14 December, 2015

The 100 Greatest British Novels

The BBC Culture website have recently published a series of articles on the results of a poll to find the greatest British novels of all time. The poll was conducted among 82 non-British book critics, who were each asked to nominate ten novels by British authors.

You can see the full list, here. Here are the Top 25:

25. White Teeth (Zadie Smith, 2000)
24. The Golden Notebook (Doris Lessing, 1962)
23. Jude the Obscure (Thomas Hardy, 1895)
22. The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling (Henry Fielding, 1749)
21. Heart of Darkness (Joseph Conrad, 1899)
20. Persuasion (Jane Austen, 1817)
19. Emma (Jane Austen, 1815)
18. Remains of the Day (Kazuo Ishiguro, 1989)

17. Howards End (EM Forster, 1910)
16. The Waves (Virginia Woolf, 1931)
15. Atonement (Ian McEwan, 2001)
14. Clarissa (Samuel Richardson,1748)
13. The Good Soldier (Ford Madox Ford, 1915)
12. Nineteen Eighty-Four (George Orwell, 1949)
11. Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen, 1813)

10. Vanity Fair (William Makepeace Thackeray, 1848)
9. Frankenstein (Mary Shelley, 1818)
8. David Copperfield (Charles Dickens, 1850)
7. Wuthering Heights (Emily Brontë, 1847)
6. Bleak House (Charles Dickens, 1853)
5. Jane Eyre (Charlotte Brontë, 1847)
4. Great Expectations (Charles Dickens, 1861)

3. Mrs. Dalloway (Virginia Woolf, 1925)
2. To the Lighthouse (Virginia Woolf, 1927)
1. Middlemarch (George Eliot, 1874)

Of these 25 I have read the 11 ones highlighted in red. I have also seen the film adaptation of Atonement. Having spent a decade working my way through the BBC Big Read Top 100, I am daunted by the thought of starting a new list of novels, but I'm also a little bit tempted. Anybody tempted to give it a go with me? I've read 25 in total so that leaves me with a whole lot of reading to do! On the list my three favourites so far are probably, Remains of the Day (Kazuo Ishiguro), Emma (Jane Austen) and Nineteen Eighty-Four (George Orwell). Which are your favourites?

If you are looking for some interesting reading material I recommend having a browse of the related articles on the BBC website. Among other things, you can read about why Middlemarch is the greatest of the great (something that, I have to say, baffles me - I wasn't that keen on it myself. In fact, I noted it as being the least memorable of all the books in the Big Read!), what makes a British novel great in the first place, and why women are far better-represented in this list than you might expect.

What do you think of the list? Are there any glaring omissions? If you spot any, please let me know so I can add them to my Must-Read list of books!

My special thanks to my dear friend, Joe, for pointing me in the direction of these articles.


  1. I love such lists! Thanks for posting. Pleased to see Middlemarch is in no. 1 position. I've loved this novel since I studied it for 'A' level. It surprises me that Iris Murdoch is so far down the list at 61 with The sea, the sea. Pleased to see that other 20th century greats such as Anthony Powell and Arnold Bennet are there. Dismayed that Virginia Woolf occupies second and third position. I've never managed to complete a novel of hers. So there's a 'must try harder' for me in 2016. Happy reading!

    1. Thank-you! I bought To the Lighthouse, thinking I could read it at 3am when my baby wasn't sleeping. You can NOT read Virginia Woolf while sleep-deprived! I gave up after a few pages, but I shall try to return someday.


Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.