On World Book Night 2011 in the UK the BBC showed a program called The Books We Really Read presented by Sue Perkins. The BBC’s decision to focus their programming purely on the ‘literary fiction’ genre was in many people’s opinion flawed.

Science Fiction author Stephen Hunt (@SFCrowsnest) started the ball rolling with his vitriolic response to the coverage. Subsequently he has put together a petition of as many of the UK’s Science fiction authors as possible. Naturally the BBC is defending itself over the programme and subsequent discussion. There’s a good Guardian piece here with a bit more background.

So what do I think?

I reckon that Stephen Hunt is right to criticise the BBC. At present they are coming across as having a somewhat elitist view of what constitutes a good read without, it appears, having done any research. Hunt’s observation that the BBC was limited in outlook certainly stands. If there had been any evidence of joined-up thinking someone would have pointed out to the editors of The Books We Really Read and subsequent discussion programme that the BBC has a big SciFi output. Dr Who or Torchwood anyone?

In that case What Do People Really, Really Read?

I compile the Most Read list for FridayReads every week and there are always a few surprises but what always delights and amazes me is the sheer variety of books that people read. Only a small part of it fits in to that odd category of Literary Fiction. In fact I’d go so far as to say that Literary Fiction is the exception rather than the rule when readers make their choice.

Here is the most read list from FridayReads on 8th April 2011. I’ve added the Genre classifications, you can tell me if you disagree.

The top three are heavily promoted but do include real reading data so I’ve left them there for this list. If you have never joined in FridayReads before then you also need to know that the list changes every week. This is real reading data and is not based on sales data (eg Amazon).

The data is gathered from participants World Wide! It’s a global thing (thanks to @ibc4 for the prompt).

title
author
Genre
Chickens Mules and Two Old FoolsVictoria Twead @VictoriaTweadfood, drink, humour, travel, animals
BossypantsTina Feyhumour
A Discovery of WitchesDeborah Harkness @DebHarknessparanormal fiction
THE PALE KINGDavid Foster Wallacefiction
KrakenChina Mievillescience-fiction
Water for ElephantsSara Gruenhistorical fiction
The Kitchen DaughterJael McHenryfiction
Catching fireSuzanne Collinsya fantasy, fiction
FreedomJohnathan Franzenfiction, family saga, humour
Unfamiliar FishesSarah Vowellhistory, offbeat
Game of ThronesGeorge R R Martinfantasy, fiction
LifeKeith Richardsautobiography
WitherLauren DeStefanoya dystopian, fiction
Skippy DiesPaul Murrayfiction, humour, mystery,
A Walk in the SnarkRachel Thompson @RachelintheOChumour, non-fiction
Just KidsPatti Smithautobiography
RevolutionJennifer Donnellyya historical fiction
Started Early Took My DogKate Atkinsoncrime fiction
Say Hello to ZorroCarter Goodrichchildren's, picture, fiction, humour
City of Fallen AngelsCassandra Clareya fantasy, fiction
A Visit from the Goon SquadJennifer Egancontemporary fiction, post-modern
The Book ThiefMarcus Zusakhistorical fiction, ya fiction
Gods WarChristopher Tyermanhistory
Season of the HarvestMichael R Hicksaction-adventure, fiction
The Immortal Life of Henrietta LacksRebecca Sklootcreative non-fiction
Red GloveHolly Blackya science-fiction
The Name of the WindPatrick Rothfussfantasy fiction
The Bird SistersRebecca Rasmussencontemporary fiction
Guilt by AssociationSusan R Sloancrime fiction, suspense, thriller
Heads you loseChristianna Brandcrime fiction, murder mystery
The Wise Mans FearPatrick Rothfussfantasy, fiction, epic
Say Her NameFrancisco Goldmannon-fiction, memoir
The Tigers WifeTea Obrehtfiction, magical realism, fantasy
Three Cups of TeaGreg Mortenson & David Oliver Relinbiography, social,politics, philosophy
The Happiness ProjectGretchen Rubinself-help
A Clash of KingsGeorge R R Martinfantasy, fiction
Full Dark No StarsStephen Kinghorror, fiction
Where She WentGayle Formanya fiction, contemporary
DeathlessCatherynne M Valentescience-fiction, fantasy, historical fiction
ComposedRosanne Cashautobiography
THE NIGHT CIRCUSErin Morgensternya fantasy, fiction
Eternal RiderLarissa Loneparanormal fiction, romance
Good OmensTerry Pratchett & Neil Gaimancomedy, fantasy
One DayDavid Nichollsfiction, romance
CLEOPATRA A LIFEStacy Schiffbiography, historical
RoomEmma Donoghuecontemporary fiction, crime, drama
The InformationJames Gleicknon-fiction, popular science
American GodsNeil Gaimanhorror,/fantasy fiction, crossover
Love WinsRob Bellnon-fiction, religion, faith
SWAMPLANDIAKaren Russellfantasy fiction, magical realism, contemporary
Here are the numbers for each genre. Don’t try to add them up or do maths it won’t work as many books cover several genres!
1 action-adventure
3 autobiography
2 biography
1 children’s picture
5 contemporary
1 creative non-fiction
4 crime
1 crossover
1 drama
1 epic
1 faith
1 family saga
10 fantasy fiction
15 fiction
3 historical
3 historical fiction
2 horror
7 humour
2 magical realism
1 memoir
1 murder mystery
1 mystery
5 non-fiction
1 offbeat
2 paranormal fiction
1 philosophy
1 politics
1 popular science
1 post-modern
1 religion
2 romance
2 science-fiction
1 self-help
1 social
1 suspense-thriller
1 ya dystopian
3 ya fantasy
2 ya fiction
1 ya historical fiction
1 ya science-fiction

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