Best books for the next generation: Harry Potter – and "The 9/11 Commission Report"?

British readers had some unusual answers when asked what books they most wanted to pass on to the next generation.

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    Readers surveyed most often cited the Harry Potter books as good reads for the next generation.
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It should surprise no one to see Harry Potter's name on the top of any book list these days. So it seems more or less normal that more that 1,000 British readers – ages 16 to 64 – most often mentioned J.K. Rowling's boy-wizard series when asked about books they hoped the next generation would read. But who would have expected to see "The 9/11 Commission Report" as No. 7 in the Top 10?

And yet there it is. The BBC is reporting that a survey commissioned to mark World Book Day asked readers all across Britain to name the bestselling book of the past decade that they would most want to give to young people.

In addition to "Harry Potter," the list of the 10 books most often cited includes other works of popular fiction – "The Da Vinci Code" by Dan Brown (No. 2), "Twilight," by Stephenie Meyer (No. 5), and "The Kite Runner" by Khaled Hosseini (No. 6).

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But on the nonfiction side, the choices are perhaps more surprising. In addition to "The 9/11 Commission Report," readers surveyed mentioned "A Short History of Nearly Everything," by Bill Bryson (No. 4), "The God Delusion" by Richard Dawkins (No. 9), and "Dreams from my Father" by Barack Obama (No. 10).

But you have to wonder – were these choices books that they think the younger generation will want to read – or books that they should read? When the same readers were asked which book they had most often lied about having read in order to impress others, "1984" by George Orwell took the No. 1 spot, followed by "War And Peace" by Leo Tolstoy (No. 2), "Ulysses" by James Joyce (No. 3), and the Bible (No. 4). But Obama's memoir made a showing here as well, with "Dreams from My Father" ranking No. 9 on the list of not-actually-read books.

"Harry Potter" was noticeably absent from the list of books lied about. It did appear again, however, when readers were asked about authors they really enjoyed reading. In that survey most readers – 61 percent – said they truly enjoyed reading the books of "Harry Potter" creator J.K. Rowling.

Marjorie Kehe is the Monitor's book editor.

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