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The Big Read

BBC Two (ended 2003)


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The Big Read

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The Big Read was a project that was orchestrated by BBC Two in order to determine what was England's best-loved novel. The show allowed viewers to cast their votes through the internet, vis text message or telephone. The intention of the show was to both raise public awareness of reading and to develop a list of the best and most popular novels. Initially, the British public was asked to vote for any novel that they wished, and then the voting was narrowed down to a list of 200 top books. Of this list of 200 books, the top 21 novels were put forward for more voting. Of the top 21 novels, only one book was allowed per author. The show was a great success in generating enthusiasm for literature and encouraging public participation. The Big Read ultimately compiled a list of the winning books that included some of the most entertaining and inspirational novels of all time.

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  • A survey of the nation's favourite books.

    These absurd "poll" shows of the nation's favourite this or that (movie stars, sitcoms, great Brits, or, here, books) are infinitely depressing - you end up thinking that the population is largely made up of ignorant idiots. This was a little bit above average because there were a few people who could speak really intelligently about genuinely good books and did actually seem to have read and understood them; yet it's also true that the list of the nation's literary favourites contained nothing by Joyce, Conrad, Chesterton, Greene, Proust or Kafka and rated Margaret Mitchell and Tolkien higher than Tolstoy. It was meant to "popularise" literature, something which, in a civilised society, ought not to be necessary. We were left thinking that the phenomenon of "dumbing down" was out of control.moreless