BBC's Big Read

View all Best Picks for Adults book lists; This list was last updated on 7/26/2013
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In April 2003 the BBC's Big Read began the search for the nation's best-loved novel. Here are the top 100 they nominated. 

For more book recommendations, please check out New York Times® Best Sellers, Children's Book Recommendations or the complete list of Featured Book Lists and Award Winners

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Midnight's Children
Selected by the Modern Library as one of the 100 best novels of all time

Winner of the Booker of Bookers

Saleem Sinai is born at the stroke of midnight on August 15, 1947, the very moment of India's independence. Greeted by fireworks displays, cheering crowds, and Prime Minister Nehru himself, Saleem grows up to learn the ominous consequences of this coincidence. His every act is mirrored and magnified in events that sway the course of national affairs; his health and well-being are inextricably bound to those of his nation; his life is inseparable, at times indistinguishable, from the history of his country. Perhaps most remarkable are the telepathic powers linking him with India's 1,000 other “midnight's children,” all born in that initial hour and endowed with magical gifts.

This novel is at once a fascinating family saga and an astonishing evocation of a vast land and its people–a brilliant incarnation of the universal human comedy. Twenty-five years after its publication, Midnight' s Children stands apart as both an epochal work of fiction and a brilliant performance by one of the great literary voices of our time.
release date: Jan 01, 2004
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Princess Diaries

What? A princess??

Me??? Yeah, right.

Mia Thermopolis is pretty sure there's nothing worse than being a five-foot-nine, flat-chested freshman, who also happens to be flunking Algebra.

Is she ever in for a surprise.

First Mom announces that she's dating Mia's Algebra teacher. Then Dad has to go and reveal that he is the crown prince of Genovia. And guess who still doesn't have a date for the Cultural Diversity Dance?

release date: Feb 05, 2008
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Girls in Love

Ellie is nearly 13, in Year Nine, and desperate to have a boyfriend. Her best friends Magda and Nadine (both prettier and thinner) have boyfriends, but the closest she can get is Dopey Dan, who is younger and a real swot.

Find out all her secrets, squirm at her most embarrassing moment, have a laugh, and discover more about boys!

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Love in the Time of Cholera
In their youth, Florentino Ariza and Fermina Daza fall passionately in love. When Fermina eventually chooses to marry a wealthy, well-born doctor, Florentino is devastated, but he is a romantic. As he rises in his business career he whiles away the years in 622 affairs--yet he reserves his heart for Fermina. Her husband dies at last, and Florentino purposefully attends the funeral. Fifty years, nine months, and four days after he first declared his love for Fermina, he will do so again.
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Kane and Abel

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 their ruthless struggle to build a fortune.

An unputdownable story, spanning sixty years, of two powerful men linked by an all-consuming hatred, brought together by fate to save―and finally destroy―each other.

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Katherine
“An inspiration and the benchmark by which I judge historical novels.” — Alison Weir

"A glorious example of romance in its most classic literary sense: exhilarating, exuberant, and rich with the jeweled tones of England in the 1300s." — Austin Chronicle



Katherine is an epic novel of the love affair that changed history—that of Katherine Swynford and John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, the ancestors of most of the British royal family. Set in the vibrant 14th century of Chaucer and the Black Death, the story features knights fighting in battle, serfs struggling in poverty, and the magnificent Plantagenets—Edward III, the Black Prince, and Richard II—who ruled despotically over a court rotten with intrigue. Within this era of danger and romance, John of Gaunt, the king's son, falls passionately in love with the already married Katherine. Their affair persists through decades of war, adultery, murder, loneliness, and redemption. Anya Seton's vivid rendering of the lives of the Duke and Duchess of Lancaster makes Katherine an unmistakable classic.

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The Alchemist

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho continues to change the lives of its readers forever. With more than two million copies sold around the world, The Alchemist has established itself as a modern classic, universally admired.

Paulo Coelho's masterpiece tells the magical story of Santiago, an Andalusian shepherd boy who yearns to travel in search of a worldly treasure as extravagant as any ever found.

The story of the treasures Santiago finds along the way teaches us, as only a few stories can, about the essential wisdom of listening to our hearts, learning to read the omens strewn along life's path, and, above all, following our dreams.

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The Color of Magic

The beginning of the hilarious and irreverent series that has more than 80 million copies worldwide, The Color of Magic is where we meet tourist Twoflower and wizard guide Ricewind, and follow them on their always-bizarre journeys.

A writer who has been compared to Mark Twain, Kurt Vonnegut, and Douglas Adams, Sir Terry Pratchett has created a complex, yet zany world filled with a host of unforgettable characters who navigate around a profound fantasy universe, complete with its own set of cultures and rules.

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The Clan of the Cave Bear
This novel of awesome beauty and power is a moving saga about people, relationships, and the boundaries of love. Through Jean M. Auel's magnificent storytelling we are taken back to the dawn of modern humans, and with a girl named Ayla we are swept up in the harsh and beautiful Ice Age world they shared with the ones who called themselves the Clan of the Cave Bear.

A natural disaster leaves the young girl wandering alone in an unfamiliar and dangerous land until she is found by a woman of the Clan, people very different from her own kind. To them, blond, blue-eyed Ayla looks peculiar and ugly--she is one of the Others, those who have moved into their ancient homeland; but Iza cannot leave the girl to die and takes her with them. Iza and Creb, the old Mog-ur, grow to love her, and as Ayla learns the ways of the Clan and Iza's way of healing, most come to accept her. But the brutal and proud youth who is destined to become their next leader sees her differences as a threat to his authority. He develops a deep and abiding hatred for the strange girl of the Others who lives in their midst, and is determined to get his revenge.
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The Godfather
More than thirty years ago, a classic was born. A searing novel of the Mafia underworld, The Godfather introduced readers to the first family of American crime fiction, the Corleones, and the powerful legacy of tradition, blood, and honor that was passed on from father to son. With its themes of the seduction of power, the pitfalls of greed, and family allegiance, it resonated with millions of readers across the world—and became the definitive novel of the virile, violent subculture that remains steeped in intrigue, in controversy, and in our collective consciousness.
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On the Road
Jack Kerouac's groundbreaking novel—soon to be a major motion picture with a star-studded cast

In what is sure to be one of the major cinematic events of 2012, Jack Kerouac's legendary Beat classic, On the Road, will finally hit the big screen. Directed by Walter Salles (The Motorcycle Diaries; Paris, Je T'Aime) and with a cast of some of Hollywood's biggest stars, including Kristen Stewart (The Twilight Saga), Sam Riley, Garrett Hedlund, Kirsten Dunst, Amy Adams (Julie & Julia, The Fighter), Tom Sturridge, and Viggo Mortensen (the Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Road), the film will attract new fans who will be inspired by Kerouac's revolutionary masterwork.

release date: May 14, 2013
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Magician's End

Three decades . . . Five Riftwars . . . One magnificent saga: From New York Times bestselling author Raymond E. Feist comes Magician's End, the final book in the epic Riftwar Cycle.

Thirty years ago, Feist's first novel, Magician, introduced us to an orphan boy named Pug, who rises from slavery to become a Master Magician, and to Midkemia and the Riftwar, an epic series of battles between Good and Evil that have scarred Pug's world for generations.

After twenty-nine books, Feist delivers the crowning achievement of his renowned bestselling career: Magician's End, the final chapter in The Chaos Wars, the climax of his extraordinary Riftwar Cycle.

Pug, now the greatest magician of all time, must risk everything he has fought for and everything he cherishes in the hope of destroying an evil enemy once and for all. But to achieve peace and save untold millions of lives, he will have to pay the ultimate price.

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Christmas at Cold Comfort Farm
Available for the first time since its original publication more than fifty years ago, Christmas at Cold Comfort Farm is a charming collection whose hilarious title story features Christmas dinner with the Starkadders before Flora's arrival. With Adam playing Santa while draped in Mrs. Starkadders's shawls, the family shares their traditional "Christmas pudding"-a mélange containing random objects of doom foretelling the coming year: a coffin nail for death, a bad sixpence for financial ruin, and a menthol cone to indicate that the lucky recipient will go "blind wi' headache." These lively tales will delight anyone who loves Stella Gibbons and her signature wit.
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Brave New World

"Aldous Huxley is the greatest 20th century writer in English." —Chicago Tribune

Aldous Huxley is rightly considered a prophetic genius and one of the most important literary and philosophical voices of the 20th Century, and Brave New World is his masterpiece. From the author of The Doors of Perception, Island, and countless other works of fiction, non-fiction, philosophy, and poetry, comes this powerful work of speculative fiction that has enthralled and terrified readers for generations. Brave New World remains absolutely relevant to this day as both a cautionary dystopian tale in the vein of the George Orwell classic 1984, and as thought-provoking, thoroughly satisfying entertainment.

release date: Apr 08, 2003
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Vicky Angel
Jade is so used to being with and agreeing with Vicky, her larger-than-life best friend, that when a tragic accident occurs, she can hardly believe that Vicky's gone. But Vicky is a spunky girl who's not going to let a small thing like death stop her from living life to the fullest. Whether Jade is in school, running, or tentatively trying to make new friends, Vicky makes her presence felt, and it's not always a good thing.


From the Hardcover edition.
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The God of Small Things
Winner of the 1997 Booker Prize. The richly exotic story of the childhood the twins Esthappen and Rahel craft for themselves amongst India's vats of banana jam and mountains of peppercorns. Repackaged as part of the 2008 Perennial fiction promotion. More magical than Mistry, more of a rollicking good read than Rushdie, more nerve-tinglingly imagined than Naipaul, here, perhaps, is the greatest Indian novel by a woman. Arundhati Roy has written an astonishingly rich, fertile novel, teeming with life, colour, heart-stopping language, wry comedy and a hint of magical realism. Set against a background of political turbulence in Kerala, Southern India, 'The God of Small Things' tells the story of twins Esthappen and Rahel. Among 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).
release date: Oct 27, 2011
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The Illustrated Gormenghast Trilogy
A doomed lord, an emergent hero, and a dazzling array of bizarre creatures inhabit the magical world of the Gormenghast novels which, along with Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, reign as one of the undisputed fantasy classics of all time. At the center of it all is the seventy-seventh Earl, Titus Groan, who stands to inherit the miles of rambling stone and mortar that form Gormenghast Castle and its kingdom, unless the conniving Steerpike, who is determined to rise above his menial position and control the House of Groan, has his way.

In these extraordinary novels, Peake has created a world where all is like a dream--lush, fantastical, and vivid. Accompanying the text are Peake's own drawings, illustrating the whole assembly of strange and marvelous creatures that inhabit Gormenghast.
Introductory Essays by Anthony Burgess and Quentin Crisp
Twelve critical essays
Fragment of the unpublished novel, Titus Awakes

"Mervyn Peake is a finer poet than Edgar Allan Poe, and he is therefore able to maintain his world of fantasy brilliantly through three novels. It is a very, very great work . . . a classic of our age."-- Robertson Davies

"[Peake's books] are actual additions to life; they give, like certain rare dreams, sensations we never had before, and enlarge our conception of the range of possible experience."-- C. S. Lewis

"This extravagant epic about a labyrinthine castle populated with conniving Dickensian grotesques is the true fantasy classic of our time."-- The Washington Post Book World
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Holes

   A modern classic . . . from the New York Times bestselling author who has been recognized with the Newbery Award as well as the National Book Award!

Stanley Yelnats is under a curse. A curse that began with his no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing-great-great-grandfather and has since followed generations of Yelnatses. Now Stanley has been unjustly sent to a boys' detention center, Camp Green Lake, where the boys build character by spending all day, every day digging holes exactly five feet wide and five feet deep. There is no lake at Camp Green Lake. But there are an awful lot of holes.

It doesn't take long for Stanley to realize there's more than character improvement going on at Camp Green Lake. The boys are digging holes because the warden is looking for something. But what could be buried under a dried-up lake? Stanley tries to dig up the truth in this inventive and darkly humorous tale of crime and punishment—and redemption.

Includes a double bonus: an excerpt from Small Steps, the follow-up to Holes, as well as an excerpt from Louis Sachar's new middle-grade novel, Fuzzy Mud.

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I Capture the Castle

Now a major motion picture from the Academy Award-winning producer of Shakespeare in Love

I Capture the Castle tells the story of seventeen-year-old Cassandra and her family, who live in not-so-genteel poverty in a ramshackle old English castle. Here she strives, over six turbulent months, to hone her writing skills. She fills three notebooks with sharply funny yet poignant entries. Her journals candidly chronicle the great changes that take place within the castle's walls, and her own first descent into love. By the time she pens her final entry, she has "captured the castle"--and the heart of the reader--in one of literature's most enchanting entertainments.

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The Twits
How do you outwit a Twit?

Mr. and Mrs. Twit are the smelliest, nastiest, ugliest people in the world. They hate everything—except playing mean jokes on each other, catching innocent birds to put in their Bird Pies, and making their caged monkeys, the Muggle-Wumps, stand on their heads all day. But the Muggle-Wumps have had enough. They don't just want out, they want revenge.
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Double Act

No one can ever be like a mother to us, especially not stupid frizzy dizzy Rose! Ruby and Garnet are 10-year-old identical twins. They do everything together, especially since their mom died three years ago. Can being a double act work forever? Especially when their father starts dating again?

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Bleak House
Bleak House, Dickens's most daring experiment in the narration of a complex plot, challenges the reader to make connections--between the fashionable and the outcast, the beautiful and the ugly, the powerful and the victims. Nowhere in Dickens's later novels is his attack on an uncaring society more imaginatively embodied, but nowhere either is the mixture of comedy and angry satire more deftly managed.
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The Woman in White
This is a pre-1923 historical reproduction that was curated for quality. Quality assurance was conducted on each of these books in an attempt to remove books with imperfections introduced by the digitization process. Though we have made best efforts - the books may have occasional errors that do not impede the reading experience. We believe this work is culturally important and have elected to bring the book back into print as part of our continuing commitment to the preservation of printed works worldwide. This text refers to the Bibliobazaar edition.
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The Secret History
Donna Tartt, winner of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for her most recent novel, The Goldfinch, established herself as a major talent with The Secret History, which has become a contemporary classic.

Under the influence of their charismatic classics professor, a group of clever, eccentric misfits at an elite New England college discover a way of thinking and living that is a world away from the humdrum existence of their contemporaries. But when they go beyond the boundaries of normal morality their lives are changed profoundly and forever, and they discover how hard it can be to truly live and how easy it is to kill.
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Bridget Jones's Diary
Helen Fielding's devastatingly self-aware, laugh-out-loud account of a year in the life of a thirty-something Singleton launched a genre and transcended the pages of fiction to become a cultural icon.
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Matilda
This beloved Roald Dahl title is now available in a gorgeous hardcover classic edition.

Matilda is a brilliant and sensitive child, but her parents think of her only as a nuisance. When one day she is attacked by her odious headmistress, Miss Trunchbull, Matilda suddenly discovers she has a remarkable power with which to avenge herself!
release date: Jan 01, 2007
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Night Watch

One moment, Sir Sam Vimes is in his old patrolman form, chasing a sweet-talking psychopath across the rooftops of Ankh-Morpork. The next, he's lying naked in the street, having been sent back thirty years courtesy of a group of time-manipulating monks who won't leave well enough alone. This Discworld is a darker place that Vimes remembers too well, three decades before his title, fortune, beloved wife, and impending first child. Worse still, the murderer he's pursuing has been transported back also. Worst of all, it's the eve of a fabled street rebellion that needlessly destroyed more than a few good (and not so good) men. Sam Vimes knows his duty, and by changing history he might just save some worthwhile necks—though it could cost him his own personal future. Plus there's a chance to steer a novice watchman straight and teach him a valuable thing or three about policing, an impressionable young copper named Sam Vimes.

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Ragged Trousered Philanthropists (Wordsworth Classics)
The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists is a classic representation of the impoverished and politically powerless underclass of British society in Edwardian England, ruthlessly exploited by the institutionalized corruption of their employers and the civic and religious authorities. Epic in scale, the novel charts the ruinous effects of the laissez-faire mercantilist ethics on the men, women, and children of the working classes, and through its emblematic characters, argues for a socialist politics as the only hope for a civilized and humane life for all. It is a timeless work whose political message is as relevant today as it was in Tressell's time. For this it has long been honoured by the Trade Union movement and thinkers across the political spectrum.
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Perfume

An acclaimed bestseller and international sensation, Patrick Suskind's classic novel provokes a terrifying examination of what happens when one man's indulgence in his greatest passion—his sense of smell—leads to murder.

In the slums of eighteenth-century France, the infant Jean-Baptiste Grenouille is born with one sublime gift—an absolute sense of smell. As a boy, he lives to decipher the odors of Paris, and apprentices himself to a prominent perfumer who teaches him the ancient art of mixing precious oils and herbs. But Grenouille's genius is such that he is not satisfied to stop there, and he becomes obsessed with capturing the smells of objects such as brass doorknobs and fresh-cut wood. Then one day he catches a hint of a scent that will drive him on an ever-more-terrifying quest to create the “ultimate perfume”—the scent of a beautiful young virgin. Told with dazzling narrative brilliance, Perfume is a hauntingly powerful tale of murder and sensual depravity. 

Translated from the German by John E. Woods.

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