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BBC News Online's Book Group returns
Last year thousands of you took part in our Book Group. In the run-up to World Book Day 2003, it's your chance again to choose which book to read together - and this time the books are free.
STEP 1: VOTE for a classic from shortlist (NB Voting has now closed)
STEP 2: SEE the winner, posted on this site on Wednesday
STEP 3: READ the book - either your own copy or the free electronic version we will publish
STEP 4: DISCUSS the book with other users on World Book Day, Thursday 6 March

The march of book groups around the world has continued, with more people discovering the value of reading a book with others and discussing it.

Last year, BBC News Online users chose to read Joseph Heller's Catch-22. We then hosted a discussion on it on World Book Day.

This year, all of our shortlisted titles are classics that you may simply never have got round to reading. And all of them are on the Project Gutenberg website, a remarkable electronic library of many of the world's greatest books.


Emily Brontė, 1818-1848
Description: Emily Brontė's only book, Wuthering Heights tells of the tempestuousness of human relationships, set in the tempestuous Yorkshire moors. It tells of Heathcliff, found on the streets of Liverpool, and brought to live with the Earnshaw family as one of their own. He falls in love with the daughter, Catherine, but when rejected by her turns to vengeance.
First line: "1801. - I have just returned from a visit to my landlord - the solitary neighbour that I shall be troubled with."
Pages: 206

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, 1859-1930
Description: The classic murder mystery sees Holmes and Watson trying to solve the riddle of what killed Sir Charles Baskerville - near where his body had been found were the prints of a huge hound which he had been running from. And it seems Sir Charles was not the first member of the family to be terrorised by the dog.
First line: "Mr Sherlock Holmes, who was usually very late in the mornings, save upon those not infrequent occasions when he was up all night, was seated at the breakfast table."
Pages: 118

Joseph Conrad, 1857-1924
Description: A tale of imperialism and corruption, Heart of Darkness tells of a voyage by the character Marlow up the Congo to rescue a trading company's employee, Kurtz, who is ill. Kurtz has a successful reputation, but when he is reached by Marlow, it turns out he has elevated himself to being the natives' god. Shrunken human heads are his decorations, and on his deathbed Kurtz realises what has happened to him.
First line: "The Nellie, a cruising yawl, swung to her anchor without a flutter of the sails, and was at rest."
Pages: 68

Jonathan Swift, 1667-1745
Description:Swift was the arch satirist, and Gulliver's Travels pinpoints what the author saw as absurd human behaviour. So, written in a Robinson Crusoe-style, Gulliver meets tiny people with huge self-regard, scientists who can't achieve anything useful, old people who look young but are too aged to move, and humans who are beasts living alongside horses which are civilised.
First line: "The author of these Travels, Mr. Lemuel Gulliver, is my ancient and intimate friend; there is likewise some relation between us on the mother's side."
Pages: 164

Oscar Wilde, 1854-1900
Description:Wilde's classic book about human corruption and decay centres on a painting of handsome young Victorian man Gray. He wishes he could retain his good looks, and he gets his wish. But his soul becomes twisted and ugly - he then finds the picture has changed to represent his inward corruption.
First line: "The studio was filled with the rich odour of roses, and when the light summer wind stirred amidst the trees of the garden there came through the open door the heavy scent of the lilac, or the more delicate perfume of the pink-flowering thorn."
Pages: 97

Want to take part in our Book Group? Send us your name using the form below. If you want to persuade other readers how to vote, you can also send comments on which book you think they should choose.

Some of your views so far:

In a time of international tension and racial conflict, I think that we can learn a lot from Gulliver's Travels. It is a long time since I last read the book, but I remember that as well as being a good read, the book encourages us to see the ridiculous situations we can get ourselves into.
Ann Charlton, UK

In the age of plastic surgery and the quest for eternal youth, The Picture of Dorian Gray was ahead of his time. Or perhaps human vanity has been ruling forever and always.
Gaby n, US

I have to go with Joseph Conrad's Heart of darkness basically because it's one of those "Oh I REALLY should read that!" and this will give me a good excuse!
Tony Leigh, England

Wuthering Heights - read it three times, first time when I was 13. I'm now 32. It's a book you can read and read and read again and every time you rediscover it's beauty and the horror of love. A monster classic in my view.
Michelle Vigar, Malta

Gullivers Travels - "absurd human behaviour" - just read that description again - and think how it relates to life today - "tiny" politicians with inflated ideas of their own importance, the search for answers for profit whilst we ignore the issues of extinction of species and destruction of the environment and especially the battle to stay looking young when the body is giving up! Swift certainly knew where we were going!
Sue Maw, UK

The Picture of Dorian Gray is unsurpassable...ingratitude, folly, vanity intertwine to make us realize that sooner or later we have to pay for our mistakes...The picture is like a mirror which reflects all our flaws and sins...when reading this book, one invariably asks the question: how would my image look like if I were portrayed??
Mariya , Bulgaria

The Hound of the Baskervilles has always been a personal favorite. My passion for reading mysteries has placed this book at the top of the list. The meticulous descriptions of the Moors, the Hounds, and the characters themselves make this book impossible to put down until the end.
Harry A. Metzger III, US

With everything that is happening around the Middle East, the Lilliputian mentality of many politicians deserves to be recognised for what it. Gulliver's Travels gets my vote. We need another Swift
Peter Martin, Singapore

While all are great towering mountains of English literature, Wuthering Heights truly captures the horrific quality of love, an epic romance that cannot be compared to any book in this era. By far the greatest book on this list, Bronte is a master of the language. A pity she died so young, or else she would have been as monumental as Shakespeare, even.
Bjorling, Sweden

Please don't choose Heart of Darkness! That is a depressingly, morbid book that I could have done without!
Bonnie Palmer, Texas, US

Although I enjoyed all of the books, I personally think in this day and age that Heart of Darkness is approppriate. It seems we are in a place in time where many people who have respect also hold a peverse power over our humanity. I see a reflection of George Bush in the character of Kurtz, but who are we? Are we the natives who have given him the power of god, are we Marlow seeking the truth behind the stories. Or are we destined to be a shrunken head on the pile? Read it and decide for yourself.
Page, US

Short of Dogs Playing Poker, what else could be better than a giant dog terrorizing the neighborhood in the Hound of the Baskervilles? More people around the world have had to deal with rotten neighborhood dogs than any of this other fluff. Oh, the horror of it all!
Jamal Willson, Jamaica

Come on people dont vote for a book just because it has the least number of pages.
Richard Dzien, England


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Disclaimer: The BBC may edit your comments and cannot guarantee that all emails will be published.



Vote for a book here
Wuthering Heights
Hound of the Baskervilles
Heart of Darkness
Gulliver's Travels
The Picture of Dorian Gray
9310 Votes Cast
Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion
Read with us on World Book Day
14 Mar 02 |  UK News

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