The Best of Sherlock Holmes


The Best Sherlock Holmes Stories


Sherlockians from around the world selected the best Sherlock Holmes stories in the largest and most comprehensive survey on the topic ever conducted.  Experts chose the top 12 short stories and ranked the four long tales.  My Baker Street Journal article provides a detailed analysis and the following results:


Ranking the Holmes Novels


Story Points Rating
1. The Hound of the Baskervilles (179)880100
2. The Sign of [the] Four (24)60268
3. A Study in Scarlet (23)53561
4. The Valley of Fear (17)41347



The Top 12 Holmes Short Stories


Story Points Rating
1. "The Speckled Band" (50)1,713100
2. "The Red-Headed League" (40)1,66897
3. "A Scandal in Bohemia" (37)1,46886
4. "Silver Blaze" (23)1,33278
5. "The Blue Carbuncle" (20)1,28275
6. "The Musgrave Ritual" (14)1,01359
7. "The Final Problem" (9)88051
8. "The Empty House" (2)79146
9. "The Dancing Men" (3)76645
10. "The Six Napoleons" (4)71542
11. "The Bruce-Partington Plans" (6)69641
12. "The Man with the Twisted Lip" (4)46327



Rating the Collected Tales


Volume Rating Top 12 Rank
Adventures (1892)10051, 2, 3, 5, 12
Memoirs (1893)5834, 6, 7
Return (1905)5338, 9, 10
Last Bow (1917)39111
Case-Book (1927)140 



Randall Stock, "Rating Sherlock Holmes," The Baker Street Journal, December 1999, pp. 5-11.  Poll conducted summer/fall 1999.

Choosing Your First Holmes Book

Although the Holmes series began with a novel, you should start by reading The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.  It includes the first Holmes short stories and 5 of the top 12 overall.  To read The Adventures, see the best hardback and the best paperback edition.


Notes on the Poll


Bibliographical Note: Originally published as The Sign of the Four in Lippincott's Magazine, the title was shortened to The Sign of Four for the first English book edition.


Major Polls to Rate the Sherlock Holmes Stories


1999: Randall Stock, "Rating Sherlock Holmes," The Baker Street Journal, December 1999, pp. 5-11.


1989: Nicholas Utechin, "The Twelve Best," The Sherlock Holmes Journal, Winter 1989, pp. 69-70.


1959: Edgar W. Smith, "The 'Ten Best' Contest," The Baker Street Journal, October 1959, pp. 237240.


1954: Edgar W. Smith, "The 'Ten Best' and the 'Ten Least'," The Baker Street Journal, April 1954, pp. 117119.


1944: Edgar W. Smith, "The Twelve Best," The Baker Street Journal, October 1946, pp. 457-460.


In 1927, The Strand Magazine held a Sherlock Holmes Competition in which it challenged its readers to list the twelve best Holmes stories as selected by Conan Doyle.  None of the stories from The Case-Book were eligible since it had not yet been published in book form.  Sir Arthur later gave his choices in "How I Made My List" in the June 1927 issue of The Strand Magazine.



More Information

This website includes other "top 10" lists for the best Holmes quotes, the best Basil Rathbone movies, the best Sherlock Holmes gifts, and more.


This page also provides supplementary "story rating" information below for a four-part series of articles by me that appeared in the December 1999 Baker Street Journal.  Please refer to the original articles for the principle results and conclusions.


"Irregular Participation"

The Baker Street Journal reported on three polls to rate the Canon from 1944 to 1959.  However, those reports raised a number of questions about exactly how the polls were conducted.  My article "Irregular Participation" clears up some mysteries surrounding these prior polls.



"Rating Sherlock Holmes" Supplement

Since the prior polls all had certain limitations, I sent a proposal to Don Pollock, Editor of the BSJ, to carry out a new and more reliable poll of Sherlockian experts.  The 1999 poll of Baker Street Journal readers was the largest and most comprehensive survey ever conducted.  My article "Rating Sherlock Holmes" describes and analyzes the 1999 poll results, including rankings for the short stories, the long stories, and the collected tales.


The 1999 poll used a 12-point weighting method to rank the short stories.  Since the number of first-place votes provides additional critical insight, this information also appears in the table of results.  There are, however, many other potential weighting models and some were mentioned in the article.


Appendix Table A2 lists the results using six different scoring models.



"A Study in Sherlockians" Supplement

I had never seen any demographic information on Sherlockians and thought that the 1999 poll offered a great opportunity to get a better sense of this community.  I also wanted to see if a voter's experience or affiliations would relate to their choice of the best stories.  My article "A Study in Sherlockians" covers both of these topics for the first time.


Because of the large number of participants in the 1999 poll, it was worthwhile to compare the choices of various groups of voters.  The December 1999 BSJ article listed only the top choices from these groups.  Complete story rankings are provided here for:


Countries (Table 6)



"The Best of the Best" Supplement

After researching prior polls and conducting the 1999 effort, it was clear that each poll brought some unique Sherlockian insight to rating the Canon.  My article "The Best of the Best" summarizes the history of these appraisals and determines the all-time greatest stories.


Results from five polls reported in the BSJ and SHJ between 1944 and 1999 were analyzed to determine the all-time greatest Sherlock Holmes stories.  The December 1999 BSJ article listed only the top choices from these polls.  The complete tables are provided here for:


Relative Story Scores by Poll (Appendix Table A1)




A special "thank-you" to everyone who participated in the 1999 poll.  The response was outstanding!  I especially enjoyed the notes that many of you included with your ballots.


My first contact with the official Sherlockian community was Donald Pollock.  He helped to re-ignite my Canonical interests and his guidance is much appreciated.  Thanks for being a great BSJ Editor!


I am always interested in hearing about prior polls and welcome your e-mail on the topic.  I am particularly interested in any ballots from the 1944 - 1959 polls and in story scores from the 1989 Sherlock Holmes Journal poll that were not published in the SHJ.


Now that you know the best Sherlock Holmes stories, be sure to read about The 10 Most Famous Quotations from the Holmes Stories, the best Basil Rathbone Holmes movies and DVDs, the best Sherlock Holmes gifts, and more top-10 topics.




Vers. 2.0bx-RN Original work
Copyright 2016  Randall Stock. All Rights Reserved.