Public brings century's top authors to book

Survey will reveal the preferences of readers, rather than critics, writes David Lister

The public's nominations for the "best books written this century" are being sought in the biggest survey of its kind.

Waterstone's bookshops, in conjunction with Channel 4, yesterday launched the survey to find the 100 most popular books published since 1900. Ballot boxes are being placed in all 100 Waterstone's shops in the UK and Ireland.

Readers are asked to nominate five titles and to say in 50 words why one book, in particular, stands out above the rest. The survey is not only potentially larger than any previous effort, but, unusually, it includes all genres - not exclusively novels. So children's books, cookery books, science, history - even The Highway Code - can be nominated.

At the same time, Channel 4's Book Choice is broadcasting 15 programmes in which authors and celebrities talk about their own favourite books of the century. In that series, Jackie Collins nominates Enid Blyton's The Magic Faraway Tree; Will Self chooses JG Ballard's Crash; and Ruth Rendell plumps for Ford Madox Ford's The Good Soldier.

Martin Lee, marketing director of Waterstone's, said yesterday that the real attraction of the project was that it would reveal the public's choice for the first time. Previous lists of best books had largely been determined by literary critics, whose tastes were not necessarily the same as that of the public.

"We've been extremely anxious to find this out for some time," he said. "We really don't know what public taste genuinely is. There's a school of thought among our managers that this list will show that the books at the top of the list will be those that were on reading lists at school and had a formative influence on readers, books such The Catcher In The Rye, Catch-22 and 1984."

Mr Lee added that the public was also free to nominate books outside the fiction category: "Road atlases and maps sell in large numbers in bookshops, but are not conventionally thought of as books." The results of the public vote will be announced next January.

Last year, the BBC's literary programme, Bookworm, asked viewers to telephone in with the name of the book they had enjoyed most in 1995. The winner was Birdsong, by Sebastian Faulks. A previous Mori poll on reading habits found 24 per cent of people regularly read non-fiction, with romances, enjoyed by 19 per cent, the most popular fiction choice.

Leading article, page 13

Our Literary Editor's Choice

1. Samuel Beckett: The Beckett Trilogy. (Molloy, Malone Dies and The Unnamable). A seminal work that has made Beckett's the most imitated voice of late 20th-century literature.

2. James Joyce: Ulysses. Within a Homeric structure, Joyce uses every verbal and stylistic trick in the literary lexicon.

3. Marcel Proust: A la Recherche du Temps Perdu. Massive, slow, and operatically ambitious. Showed how fiction can recreate the smallest psychological moments and the largest social panorama.

4. Joseph Heller: Catch-22. An anarchic satire, scorning society through logic, relentlessly, subversively and hilariously applied.

5. George Orwell: Animal Farm. Still the purest, simplest, neatest and most moving political allegory in literary history, not excluding Candide.

6. William Golding: Lord of the Flies. Uses a group of choirboys on a desert island to reveal the darkness at the heart of all mankind's attempts at civilisation.

7. Kingsley Amis: Lucky Jim. Invented the "campus" novel, and re-invented the English comic tradition.

8. Gabriel Marcia Marquez: One Hundred Years of Solitude. Latin American fiction on the grandly ambitious scale. Poetry and casual exotica of magical realism.

9. DH Lawrence: The Rainbow. Essentially a family saga of Northern miners that is talked up by Lawrence's apocalyptic prose into something timelessly grand.

10. Vladimir Nabokov: Lolita. Scandalous in its time, Lolita has become the template for a quality of prose that evokes everything and apologises for nothing.

John Walsh

News
The clocks go forward an hour at 1am on Sunday 30 March
news
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor finds himself in a forest version of London in Doctor Who episode 'In the Forest of the Night'
TVReview: Is the Doctor ever going stop frowning? Apparently not.
Sport
footballMatch report: Real fight back to ruin Argentinian's debut
News
Bruce, left, with Cream bandmates Ginger Rogers, centre, and Eric Clapton in 1967
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Money
Welcome to tinsel town: retailers such as Selfridges will be Santa's little helpers this Christmas, working hard to persuade shoppers to stock up on gifts
news
News
i100
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Architect Frank Gehry is regarded by many as the most important architect of the modern era
arts + entsGehry has declared that 98 per cent of modern architecture is "s**t"
Arts and Entertainment
Soul singer Sam Smith cleared up at the Mobo awards this week
arts + entsSam Smith’s Mobo triumph is just the latest example of a trend
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker