Stories might be made out of life, but they make life worth living. Recently, British Broadcasting Corporation came up with a list that features 100 novels that changed the world. A panel, consisting of “leading writers, curators and critics” chose these “genre-busting novels that have had an impact on their lives, and this is the result.”
The list has been divided into 10 categories — 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 and rule-breakers, the names — with 10 books each. It throws up both expected and unexpected names.
Under the category of Identity, there are books like Beloved by Toni Morrison, The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath, The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy, Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe. Under Love, Sex & Romance, the books are Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding, Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin, The Passion by Jeanette Winterson. Under Adventure, there are popular titles like For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway, The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, The Lord of the Rings Trilogy by JRR Tolkien among others.
For all Game of Thrones fan, their choice features under the sub-section Life, Death & Other Worlds. Other titles include Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, The Sandman Series by Neil Gaiman. The category Politics, Power & Protest has some really compelling titles and almost all of them are deeply entrenched in public consciousness. It includes: A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini, Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie Lord of the Flies by William Golding, Noughts & Crosses by Malorie Blackman, Strumpet City by James Plunkett The Color Purple by Alice Walker, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, V for Vendetta by Alan Moore and Unless by Carol Shields.
Under Class & Society, there includes books like A House for Mr Biswas –by VS Naipaul, Disgrace by JM Coetzee, The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro, Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys. It also features a Charles Dickens, Our Mutual Friend. Under Coming of Age, the books enlisted are Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood, The Twilight Saga by Stephenie Meyer, The Harry Potter series by JK Rowling. Well, there is also Swami and Friends by RK Narayan among other books.
Vikram Seth’s immensely loved A Suitable Boy features under Family & Friendship, so does Middlemarch by George Eliot and The Witches by Roald Dahl, among others. The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid, Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier, The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle among other books are listed under Crime & Conflict.
The Moor’s Last Sigh by Salman Rushdie, Orlando by Virginia Woolf, Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell among other books have been selected as Rule Breakers.
While the list is undeniably exhaustive and comprehensive, it has received some criticism on the grounds that all the books have been written originally in English, providing no space or acknowledgement for those which have been translated.
Translator and journalist, Arunava Sinha has voiced a similar concern in his tweet.
— Arunava Sinha (@arunava) November 6, 2019
What do you make of the list?