And Durham’s favourite book is…

Facebook’s recent survey of the favourite books of university students has some interesting – and in some cases suprising – findings. We look at how Durham compares with other universities, and decide whether Orwell and Rowling really deserve to make the top three…

ACCORDING TO STATISTICS posted on Facebook the Harry Potter books are the number one read for Durham students.

The results, compiled on the basis of which novels Durham network members deem worthy of note on their profiles, puts Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice second and George Orwell’s Nineteen-Eighty-Four in third place.

In fact, the entire list bears a striking resemblance to a survey carried out by the BBC in 2003 to find the nation’s favourite page turners.

Bronte’s Jane Eyre hits number ten in both surveys and Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings and Pullman’s Dark Materials are also there.

However, Durham students won’t have anything to do with good old Winnie the Pooh and childhood fave The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, both of which score highly in the BBC survey.

By contrast, Arthur Golden’s Memoirs of a Geisha and Joseph Heller’s Catch 22 add a touch of sophistication to Durham’s taste.

Finally, Wuthering Heights sits comfortably at number eight, making it a double whammy for the Brontes.

Browsing through some of the results from other university networks it becomes clear that Durham’s taste is not unique.

Harry Potter seems to be the universal favourite and fantasy novels score highly all round, escapism being what one expects from a good read, perhaps.

Perennial classics resurface again and again as generation after generation are enthused by Jane and Rochester’s reconciliation, enthralled by Pip’s great expectations and drawn in by Dracula.

Bedtime stories abound with the friendly folk of The Wind in the Willows and the colourful, emotional Mr Men making an appearance in several lists. Even The Hungry Caterpillar manages to wriggle in on occasion.

Modern day favourites include almost all of Dan Brown’s output, absent as it is from Durham’s top ten. Likewise, novels such as Martel’s The Life of Pi, Faulkner’s Birdsong and Du Maurier’s Rebecca refresh and individualise many a table.

Yet not everyone has the time to read novels at university. Cardiff students have “At the moment the only things I read are for my diss” at number six, whereas the enigmatic “Erm…?” blunders in at number nine for the University of Huddersfield. Interestingly, students at Dundee consider Heat magazine as a worthy number nine whereas St Andrews scholars place Virgil’s Aeneid in the same position.

Tastes differ yet the same old stories populate most of the tables; Durham’s choices reflect in general terms the nation’s definition of good novels, epitomised by pages that are sure to be turning for a long time to come.

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