BBC’s 100 Novels that Shaped our World

Collage of the book covers of Homegoing, The God of Small Things, Half of a Yellow Sun, Beloved, Days Without End, and White Teeth.
Images sourced from Wikipedia

Tackling the BBC’s reading list as part of my 30 before 30 challenge

Growing up I was what you might describe as a voracious reader. I would read almost anything I could get my hands on, and trips to the local library were exciting adventures to find new (to me) books. You could say that my taste was a little pretentious – I swapped Harry Potter for Chekhov – and I sometimes read things before I was quite old enough to ‘get’ them (Giovanni’s Room went a little over my head). But for all that, my reading hasn’t been very diverse, and it has dropped off a lot in recent years. Like many people, university left me feeling that any reading not for an essay was a bad use of time. So I decided to make a concerted effort to read more in 2020, and from a more diverse selection. I’ve been documenting some of my reading in The Reading List series, and I’m pleased to report that (prior to taking on this particular challenge) all the books I’ve read bar three have been written by women.

Now I’m in the final year of my 20s I decided to expand on this idea and try to complete the BBC’s 100 Novels that Shaped our World list, as part of my 30 before 30 challenge. I’ve already read some of the entries, but not that many, so realistically I expect I’ll only be able to complete a few of the sections. However I think this should still be a fun way to expand my reading horizons, and discover some books that I might otherwise have missed. So here is my progress so far. I’ll try to write reviews of the books as I finish them, and link them here. You’ll see that I have a long way to go, so if you’re ever wondering what I’m up to, chances are that I’ll have my nose stuck in one of these!

A caveat on series: Unless they specify the series as a whole, I’ll take the named books as the entry (e.g. Noughts and Crosses, not the whole series). Any books I’ve read before taking on this challenge will be marked as ‘Read before’. So here are the ten sections, and how I’m doing so far!


Beloved – Toni Morrison
Days Without End – Sebastian Barry – Completed August 2020
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
Total: 1/10

Love, Sex and Romance

Bridget Jones’s Diary – Helen Fielding – Read before
Forever – Judy Blume
Giovanni’s Room – James Baldwin – Read before (although admittedly I should probably re-read it!)
Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen – Read before
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
Total: 3/10


City of Bohane – Kevin Barry
Eye of the Needle – Ken Follett
For Whom the Bell Tolls – Ernest Hemingway
His Dark Materials Trilogy – Philip Pullman – Read before
Ivanhoe – Walter Scott
Mr Steadfast – John Buchan
The Big Sleep – Raymond Chandler
The Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins – Read before
The Jack Aubrey Novels – Patrick O’Brian
The Lord of the Rings Trilogy – J.R.R. Tolkien – Read before (too many times!)
Total: 3/10

Life, Death and Other Worlds

A Game of Thrones – George R.R. Martin – Read before
Astonishing the Gods – Ben Okri
Dune – Frank Herbert
Frankenstein – Mary Shelley – Read before
Gildead – Marilynne Robinson
The Chronicles of Narnia – C.S. Lewis – Read before
The Discworld Series – Terry Pratchett
The Earthsea Trilogy – Ursula K. Le Guin – Read before
The Road – Cormac McCarthy
The Sandman Series – Neil Gaiman
Total: 4/10

Politics, Power and Protest

A Thousand Splendid Suns – Khaled Hosseini
Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
Home Fire – Kamila Shamsie
Lord of the Flies – William Golding – Read before
Noughts and Crosses – Malorie Blackman – Read before
Strumpet City – James Plunkett
The Color Purple – Alice Walker – Finished August 2020
To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee – Read before
Unless – Carol Shields
V for Vendetta – Alan Moore
Total: 4/10

Class and 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 Sparl
The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro
Wide Sargasso Sea – Jean Rhys
Total: 0/10

Coming of Age

Emily of New Moon – L. M. Montgomery – Finished September 2020
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. RowlingRead before
The Outsiders – S. E. Hinton
The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13 3/4 – Sue Townsend
The Twilight Saga – Stephanie Meyer
Total: 2/10

Family and Friendship

A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth
Ballet Shoes – Noel Streatfeild
Cloudstreet – Tim Winton
Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons – Read before
I Capture the Castle – Dodie Smith – Read before
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
Total: 2/10

Crime and Conflict

American Tabloid – James Ellroy
American War – Omar El Akkad
Ice Candy Man – Bapsi Sidhwa
Rebecca – Daphne du Maurier
Regeneration – Pat Barker – Read before
The Children of Men – P. D. James
The Hound of the Baskervilles – Arthur Conan Doyle – Finished September 2020
The Quiet American – Graham Greene
The Reluctant Fundamentalist – Mohsin Hamid
The Talented Mr Ripley – Patricia Highsmith
Total: 2/10

Rule Breakers

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 Lord
Total: 0/10

Total read so far: 21

What do you think of the BBC’s list? Are there some classic you’d like to add? And of those you’ve read, which is your favourite? I’ve love to hear your thoughts, and recommendations for anything else I should try, so please do share them in the comments below! Wish me luck with this mammoth reading challenge – it’s a lot to get through!


    • Thank you! :D. Yes it’s a great list, and I”m enjoying getting stuck into them. Currently reading Middlemarch (which is one of the longest on the list so I thought I’d tackle it early) and absolutely loving it!


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