Fantasy book winner

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The Independent Online
Hobbits to you, Waterstone's. In contrast to your much-hyped Books of the Century chart, less than one per cent of entrants to our own Fantasy Book League put The Lord of the Rings among their top ten titles for the past 50 years. What a peerlessly sophisticated bunch you are.

Here, for example, is the list submitted by Anne Willis of Bradford-on- Avon, Wiltshire:

Christopher Lloyd: The Well-Tempered Garden; Barbara Pym: Excellent Women; E H Young: Chatterton Square; Mervyn Peake: The Gormenghast Trilogy; Ronald Blythe: Akenfield; Reay Tannahill: Food in History; Elizabeth David: English Bread and Yeast Cookery; A S Byatt: Possession; Angus Wilson: Hemlock and After; Alice Thomas Ellis: The Inn at the End of the World.

Many other selections proved just as splendidly singular.

My task was to devise, in advance, a sort of model list; the entry that came closest would win a token for pounds 150 worth of Folio Society books. Frankly, given a choice between drawing up such a list again and mucking out the elephant house, hand me the bucket and shovel.

First, I decided to stick to fiction alone - unfairly, no doubt, but in accordance with the slant of Waterstone's poll. But, it turned out, so did most of you.

Next, I cut out all sorts of personal favourites. And, to reduce the inevitable biases of generation and geography, I also tried to cover a pretty broad span of time and space.. .

Dozens of entries coincided with my list on three, four or five titles. A handful managed six; none seven. To break the tie, I checked the remaining choices against a reserve list of ten more books. That process produced a clear winner: E M Bernal of Steeple Bumpstead, Suffolk.

Here is my list, arranged purely in chronological order:

Albert Camus: The Plague (1947); George Orwell: Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949); Vladimir Nabokov: Lolita (1955); Boris Pasternak: Dr Zhivago (1957); Joseph Heller: Catch-22 (1961); Doris Lessing: The Golden Notebook (1962); Gabriel Garcia Marquez: One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967); Milan Kundera: The Book of Laughter and Forgetting (1979); Salman Rushdie: Midnight's Children (1981); Toni Morrison: Beloved (1987)

Thanks to all who entered, and especially to the single aficionado who shares my devotion to Ronald Searle and Geoffrey Willans' The Complete Molesworth. I'm sure you deserve the special Mrs Joyful Prize for Raffia Work.

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