Tolstoy's War and Peace is the 19th Century classic British people are most likely to say they want to read – but very few people have actually read it
6.95 million people watched the second episode of BBC One's War and Peace ten days ago – more than tuned into Coronation Street two days before (6.82m) and not far behind The Voice (7.87m) that Saturday. The six episode adaptation of Leo Tolstoy's classic has received rave reviews, and the all-star British and American cast look set to be a hit overseas.
New YouGov research reveals War and Peace tops the list of 25 19th Century classic novels British people say they would most like to read if they had the time and the patience.
Asked to choose two or three, 14% say they want to read War and Peace, while Victor Hugo's Les Misérables (a hit movie in 2012) comes in second with 10%. Moby-Dick (which inspired 2015's In the Heart of the Sea) and The Picture of Dorian Gray tie for third with 8% each.
Taking away the percentage who want to read each book from the percentage who have already read them reveals the spare demand for each classic novel. By this measure, War and Peace and Les Misérables remain in first and second place (10 and 7 points respectively), but Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment comes in third (4 points) while Tolstoy's other masterpiece Anna Karenina rises up from ninth to fourth place (3 points).
Charles Dickens wrote three of the top 10 most-read books – Oliver Twist (21%), Great Expectations (14%) and David Copperfield (9%) – while his more difficult works – A Tale of Two Cities and Bleak House – have been read by fewer (7% and 3% respectively).
Jane Austen's much-televised Pride and Prejudice and Alcott's thrice-filmed Little Women are the second most-read classics (tied on 15%). And while many of the classics people are likely to want to read are European, American greats such as Moby Dick (8% want to read) and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (6%) also do well.