Discover 100 amazing novels with brand new BBC Sounds podcast
7 February 2022
New podcast Turn Up for the Books features Bastille vocalist Dan Smith, writer Irenosen Okojie and book vlogger Simon Savidge delving into some of the greatest English language novels of all time with the help of a collection of very special guests.
In the first episode, Skunk Anansie star Skin reveals how the quiet refuge of Brixton Library helped to set her on the path to rock stardom.
Brixton Library was my library... Sometimes I wouldn't even read, I'd write lyrics in there and I'd write songs in thereSkin on the pivotal role that her local library had on her future career
In a wide-ranging conversation for Turn Up for the Books, Skin explained that space was at a premium during her childhood in a Brixton two-up, two-down house.
She said: "I have three brothers and until I was 12, we all lived in the same room. In the winter I spent all my time in a corner in the library.
"Growing up as a child, Brixton Library was my library. I felt like I owned it. It was just peaceful for me, and it was my personal, peaceful space. And it was the only time in my life where I had a quiet space to just suck in information and be me.
"It was kind of like Alice in Wonderland, just like going through this door and there were books everywhere. I remember that dusty smell of the library, which I actually really love to this day because I have so many memories attached to that dusty library smell.
"I was always taking out books and taking them home and then having to bring them back and getting fined because I brought them back too late and stuff like that.
"It was like a second home, like a living room. I used to go to the same corner in the library, in the same place, and I would just sit on one of the stools and read my books in the corner. It was the only place I had in my whole life that was mine, and that belonged to me, that I could go and just be myself and be quiet.
But Brixton Library was more than just a quiet place to read. In fact, it was in this location that Skin laid some of the foundations for her future career as the frontwoman of Skunk Anansie, the rock band who had 10 Top 40 hits in the 1990s.
She admitted: "Sometimes I wouldn't even read, I would just sit there and just watch other people reading and just take stuff in. And I'd write lyrics in there and I'd write songs in there - I’d be pretending to read.
"I think I would have actually been a different person if I didn't have that in my life as a 9, 10, 11, 12-year-old child."
What is Turn Up for the Books?
Turn Up for the Books is the podcast full of fascinating recommendations about what to read next as well as lively chat about all things books with three people who love all things literary.
- Irenosen Okojie, a writer who was awarded an MBE for services to literature earlier this year
- Simon Savidge, the self-confessed book addict behind the Savidge Reads BookTube Channel
- Dan Smith, who studied English Literature at university before finding fame with Bastille
Irenosen, Simon and Dan will be joined by guests, including Skin, Juno Dawson, Jed Mercurio and Rev. Richard Coles, to talk writing, explore literary themes as well as revealing the important role that libraries have played in their lives.
Professor Bas Groes from the University of Wolverhampton will also appear in each episode with fascinating statistical reveals drawn from the Big Book Review.
The novels featuring in Turn Up for the Books were selected by a panel of six leading British writers, curators and critics.
If you'd like to find out more about the themes and novels that Turn Up for the Books will be covering over the next 10 weeks, you'll find a full list and links to further reading below.
A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole
Bartleby, the Scrivener – Herman Melville
Habibi – Craig Thompson
How to be Both – Ali Smith
Nights at the Circus – Angela Carter
Nineteen Eighty-Four – George Orwell
Orlando – Virginia Woolf
Psmith, Journalist – P. G. Wodehouse
The Moor’s Last Sigh – Salman Rushdie
Zami: A New Spelling of My Name – Audre Lorde
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
Read more: Ten remarkable novels about identity.
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
The Far Pavilions – M. M. Kaye
The Forty Rules of Love – Elif Shafak
Their Eyes Were Watching God – Zora Neale Hurston
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 – Philip Pullman
Ivanhoe – Walter Scott
Mr Standfast – John Buchan
The Big Sleep – Raymond Chandler
The Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins
The Jack Aubrey Novels – Patrick O’Brian
The Lord of the Rings Trilogy – J.R.R. Tolkien
Life, Death & Other Worlds
A Game of Thrones – George R. R. Martin
Astonishing the Gods – Ben Okri
Dune – 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 Road – Cormac McCarthy
The Sandman Series – Neil Gaiman
- Read more: Ten classic stories of other worlds
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
Unless – Carol Shields
V for Vendetta – Alan Moore
- Read more: Ten political novels to challenge your views
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 13 ¾ - Sue Townsend
The Twilight Saga – Stephenie Meyer
Family & Friendship
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
- Read more: 10 stories exploring family and friendship
Crime & Conflict
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 Quiet American – Graham Greene
The Reluctant Fundamentalist – Mohsin Hamid
The Talented Mr Ripley – Patricia Highsmith