Big Jubilee Read: the list of 70 books that celebrates Queen Elizabeth's platinum jubilee

The list incorporates novels from across the Commonwealth, as well as short story and poetry collections published since 1952

The screen in Piccadilly Circus, London, celebrates the 70th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II's accession to the throne. AP
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Seventy books from across the Commonwealth have been selected to make up a reading list commemorating Queen Elizabeth II’s platinum jubilee.

The Big Jubilee Read was created by BBC Arts and The Reading Agency. It was compiled by librarians, booksellers and literature experts based on readers' recommendations from 31 countries.

The list incorporates 10 books that represent each of the seven decades of the queen's rule. It includes novels as well as short story and poetry collections published since 1952. Some featured works are Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children, Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess, and Life of Pi by Yann Martel.

Booker Prize winners from the past three years, including Bernardine Evaristo’s Girl, Woman, Other, Douglas Stuart’s Shuggie Bain and The Promise by Damon Galgut are also on the list.

There are a few glaring omissions, however.

Among them are J K Rowling’s Harry Potter books.

Susheila Nasta, emeritus professor of modern and contemporary literature at Queen Mary University of London, said there were discussions on whether to include Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. Ultimately, the committee omitted the book as it pared down the 152 recommendations.

“Lots of fantastic books were suggested for the list," Nasta told BBC Radio 4. But the feeling was that Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone "was primarily a children’s book”.

“In terms of the space over that decade, which was the '90s when more and more books were coming out across the Commonwealth, it was decided to make space for a book that was good and equally well received,” Nasta said.

Rowling has come under criticism in the past two years over controversial comments she has made regarding transgender issues.

Other books that didn’t make the final list include The Lord of the Rings by J R R Tolkien and Doris Lessing’s The Golden Notebook.

“The Golden Notebook … was a huge influence on me, but we had to drop some … there were two books for every place.”

The complete Big Jubilee Read list

From 1952 to 1961

  • The Palm-Wine Drinkard – Amos Tutuola (1952, Nigeria)
  • The Hills Were Joyful Together – Roger Mais (1953, Jamaica)
  • In the Castle of My Skin – George Lamming (1953, Barbados)
  • My Bones and My Flute – Edgar Mittelholzer (1955, Guyana)
  • The Lonely Londoners – Sam Selvon (1956, Trinidad and Tobago/England)
  • The Guide – RK Narayan (1958, India)
  • To Sir, With Love – ER Braithwaite (1959, Guyana)
  • One Moonlit Night – Caradog Prichard (1961, Wales)
  • A House for Mr Biswas – VS Naipaul (1961, Trinidad and Tobago/England)
  • Sunlight on a Broken Column – Attia Hosain (1961, India)

From 1962 to 1971

  • A Clockwork Orange – Anthony Burgess (1962, England)
  • The Interrogation – JMG Le Clezio (1963, France/Mauritius)
  • The Girls of Slender Means – Muriel Spark (1963, Scotland)
  • Arrow of God – Chinua Achebe (1964, Nigeria)
  • Death of a Naturalist – Seamus Heaney (1966, Northern Ireland)
  • Wide Sargasso Sea – Jean Rhys (1966, Dominica/Wales)
  • A Grain of Wheat – Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o (1967, Kenya)
  • Picnic at Hanging Rock – Joan Lindsay (1967, Australia)
  • The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born – Ayi Kwei Armah (1968, Ghana)
  • When Rain Clouds Gather – Bessie Head (1968, Botswana/South Africa)

From 1972 to 1981

  • The Nowhere Man – Kamala Markandaya (1972, India)
  • Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy – John Le Carre (1974, England)
  • The Thorn Birds – Colleen McCullough (1977, Australia)
  • The Crow Eaters – Bapsi Sidhwa (1978, Pakistan)
  • The Sea, The Sea – Iris Murdoch (1978, England)
  • Who Do You think You Are? – Alice Munro (1978, Canada)
  • The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams (1979, England)
  • Tsotsi – Athol Fugard (1980, South Africa)
  • Clear Light of Day – Anita Desai (1980, India)
  • Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie (1981, England/India)

From 1982 to 1991

  • Schindler’s Ark – Thomas Keneally (1982, Australia)
  • Beka Lamb – Zee Edgell (1982, Belize)
  • The Bone People – Keri Hulme (1984, New Zealand)
  • The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood (1985, Canada)
  • Summer Lightning – Olive Senior (1986, Jamaica)
  • The Whale Rider – Witi Ihimaera (1987, New Zealand)
  • The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro (1989, England)
  • Omeros – Derek Walcott (1990, Saint Lucia)
  • The Adoption Papers – Jackie Kay (1991, Scotland)
  • Cloudstreet – Tim Winton (1991, Australia)

From 1992 to 2001

  • The English Patient – Michael Ondaatje (1992, Canada/Sri Lanka)
  • The Stone Diaries – Carol Shields (1993, Canada)
  • Paradise – Abdulrazak Gurnah (1994, Tanzania/England)
  • A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry (1995, India/Canada)
  • Salt – Earl Lovelace (1996, Trinidad and Tobago)
  • The God of Small Things – Arundhati Roy (1997, India)
  • The Blue Bedspread – Raj Kamal Jha (1999, India)
  • Disgrace – J M Coetzee (1999, South Africa/Australia)
  • White Teeth – Zadie Smith (2000, England)
  • Life of Pi – Yann Martel (2001, Canada)

From 2002 to 2011

  • Small Island – Andrea Levy (2004, England)
  • The Secret River – Kate Grenville (2005, Australia)
  • The Book Thief – Markus Zusak (2005, Australia)
  • Half of a Yellow Sun – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (2006, Nigeria)
  • A Golden Age – Tahmima Anam (2007, Bangladesh)
  • The Boat – Nam Le (2008, Australia)
  • Wolf Hall – Hilary Mantel (2009, England)
  • The Book of Night Women – Marlon James (2009, Jamaica)
  • The Memory of Love – Aminatta Forna (2010, Sierra Leone/Scotland)
  • Chinaman – Shehan Karunatilaka (2010, Sri Lanka)

From 2012 to 2021

  • Our Lady of the Nile – Scholastique Mukasonga (2012, Rwanda)
  • The Luminaries – Eleanor Catton (2013, New Zealand)
  • Behold the Dreamers – Imbolo Mbue (2016, Cameroon)
  • The Bone Readers – Jacob Ross (2016, Grenada)
  • How We Disappeared – Jing-Jing Lee (2019, Singapore)
  • Girl, Woman, Other – Bernardine Evaristo (2019, England)
  • The Night Tiger – Yangsze Choo (2019, Malaysia)
  • Shuggie Bain – Douglas Stuart (2020, Scotland)
  • A Passage North – Anuk Arudpragasam (2021, Sri Lanka)
  • The Promise – Damon Galgut (2021, South Africa)
Updated: April 22, 2022, 10:56 AM