BBC’s 100 Novels That Shaped Our World: Politics, Power, and Protest

By November 21, 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 Politics, Power, and Protest.

A Thousand Splendid Suns – Khaled Hosseini

Born a generation apart and with very different ideas about love and family, Mariam and Laila are two women brought jarringly together by war, by loss and by fate. As they endure the ever escalating dangers around them-in their home as well as in the streets of Kabul-they come to form a bond that makes them both sisters and mother-daughter to each other, and that will ultimately alter the course not just of their own lives but of the next generation.

A Thousand Splendid Suns

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Brave New World – Aldous Huxley

Far in the future, the world controllers have created the ideal society. Through clever use of genetic engineering, brainwashing and recreational sex and drugs all its members are happy consumers. Bernard Marx seems alone harbouring an ill-defined longing to break free. A visit to one of the few remaining savage reservations where the old, imperfect life still continues, may be the cure for his distress.

Brave New World

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Home Fire – Kamila Shamsie

Isma is free. After years of watching out for her younger siblings in the wake of their mother’s death, she’s accepted an invitation from a mentor in America that allows her to resume a dream long deferred. But she can’t stop worrying about Aneeka, her beautiful, headstrong sister back in London, or their brother, Parvaiz, who’s disappeared in pursuit of his own dream, to prove himself to the dark legacy of the jihadist father he never knew. When he resurfaces half a globe away, Isma’s worst fears are confirmed.

Home Fire

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Lord of the Flies – William Golding

At the dawn of the next world war, a plane crashes on an uncharted island, stranding a group of schoolboys. At first, with no adult supervision, their freedom is something to celebrate. This far from civilization they can do anything they want. Anything. But as order collapses, as strange howls echo in the night, as terror begins its reign, the hope of adventure seems as far removed from reality as the hope of being rescued.

Lord of the Flies

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Noughts and Crosses – Malorie Blackman

Callum is a naught, a second-class citizen in a society run by the ruling Crosses. Sephy is a Cross, and daughter of the man slated to become prime minister. In their world, white noughts and black Crosses simply don’t mix — and they certainly don’t fall in love. But that’s exactly what they’ve done.

Noughts and Crosses

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Strumpet City – James Plunkett

Centring on the seminal lockout of 20,000 workers in Dublin in 1913, Strumpet City by Irish writer James Plunkett encompasses a wide sweep of city life. From the destitution of “Rashers” Tierney, the poorest of the poor, to the solid, aspirant respectability of Fitz and Mary, the priestly life of Father O’Connor, and the upper-class world of Yearling and the Bradshaws, it paints a portrait of a city of stark contrasts, with an urban working class mired in vicious poverty.

Strumpet City

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The Color Purple – Alice Walker

Celie is a poor black woman whose letters tell the story of 20 years of her life, beginning at age 14 when she is being abused and raped by her father and attempting to protect her sister from the same fate, and continuing over the course of her marriage to “Mister,” a brutal man who terrorizes her.

The Color Purple

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To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee

A gripping, heart-wrenching, and wholly remarkable tale of coming-of-age in a South poisoned by virulent prejudice, it views a world of great beauty and savage inequities through the eyes of a young girl, as her father—a crusading local lawyer—risks everything to defend a black man unjustly accused of a terrible crime.

To Kill a Mockingbird

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V For Vendetta – Alan Moore

Set in a futurist totalitarian England, a country without freedom or faith, a mysterious man in a white porcelain mask strikes back against the oppressive overlords on behalf of the voiceless. Armed with only knives and his wits, V, as he’s called, aims to bring about change in this horrific new world. His only ally? A young woman named Evey Hammond. And she is in for much more than she ever bargained for…

V for Vendetta

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Unless – Carol Shields

For all of her life, 44 year old Reta Winters has enjoyed the useful monotony of happiness: a loving family, good friends, growing success as a writer of light ‘summertime’ fiction. But this placid existence is cracked wide open when her beloved eldest daughter, Norah, drops out to sit on a gritty street corner, silent but for the sign around her neck that reads ‘GOODNESS.’ Reta’s search for what drove her daughter to such a desperate statement turns into an unflinching and surprisingly funny meditation on where we find meaning and hope.

Unless

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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.

Identity

Love, Sex and Romance

Adventure

Life, Death, and Other Worlds

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