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Last Updated: Sunday, 19 October, 2003, 18:01 GMT 19:01 UK
UK's top 21 books uncovered
Big Read bookworms
Bookworm: Books will vie for the accolade of nation's favourite

The nation's 21 favourite books have been revealed from a list of 100 titles, after a vote on Saturday night.

Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice is the bookmaker's favourite to take the top slot of Britain's best-loved book - but there are still seven weeks before the winner is known.

The original 100 shortlist was drawn up after nearly 140,000 people voted in April, when BBC2's Big Read was launched.

The 21 favourites include classics by two of the Bronte sisters, six children's books and a smattering of contemporary bestsellers.

Book stores across the country say there has been a huge increase in sales of books featured on the 100 list.

Jane Austen's classic romantic tale Pride and Prejudice is 4/1 favourite with Ladbrokes to win the contest, ahead of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by CS Lewis, Tolkien's epic Lord of the Rings, and George Orwell's 1984.

Celebrity advocates

The fourth instalment in JK Rowling's Harry Potter series, the Goblet of Fire, is 7/1 to emerge on top.

Over the next seven weeks, celebrity advocates will make their case for each of the final 21.

Each week, presenter Clive Anderson will summarise the arguments and follow the public voting as the books vie for the title of the Nation's Favourite Book - to be revealed in the final programme on December 13.

Books by Charles Dickens, Jane Austen and Charlotte and Emily Bronte are unsurprising entries on the list.

You have Winnie the Pooh days where you're happy being a bit stupid, you have Eeyore days where you're really steeped in misery. You have Christopher Robin days where you're quite informed
Phill Jupitus on his favourite book, Winnie the Pooh by AA Milne

They vie with fantasy favourites Lord of the Rings (JRR Tolkien), His Dark Materials (Philip Pullman) and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

Margaret Mitchell's Gone With the Wind makes it into the final 21 - a choice possibly influenced by the success of the film version - and there's a worthy appearance from Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace, the weighty masterpiece with a cast of over 600 characters.

Only one book per author was allowed into the final 21, so JK Rowling is represented by Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Her popularity evidently undiminished, three other Rowling titles had to be pushed into the 22, 23 and 24 spots on the nation's list of 100 favourites.

Old and new

"The Top 21 is a fascinating insight in to the public's reading preferences and the list offers something for everyone, with an eclectic mixture of classics, contemporary novels and children's books," said Mark Harrison, Big Read's executive producer.

"As the advocates make their cases, we hope viewers will be inspired to explore new books - or perhaps return to titles they read years ago - and play their part in deciding the nation's favourite novel."

The bookstore chain Waterstone's says it has sold nearly three quarters of a million books from the list in the six months since it has been released.

Viewers can vote for their best-loved novel in the Top 21 in the following ways:

  • Telephone: 0901 522 9000 (calls cost 15p)
  • SMS: text the title of the chosen novel to 86200 (texts cost no more than 12p per message)
  • Online: at
  • Interactive TV: By pressing the red button on the digital remote

The Big Read is on BBC2 at 2105 BST on Saturday.

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