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List of 70 books by Commonwealth authors announced to mark Platinum Jubilee

Margaret Atwood, Bernardine Evaristo and Seamus Heaney are among the literary stars to feature on the BBC’s list of 70 books to mark the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee (Ryan Phillips/PA)
Margaret Atwood, Bernardine Evaristo and Seamus Heaney are among the literary stars to feature on the BBC’s list of 70 books to mark the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee (Ryan Phillips/PA)

Margaret Atwood, Bernardine Evaristo and Seamus Heaney are among the literary stars to feature on the BBC’s list of 70 books to mark the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.

The Big Jubilee Read campaign was created to celebrate books by authors from across the Commonwealth published during the last 70 years of the monarch’s reign.

A panel of librarians, booksellers and literature specialists chose the titles from a readers’ choice longlist, with ten books for each decade.

The list, which was created by BBC Arts and The Reading Agency, spans 31 countries and six continents.

Among the selection is Canadian author Atwood’s 1985 dystopian novel The Handmaid’s Tale, which was later adapted into an award-winning TV series by Hulu.

Women’s Prize for Fiction winner Girl, Woman, Other by Evaristo also made the list, as well as Northern Irish poet Heaney’s 1966 collection Death of a Naturalist which received the 1995 Nobel Prize in Literature.

Life of Pi by Canadian author Yann Martel also features after its West End theatrical adaptation recently scooped a host of Olivier Awards.

The book was also adapted in 2012 into a blockbuster film starring Suraj Sharma, which won four Oscar awards including best director for Ang Lee.

The Testaments released
Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale is among the 70 selected titles. (Ian West/PA)

Indian author Arundhati Roy makes the list with her 1997 novel The God of Small Things, which won the Booker Prize in 1997.

The 1962 cult classic A Clockwork Orange by English author Anthony Burgess is also among the titles alongside English-Indian author Salman Rushdie’s 1981 effort Midnight’s Children, with both books being later adapted into films.

Some notable titles did not make the list including the Harry Potter series by creator JK Rowling and JRR Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings.

British Book Awards
Bernardine Evaristo’s award winning novel Girl, Woman, Other features in the Jubilee special list (Hamish Hamilton/PA)

The Big Jubilee Read campaign plans to use the list to “unite the public around the shared stories that define our social and cultural heritage” through public libraries, reading groups, publishers, bookshops and authors.

It will also be supported by events and activities in libraries and bookshops with resources available for reading groups across the country.

Suzy Klein, head of arts and classical music TV at the BBC, said: “Nineteen years on from the Big Read, the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee feels like the perfect opportunity to foreground some of the greatest writing from across the Commonwealth in our Big Jubilee Read.

“The list of 70 books – 10 for each decade of Elizabeth II’s reign – is a real opportunity to discover stories from across continents and taking us through the decades, books that we might never have otherwise read, and reading authors whose work deserves a spotlight to be shone on it.

“It’s a really exciting way to share the love of books with readers of all ages, and to give book groups and book borrowers a plethora of great titles to try, borrow, share and discuss.”

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