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And Australia's favourite book is...

Lord of the Rings. Are you shocked?

The whole ABC exercise was apparently a derivation of the BBC's The Big Read from last year, even down to the style of last night's program, which was very un-ABClike. Jennifer Byrne seemed unusually ill-at-ease in the compere's role (where's Indira Naidoo when you need her?), and Chris Taylor (The Chaser, CNNNN, radio's Today Today) was a generally unfunny devil's advocate. However, it was a fun format which I would like to see converted into a weekly book review program. The vox pops (even if they were mostly celebrities such as "Peter Garrett, politician") were sharp and amusing.

The top ten, which was actually a top eleven, was:
10. "A Fortunate Life" - AB Facey (1981)
=9. "The Da Vinci Code" - Dan Brown (2003)
=9. "Catch-22" - Joseph Heller (1961)
8. "The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy" - Douglas Adams (1979)
7. "Nineteen Eighty-Four" - George Orwell (1949)
6. "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" - JK Rowling (2003)
5. "Cloudstreet" - Tim Winton (1991)
4. "To Kill A Mockingbird" - Harper Lee (1960)
3. "The Bible" - various artists (various centuries)
2. "Pride and Prejudice" - Jane Austen (1813)
1. "The Lord of the Rings" - JRR Tolkien (1954-55)

The complete top 100 (actually a top 103) is now up on the ABC website. It makes an interesting comparison with the Big Read results as listed on the BBC website. (They, incidentally, have a top 200.) BBC viewers chose the same quinella as their ABC brethren, ie LOTR at 1 and P&P at 2, and both lists share five of the top ten.

On the ABC list I find it a little odd that the fifth Harry Potter book has made the top ten. The others come in at 93, 59, 15 and 36. That much better, or sold that much better because of the hype? I wonder if the Da Vinci Code benefited from being a current best seller, and whether Pride and Prejudice benefited from the oft-repeated 1995 BBC series.

Of the top five that I named yesterday, my top pick, "Frankenstein", did not make the ABC 100 and came 171 on the BBC list. "Lord of the Rings" was my second choice. At third, I had "Animal Farm" (ABC 82, BBC 46), at fourth, "Dune" (ABC 24, BBC 39). As expected, Arthur Mailey's "10 for 66 and all that" came nowhere...

The Bible (which didn't appear on the BBC list at all) aside, top non-fiction last night was AB Facey's "A Fortunate Life". The most curious disparity between the ABC and BBC lists was the presence at number four with the BBC of Philip Pullman's "His Dark Materials" trilogy, which didn't figure in Australia at all. Nor did the works of Jacqueline Wilson, which figured no less than fourteen times in the BBC top 200.

Of the ABC's top ten (eleven), Pride and Prejudice is freely available on the web. Nineteen Eighty-Four is also readable on-line, but copyright laws are such that it is in the public domain in some areas (for example Australia and anywhere that copyright expires 50 years or less after the author's death), and still under copyright in others (for example the USA and the European Union, where copyright on Orwell's works will continue in force until 2021).

The Bible, of course, is available in heaps of websites, although some recent translations are under copyright. I was a little surprised that "The Koran" didn't score a mention on anyone's list.