Lewis Carroll and Edward Lear are missing from the list of Britain’s 50 favourite writers — and my favourite, PG Wodehouse, ranks a lowly 38th on the list prepared by Costa Book Awards .
Among my other favourites missing from the list are Graham Greene, Rudyard Kipling, John Le Carre and Len Deighton. George Orwell is there, at No 30, but I like his essays more than his stories. Happily Oscar Wilde is also on the list — but not Bernard Shaw. I certainly enjoy The Importance of Being Earnest more than anything by Shaw.
But the biggest surprise must be the absence of Ian Fleming from the list of Britain’s favourite authors. Dan Brown, on the contrary, ranks 19th.
Surprisingly, HG Wells makes the list but not Somerset Maugham. Another big surprise is Chaucer’s presence on the list. Even though he takes the bottom spot, still it’s a miracle he is there for his ye olde English isn’t reader-friendly at all. But then Canterbury Tales has been dramatised and telecast, and that might have made him popular. On the other hand, Evelyn Waugh isn’t on the list — even though Brideshead Revisited was a highly successful television series and is now doing the rounds as a movie.
No less astonishing is the poor showing of mystery and crime novelists. Along with Le Carre and Deighton, there are other notable absentees from the list such as GK Chesterton, PD James, Ruth Rendell and Colin Dexter. Ian Rankin takes the 44th spot, one place above Tolstoy! It looks like the Brits are not as keen on mysteries as they are cracked up to be.
Not so surprising perhaps is the poor showing of serious modern novelists. Apart from Martin Amis, Peter Ackroyd, Margaret Atwood, Beryl Bainbridge and JG Ballard, who else is there? None that I have read. Iain Banks and Ray Bradbury, I would place in a different category for their science fiction. Booker Prize winners are not that popular, it seems, though the prize-winning books end up on the bestseller lists. But it’s one thing to buy a book, another thing to read it. I never finished The God of Small Things.