The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is the UK’s Favourite Book

According to a OnePoll survey of 2,000 UK adults, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is Britain’s most popular book. It is an intriguing find, but not inconsistent with other surveys and with research by people like Stephanie Derrick (see here). The top 50 list as a whole is pretty intriguing. Six of the seven Harry Potter books are in the top 10, with Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone as the #3 book and J.K. Rowling as the top writer. The list is very film-adaptation driven, which is hardly surprising given the budgets–and occasionally the linked quality–of bestseller adaptations.

There are some surprises. That The Da Vinci Code makes #2 is a little disheartening given it is just an okay book (and a terrible movie with some beautiful parts). I don’t think in North America you would find as many 19th century books by authors like Arthur Conan Doyle, Robert Louis Stevenson, Charlotte Brontë, Emily Brontë, and Charles Dickens–also one of the UK’s favourite authors, a century and a half on. I’m surprised that The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings aren’t higher, but I struggle living in a world where people prefer Fifty Shades of Grey to Sherlock Holmes, Douglas Adams, The Hunger Games, or the great Candian books: Anne of Green Gables, Life of Pi, or The Handmaid’s Tale. Even Twilight is better, but no one asked me.

Intriguingly, The Daily Mail reports that Stephen King is a favourite author, though no book made the top 50. And women ten to read newer hot books while men read older titles. Crime is the most popular genre (but are those books on the list?), and Brits are only reading about 11 books a year, and wish they could read more. Still, it’s pleasing to see that C.S. Lewis’ Narnia is still loved, almost 70 years later.

About Brenton Dickieson

“A Pilgrim in Narnia” is a blog project in reading and talking about the work of C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and the worlds they touched. As a "Faith, Fantasy, and Fiction" blog, we cover topics like children’s literature, apologetics and philosophy, myths and mythology, fantasy, theology, cultural critique, art and writing. This blog includes my thoughts as I read through Lewis and Tolkien and reflect on my own life and culture. In this sense, I am a Pilgrim in Narnia--or Middle Earth, or Fairyland. I am often peeking inside of wardrobes, looking for magic bricks in urban alleys, or rooting through yard sale boxes for old rings. If something here captures your imagination, leave a comment, “like” a post, share with your friends, or sign up to receive Narnian Pilgrim posts in your email box. Brenton Dickieson is a father, husband, friend, university lecturer, and freelance writer from Prince Edward Island, Canada. You can follow him on Twitter, @BrentonDana.
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44 Responses to The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is the UK’s Favourite Book

  1. I have to say that ‘The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe’ is one of my favourite books too, and has been since I can ever remember – I think my Mum introduced me to it when I was about 7. I still have a copy along with the rest of the Narnia series.

    It’s worrisome that ‘The Of Vinci Code’ (I know what I said) is #2. I guess these lists, ultimately, are a sociological snapshot of their cultures and times. As you say, the US would likely have a different list. Curiously, similar NZ lists veer towards non-fiction – also reflected in sales figures and numbers of titles published. That’s one of the reasons why most of my writing is also non-fiction.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. successbmine says:

    Glad to see “The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe” at the top. I love the movies, too, but prefer the BBC version from 1988 to the Hollywood version. At least BBC didn’t rewrite the story.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I may have to give the movies another chance because I usually love adaptations


      • successbmine says:

        Talking about the movies, I understood that Doug Gresham was supposed to be doing the rest of the movies that Hollywood didn’t do. Have you heard anything further about that?


        • Not specifically, but it looks like they will abandon the current movie path and begin again with Netflix. Netflix is going to relaunch its children’s programming with Narnia, offering one-off films and also a mini-series that is not chronological or necessarily with the books precisely. We’ll see!

          Liked by 1 person

          • successbmine says:

            Thanks for the info. I don’t know much about Netflix. Do they eventually put their movies on DVD?


            • No, they “chokepoint” their releases, only allowing them on their own streaming service. But they do give a free month if you want to check it out!


              • successbmine says:

                Thank you. I don’t like watching long things on my computer as it’s not comfortable. The sound isn’t always great so I end up using my headphones. So I guess I will pass on that. You’d think they would make more money doing streaming and DVDs both.

                Liked by 1 person

              • Yes, we rarely watch on a computer. We do use a cord to attach the laptop to the TV by HDMI, which helps. Most newer DVD players and cable boxes can get Netflix too.


              • successbmine says:

                I don’t have cable, so only use my TV for movies. And I don’t have a laptop, just a PC which is at the opposite end of my apartment from the TV (which I cannot move), so that is not a possibility for me. I guess I will just have to forget about these movies. That’s OK. There are plenty of other good DVDs to choose from.

                Liked by 1 person

  3. John Hubbard says:

    Thank you. I haven’t the time to do any research so I appreciate your website immensely. I did find this particularly fascinating. Maybe the whole world is being dumbed down to reach the lowest common denominator of the United States! I read the complete Tales of Narnia aloud to my children twice!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. David Llewellyn Dodds says:

    “I struggle living in a world where people prefer Fifty Shades of Grey to Sherlock Holmes, Douglas Adams, The Hunger Games, or […] Anne of Green Gables” – that struck me, too: somehow generally unimaginable that Holmes is lower than lots of things… I enjoy 1984, Jane Eyre, Lord of the Flies, and A Tale of Two Cities, but I would not call them easy, or as immediately enjoyable as Holmes. Is there any element of people having liked assigned books in school, I wonder – my American education had me read Jane Eyre, Lord of the Flies, and A Tale of Two Cities… The titles in relation to authors are a bit surprising, too – why not, say, Dicken’s Christmas Carol, or The Hound of the Baskervilles, or Animal Farm? All the HPs… so, any chance of ‘pars pro toto’, elsewhere – one Narnia, Holmes, Adams Hitchhiker volume standing in for more, or all? I wish they’d do the US and Canada, too, (and at least Australia and New Zealand, as well – and, indeed, any other English-as-first-language-of-many-inhabitants places*) to see how similar and different the results.

    *Speaking of which, was it set up to ask for favorite English-language books – or did too few love a translated work enough to get one into the top 50? And, are any of the others besides The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings ‘ostensible translations’?


    • Your comment, and Sarah’s below, leads me to think that we could have lists like “Most Satisfying” or “Best Challenge that Pays Off.” Lists could be of all kinds!
      “ostensible translations,” hmmm. Is there a list of those? And I think UK people read UK books–and grudgingly, American ones!


      • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

        That would be great fun, if people could construct and conduct such a variety of poll-lists (and other just embarked on similarly-varied personal ones).

        I had trouble finding any nicely worked out stuff on “ostensible translations” when I was working on my Signum NederMoot paper earlier this year – and now, having just read Stevenson’s Master of Ballantrae, I wonder if there are lists or discussions of ‘ostensible editions’…(!)

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Hard for me to take a list of “top” novels seriously without any Victor Hugo on it, or Hawthorne’s “House of Seven Gables”… or Neil Gaiman. And although I’m feeling the pull to be judge’y right now, the truth is: a really great novel, is a novel that you read and you think, “hey, that was really great”! Everyone has the right to choose the greatest novel for themselves. For me, it’s “Notre-dame de Paris”.


    • Ah yes, but of course this isn’t “the best novels ever” but “what folks read.” I’ve not read Seven Gables, but have it queued to read soonish. But the “greatest novel” is a whole other set of beans, methinks.


  6. David Llewellyn Dodds says:

    Just tried to look up the whole article, but they wouldn’t let me till I agreed to some cookie thing, so… guess I’ll never know… and have to go on freely speculating! In the bit we can see above, “Crime is the most popular genre […] along with thrillers […] and drama” – but, no plays in the 50, and which ‘crime’ and ‘thrillers’? One Holmes, one Christie, one Greene, no Sayers, Allingham, Marsh, P.D. James, Rendell, Grafton, Dexter, LeCarre, Grisham, Clancy – I’d venture, the detective appeal of the Potters (among other things about them), but nary a ‘Robert Galbraith’ Cormoran Strike… – or do they also count as works of “our top writer” in some ‘author’ category? And, you’d think adaptation-appeal might get Hugo in here with Les Misérables (or do too many adaptation-enjoyers not go on to read the original, ahem, even as I have not… yet…?).


    • Cookies are normal, I’m afraid. You need to accept them on my site.
      I think the detective appeal in the Potter books–and in some of the Discworld books–is pretty critical. I love it, honestly, though I don’t read crime fiction.
      Les Mis is loved in a lot of ways. The role of adaptations and reading must be pretty well established, and still we forget some.


      • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

        I’m not broadly enough cookie-savvy to know what-all differences are in play – e.g., what is on account of the recent EU legislation, for one example – could the Daily Mail present things differently post-Brexit, or is the UK already opted-out as it is from the euro, with the Mail just doing what it likes?… I sure don’t know!

        I’ve almost never solved a detective story mystery before the solution was revealed, but I like a lot of them, and certain sorts of “thrillers”. There’s some interesting-looking Detection Club reprinting going on, including The Anatomy of a Murder (1936) with an assortment of detective-story authors writing about actual crimes.

        I just ran into an interesting quotation about adaptations in the Wikipedia Stevenson article from a movie-adaptation review by “American film critic Roger Ebert[, who] wrote in 1996,

        “I was talking to a friend the other day who said he’d never met a child who liked reading Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island.

        “Neither have I, I said. And he’d never met a child who liked reading Stevenson’s Kidnapped. Me neither, I said. My early exposure to both books was via the Classics Illustrated comic books. But I did read the books later, when I was no longer a kid, and I enjoyed them enormously. Same goes for Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

        “The fact is, Stevenson is a splendid writer of stories for adults, and he should be put on the same shelf with Joseph Conrad and Jack London instead of in between Winnie the Pooh and Peter Pan.”

        I’m not sure I agree – I think I was pretty young when I first enjoyed Treasure Island and a teenage Jekyll and Hyde lover, and we enjoyed both Treasure Island and The Black Arrow read aloud en famille – but it’s interesting, nonetheless – also as food for thought about multi-age enjoyability, when and how books may be best savored (or savored for different aspects), etc.


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