All readers know that stories have the power to change us and shape who we are, and this month the BBC has collated a list of 100 novels that shaped our world.
The list is made up of English language novels only, and was chosen by a panel of leading writers, curators, and critics to select one hundred genre-busting novels that have had an impact on their lives. The books range from children’s classic to popular new releases, and the list is organised into ten themes.
The panel is made up of several BBC figures, Radio 4 Front Row presenter and Times Literary Supplement editor Stig Abell, broadcaster Mariella Frostrup, authors Juno Dawson, Kit de Waal and Alexander McCall Smith, and Bradford Festival Literary Director Syima Aslam
We’re going to feature the list in ten blogs, each one marking a different theme, today the theme is Crime and Conflict.
James Ellroy – American Tabloid
James Ellroy’s trademark nothing-spared rendering of reality, blistering language, and relentless narrative pace are here in electrifying abundance, put to work in a novel as shocking and daring as anything he’s written: a secret history that zeroes in on a time still shrouded in secrets and blows it wide open.
American War – Omar El Akkad
An audacious and powerful debut novel: a second American Civil War, a devastating plague, and one family caught deep in the middle—a story that asks what might happen if America were to turn its most devastating policies and deadly weapons upon itself.
Ice-Candy Man – Bapsi Sidhwa
The story of the upheaval of the 1974 partition of India seen through the eyes of a Parsee girl growing up in Lahore. Through her relationships with her Hindu Ayah, the Muslim cook, the Sikh zoo attendant and the ice candy man, she shows how ordinary citizens reacted to the horrific turmoil.
Rebecca – Daphne du Maurier
“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderly again.”
With these words, the reader is ushered into an isolated gray stone mansion on the windswept Cornish coast, as the second Mrs. Maxim de Winter recalls the chilling events that transpired as she began her new life as the young bride of a husband she barely knew.
Regeneration – Pat Barker
In 1917 Siegfried Sasson, noted poet and decorated war hero, publicly refused to continue serving as a British officer in World War I. His reason: the war was a senseless slaughter. He was officially classified “mentally unsound” and sent to Craiglockhart War Hospital. There a brilliant psychiatrist, Dr. William Rivers, set about restoring Sassoon’s “sanity” and sending him back to the trenches. This novel tells what happened as only a novel can. It is a war saga in which not a shot is fired. It is a story of a battle for a man’s mind in which only the reader can decide who is the victor, who the vanquished, and who the victim.
The Children of Men – P. D James
The human race has become infertile, and the last generation to be born is now adult. Civilization itself is crumbling as suicide and despair become commonplace. Oxford historian Theodore Faron, apathetic toward a future without a future, spends most of his time reminiscing. Then he is approached by Julian, a bright, attractive woman who wants him to help get her an audience with his cousin, the powerful Warden of England.
The Hound of the Baskervilles – Arthur Conan Doyle
The Hound of the Baskervilles is set largely on Dartmoor in Devon in England’s West Country and tells the story of an attempted murder inspired by the legend of a fearsome, diabolical hound of supernatural origin. Sherlock Holmes and his companion Dr. Watson investigate the case.
The Talented Mr. Ripley – Patricia Highsmith
Here, in the first Ripley novel, we are introduced to suave Tom Ripley, a young striver, newly arrived in the heady world of Manhattan. A product of a broken home, branded a “sissy” by his dismissive Aunt Dottie, Ripley meets a wealthy industrialist who hires him to bring his playboy son, Dickie Greenleaf, back from gallivanting in Italy. Soon Ripley’s fascination with Dickie’s debonair lifestyle turns obsessive as he finds himself enraged by Dickie’s ambivalent affections for Marge, a charming American dilettante
The Quiet American – Graham Greene
“I never knew a man who had better motives for all the trouble he caused,” Graham Greene’s narrator Fowler remarks of Alden Pyle, the eponymous “Quiet American” of what is perhaps the most controversial novel of his career. Pyle is the brash young idealist sent out by Washington on a mysterious mission to Saigon, where the French Army struggles against the Vietminh guerrillas.
The BBC list is 100 books long and split into ten categories, we’ll bring you the next category, Class & Society very soon and if you missed the previous lists, links are below.
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