Monday, November 17, 2008

British and American Favorites

As an inveterate list-keeper, I am always interested in comparisons between one time period and another, and between one place or culture and another.

In the past year a major establishment newspaper in the UK and one in the US both, within six months of one another, asked their readers a slight variant on the basic question - What were your favorite childhood books? The UK paper, The Daily Telegraph, ran their question January 17, 2008 and the US paper, The New York Times ran its question July 19, 2007. The Telegraph had 189 commenters leaving one or more suggestions. The New York Times had 1,031. The Telegraph readers identified 430 separate books that they recalled fondly from their childhoods whereas the larger number of Times' readers mentioned 977 separate titles.

The results are of course completely unscientific but, as is often the case, the less rigorous the method, the more interesting the speculative discussion arising. The Telegraph and the Times both occupy similar societal/journalistic positions as papers of record and probably are reasonably similar in terms of the income/education/professional occupation profiles of their readers. The Times' responses might have a slightly greater emphasis on fantasy and science fiction as the question was asked in the time period around the release of the final instalment of Harry Potter.

OK; enough caveats. Below are the results from the readers of the two papers. Listed first are the top twenty individual titles specifically mentioned by the readers in each country. There is then a second list of authors where readers indicated something along the lines of "All of Roald Dahl" or "Everything by Louisa May Alcott."

There are four titles that show up on both the UK and the US lists; The Chronicles of Narnia, The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and Charlotte's Web. There are also four cross-over authors; Roald Dahl, Dr. Seuss, Enid Blyton and Isaac Asimov. I am amazed that Enid Blyton made it onto the top twenty list of authors on the Times' list. I can only speculate that a good number of Canadians must have snuck across the internet frontier to put in some votes. None-the-less it is interesting that the four cross-overs should represent two quintessentially American and two quintessentially English authors. Other surprises - Poe, Alcott, Milne, Nesbit, Andersen, Dickens, Kipling, Verne and C.S. Lewis each show up on only one list, and not even necessarily on that of their country of origin. Hmmm.

Top Twenty Titles in the UK and US

(The Daily Telegraph)

(The New York Times)
The Chronicles of NarniaNancy Drew
Swallows and AmazonsLord of the Rings
Alice in WonderlandThe Chronicles of Narnia
Peter RabbitThe Little House on the Prairie
Treasure IslandThe Hardy Boys
The HobbitA Wrinkle in Time
Lord of the RingsAnne of Green Gables
Wind in the WillowsLittle Women
Black BeautyTom Swift
Winnie-the-PoohThe Hobbit
The Magic Faraway TreeThe Wizard of Oz
Robinson CrusoeThe Phantom Toll Booth
Famous FiveCharlotte's Web
The Silver SwordThe Bobbsey Twins
Harry PotterBlack Stallion
BigglesThe Secret Garden
Lord of the FliesThe Dark is Rising
Aesop's FablesThe Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler
The Diary of a Young GirlThe Boxcar Children
Charlotte's WebDr. Dolittle

Top Twenty Authors in the UK and US

(The Daily Telegraph)

(The New York Times)
Enid BlytonJudy Blume
C.S. LewisRoald Dahl
Arthur RansomeBeverly Cleary
Beatrix PotterRobert Heinlein
Roald DahlIsaac Asimov
AesopJules Verne
Rudyard KiplingDr. Seuss
Willard PriceRay Bradbury
William ShakespeareEnid Blyton
Charles DickensJack London
E. NesbitLouisa May Alcott
Hans Christian AndersenMark Twain
Malcolm SavilleAlbert Payson Terhune
R.L. StevensonMadeline L'Engle
Captain MarryatEdward Eager
Dr. SeussL.M. Montgomery
G.A. HentyA.A. Milne
H. Rider HaggardAgatha Christie
Isaac AsimovEdgar Allan Poe
Jacqueline WilsonJohn Bellairs

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