BBC’s 100 Novels That Shaped Our World: Rule Breakers

By November 29, 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 is the final list of the series and the theme is Rule Breakers.

A Confederacy of Dunces –  John Kennedy Toole

A Confederacy of Dunces is an American comic masterpiece. John Kennedy Toole’s hero, one Ignatius J. Reilly, is “huge, obese, fractious, fastidious, a latter-day Gargantua, a Don Quixote of the French Quarter.

A Confederacy of Dunces

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Bartleby the Scrivener – Herman Melville

Bartleby is a kind of clerk, a copyist, “who obstinately refuses to go on doing the sort of writing demanded of him.” During the spring of 1851, Melville felt similarly about his work on Moby Dick. Thus, Bartleby can be seen to represent Melville’s frustration with his own situation as a writer, and the story itself is “about a writer who forsakes conventional modes because of an irresistible preoccupation with the most baffling philosophical questions.

Bartleby

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Habibi – Craig Thompson

Sprawling across an epic landscape of deserts, harems, and modern industrial clutter, Habibi tells the tale of Dodola and Zam, refugee child slaves bound to each other by chance, by circumstance, and by the love that grows between them.

Habibi

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How To Be Both – Ali Smith

Borrowing from painting’s fresco technique to make an original literary double-take, How to be both is a novel all about art’s versatility. It’s a fast-moving genre-bending conversation between forms, times, truths and fictions.

How to be Both

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Orlando – Virginia Woolf

In her most exuberant, most fanciful novel, Woolf has created a character liberated from the restraints of time and sex. Born in the Elizabethan Age to wealth and position, Orlando is a young nobleman at the beginning of the story-and a modern woman three centuries later.

Orlando

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Nights at the Circus – Angela Carter

Jack Walser, an American journalist, is on a quest to discover Fevvers’s true identity: Is she part swan or all fake? Dazzled by his love for Fevvers, and desperate for the scoop of a lifetime, Walser joins the circus on its tour. The journey takes him—and the reader—on an intoxicating trip through turn-of-the-century London, St. Petersburg, and Siberia—a tour so magical that only Angela Carter could have created it.

Nights at the Circus

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Nineteen Eighty Four – George Orwell

Winston Smith toes the Party line, rewriting history to satisfy the demands of the Ministry of Truth. With each lie he writes, Winston grows to hate the Party that seeks power for its own sake and persecutes those who dare to commit thoughtcrimes. But as he starts to think for himself, Winston can’t escape the fact that Big Brother is always watching…

Nineteen Eighty Four

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Psmith, Journalist – P. G Wodehouse

Psmith, Journalist continues the adventures of the silver-tongued Psmith, one of Wodehouse’s best loved characters, and his friend Mike Jackson. The story begins with Psmith accompanying his fellow Cambridge student Mike to New York on a cricketing tour.

Psmith, Journalist

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The Moor’s Last Sigh – Salman Rushdie

Booker Prize-winning author Salman Rushdie combines a ferociously witty family saga with a surreally imagined and sometimes blasphemous chronicle of modern India and flavors the mixture with peppery soliloquies on art, ethnicity, religious fanaticism, and the terrifying power of love.

The Moor’s Last Sigh

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Zami: A New Spelling of My Name – Audre Lorde

ZAMI is a fast-moving chronicle. From the author’s vivid childhood memories in Harlem to her coming of age in the late 1950s, the nature of Audre Lorde’s work is cyclical. It especially relates the linkage of women who have shaped her

Zami

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The BBC list is 100 books long and split into ten categories, we’ve now covered all of those categories and you can access the entire list, theme by theme, on the links below.

Identity

Love, Sex and Romance

Adventure

Life, Death, and Other Worlds

Politics, Power, and Protest

Class and Society

Coming of Age

Family and Friendship

Crime and Conflict

All ten lists were taken from the BBC Arts section, 100 Novels That Shaped Our World.

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