The Novels That Shaped Our World: BBC reveals 100-strong list

The Novels That Shaped Our World: BBC reveals 100-strong list

Novels by authors including Toni Morrison, Sylvia Plath and Salman Rushdie have been recognised by the BBC in a new list of novels chosen by an expert panel that have shaped their world. 

Tying into the BBC’s year-long celebration of literature, the BBC-assembled expert panel of six leading British writers, curators and critics today reveal the English language titles that have shaped their world in a 100-strong list designed to "spark debate about the novels that have had a big impact on us all personally and culturally".

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, featuring Stig Abell, Syima Aslam, Juno Dawson, Kit de Waal, Mariella Frostrup and Alexander McCall Smith, have chosen are those that have had a personal impact on them. Divided into ten categories, the choices are wide-ranging and inclusive and feature children’s books, contemporary classics, graphic novels and books that have contributed to a significant cultural shift. 

Contemporary works such as Harry Potter and Bridget Jones's Diary have made the list alongside classics such as Pride and Prejudice and Middlemarch. Morrison's Beloved, The Bella Jar by Plath and The Moor's Last Sigh by Salman Rushdie also make the list alongside titles by Andrea Levy, Elif Shafak, Noel Streatfeild and Roald Dahl. 

The panellists (pictured below) 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 8th November at 1pm.

©David Emery

Jonty Claypole, director, BBC Arts, said: "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."

The list 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 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.

Mark Freeman, president, Libraries Connected said: "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."

The list of 100 novels, featured below, kicks off a year-long celebration of literature at the BBC, spearheaded by the landmark BBC Two three-part series "Novels That Shaped Our World", beginning Saturday 9th November, 9pm.

Identity - January

Beloved by Toni Morrison (Vintage)
Days Without End by Sebastian Barry (Faber)
Fugitive Pieces by Anne Michaels (Bloomsbury)
Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Fourth Estate)
Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi (Penguin)
Small Island by Andrea Levy (Tinder Press)
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath (Faber)
The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy (Harper Perennial)
Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe (Penguin)
White Teeth by Zadie Smith (Penguin)

Love, Sex & Romance - February

Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding 
Forever by Judy Blume
Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin 
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Riders by Jilly Cooper
Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
The Far Pavilions by M M Kaye 
The Forty Rules of Love by Elif Shafak 
The Passion by Jeanette Winterson
The Slaves of Solitude by Patrick Hamilton

Adventure - March

City of Bohane by Kevin Barry
Eye of the Needle by Ken Follett
For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway
His Dark Materials Trilogy by Phillip Pullman
Ivanhoe by Walter Scott
Mr Standfast by John Buchan
The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
The Jack Aubrey Novels by Patrick O’Brian
The Lord of the Rings Trilogy by J R R Tolkein

Life, Death & Other Worlds - April

A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin
Astonishing the Gods by Ben Okri
Dune by Frank Herbert
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
The Chronicles of Narnia by C S Lewis
The Discworld Series by Terry Pratchett
The Earthsea Trilogy by Ursula K Le Guin
The Sandman Series by Neil Gaiman
The Road by Cormac McCarthy

Politics, Power & Protest - May

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie
Lord of the Flies by William Golding
Noughts & Crosses by Malorie Blackman
Strumpet City by James Plunkett
The Color Purple by Alice Walker
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
V for Vendetta by Alan Moore
Unless by Carol Shields

Class & Society - June

A House for Mr Biswas by V S Naipaul
Cannery Row by John Steinbeck
Disgrace by J M Coetzee
Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens
Poor Cow by Nell Dunn
Saturday Night and Sunday Morning by Alan Sillitoe
The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne by Brian Moore
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark
The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys

Coming of Age - July

Emily of New Moon by L M Montgomery
Golden Child by Claire Adam
Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
So Long, See You Tomorrow by William Maxwell
Swami and Friends by R K Narayan
The Country Girls by Edna O’Brien
The Harry Potter series by J K Rowling
The Outsiders by S E Hinton
The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13 ¾ by Sue Townsend
The Twilight Saga by Stephanie Meyer

Family & Friendship - August

A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth
Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild
Cloudstreet by Tim Winton
Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons
I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
Middlemarch by George Eliot
Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin
The Shipping News by E Annie Proulx
The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte
The Witches by Roald Dahl

Conflict & Crime – September

American Tabloid by James Ellroy
American War by Omar El Akkad
Ice Candy Man by Bapsi Sidhwa
Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
Regeneration by Pat Barker
The Children of Men by P D James
The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle
The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid
The Talented Mr Ripley by Patricia Highsmith
The Quiet American by Graham Greene

Rule Breakers - October

A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
Bartleby, the Scrivener by Herman Melville
Habibi by Craig Thompson
How to be Both by Ali Smith
Orlando by Virginia Woolf
Nights at the Circus by Angela Carter
Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell
Psmith, Journalist by P G Wodehouse
The Moor’s Last Sigh by Salman Rushdie
Zami: A New Spelling of My Name by Audre Lorde