Novels that Shaped Our World

To celebrate the 300th anniversary of Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe, BBC Arts have announced a new season of programming which will explore the novel from the perspectives of empire and slavery, women’s voices, and working-class experiences.

The series, which will air on BBC Two, will be accompanied by a multi-platform collaboration between the BBC, libraries and reading groups, and will delve into the top 100 novels that have had the greatest impact on society and culture since 1719.

This morning radio DJ Jo Whiley chaired a debate with BBC Two Book Club producer Joe Haddow, historical novelist Tracy Chevalier and Bradford Literature festival director Syima Aslam to discuss the novels that have shaped their worlds.

“It wants to stay with me. Linger” said Chevalier, as she explained that Beloved and A Fine Balance were on her list of novels that have had the greatest impact on her.

And Persuasion and Narnia were on Aslam’s list. She said, “books should be treated as an archetype of their time”.

Haddow, Chevalier and Aslam will be joined by a panel of literary experts to finalise the top 100 novels that have shaped our worlds. The panel includes journalist Mariella Frostrup, actor Zawe Ashton, author Kit de Waal, editor of TLS Stig Abell and author Alexander McCall Smith.

If you’re interested in BBC events please also see Event 258 at 1pm on Thursday 30 May. If you like watching Hay Festival events digitally please sign up to the Hay Player for more from the world’s greatest thinkers.

Picture by: Chris Athanasiou

 L-R: Joe Haddow, Tracy Chevalier, Syima Aslam, Jo Whiley