The Harry Potter series and Bridget Jones’s Diary feature alongside classics such as Pride And Prejudice and Middlemarch in a new BBC list of 100 important English language novels.
The list has been collated by a panel of six leading British writers, curators and critics in a bid to spark debate about the personal and cultural impact they have had on readers and to kick-start the BBC’s year-long celebration of literature.
The panel – comprised of the Times Literary Supplement editor Stig Abell, founder and director of the Bradford Literature Festival Syima Aslam, novelists Juno Dawson and Kit de Waal, journalist and presenter Mariella Frostrup and author and academic Alexander McCall Smith – spent months debating before choosing from an array of contemporary reads, literary classics, graphic novels and children’s books.
The full list of novels is split into 10 categories including identity, love, sex and romance, politics, power and protest, and class and society.
JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series is featured in the coming of age category alongside the likes of Sue Townsend’s The Secret Diary Of Adrian Mole, Aged 13 3/4, and Margaret Atwood’s Oryx And Crake.
Bridget Jones’s Diary, by Helen Fielding, is in the love, sex and romance selection, alongside Jane Austen’s Pride And Prejudice, Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin and Jilly Cooper’s Riders.
Classic novel Middlemarch, by George Eliot, sits alongside Stella Gibbons’ beloved work Cold Comfort Farm, Dodie Smith’s I Capture The Castle and Roald Dahl’s The Witches in the family and friendship section.
Other works picked by the panel include Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca, Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell, White Teeth by Zadie Smith, Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar, A Game Of Thrones by George RR Martin and His Dark Materials by Sir Philip Pullman, which has just been adapted for a star-studded new series on BBC One.
The 100 page-turners were compiled to mark the 300th anniversary of the publication of Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe, believed to herald the birth of the English language novel.
Jonty Claypole, director, BBC Arts, 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.
“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.”
The panellists will discuss their books – each chosen for having had a personal impact – at an event by the British Library, hosted by Jo Whiley, which will be live-streamed to BBC iPlayer and into libraries across the UK on Friday November 8 at 1pm.
The list of 100 novels is the start of a year-long celebration of literature at the BBC, which will include special programming across TV, radio and online, and will be kicked off by a new three-part series on BBC Two, Novels That Shaped Our World, which airs from Saturday November 9.
It also launches a year-long festival in partnership with reading groups and libraries across the UK, led by Libraries Connected and supported by Arts Council England.
Libraries Connected president Mark Freeman 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 grassroots arts organisations, to introduce new audiences to the joys of reading.”