BBC panel aims to spark debate on the novels that shaped our world with the reveal of their 100 page-turners
Tying into the BBC’s year-long celebration of literature, a BBC-assembled expert panel of six leading British writers, curators and critics today reveal a list of 100 English language titles that have shaped their world.
It is a more diverse list than any I have seen before, recognising the extent to which the English language novel is an art form embraced way beyond British shores.
The list, which includes contemporary works such as Bridget Jones’s Diary and His Dark Materials series to classics like Pride And Prejudice and Middlemarch, is designed to spark debate about the novels that have had a big impact on us all personally and culturally, and will form the basis of digital reading resources that will be made available on the BBC Arts website from January 2020. Everyone is encouraged to share their own stories of the novels that have had the biggest impact on them, using the hashtag #mybooklife.
The panellists - all passionate readers with established literary backgrounds - are; Stig Abell, Syima Aslam, Juno Dawson, Kit de Waal, Mariella Frostrup and Alexander McCall Smith.
To mark the publication of Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe in 1719, a landmark moment 300 years ago thought to herald the birth of the English language novel, the books the panel have chosen are those that have had a personal impact on them. Divided into ten categories, their choices are wide ranging and inclusive and feature children’s books, contemporary classics, graphic novels, rollicking reads and some books that have contributed to a significant cultural shift.
The panellists will discuss their choices at a panel event from the British Library, chaired by Jo Whiley, which will be livestreamed onto BBC iPlayer and into libraries across the UK - on Friday 8 November at 1pm.
The list of 100 novels kicks off a year-long celebration of literature at the BBC, with new programming across TV, radio and online, spearheaded by the landmark BBC Two three-part series Novels That Shaped Our World, beginning Saturday 9 November, 9pm. The series explores the novel from three unique perspectives: women’s voices, the empire and working class experiences. These unique films will argue that the novel has always been a revolutionary agent of social change, spearheading shifts in gender equality, colonial and post-colonial attitudes and social mobility.
The list also launches a year-long festival in partnership with libraries and reading groups around the UK. Led by Libraries Connected and supported by Arts Council England, special events at libraries around the country include workshops, walking tours, film screenings and live performances, with many libraries commissioning artists to make work that reaches out to everyone in the community, from people living with dementia to those at risk of knife crime.
Jonty Claypole, Director, BBC Arts, says: "We asked our prestigious panel to create a list of world-changing novels that would provocative, spark debate and inspire curiosity. It took months of enthusiastic debate and they have not disappointed. There are neglected masterpieces, irresistible romps as well as much-loved classics. It is a more diverse list than any I have seen before, recognising the extent to which the English language novel is an art form embraced way beyond British shores. Best of all, it is just the start of a year of documentaries, author profiles, podcasts and outreach events all designed to do one thing and inspire everyone, whoever they are, to read more novels because of the proven life-enhancing benefits it brings."
Mark Freeman, President, Libraries Connected, says: "This amazing campaign lies at the heart of libraries’ mission to deliver innovative and engaging reading experiences to communities who need it most. Yet again, we would like to thank the Arts Council for funding this work which will enable libraries, in partnership with BBC Arts and grass roots arts organisations, to introduce new audiences to the joys of reading."
About the panel
The panel is made up of authors, writers, broadcasters, and a literature festival director. Each member brought a different experience and point of view, reflecting the diversity of readers and resulting in a final list that is varied and exciting.
Stig is the Editor of the Times Literary Supplement and a presenter on Radio 4 Front Row. From 2013 to 2016 he was Managing Editor of the Sun. He was formerly a fiction reviewer at The Spectator and reviewer at Telegraph Media Group as well as The Times Literary Supplement. His first book How Britain Really Works was published in 2018.
Syima Aslam is the founder and Director of the Bradford Literature Festival (BLF), which she established in 2014. In just five years the festival has grown to a 10 day literary and cultural celebration, welcoming 70,000 visitors to Bradford annually. BLF has been hailed as ‘one of the most innovative and inspirational festivals in the UK’, bringing together literature from all genres, promoting intercultural fluency, providing a platform for marginalised voices, and reflecting the changing face of contemporary Britain through a programme which celebrates diversity, empathy and artistic excellence.
Juno is a bestselling novelist, screenwriter, journalist, and a columnist for Attitude Magazine. Her writing has appeared in Glamour, Dazed and the Guardian. She is presently adapting her 2019 novel, Meat Market for television. Juno writes full time and lives in Brighton. She is a part of the queer cabaret collective known as Club Silenco. In 2014 Juno became a School Role Model for the charity Stonewall.
Kit de Waal
Kit de Waal is an author and founding member of Leather Lane Writers and Oxford Narrative Group. She has won numerous awards for her short stories and flash fiction and her debut novel, My Name Is Leon, won the Kerry Group Irish Novel of the Year 2017 and was shortlisted for the Costa First Book Award and the Desmond Elliott Prize. The Trick To Time, her second novel, was published in 2018 and longlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction.
Mariella is a journalist and presenter. She presents Books To Live By on BBC Sounds and regularly presents Radio 4’s Open Book, interviewing authors and publishers and reviewing new fiction and non-fiction books. She is a presenter of The Big Painting Challenge on BBC One and a former presenter of the Books Show on Sky Arts 1.
Alexander McCall Smith
Alexander is an author and academic, who has written and contributed to more than 100 books including specialist academic titles, short story collections, and children’s books.
The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series made him a household name, having now sold over twenty million copies in the English language alone.
100 Novels That Shaped Our World
- Beloved - Toni Morrison
- Days Without End - Sebastian Barry
- Fugitive Pieces - Anne Michaels
- Half Of A Yellow Sun - Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
- Homegoing - Yaa Gyasi
- Small Island - Andrea Levy
- The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
- The God Of Small Things - Arundhati Roy
- Things Fall Apart - Chinua Achebe
- White Teeth - Zadie Smith
Love, Sex & Romance
- Bridget Jones’s Diary - Helen Fielding
- Forever - Judy Blume
- Giovanni’s Room - James Baldwin
- Pride And Prejudice - Jane Austen
- Riders - Jilly Cooper
- Their Eyes Were Watching God - Zora Neale Hurston
- The Far Pavilions - M.M. Kaye
- The Forty Rules Of Love - Elif Shafak
- The Passion - Jeanette Winterson
- The Slaves Of Solitude - Patrick Hamilton
- City Of Bohane - Kevin Barry
- Eye Of The Needle - Ken Follett
- For Whom The Bell Tolls - Ernest Hemingway
- His Dark Materials Trilogy - Phillip Pullman
- Ivanhoe - Walter Scott
- Mr Standfast - John Buchan
- The Big Sleep - Raymond Chandler
- The Hunger Games Trilogy - Suzanne Collins
- The Jack Aubrey Novels - Patrick O’Brian
- The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy - J.R.R. Tolkein
Life, Death & Other Worlds
- A Song Of Ice And Fire (Game Of Thrones Series) - George R.R. Martin
- Astonishing The Gods - Ben Okri
- Dune Series - Frank Herbert
- Frankenstein - Mary Shelley
- Gilead - Marilynne Robinson
- The Chronicles Of Narnia - C.S. Lewis
- The Discworld Series - Terry Pratchett
- The Earthsea Trilogy - Ursula K. Le Guin
- The Sandman Series - Neil Gaiman
- The Road - Cormac McCarthy
Politics, Power & Protest
- A Thousand Splendid Suns - Khaled Hosseini
- Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
- Home Fire - Kamila Shamsie
- Lord Of The Flies - William Golding
- Noughts & Crosses - Malorie Blackman
- Strumpet City - James Plunkett
- The Color Purple - Alice Walker
- To Kill A Mockingbird - Harper Lee
- V For Vendetta - Alan Moore
- Unless - Carol Shields
Class & Society
- A House For Mr Biswas - V.S. Naipaul
- Cannery Row - John Steinbeck
- Disgrace - J.M. Coetzee
- Our Mutual Friend - Charles Dickens
- Poor Cow - Nell Dunn
- Saturday Night And Sunday Morning - Alan Sillitoe
- The Lonely Passion Of Judith Hearne - Brian Moore
- The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie - Muriel Spark
- The Remains Of The Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
- Wide Sargasso Sea - Jean Rhys
Coming of Age
- Emily Of New Moon - L.M. Montgomery
- Golden Child - Claire Adam
- Oryx And Crake - Margaret Atwood
- So Long, See You Tomorrow - William Maxwell
- Swami And Friends - R.K. Narayan
- The Country Girls - Edna O’Brien
- The Harry Potter Series - J.K. Rowling
- The Outsiders - S.E. Hinton
- The Secret Diary Of Adrian Mole, Aged 13¾ - Sue Townsend
- The Twilight Saga - Stephanie Meyer
Family & Friendship - August
- A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
- Ballet Shoes - Noel Streatfeild
- Cloudstreet - Tim Winton
- Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
- I Capture The Castle - Dodie Smith
- Middlemarch - George Eliot
- Tales Of The City - Armistead Maupin
- The Shipping News - E. Annie Proulx
- The Tenant Of Wildfell Hall - Anne Brontë
- The Witches - Roald Dahl
Conflict & Crime
- American Tabloid - James Ellroy
- American War - Omar El Akkad
- Ice Candy Man - Bapsi Sidhwa
- Rebecca - Daphne du Maurier
- Regeneration - Pat Barker
- The Children Of Men - P.D. James
- The Hound Of The Baskervilles - Arthur Conan Doyle
- The Reluctant Fundamentalist - Mohsin Hamid
- The Talented Mr Ripley - Patricia Highsmith
- The Quiet American - Graham Greene
- A Confederacy Of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
- Bartleby, The Scrivener - Herman Melville
- Habibi - Craig Thompson
- How To Be Both - Ali Smith
- Orlando - Virginia Woolf
- Nights At The Circus - Angela Carter
- Nineteen Eighty-Four - George Orwell
- Psmith, Journalist - P.G. Wodehouse
- The Moor’s Last Sigh - Salman Rushdie
- Zami: A New Spelling Of My Name - Audre Lorde