The BBC have published a list of 100 novels that shaped our world to mark the 300th anniversary of the English language novel. You can see the full list here, but I’ve also made a video discussing my reaction to the books listed, my feelings about the 42 that I’ve read and a couple more novels I’d add. Important to note that this is a list only about novels from the English-speaking Western world – so when they say “our world” they don’t mean everyone’s world. They’re quite clear about the parameters for making this list but I think it’s worth saying anyway since they’ve titled it this way. Overall, it’s quite an interesting and diverse group of books which incorporates a lot of recent titles and some slightly more obscure novels amongst more established classics.
It’ll be fun to watch the upcoming three part series on BBC 2 they’ve made about these books and others that have changed our culture and society by particularly focusing on the subjects of ‘Empire and slavery’, ‘women’s voices’ and ‘working class experience’. Of course, it’s impossible to quantify how much a novel has really “shaped our world” since it feels like books often only subtly change people's ideas over time or maybe expand their empathy in ways which aren't directly obvious. But I think the way certain stories or language or ideas from certain novels work their way into public and political dialogue can really have a big impact - both on popular culture and the values of society.
It's great the BBC are taken this initiative to get people discussing novels more and it’ll be great to see books discussed in depth on TV again! Of course, one of the best things about a list like this is hearing what books people think ought to be added onto it. What do you think about the novels on the list? What others would you add?