BBC’s 100 Novels That Shaped Our World: Life, Death, and Other Worlds

By November 18, 2019 Discussion and Recommendations

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 Life, Death, and Other Worlds.

A Game of Thrones – George R. R. Martin

Winter is coming. Such is the stern motto of House Stark, the northernmost of the fiefdoms that owe allegiance to King Robert Baratheon in far-off King’s Landing. There Eddard Stark of Winterfell rules in Robert’s name. There his family dwells in peace and comfort: his proud wife, Catelyn; his sons Robb, Brandon, and Rickon; his daughters Sansa and Arya; and his bastard son, Jon Snow. Far to the north, behind the towering Wall, lie savage Wildings and worse—unnatural things relegated to myth during the centuries-long summer, but proving all too real and all too deadly in the turning of the season.

A Game of Thrones

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Astonishing the Gods – Ben Okri

From Booker Prize-winner Ben Okri: a deceptively simple modern fable with an ancient origin. A young man finds himself living among invisible beings who have built a utopia based on one principle: that we must repeat or suffer every experience until we experience it properly and fully for the first time.

Astonishing the Gods

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Dune – Frank Herbert

Here is the novel that will be forever considered a triumph of the imagination. Set on the desert planet Arrakis, Dune is the story of the boy Paul Atreides, who would become the mysterious man known as Maud’dib. He would avenge the traitorous plot against his noble family and would bring to fruition humankind’s most ancient and unattainable dream.

A stunning blend of adventure and mysticism, environmentalism and politics, Dune won the first Nebula Award, shared the Hugo Award, and formed the basis of what is undoubtedly the grandest epic in science fiction.

Dune

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Frankenstein – Mary Shelley

Few creatures of horror have seized readers’ imaginations and held them for so long as the anguished monster of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. The story of Victor Frankenstein’s terrible creation and the havoc it caused has enthralled generations of readers and inspired countless writers of horror and suspense.

Frankenstein

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Gilead – Marilynne Robinson

An intimate tale of three generations, from the Civil War to the 20th century: a story about fathers and sons and the spiritual battles that still rage at America’s heart. In the words of Kirkus, it is a novel “as big as a nation, as quiet as thought, and moving as prayer. Matchless and towering.” Gilead tells the story of America and will break your heart.

Gilead

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Chronicles of Narnia – C. S Lewis

C. S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia has captivated readers of all ages for over sixty years, enchanting them with fantastical talking creatures, epic battles between good and evil, and magical doorways into new lands.

Chronicles of Narnia

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Discworld Series – Terry Pratchett

The Discworld is the fictional setting of Terry Pratchett’s most iconic series. All the Discworld novels take place on a flat, circular world which sits on the back of four elephants, which stand on the back of a giant star turtle. Although this world may look and sound completely different to our own, the Discworld novels explore a multitude of very human issues.

Discworld

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Earthsea – Ursula K. le Guin

Earthsea, also known as The Earthsea Cycle, is a series of fantasy books written by the American writer Ursula K. Le Guin and the name of their setting, a dense archipelago surrounded by an uncharted ocean. There are six Earthsea books written between 1968 and 2001, beginning with A Wizard of Earthsea and continuing with The Tombs of Atuan, The Farthest Shore, Tehanu, Tales from Earthsea, and The Other Wind. Unusually for a series, Tales from Earthsea is a short story collection; the rest are novels. There are also four additional short stories not in Tales from Earthsea.

Earthsea

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Sandman Series – Neil Gaiman

The Sandman is often hailed as the definitive Vertigo title and one of the finest achievements in graphic storytelling. Gaiman created an unforgettable tale of the forces that exist beyond life and death by weaving ancient mythology, folklore and fairy tales with his own distinct narrative vision.

Sandman

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The Road – Cormac McCarthy

A father and his son walk alone through burned America. Nothing moves in the ravaged landscape save the ash on the wind. It is cold enough to crack stones, and when the snow falls it is gray. The sky is dark. Their destination is the coast, although they don’t know what, if anything, awaits them there. They have nothing; just a pistol to defend themselves against the lawless bands that stalk the road, the clothes they are wearing, a cart of scavenged food—and each other.

The Road

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The BBC list is 100 books long and split into ten categories, we’ll bring you the next category, Politics, Power and Protest very soon and if you missed the previous lists, links are below.

Identity

Love, Sex and Romance

Adventure

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