BBC panel reveal the 100 novels that have shaped their world

We are excited to be working with BBC Arts and Libraries Connected on their year-long celebration of literature, as an expert panel reveal the 100 English language titles that have shaped their world. From January until the culmination of festival during Libraries Week in October 2020, resources will be available for readers and reading groups around the 100 novels, divided into ten categories. These resources will provide information about the chosen themes, questions to spark discussion and further suggestions to widen your reading.

The list, which includes contemporary works such as Bridget Jones’s Diary and His Dark Materials series to classics like Pride & 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.

See the full list of books on the BBC Arts website.

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:
‘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:
‘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.’

Get involved

Join a reading group, sign yours up or start your own for exclusive offers from publishers at Reading Groups For Everyone

Explore more booklists on Reading Groups for Everyone

Share the novels that have shaped your world on social media using @readingagency and #mybooklife

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