Seeking inspiration for summer reading material? With 70 books, the Big Jubilee Read could be just the ticket
The landmark bank holiday weekend may already seem a distant memory but there are good times aplenty to embrace as we head into summer.
Many people will be looking forward to their first holiday abroad for several years while others map out staycations and day trips.
Whether you plan to bask in the heat of an exotic beach or simply chill in your back garden, what better time than these brighter months to lose yourself in the pages of a good book.
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And if the galaxy of titles out there has left you feeling flummoxed, you could do worse than peruse the relatively small canon of books curated for the BBC and The Reading Agency’s Big Jubilee Read.
This “reading for pleasure campaign” celebrates books by authors from across the Commonwealth to coincide with Her Majesty The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.
It was not entirely without criticism when earlier this year BBC Arts and The Reading Agency announced the 70 titles that would comprise the list - much of which appeared to be for what was left off, rather than on the inventory.
But with the rich literary tradition of the Commonwealth’s various countries to choose from, whittling it down to a mere 70 was never going to gratify everyone. And that in itself is no reason to dismiss the enterprise.
The titles consist of 10 books from each decade of Her Majesty The Queen’s reign and according to the official line, they offer “a brilliant selection of beautiful and thrilling writing produced by authors from a wide range of Commonwealth countries” including Australia, Canada, Guyana, India, Jamaica, Malaysia, Nigeria, Pakistan, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Trinidad and Tobago and the UK.
Among some of the titles’ better-known authors are Bernardine Evaristo, Margaret Atwood, John le Carré, Seamus Heaney, Hilary Mantel, Salman Rushdie and Zadie Smith.
There is also work by E. R. Braithwaite, Anthony Burgess, Kazuo Ishiguro, Marlon James, Andrea Levy, Arundhati Roy, Douglas Stuart, Derek Walcott and Markus Zusak.
“Nineteen years on from the Big Read, the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee feels like the perfect opportunity to foreground some of the greatest writing from across the Commonwealth in our Big Jubilee Read,” said Suzy Klein, head of arts and classical music TV at the BBC.
“The list of 70 books - 10 for each decade of Elizabeth II’s reign - is a real opportunity to discover stories from across continents and taking us through the decades, books that we might never have otherwise read, and reading authors whose work deserves a spotlight to be shone on it.
“It’s a really exciting way to share the love of books with readers of all ages, and to give book groups and book borrowers a plethora of great titles to try, borrow, share and discuss.”
The books were chosen by an expert panel of librarians, booksellers and literature specialists from a “readers’ choice” longlist.
Delivered with public libraries, reading groups, publishers, bookshops and authors, it is hoped that the Big Jubilee Read campaign will use the proven power of reading to unite the public around the shared stories that define our social and cultural heritage.
Supported by events and activities in libraries and bookshops, the campaign also features online resources for reading groups across the country.
With Arts Council England funding and support from Libraries Connected and the Booksellers Association, the campaign follows on from other collaborations between The Reading Agency and the BBC, including the national Big Read survey in 2003.
“We’re thrilled to be partnering with BBC to celebrate the proven power of reading at this historic moment of national celebration,” said Karen Napier, CEO, The Reading Agency.
“The Reading Agency hugely values the support of our library partners bringing this fantastic book list to life in the heart of communities across the country this summer.”
For more information about the Big Jubilee Read, including resources for your reading group, visit: https://readinggroups.org/big-jubilee-read
Big Jubilee Read titles
The Lonely Londoners by Sam Selvon
To Sir, With Love by E. R. Braithwaite
The Guide: A Novel by R. K. Narayan
The Hills Were Joyful Together by Roger Mais
The Palm-Wine Drinkard by Amos Tutuola
One Moonlit Night by Caradog Prichard
My Bones and My Flute: A Ghost Story in the Old-Fashioned Manner by Edgar Mittelholzer
In the Castle of My Skin by George Lamming
Sunlight on a Broken Column by Attia Hosain
A House for Mr Biswas by V. S. Naipaul
A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
A Grain of Wheat by Ngugi wa Thiong’o
Picnic At Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay
The Interrogation by J.M.G. Le Clezio
Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys
The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born by Ayi Kwei Armah
Arrow of God by Chinua Achebe
Death of a Naturalist by Seamus Heaney
When Rain Clouds Gather And Maru by Bessie Head
The Girls Of Slender Means by Muriel Spark
The Sea, The Sea by Iris Murdoch
Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie
The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough
The Crow Eaters by Bapsi Sidhwa
Clear Light of Day by Anita Desai
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy by John le Carré
The Nowhere Man by Kamala Markandaya
Tsotsi by Athol Fugard
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
Who Do You Think You Are? by Alice Munro
Omeros by Derek Walcott
The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
Schindler’s Ark by Thomas Keneally
The Bone People by Keri Hulme
The Whale Rider by Witi Ihimaera
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
The Adoption Papers by Jackie Kay
Summer Lightning & Other Stories by Olive Senior
Cloudstreet by Tim Winton
Beka Lamb by Zee Edgell
Paradise by Abdulrazak Gurnah
The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry
Salt by Earl Lovelace
The Blue Bedspread by Raj Kamal Jha
Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee
White Teeth by Zadie Smith
Life Of Pi by Yann Martel
The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje
The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields
Chinaman by Shehan Karunatilaka
Small Island by Andrea Levy
Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
The Memory of Love by Aminatta Forna
The Book of Night Women by Marlon James
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
The Secret River by Kate Grenville
A Golden Age by Tahmima Anam
The Boat by Nam Le
Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton
Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue
The Bone Readers by Jacob Ross
The Night Tiger by Yangsze Choo
How We Disappeared by Jing-Jing Lee
Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo
Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart
Our Lady of the Nile by Scholastique Mukasonga
A Passage North by Anuk Arudpragasam
The Promise by Damon Galgut