The Nation’s Favourite School Books – Do You Agree?

Shutterstock / Roman Samborskyi ©

George Orwell’s political fable Animal Farm has been voted the nation’s favourite ever school book in research commissioned for World Book Day.  

The study, conducted by Oxford Home Schooling, asked 2,000 UK adults which books they most enjoyed reading when at school. Animal Farm was selected by 25% of respondents. 

The novella was followed in the rankings by Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol (21%) and John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men (19%). 

Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird is the most popular school book by a female author (18%), placing sixth on the overall list. 

JB Priestley’s An Inspector Calls is among the most popular school titles for younger Brits. Meanwhile a gender divide opens up over the Bronte sisters’ books – rated highly by women, but low down the rankings for men.

Orwell and Dickens both appear twice in the top 10. So does William Shakespeare, showing his timeless appeal to all ages. Romeo And Juliet is the UK’s favourite play by The Bard (19%), ahead of Macbeth (15%). 

The UK’s top 10 favourite school books are: 

  1. Animal Farm (George Orwell)
  2. A Christmas Carol (Charles Dickens)
  3. Of Mice and Men (John Steinbeck)
  4. 1984 (George Orwell)
  5. Romeo And Juliet (William Shakespeare)
  6. To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Lee)
  7. Great Expectations (Charles Dickens)
  8. Macbeth (William Shakespeare)
  9. Jane Eyre (Charlotte Brontë)
  10. Lord Of The Flies (William Golding)

The majority of the most popular books date from the 20th century. However three more recent works also made it into the most-loved top 40.

John Boyne’s haunting Holocaust novel The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, published in 2006, was the highest rated work from this millennium, coming in at 30th place.

The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The NightTime (Mark Haddon – 2003) and Noughts And Crosses (Malorie Blackman – 2001) also featured highly. 

The Jane Eyre divide

Men and women have significantly different tastes when it comes to books it seems, with their respective top 10 lists contrasting wildly. While Animal Farm is the favourite among men, A Christmas Carol tops the list for women, followed by Charlotte Brontë’s gothic romance novel Jane Eyre.  

The Brontë sisters are generally far more popular with female readers, with both Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights, younger sibling Emily’s sole work, rated far higher by women. Despite both featuring in the top six for women, neither appear in the top 15 for men (Wuthering Heights – 18th, Jane Eyre – 23rd).  

It appears that younger readers are also turning away from Jane Eyre. The novel features in the top 10 for all age groups except 18–24-year-olds.

It is replaced by JB Priestley’s crime thriller An Inspector Calls, with the classic 20th century play ranking seventh for this latest generation. Of Mice and Men is the favourite among young Brits.  


“New titles creeping up the lists”

Greg Smith, Head of Operations at Oxford Home Schooling, said: “The books we read at school can affect our general interest in reading in later life, so it’s really important that people enjoy the novels given to them.  

Animal Farm is an incredibly powerful story and it’s not surprising to see that people remember it fondly. It also topped our rankings when we ran this study five years ago, showing that its popularity is enduring. 

“However, it’s also interesting to see other works creep up towards the top of the lists. We’ll have to see whether Orwell can complete a hat-trick in years to come, or whether a new favourite will emerge!” 

The top 50 (plus a few) – is your favourite there?

Find out more about the research and read expert advice on how to get children to read more, both in and out of school

My Weekly wants to know which books our readers love! Email the address on the magazine’s letters page, or tell us on our Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

REVEALED: How much the best-selling authors earn per word!

Do you have any idea how much your favourite authors earned per book, page, or even word? The Knowledge Academy set out to find out.*

After analysing the best-selling books across the world from living authors, the earnings per page and word have been calculated, and all can be revealed!

  1. Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone is the highest earning book, earning J. K. Rowling a whopping £1,563.47 per WORD!
  2. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho is the second highest earning novel, at £1,297.40 per word
  3. Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets is in third place, adding to J. K. Rowling’s impressive list – it generates £245,111.55 per page and £891.32 for every word written!
  4. The second adventure in The Da Vinci Code series generates £534.82 per word for Dan Brown, in fourth place.
  5. Follow Your Heart (Va’ dove ti porta il cuore) by Susanna Tamaro is fifth, with every word worth £536.68.
  6. Steamy Fifty Shades of Greymakes an appearance – E. L. James earns £495.87 for every word written
  7. The Eagle Has Landed nets Jack Higgins £464.36 per word
  8. Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban by J. K. Rowling has so far amassed £434.15 per word
  9. Kitchen (キッチン) by Banana Yoshimoto – £430.14 per word
  10. Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach soars into the top 10 making £367.36 per word

All seven Harry Potter books feature in the top 20 – in total, they earn a staggering £4,052.36 per word!

See more findings from the study  

Getting and spending your World Book Day vouchers…

World Book Day will continue to provide a printed token for children still in a school or nursery setting. Schools will also have the option of a new single-use digital version to share with families that can be printed at home or shown to booksellers on a phone or tablet.

World Book Day’s range of £1 books can be found in major supermarkets as well as bookshop chains, and bookshops are offering new ways to make the £1 books available, even in lockdown. Booksellers will honour the tokens beyond March 28 (while stocks last) and many are planning to welcome families to World Book Day events later in spring.

A full FAQ about World Book Day in lockdown is available here.


Sarah Proctor

I've worked on a variety of regional newspapers and national magazines. My Weekly and Your Best Ever Christmas are fantastic, warm-hearted brands with an amazing, talented team. I'm a sub-editor and particularly love working on cookery, fiction and advice pages - I feel I should know all the secrets of eternal life, health and happiness by now, but hey, we all need that regular reminder!