Alastair’s Place

Software development, Cocoa, Objective-C, life. Stuff like that.

The Big Read

The BBC have, over the last year, been running a public vote on Britain's favourite book (or books); needless to say, J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings won by a comfortable margin (although sadly I suspect, more because of the popularity generated by the film than on its merits as a literary epic). I was also pleased to see Douglas Adams' The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy in the top five, not least because it is somewhat less serious than the majority of the other books in the 21-book shortlist (why 21, I don't really know… evidently the BBC, like God, moves in mysterious ways).

I do think the competition was a bit pointless in many respects though. For one thing, there are an awful lot of truly excellent books out there. For another, I think that so-called “classics” got more than their fair share of the vote. I would be the first to acknowledge that many of the books regarded as classic works are very good, but I think there are a lot of good books out there by authors who perhaps have been overlooked, not having the advantage of being lauded as one of the greats, nor able to generate the vast publicity produced by the Harry Potter or Hollywood marketing machines. Some of my favourite authors, ranging from the science-fiction authors Isaac Asimov and Alastair Reynolds through to such able comedic writers as Tom Sharpe and P.G. Wodehouse were entirely absent from the top 200. Of course, the vote was about the most popular book, rather than the best book, but even so, it's sad that so many wonderful authors failed to make an entry in the top 200.

Still, The Lord of the Rings was voted the favourite of the British public, so I can't complain too much (it is one of my favourites, and was long before the film popularised it).