BBC reveals the 100 ‘most important’ novels and there’s a few surprises

Book worms, take note
  • We earn a commission for products purchased through some links in this article.
  • A list of 'important’ literature has been revealed - with some surprising titles.

    The BBC has released a list of the ‘most important’ English language novels, with Harry Potter and Bridget Jones featuring alongside Jane Austen classics.

    The list is made up of books believed to have ‘shaped the world.’

    Six leading British writers, authors and critics formed the 100-strong list of novels. The hearty compilation has categories such as identity, love, sex and romance, politics, power and protest, and class and society.

    Beloved by Tony Morrison, The Bella Jar by Sylvia Plath and The Moor’s Last Sigh by Salman Rushdie all feature on the list, alongside Riders by Jilly Cooper and White Teeth by Zadie Smith.

    A number of contemporary works are also included, such as A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin and His Dark Materials by Phillip Pullman.

    JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series stars in the coming of age category, whereas Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding is located in the love, sex and romance section.

    Classics such as Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird and Frankenstein by Mary Shelley make the top 100, too.

    novels and glasses

    Do you agree with the selection? (Getty)

    The literary panel was made up of the Times Literary Supplement editor Stig Abell, author Alexander McCall Smith, novelists Juno Dawson and Kit de Waal, journalist Mariella Frostrup and director of the Bradford Literature Festival, Syima Aslam.

    The team spent months debating before settling on their selection of contemporary titles, classics and children’s books.

    The list kickstarts the BBC’s year-long celebration of literature, which begins with a new three-part series on BBC Two called Novels That Shaped Our World.

    BBC Arts director Jonty Claypole said, “We asked our prestigious panel to create a list of world-changing novels that would be 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.”

    The last time the BBC attempted a similar list was in 2003 when it launched The Big Read – a list of 100 novels voted for by the general public.

    Here’s the list in full divided into themes…

    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 – 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 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 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

    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 Reluctant Fundamentalist – Mohsin Hamid
    The Talented Mr Ripley – Patricia Highsmith
    The Quiet American – Graham Greene

    Rule Breakers
    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

    Latest Stories

    Most Popular