This most recent example of the idiotic "best of" genre seems even more idiotic than usual; but that is one person's opinion only. The article about it precedes the list itself.
It is a generally acknowledged cliche that whenever readers are asked their favourite books by women, they will reply Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights -- and so it proves in a survey released today of the 50 best books in the history of women's literature.
Pride and Prejudice, the choice of the broadcaster Sue MacGregor, is a predictable chart topper, but the rest of the list is an intriguing mixture of quality, nostalgia and recent marketing blitzes.
It was compiled through more than 6,000 public votes, by customers of Orange -- which sponsored the list -- and voting cards in public libraries and bookshops.
There will be some careful cross referencing to be done on Friday, when the BBC releases its list of the 100 best-loved books by all authors.
Kate Mosse, the co-founder of the Orange Prize for Fiction, which will be announced later this month at the Guardian Hay literary festival, said: "Our aim was to encourage as a wide a range of readers to vote as possible and to see which contemporary novels found their place among the classics.
"So I am pleased to see Bridget Jones's Diary and the Harry Potter novels doing so well, alongside firm favourites such as Middlemarch, Pride and Prejudice and Gone With the Wind."
The most hyped author of the last decade, J. K. Rowling, beats all her contemporaries with four placings. Her hero's original outing, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, did the best, at number 13.
There are four Jane Austen books listed, three in the top 10, and Austen also achieved a unique literary twinning, sharing 23rd place for Sense and Sensibility with Helen Fielding's Bridget Jones's Diary.
Virginia Woolf and George Eliot each have three books on the list, and Iris Murdoch two.
The Brontë sisters, Charlotte and Emily, occupy the second and third places. The author and commentator Bonnie Greer chose Wuthering Heights, writing: "I still get shivers down my spine whenever I read the words of Cathy: 'I am Heathcliff'."
Little Women gets Joanna Louisa May Alcott on to the list at 28, but Dodie Smith's I Capture The Castle, which was out of print for many years despite being many readers' favourite bittersweet teenage romance, may have been helped by publicity for the new film.
Other cherished authors of childhood and adolescence, including E Nesbitt, Elizabeth Goudge -- or even Enid Blyton -- do not make the cut.
Merely writing runaway best sellers was no guarantee of a place: Zadie Smith's dazzling first novel, White Teeth, makes the top 50, but her second, The Autograph Man, which was equally hyped and widely nominated for literary prizes, does not. Only Jeanette Winterson's poignant first novel, Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit, makes the list.
Of all the women authors of classic detective fiction -- a genre in which Britain has led the world with names such as Agatha Christie, Ruth Rendell, PD James, Ngaio Marsh, and Dorothy L Sayers -- none makes it into the top 50.
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