25 Mar BBC: The Big Read Top 100
Search for a book
In April 2003 the BBC’s Big Read began the search for the UK’s best-loved novel – below are the results from 100-1. Start checking them off!
The Princess Diaries – Meg Cabot
‘You’re not Mia Thermopolis any more, honey,’ Dad said. ‘You’re Amelia Mignonette Grimaldi Thermopolis Renaldo. Princess of Genovia.’ A Princess?? Me??? Yeah. Right. One minute Mia’s a totally normal Manhattan 14-year-old. Next minute she’s heir to the throne of Genovia, being trailed by a trigger-happy bodyguard.
Girls In Love – Jacqueline Wilson
REASONS TO READ MY BOOK, NUMBERS 1 TO 9 1. It’s about three girls in Year Nine 2. You can learn all sorts of secrets about me (I’m Ellie) 3. Ditto my best friend Nadine 4. Ditto my equally best friend Magda 5. You can see if your nine all-time heros/heroines match up with mine 6. You can squirm at my most embarrassing moments 7. You can have lots of laughs (mostly at me!) 8. You might even cry a bit, too 9. PLUS, you get to find out a lot more about BOYS!
Love in the Time of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
A poignant meditation on the nature of desire, and the enduring power of love, Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Love in the Time of Cholera is translated from the Spanish by Edith Grossman in Penguin Modern Classics. Florentino Ariza is a hopeless romantic who falls passionately for the beautiful Fermina Daza, but finds his love tragically rejected. Instead Fermina marriesdistinguished doctor Juvenal Urbino, while Florentino can only wait silently for her. He can never forget his first and only true love. Then, fifty-one years, nine months and four days later, Fermina’s husband dies unexpectedly. At last Florentino has another chance to declare his feelings and discover if a passion that has endured for half a century will remain unrequited, in a rich, fantastical and humane celebration of love in all its many forms.
Kane and Abel – Jeffrey Archer
They had only one thing in common… William Lowell Kane and Abel Rosnovski, one the son of a Boston millionaire, the other a penniless Polish immigrant – two men born on the same day on opposite sides of the world, their paths destined to cross in the ruthless struggle to build a fortune.
Katherine – Anya Seton
Katherine comes to the court of Edward III at the age of fifteen, and she turns the head of the King’s favourite son John of Gaunt. But he is married, and she is soon to be betrothed. A few years later their paths cross again and this time their passion for each other cannot be denied or suppressed.
The Alchemist – Paulo Coelho
Every few decades a book is published that changes the lives of its readers forever. This is such a book — a magical fable about learning to listen to your heart, read the omens strewn along life’s path and, above, all follow your dreams. This is the magical story of Santiago, an Andalusian shepherd boy who dreams of travelling the world in search of a worldly treasure as fabulous as any ever found. From his home in Spain he journeys to the markets of Tangiers, and from there into the Egyptian desert, where a fateful encounter with the alchemist awaits him. With Paulo Coelho’s visionary blend of spirituality, magical realism and folklore, ‘The Alchemist’ is a story with the power to inspire nations and change people’s lives.
The Colour of Magic – Terry Pratchett
On a world supported on the back of a giant turtle (sex unknown), a gleeful, explosive, wickedly eccentric expedition sets out. There’s an avaricious buy inept wizard, a naive tourist whose luggage moves on hundreds of dear little legs, dragons who only exist if you believe in them, and of course the edge of the planet.
The Clan of the Cave Bear – Jean M. Auel
The story of Ayla begins when, as a five-year-old orphan, she is adopted by the Clan, a group of Neanderthals. Initially, she inspires surprise, then wariness and finally acceptance by the Clan. She is cared for by its medicine woman, Iza, and its wise holy man, Creb. But she makes an implacable enemy of the group’s future leader, Broud. He will do all he can to destroy her – but Ayla is a survivor. Jean Auel’s imaginative reconstruction of pre-historic life, rich in detail of language, culture, myth and ritual, has become a set text in schools and colleges around the world.
Magician – Raymond E. Feist
At Crydee, a frontier outpost in the tranquil Kingdom of the Isles, an orphan boy, Pug, is apprenticed to a master magician — and the destinies of two worlds are changed forever. Suddenly the peace of the Kingdom is destroyed as mysterious alien invaders swarm the land. Pug is swept up into the conflict but for him and his warrior friend, Tomas, an odyssey into the unknown has only just begun. Tomas will inherit a legacy of savage power from an ancient civilization. Pug’s destiny is to lead him through a rift in the fabric of space and time to the mastery of the unimaginable powers of a strange new magic.
Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons
Flora Poste has been expensively educated to do everything but earn her own living. When she is orphaned at twenty, she decides her only option is to go and live with her relatives the Starkadders at Cold Comfort Farm. Flora feels it incumbent upon her to bring order into the chaos.
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.
Vicky Angel – Jacqueline Wilson
Jade is used to being with and agreeing with Vicky. When a tragic accident occurs, she can hardly believe that Vicky’s no longer there. But Vicky’s not going stop her from living life to the full. Whether Jade is in lessons, out running or tentatively trying to make new friends, Vicky is making her presence felt. This novel presents their story.
The God of Small Things – Arundhati Roy
Set against a background of political turbulence in Kerala, Southern India, The God of Small Things tells the story of twins Esthappen and Rahel. Amongst the vats of banana jam and heaps of peppercorns in their grandmother’s factory, they try to craft a childhood for themselves amidst what constitutes their family — their lonely, lovely mother, their beloved Uncle Chacko (pickle baron, radical Marxist and bottom-pincher) and their avowed enemy Baby Kochamma (ex-nun and incumbent grand-aunt).
The Gormenghast Trilogy – Mervyn Peake
Gormenghast is the vast, crumbling castle to which Titus Groan, is lord and heir. Titus is expected to rule this gothic labyrinth of turrets and dungeons, and his subjects, according to age-old rituals, but things are changing in the castle. He must contend with treachery, manipulation and murder and his longing for a life beyond the castle walls.
Holes – Louis Sachar
Stanley Yelnats’ family has a history of bad luck going back generations, so he is not too surprised when a miscarriage of justice sends him to Camp Green Lake Juvenile Detention Centre. Nor is he very surprised when he is told that his daily labour at the camp is to dig a hole, five foot wide by five foot deep, and report anything that he finds in that hole. The warden claims that it is character building, but this is a lie and Stanley must dig up the truth. In this wonderfully inventive, compelling novel that is both serious and funny, Louis Sachar has created a masterpiece that will leave all readers amazed and delighted by the author’s narrative flair and brilliantly handled plot.
I Capture the Castle – Dodie Smith
Cassandra Mortmain lives with her impoverished family in a crumbling castle. Her journal records her life with her bored sister Rose, her stepmother Topaz, her little brother Thomas and her novelist father who suffers from a financially crippling writer’s block. However, all their lives are turned upside down when American heirs to castle arrive.
Bleak House – Charles Dickens
‘Jarndyce and Jardyce’ is an infamous lawsuit that has been in process for generations. Nobody can remember exactly how the case started but many different individuals have found their fortunes caught up in it. Esther Summerson watches as her friends and neighbours are consumed by their hopes and disappointments with the proceedings.
Ulysses – James Joyce
Set entirely on one day, 16 June 1904, this book follows Leopold Bloom and Stephen Daedalus as they go about their daily business in Dublin. After its first publication in Paris in 1922, it was published in Great Britain by The Bodley Head in 1936.
The Woman In White – Wilkie Collins
Marian and her sister Laura live a quiet life under their uncle’s guardianship until Laura’s marriage to Sir Percival Glyde. Sir Percival is a man of many secrets. Hence, Marian and the girls’ drawing master, Walter, have to turn detective in order to work out what is going on, and to protect Laura from a fatal plot.
The Secret History – Donna Tartt
A misfit at an exclusive New England college, Richard finds kindred spirits in the five eccentric students of his ancient Greek class. But his new friends have a horrific secret. When blackmail and violence threaten to blow their privileged lives apart, they drag Richard into the nightmare that engulfs them.
Bridget Jones’ Diary – Helen Fielding
Bridget Jones wants to have it all – and once she’s given up smoking and got down to 8st 7 she will. Based on Helen Fielding’s diary in the Independent newspaper, this is a novel about a year in the life of a single girl on an optimistic but doomed quest for self-improvement and Inner Poise.
Matilda – Roald Dahl
Matilda is a sweet, exceptional young girl, but her parents think she’s just a nuisance. She expects school to be different but there she has to face Miss Trunchbull, a kid-hating terror of a headmistress. When Matilda is attacked by the Trunchbull she suddenly discovers she has a remarkable power with which to fight back. It’ll take a superhuman genius to give Miss Trunchbull what she deserves and Matilda may be just the one to do it!
Night Watch – Terry Pratchett
Commander Sam Vimes of the Ankh-Morpork City Watch had it all. But now he’s back in his own rough, tough past without even the clothes he was standing up in when the lightning struck…Living in the past is hard. Dying in the past is incredibly easy. But he must survive, because he has a job to do. He must track down a murderer, teach his younger self how to be a good copper and change the outcome of a bloody rebellion. There’s a problem: if he wins, he’s got no wife, no child, no future…
The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists – Robert Tressell
The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists tells the story of a group of working men who are joined one day by Owen, a journeyman-prophet with a vision of a just society. Owen’s spirited attacks on the greed and dishonesty of the capitalist system rouse his fellow men from their political quietism. A masterpiece of wit and political passion and one of the most authentic novels of English working class life ever written.
Perfume – Patrick Süskind
Survivor, genius, perfumer, killer: this is Jean-Baptiste Grenouille. He is abandoned on the filthy streets of Paris as a child, but grows up to discover he has an extraordinary gift: a sense of smell more powerful than any other human’s. Soon, he is creating the most sublime fragrances in all the city. Yet there is one odour he cannot capture.
Guards! Guards! – Terry Pratchett
This is where the dragons went. They lie…not dead, not asleep, but…dormant. And although the space they occupy isn’t like normal space, nevertheless they are packed in tightly. They could put you in mind of a can of sardines, if you thought sardines were huge and scaly. And presumably, somewhere, there’s a key…
Good Omens – Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman
Taking a cynical look at the horror genre, this book features Crowley and Aziraphale, two friends who attempt to prevent the prophesised Armageddon. When the Antichrist is born they divert him from his original home at the American Embassy to Tadfield, where he grows into an unkempt individual.
The Magus – John Fowles
On a remote Greek Island, Nicholas Urfe finds himself embroiled in the deceptions of a master trickster. As reality and illusion intertwine, Urfe is caught up in the darkest of psychological games. John Fowles expertly unfolds a tale that is lush with over-powering imagery in a spellbinding exploration of human complexities.
The Magic Faraway Tree – Enid Blyton
When Joe, Beth and Frannie move to a new home, an Enchanted Wood is on their doorstep. And when they discover the Faraway Tree, that is the beginning of many magical adventures! This work lets you join them and their friends Moonface, Saucepan Man and Silky the fairy as they discover which new land is at the top of the Faraway Tree.
Mort – Terry Pratchett
Death comes to us all. When he came to Mort, he offered him a job. After being assured that being dead was not compulsory, Mort accepted. However, he soon found that romantic longings did not mix easily with the responsibilities of being Death’s apprentice.
The Thorn Birds – Colleen McCullough
‘Sometimes when he didn’t know he was being watched Meggie would look at him and try desperately to imprint his face upon her brain’s core …And he would turn to find her watching him, a look in his eyes of haunted grief, a doomed look. She understood the implicit message, or thought she did; he must go, back to the Church and his duties. Never again with the same spirit, perhaps, but more able to serve. For only those who have slipped and fallen know the vicissitudes of the way …’
A Tale of Two Cities – Charles Dickens
After eighteen years as a political prisoner in the Bastille the aging Dr Manette is finally released and reunited with his daughter in England. There two very different men, Charles Darnay, an exiled French aristocrat, and Sydney Carton, a disreputable but brilliant English lawyer, become enmeshed through their love for Lucie Manette. From the tranquil lanes of London, they are all drawn against their will to the vengeful, bloodstained streets of Paris at the height of the Reign of Terror and soon fall under the lethal shadow of La Guillotine.
Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden
This story tells the extraordinary story of a geisha -summoning up a quarter century from 1929 to the post-war years of Japan’s dramatic history, and opening a window into a half-hidden world of eroticism and enchantment, exploitation and degradation. A young peasant girl is sold as servant and apprentice to a renowned geisha house. She tells her story many years later from the Waldorf Astoria in New York. Her memoirs conjure up the perfection and the ugliness of life behind rice-paper screens, where young girls learn the arts of geisha – dancing and singing, how to wind the kimono, how to walk and pour tea, and how to beguile the most land’s powerful men.
Noughts and Crosses – Malorie Blackman
Sephy is a Cross – a member of the dark-skinned ruling class. Callum is a nought – a ‘colourless’ member of the underclass who were once slaves to the Crosses. The two have been friends since early childhood. But that’s as far as it can go. Until the first steps are taken towards more social equality and a limited number of Noughts are allowed into Cross schools…Against a background of prejudice and distrust, intensely highlighted by violent terrorist activity by Noughts, a romance builds between Sephy and Callum – a romance that is to lead both of them into terrible danger…
Artemis Fowl – Eoin Colfer
Twelve-year-old villain, Artemis Fowl, is the most ingenious criminal mastermind in history. His bold and daring plan is to hold a leprechaun to ransom. But he’s taking on more than he bargained for when he kidnaps Captain Holly Short of the LEPrecon (Lower Elements Police Reconnaissance Unit). For a start, leprechaun technology is more advanced than our own. Add to that the fact that Holly is a true heroine and that her senior officer Commander Root will stop at nothing to get her back and you’ve got the mother of all sieges brewing!
Black Beauty – Anna Sewell
Black Beauty is a handsome, sweet-tempered colt with a strong spirit. As a young colt he is free to gallop in the fresh green meadows with his beloved mother, Duchess, and their kind master. But when his owners are forced to sell him, Black Beauty goes from a life of comfort and kindness to one of hard labour and cruelty. Bravely he works as hard as he can, suffering at the hands of men who treat animals badly. But Black Beauty has an unbreakable spirit and will, and is determined to survive…
Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome
To John, Susan, Titty and Roger, simply being allowed to use the boat Swallow, to go camping on the island is adventure enough. But they soon find themselves under attack from the Amazon pirates, Nancy and Peggy. Thus begins a summer of battles, alliances, exploration and discovery.
The BFG – Roald Dahl
The BFG is one of Dahl’s most lovable character creations. Whether galloping off with Sophie nestled into the soft skin of his ear to capture dreams as though they were exotic butterflies; speaking his delightful, jumbled, squib-fangled patois; or whizzpopping for the Queen, he leaves an indelible impression of big-heartedness.
A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth
Vikram Seth’s novel is at its core a love story, the tale of Lata – and her mother’s attempts to find her a suitable husband, through love or through exacting maternal appraisal. Set in post-Independence India and involving the lives of four large families and those who orbit them, it is also a vast panoramic exploration of a whole continent at a crucial hour as a sixth of the world’s population faces its first great General Election and the chance to map its own destiny.
Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy
‘All happy families are alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way’. “Anna Karenina” is a novel of unparalleled richness and complexity, set against the backdrop of Russian high society. Tolstoy charts the course of the doomed love affair between Anna, a beautiful married woman, and Count Vronsky, a wealthy army officer who pursues Anna after becoming infatuated with her at a ball. Although she initially resists his charms Anna eventually succumbs, falling passionately in love and setting in motion a chain of events that lead to her downfall. In this extraordinary novel, Tolstoy seamlessly weaves together the lives of dozens of characters, while evoking a love so strong that those who experience it are prepared to die for it.
Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck
As drifters in search of work, George and his simple-minded friend Lennie have nothing in the world except each other – and a dream that they will one day have some land of their own. Eventually, they find work on a ranch, but their hopes are doomed as Lennie becomes a victim of his own strength.
The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett
After losing her parents, young Mary Lennox is sent from India to live in her uncle’s gloomy mansion on the wild English moors. She is lonely and has no one to play with, but one day she learns of a secret garden somewhere in the grounds that no one is allowed to enter. Then Mary uncovers an old key in a flowerbed – and a gust of magic leads her to the hidden door. Slowly she turns the key and enters a world she could never have imagined.
Goodnight Mister Tom – Michelle Magorian
Young Willie Beech is evacuated to the country as Britain stands on the brink of WW2. A sad, deprived child, he slowly begins to flourish under the care of old Tom Oakley – but his new-found happiness is shattered by a summons from his mother back in London…
Far from the Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy
Independent and spirited Bathsheba Everdene has come to Weatherbury to take up her position as a farmer on the largest estate in the area. Her bold presence draws three very different suitors: the gentleman-farmer Boldwood, soldier-seducer Sergeant Troy and the devoted shepherd Gabriel Oak. Each, in contrasting ways, unsettles her decisions and complicates her life, and tragedy ensues, threatening the stability of the whole community. The first of his works set in Wessex, Hardy’s novel of swift passion and slow courtship is imbued with his evocative descriptions of rural life and landscapes, and with unflinching honesty about sexual relationships.
A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens
Ebenezer Scrooge is unimpressed by Christmas. He has no time for festivities or goodwill toward his fellow men and is only interested in money. Then, on the night of Christmas Eve, his life is changed by a series of ghostly visitations that show him some bitter truths about his choices. A Christmas Carol is Dickens’ most influential book and a funny, clever and hugely enjoyable story.
Animal Farm – George Orwell
Mr Jones of Manor Farm is so lazy and drunken that one day he forgets to feed his livestock. The ensuing rebellion under the leadership of the pigs Napoleon and Wellington leads to the animals taking over the farm. Vowing to eliminate the terrible inequities of the farmyard, the renamed Animal Farm is organized to benefit all who walk on four legs. But as time passes, the ideals of the rebellion are corrupted, then forgotten. And something new and unexpected emerges. “Animal Farm” – the history of a revolution that went wrong – is George Orwell’s brilliant satire on the corrupting influence of power.
Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh
Charles Ryder, a lonely student at Oxford, is captivated by the outrageous and exquisitely beautiful Sebastian Flyte. Invited to Brideshead, Sebastian’s magnificent family home, Charles welcomes the attentions of its eccentric, aristocratic inhabitants. But he also discovers a world where duty and desire, faith and earthly happiness are in conflict; a world which threatens to destroy his beloved Sebastian.
The Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas
The ultimate story of escape to riches, revenge and redemption by ‘the Napoleon of storytellers’. Falsley accused of treason, Edmond Dantes is arrested on his wedding night and imprisoned in the grim island fortress of Chateau d’If. After staging a dramatic escape he sets out to discover the fabuouls treasure on the island of Monte Cristo and uses it to exact revenge on those responsible for his incarcaration. The sensational narrative of intrigue, betrayal, escape and triumphant revenge moves at a cracking pace. Dumas’ novels present a powerful conflict between good and evil embodied in an epic saga of rich diversity that is complicated by the hero’s ultimate doscomfort with the hubristic implications of his own actions. A novel of enormous tension and excitement, The Count of Monte Cristo is also a tale of obsession and revenge, with Dantes, believing himself to be an Angel of Providence, pursuing his vengeance to the bitter end before realising that he himself is a victim of fate.
The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald
A masterpiece, a dazzling social satire, and a milestone in twentieth-century literature, The Great Gatsby peels away the layers of the glamorous twenties to display the coldness and cruelty at its heart. Everybody who is anybody is seen at the glittering parties held in Gatsby’s mansion in West Egg, east of New York. The riotous throng congregates in his sumptuous garden, coolly debating Gatsby’s origins and mysterious past. None of the frivolous socialites understand him and among various onlookers, Gatsby is oblivious to the speculation he creates, but seems always to be watching and waiting, though no one knows what for. But as the tragic story unfolds, Gatsby’s destructive dreams and passions are revealed.
Watership Down – Richard Adams
Fiver could sense danger. Something terrible was going to happen to the warren – he felt sure of it. So did his brother Hazel, for Fiver’s sixth sense was never wrong. They had to leave immediately, and they had to persuade the other rabbits to join them. And so begins a long and perilous journey of a small band of rabbits in search of a safe home. Fiver’s vision finally leads them to Watership Down, but here they face their most difficult challenge of all…Published in 1972, Watership Down is an epic journey, a stirring tale of adventure, courage and survival against the odds.
Anne of Green Gables – L.M. Montgomery
The Cuthberts are in for a shock. They are expecting an orphan boy to help with the work at Green Gables – but a skinny red-haired girl turns up instead. Highly spirited Anne Shirley charms her way into the Cuthberts’ affection with her vivid imagination and constant chatter, and soon it’s impossible to imagine life without her.
Dune – Frank Herbert
The Duke of Atreides has been manoeuvred by his arch-enemy, Baron Harkonnen, into administering the desert planet of Dune. Although it is almost completely without water, Dune is a planet of fabulous wealth, for it is the only source of a drug prized throughout the Galactic Empire. The Duke and his son, Paul, are expecting treachery, and it duly comes – but from a shockingly unexpected place. Then Paul succeeds his father, and he becomes a catalyst for the native people of Dune, whose knowledge of the ecology of the planet gives them vast power. They have been waiting for a leader like Paul Atreides, a leader who can harness that force …DUNE: one of the most brilliantr science fiction novels ever written, as engrossing and heart-rending today as it was when it was first published half a century ago.
Persuasion – Jane Austen
What does persuasion mean – a firm belief, or the action of persuading someone to think something else? Anne Elliot is one of Austen’s quietest heroines, but also one of the strongest and the most open to change. She lives at the time of the Napoleonic wars, a time of accident, adventure, the making of new fortunes and alliances. A woman of no importance, she manoeuvres in her restricted circumstances as her long-time love Captain Wentworth did in the wars. Even though she is nearly thirty, well past the sell-by bloom of youth, Austen makes her win out for herself and for others like herself, in a regenerated society.
A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute
Jean Paget is just twenty years old and working in Malaya when the Japanese invasion begins. When she is captured she joins a group of other European women and children whom the Japanese force to march for miles through the jungle – an experience that leads to the deaths of many. Due to her courageous spirit and ability to speak Malay, Jean takes on the role of leader of the sorry gaggle of prisoners and many end up owing their lives to her indomitable spirit. While on the march, the group run into some Australian prisoners, one of whom, Joe Harman, helps them steal some food, and is horrifically punished by the Japanese as a result. After the war, Jean tracks Joe down in Australia and together they begin to dream of surmounting the past and transforming his one-horse outback town into a thriving community like Alice Springs.
Treasure Island – Robert Louis Stevenson
In the summer of 1881, staying near Braemar in Scotland, Stevenson reported excitedly that he was on to a new story: The Sea Cook, or Treasure Island. Written at the rate of a chapter a day for fifteen days (and completed later in the same year), the novel soon became a classic. An absorbing tale of buccaneers, a map, a romantic quest for treasure, it is also the story of the sea cook of its original title – the brilliantly drawn Long John Silver, that smooth and formidable adventurer of whom Stevenson was rightly proud and for whom even he felt a little admiration.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl
Charlie Bucket loves chocolate. And Mr. Willy Wonka, the most wonderous inventor in the world, is opening the gates of his amazing chocolate factory to five lucky children. It’s the prize of a lifetime! Gobstoppers, wriggle sweets and a river of melted chocolate await – Charlie need just one Golden Ticket and these delicious treats could all be his…
David Copperfield – Charles Dickens
When David Copperfield escapes from the cruelty of his childhood home, he embarks on a journey to adulthood which will lead him through comedy and tragedy, love and heartbreak and friendship and betrayal. Over the course of his adventures, David meets an array of eccentric characters and learns hard lessons about the world before he finally discovers true happiness.
The Pillars of the Earth – Ken Follett
The Pillars of the Earth tells the story of Philip, prior of Kingsbridge, a devout and resourceful monk driven to build the greatest Gothic cathedral the world has known; of Tom, the mason who becomes his architect – a man divided in his soul; of the beautiful, elusive Lady Aliena, haunted by a secret shame; and of a struggle between good and evil that will turn church against state, and brother against brother. A spellbinding epic tale of ambition, anarchy, and absolute power set against the sprawling medieval canvas of twelfth-century England, this is Ken Follett’s historical masterpiece.
One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
‘Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendia was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.’ Pipes and kettledrums herald the arrival of gypsies on their annual visit to Macondo, the newly founded village where Jose Arcadio Buendia and his strong-willed wife, Ursula, have started their new life. As the mysterious Melquiades excites Aureliano Buendia’s father with new inventions and tales of adventure, neither can know the significance of the indecipherable manuscript that the old gypsy passes into their hands. Through plagues of insomnia, civil war, hauntings and vendettas, the many tribulations of the Buendia household push memories of the manuscript aside. Few remember its existence and only one will discover the hidden message that it holds…
The Story of Tracy Beaker – Jacqueline Wilson
‘I’m Tracy Beaker. This is a book all about me. I’d read it if I were you. It’s the most incredible dynamic heart-rending story. Honest.’ Tracy is ten years old. She lives in a Children’s Home but would like a real home one day, with a real family. Meet Tracy, follow her story and share her hopes for the future in this beautifully observed, touching and often very funny tale, all told in Tracy’s own words.
The Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck
Shocking and controversial when it was first published in 1939, Steinbeck’s Pulitzer Prize-winning epic remains his undisputed masterpiece. Set against the background of dust bowl Oklahoma and Californian migrant life, it tells of the Joad family, who, like thousands of others, are forced to travel West in search of the promised land. Their story is one of false hopes, thwarted desires and broken dreams, yet out of their suffering Steinbeck created a drama that is intensely human yet majestic in its scale and moral vision; an eloquent tribute to the endurance and dignity of the human spirit.
A Prayer for Owen Meany – John Irving
‘If you care about something you have to protect it. If you’re lucky enough to find a way of life you love, you have to find the courage to live it’. Eleven-year-old Owen Meany, playing in a Little League baseball game in Gravesend, New Hampshire, hits a foul ball and kills his best friend’s mother. Owen doesn’t believe in accidents; he believes he is God’s instrument. What happens to Owen after that 1953 foul ball is both extraordinary and terrifying.
Middlemarch – George Eliot
Dorothea is bright, beautiful and rebellious and has married the wrong man. Lydgate is the ambitious new doctor in town and has married the wrong woman. Both of them long to make a positive difference in the world. But their stories do not proceed as expected and both they, and the other inhabitants of Middlemarch, must struggle to reconcile themselves to their fates and find their places in the world. “Middlemarch” contains all of life: the rich and the poor, the conventional and the radical, literature and science, politics and romance. Eliot’s novel is a stunningly compelling insight into the human struggle to find contentment.
Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy
Tess is an innocent young girl until the day she goes to visit her rich ‘relatives’, the D’Urbervilles, in hope that they might help her alleviate her own family’s poverty. Her encounter with her manipulative cousin, Alec, leads her onto a path that is beset with suffering and betrayal. When she falls in love with another man, Angel Clare, Tess sees a potential escape from her past, but only if she can tell him her shameful secret…
The Hobbit – J. R. R. Tolkien
The Hobbit is a tale of high adventure, undertaken by a company of dwarves in search of dragon-guarded gold. A reluctant partner in this perilous quest is Bilbo Baggins, a comfort-loving unambitious hobbit, who surprises even himself by his resourcefulness and skill as a burglar. Encounters with trolls, goblins, dwarves, elves and giant spiders, conversations with the dragon, Smaug, and a rather unwilling presence at the Battle of Five Armies are just some of the adventures that befall Bilbo. Bilbo Baggins has taken his place among the ranks of the immortals of children’s fiction.
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban – J. K. Rowling
Harry Potter is lucky to reach the age of thirteen, since he has survived the murderous attacks of the feared Dark Wizard Voldemort three times. But his hopes for a quiet term concentrating on Quidditch are dashed when a maniacal mass-murderer escapes from Azkaban, pursued by the soul-sucking Dementors who guard the prison. It’s assumed that Hogwarts is the safest place for Harry to be. But is it a coincidence that he can feel eyes watching him in the dark, and should he be taking Professor Trelawney’s ghoulish predictions seriously?
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets – J. K. Rowling
Harry Potter is a wizard. He is in his second year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Little does he know that this year will be just as eventful as the last …even getting there is an adventure in itself! The three firm friends, Harry, Ron and Hermione, are soon immersed in the daily round of Potions, Herbology, Charms, Defence Against the Dark Arts, and Quidditch. But then horrible and mysterious things begin to happen. Harry keeps hearing strange voices, sinister and dark messages appear on the wall, and then Ron’s sister Ginny disappears…
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone – J. K. Rowling
Harry Potter is an ordinary boy who lives in a cupboard under the stairs at his Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon’s house, which he thinks is normal for someone like him who’s parents have been killed in a ‘car crash’. He is bullied by them and his fat, spoilt cousin Dudley, and lives a very unremarkable life with only the odd hiccup (like his hair growing back overnight!) to cause him much to think about. That is until an owl turns up with a letter addressed to Harry and all hell breaks loose! He is literally rescued by a world where nothing is as it seems and magic lessons are the order of the day. Read and find out how Harry discovers his true heritage at Hogwarts School of Wizardry and Witchcraft, the reason behind his parents mysterious death, who is out to kill him, and how he uncovers the most amazing secret of all time, the fabled Philosopher’s Stone! All this and muggles too. Now, what are they?
Gone with the Wind – Margaret Mitchell
Set against the dramatic backdrop of the American Civil War, Margaret Mitchell’s magnificent historical epic is an unforgettable tale of love and loss, of a nation mortally divided and a people forever changed. Above all, it is the story of beautiful, ruthless Scarlett O’Hara and the dashing soldier of fortune, Rhett Butler.
Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis de Bernieres
It is 1941 and Captain Antonio Corelli, a young Italian officer, is posted to the Greek island of Cephallonia as part of the occupying forces. At first he is ostracised by the locals, but as a conscien-tious but far from fanatical soldier, whose main aim is to have a peaceful war, he proves in time to be civilised, humorous – and a consumate musician. When the local doctor’s daughter’s letters to her fiance go unanswered, the working of the eternal triangle seems inevitable. But can this fragile love survive as a war of bestial savagery gets closer and the lines are drawn between invader and defender?
Little Women – Louisa May Alcott
“Life in the March” household is full of adventures and accidents as the four very different March sisters follow their varying paths to adulthood, always maintaining the special bond between them. Sensible Meg, impetuous Jo, shy Beth and artistic Amy each have to confront different challenges as they grow up together and attempt to learn how to be both happy and good.
Great Expectations – Charles Dickens
A terrifying encounter with an escaped convict in a graveyard on the wild Kent marshes; a summons to meet the bitter, decaying Miss Havisham and her beautiful, cold-hearted ward Estella; the sudden generosity of a mysterious benefactor – these form a series of events that change the orphaned Pip’s life forever, and he eagerly abandons his humble origins to begin a new life as a gentleman. Dickens’ haunting late novel depicts Pip’s education and development through adversity as he discovers thetrue nature of his ‘great expectations’.
The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame
This is the much-loved classic tales of Ratty, Mole, Badger and Toad. When Mole goes boating with Ratty instead of doing his spring-cleaning, he discovers a whole new world. As well as adventures on the river and in the Wild Wood, there are high jinks on the open road with that reckless ruffian, Mr Toad of Toad Hall. Ratty, Mole, Badger and Toad become the firmest of friends, but after Toad’s latest escapade, can they join together and beat the wretched weasels once and for all?
The Catcher in the Rye – J. D. Salinger
The Catcher in Rye is the ultimate novel for disaffected youth, but it’s relevant to all ages. The story is told by Holden Caulfield, a seventeen-year-old dropout who has just been kicked out of his fourth school. Throughout, Holden dissects the ‘phony’ aspects of society, and the ‘phonies’ themselves: the headmaster whose affability depends on the wealth of the parents, his roommate who scores with girls using sickly-sweet affection.Lazy in style, full of slang and swear words, it’s a novel whose interest and appeal comes from its observations rather than its plot intrigues (in conventional terms, there is hardly any plot at all). Salinger’s style creates an effect of conversation, it is as though Holden is speaking to you personally, as though you too have seen through the pretences of the American Dream and are growing up unable to see the point of living in, or contributing to, the society around you. Written with the clarity of a boy leaving childhood, it deals with society, love, loss, and expectations without ever falling into the clutch of a cliche.
Rebecca – Daphne du Maurier
Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again …Working as a lady’s companion, the heroine of Rebecca learns her place. Life begins to look very bleak until, on a trip to the South of France, she meets Maxim de Winter, a handsome widower whose sudden proposal of marriage takes her by surprise. She accepts, but whisked from glamorous Monte Carlo to the ominous and brooding Manderley, the new Mrs de Winter finds Max a changed man. And the memory of his dead wife Rebecca is forever kept alive by the forbidding Mrs Danvers …Not since Jane Eyre has a heroine faced such difficulty with the Other Woman. An international bestseller that has never gone out of print, Rebecca is the haunting story of a young girl consumed by love and the struggle to find her identity.
Birdsong – Sebastian Faulks
Set before and during the great war, Birdsong captures the drama of that era on both a national and a personal scale. It is the story of Stephen, a young Englishman, who arrives in Amiens in 1910. His life goes through a series of traumatic experiences, from the clandestine love affair that tears apart the family with whom he lives, to the unprecedented experiences of the war itself.
Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte
In a house haunted by memories, the past is everywhere…As darkness falls, a man caught in a snowstorm is forced to shelter at the strange, grim house Wuthering Heights. It is a place he will never forget. There he will come to learn the story of Cathy: how she was forced to choose between her well-meaning husband and the dangerous man she had loved since she was young. How her choice led to betrayal and terrible revenge – and continues to torment those in the present. How love can transgress convention, even death. And how desire can kill.
Catch-22 – Joseph Heller
Set in the closing months of World War II in an American bomber squadron off the coast of Italy, Catch-22 is the story of a bombardier named Yossarian who is frantic and furious because thousands of people he has never even met keep trying to kill him. Joseph Heller’s bestselling novel is a hilarious and tragic satire on military madness, and the tale of one man’s efforts to survive it.
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe – C. S. Lewis
Lucy steps into the Professor’s wardrobe but steps out again into a snowy forest. She’s stumbled upon the magical world of Narnia, land of unicorns, centaurs, fauns! and the wicked White Witch, who terrorises all. Lucy soon realises that Narnia, and in particular Aslan, the great Lion, needs her help if the country’s creatures are ever going to be free again.
1984 – George Orwell
Winston Smith works for the Ministry of Truth in London, chief city of Airstrip One. Big Brother stares out from every poster, the Thought Police uncover every act of betrayal. When Winston finds love with Julia, he discovers that life does not have to be dull and deadening, and awakens to new possibilities. Despite the police helicopters that hover and circle overhead, Winston and Julia begin to question the Party; they are drawn towards conspiracy. Yet Big Brother will not tolerate dissent – even in the mind. For those with original thoughts they invented Room 101. 1984 is George Orwell’s terrifying vision of a totalitarian future in which everything and everyone is slave to a tyrannical regime.
Winnie-the-Pooh – A. A. Milne
A. A. Milne’s first stories about Winnie-the-Pooh, the most famous bear in the world, were published eighty years ago. This beautiful anniversary edition of Winnie-the-Pooh celebrates the enduring popularity of Pooh and his Forest friends. Discover what happens when Pooh goes visiting and Piglet meets a Heffalump, not forgetting when Eeyore loses his tail and Pooh finds one!
To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
‘Shoot all the Bluejays you want, if you can hit ’em, but remember it’s a sin to kill a Mockingbird.’ A lawyer’s advice to his children as he defends the real mockingbird of Harper Lee’s classic novel – a black man charged with the rape of a white girl. Through the young eyes of Scout and Jem Finch, Harper Lee explores with exuberant humour the irrationality of adult attitudes to race and class in the Deep South of the thirties. The conscience of a town steeped in prejudice, violence and hypocrisy is pricked by the stamina of one man’s struggle for justice. But the weight of history will only tolerate so much…
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire – J. K. Rowling
The Triwizard Tournament is to be held at Hogwarts. Only wizards who are over seventeen are allowed to enter – but that doesn’t stop Harry dreaming that he will win the competition. Then at Hallowe’en, when the Goblet of Fire makes its selection, Harry is amazed to find his name is one of those that the magical cup picks out. He will face death-defying tasks, dragons and Dark wizards, but with the help of his best friends, Ron and Hermione, he might just make it through – alive!
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams
It’s an ordinary Thursday lunchtime for Arthur Dent until his house gets demolished. The Earth follows shortly afterwards to make way for a new hyperspace bypass and his best friend has just announced that he’s an alien. At this moment, they’re hurtling through space with nothing but their towels and an innocuous-looking book inscribed with the big, friendly words: Don’t Panic. The weekend has only just begun. This title is volume one in the trilogy of five.
His Dark Materials – Phillip Pullman
Beginning in Oxford, it takes Lyra and her animal-daemon Pantalaimon on a dangerous rescue mission to the ice kingdoms of the far north, where she begins to learn about the mysterious particles they call Dust – a substance for which a terrible war between different worlds will be fought…
Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
‘I had not known you a month before I felt that you were the last man in the world whom I could ever be prevailed on to marry.’ Romance, misunderstandings, finding Mr Right and finding out who’s Mr Wrong – Pride and Prejudice is as relevant today as it has ever been. It’s the enchanting and enduring story of Lizzy Bennet (one of literature’s most engaging heroines), proud Mr Darcy, of true love, families, villains and heroes and of course, pride and prejudice.
The Lord of the Rings – J. R. R. Tolkien
Sauron, the Dark Lord, has gathered to him all the Rings of Power — the means by which he intends to rule Middle-earth. All he lacks in his plans for dominion is the One Ring — the ring that rules them all — which has fallen into the hands of the hobbit, Bilbo Baggins. In a sleepy village in the Shire, young Frodo Baggins finds himself faced with an immense task, as the Ring is entrusted to his care. He must leave his home and make a perilous journey across the realms of Middle-earth to the Crack of Doom, deep inside the territories of the Dark Lord. There he must destroy the Ring forever and foil the Dark Lord in his evil purpose. Since it was first published in 1954, The Lord of the Rings has been a book people have treasured. Steeped in unrivalled magic and otherworldliness, its sweeping fantasy has touched the hearts of young and old alike.