" ( Charles Dickens) Louisa M. Alcott's " Little Women" and Hardy's " Tess Of The D'urbevilles" (this a book that has haunted me now for decades...)
Bringing up the rear were: " Catch 22" by Joseph Heller, The Complete Works Of Shakespeare", Rebecca" by Daphne du Maurier, "The Hobbit" ( JR Tolkein, again) " Birdsong" by Sebastian Faulks, " Catcher in the rye" by JR Salinger, Audrey Niffenneger's " The Time Traveller's Wife" and last but not least, George Eliot's marvellous " Middlemarch".
Superb memories here; these titles are hypnotic...I'm remembering:
Teenage years: scruffy paperbacks (scribbled in margins) stuffed cruelly in satchels.
And lying on a tartan rug ( that smelt always of peppermints) in a sunny garden where roses grew...guitaring brother playing the " Z Cars" theme ( constantly) in an upstairs room.
And just remembered: me, running down a wide stone staircase, late for an exam at college, clutching the flapping pages of " Middlemarch"...
And a few years later, sqeezing in a chapter of something while the tube train rocked , surged its way to the school where I taught ( Pimlico, Putney, then Wandsworth...)
Then reading stuff while babies slept, while husband slept, while cats purred and mewed and tea went cold in the pot and black in the oven ...
And beaches and planes and airports and cottages where gardens ran into pine trees, where my family played in sand dunes and the turquoise day turned to deep violet and the books were sandy, sticky with sun-oil, splodged with flutterings of wine ...
Such lovely times, we have with books. ....
And World Book Day's list this year: wonderful contrasts, but then that's the great British public, isn't it....wonderful contrasts, all.


Blogger Anne S said...

Jan, Australia had a similar poll in 2004. The results were pretty similar... and quite predictable.

Britain does have a tad better taste than OZ. At least the dreadful Da Vinci Code doesn't appear to be on the list.

Here's a link to the Australian results

10:29 am  
Blogger Jan said...

I'm in Complete Agreement re Da V Code.
The results of the poll WERE predictable too. I think the list actually includes some very fine books....they're "popular" because they stand the test of time and they're the sort of bks that Everyone Reads At Some Point ... All a bit like wellworn cliches which are often eerily accurate..
Thanks for sending the link.Similar, as you say, Anne.

8:13 am  

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