100 Novels That Shaped Our World by BBC

Stories have the power to change us. We asked a panel of leading writers, curators and critics to choose 100 genre-busting novels that have had an impact on their lives, and this is the result. These English language novels, written over the last 300 years, range from children’s classics to popular page turners. Organised into themes, they reflect the ways books help shape and influence our thinking.

  1. Beloved by Toni Morrison

    Beloved (1987) is a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Nobel laureate Toni Morrison. The novel, her fifth, is loosely based on the life and legal case of the slave Margaret Garner, about whom Morrison...

  2. Days Without End by Sebastian Barry

    Days Without End is the seventh novel by Sebastian Barry and is set during the Indian Wars and American Civil War.

  3. Fugitive Pieces by Anne Michaels

    Fugitive Pieces is a novel by Canadian poet Anne Michaels. The story is divided into two sections. The first centers around Jakob Beer, a Polish Holocaust survivor while the second involves a man n...

  4. Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

    Half of a Yellow Sun is a novel that was written by Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. It was first published in 2006 by Knopf/Anchor and tells the story of two sisters Olanna and Kainene du...

  5. Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

    Homegoing is the debut historical fiction novel by Yaa Gyasi, published in 2016. Each chapter in the novel follows a different descendant of an Asante woman named Maame, starting with her two daugh...

  6. Small Island by Andrea Levy

    Hortense Joseph arrives in London from Jamaica in 1948 with her life in her suitcase, her heart broken, her resolve intact. Her husband, Gilbert Joseph, returns from the war expecting to be receive...

  7. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

    The Bell Jar is American writer and poet Sylvia Plath's only novel, which was originally published under the pseudonym "Victoria Lucas" in 1963. The novel is semi-autobiographical with the names of...

  8. The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy

    The God of Small Things is a politically charged novel by Indian author Arundhati Roy. It is a story about the childhood experiences of a pair of fraternal twins who become victims of circumstance....

  9. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

    A novel of great power that turns the world upside down. The Nigerian novelist Achebe reached back to the early days of his people's encounter with colonialism, the 1890's, though the white man and...

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  10. White Teeth by Zadie Smith

    This may be the first novel ever written that truly feels at home in our borderless, globalized, intermarried, post-colonial age, populated by "children with first and last names on a direct collis...

    - Time
  11. Bridget Jones's Diary by Helen Fielding

    Bridget Jones's Diary is a 1996 novel by Helen Fielding. Written in the form of a personal diary, the novel chronicles a year in the life of Bridget Jones, a thirty-something single working woman l...

  12. Forever... by Judy Blume

    Forever... is a 1975 novel by Judy Blume dealing with teenage sexuality. Because of the novel's content it has been the frequent target of censorship and appears on the American Library Associat...

  13. Giovanni's Room by James Baldwin

    Set in the 1950s Paris of American expatriates, liaisons, and violence, a young man finds himself caught between desire and conventional morality. With a sharp, probing imagination, James Baldwin's...

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  14. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

    The book is narrated in free indirect speech following the main character Elizabeth Bennet as she deals with matters of upbringing, marriage, moral rightness and education in her aristocratic socie...

  15. Riders by Jilly Cooper

    Riders is an international best-selling novel written by the English author Jilly Cooper. It is the first of a series of romance novels known as the Rutshire Chronicles, which are set in the ficti...

  16. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

    The main character, an African American woman in her early forties named Janie Crawford, tells the story of her life and journey via an extended flashback to her best friend, Pheoby, so that Pheoby...

  17. The Far Pavilions by M. M. Kaye

    This sweeping epic set in 19th-century India begins in the foothills of the towering Himalayas and follows a young Indian-born orphan as he's raised in England and later returns to India where he f...

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  18. The Forty Rules of Love by Elif Shafak

    The Forty Rules of Love is a novel written by Turkish author Elif Shafak, The book was published in March 2009. It is about Maulana Jalal-Ud-Din, known as Rumi and his spiritual teacher Shams Tabri...

  19. The Passion by Jeanette Winterson

    Jeanette Winterson’s novels have established her as one of the most important young writers in world literature. The Passion is perhaps her most highly acclaimed work, a modern classic that confirm...

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  20. The Slaves of Solitude by Patrick Hamilton

    A welcome reissue of one of Patrick Hamilton's best, with an introduction by Doris Lessing. The Slaves of Solitude is set in a wartime boarding house in a small town on the Thames. The Rosamund Tea...

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  21. City of Bohane by Kevin Barry

    City of Bohane is the debut novel by Ireland's Kevin Barry. The book is set in the year 2053, in a world with minimal technology. It received largely positive reviews and won the 2013 Internation...

  22. Eye Of The Needle by Ken Follett

    One enemy spy knows the secret to the Allies' greatest deception, a brilliant aristocrat and ruthless assassin -- code name: "The Needle" -- who holds the key to ultimate Nazi victory. Only one per...

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  23. For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway

    It tells the story of Robert Jordan, a young American in the International Brigades attached to a communist guerilla unit during the Spanish Civil War. As an expert in the use of explosives, he is ...

  24. His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman

    The story involves fantasy elements such as witches and armoured polar bears, and alludes to a broad range of ideas from fields such as physics, philosophy, theology and spirituality. It follows th...

  25. Ivanhoe by Walter Scott

    Ivanhoe is a historical novel by Sir Walter Scott published in 1820 and set in 12th-century England. Ivanhoe is sometimes credited for increasing interest in romance and medievalism; John Henry New...

  26. Mr Standfast by John Buchan

    Mr Standfast is the third of five Richard Hannay novels by John Buchan, first published in 1919 by Hodder & Stoughton, London. It is one of two Hannay novels set during the First World War, the ot...

  27. The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler

    The Big Sleep (1939) is a crime novel by Raymond Chandler, the first in his acclaimed series about hardboiled detective Philip Marlowe. The work has been adapted twice into film, once in 1946 and a...

  28. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

    In a future North America, where the rulers of Panem maintain control through an annual televised survival competition pitting young people from each of the twelve districts against one another, si...

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  29. Master and Commander by Patrick O'Brian

    Master and Commander is a historical naval novel by Patrick O'Brian. First published in 1969 (US) (1970 in UK), it is first in the Aubrey-Maturin series of stories of Captain Jack Aubrey and the na...

  30. The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien

    The Lord of the Rings is an epic high fantasy novel written by philologist and Oxford University professor J. R. R. Tolkien. The story began as a sequel to Tolkien's earlier, less complex children'...

  31. A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin

    The kingdom of the royal Stark family faces its ultimate challenge in the onset of a generation-long winter, the poisonous plots of the rival Lannisters, the emergence of the Neverborn demons, and ...

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  32. Astonishing the Gods by Ben Okri

    Astonishing the Gods is a novel by Nigerian writer Ben Okri.On November 5, 2019, the BBC News listed Astonishing the Gods on its list of the 100 most influential novels.In an interview with The Gua...

  33. Dune by Frank Herbert

    Dune is a science fiction novel written by Frank Herbert, published in 1965. It won the Hugo Award in 1966, and also the inaugural Nebula Award for Best Novel. Dune was also the first bestselling h...

  34. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

    At this challenge, Mary Shelley began work on the 'ghost story' that was to evolve into the most celebrated horror novel in literary history. Frankenstein was published the next year and become the...

  35. Gilead by Marilynne Robinson

    Gilead is a novel written by Marilynne Robinson and published in 2004. It won the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, as well as the National Book Critics Circle Award. The novel is the fictional auto...

  36. The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis

    The Chronicles of Narnia is a series of seven high fantasy novels by author C.S. Lewis. It is considered a classic of children's literature and is the author's best-known work, having sold over 100...

  37. The Colour of Magic by Terry Pratchett

    On a world supported on the back of a giant turtle (sex unknown), a gleeful, explosive, wickedly eccentric expedition sets out. There's an avaricious but inept wizard, a naive tourist whose luggage...

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  38. A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin

    Originally published in 1968, Ursula K. Le Guin’s A Wizard of Earthsea marks the first of the six now beloved Earthsea titles. Ged was the greatest sorcerer in Earthsea, but in his youth he was the...

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  39. Sandman by Neil Gaiman

  40. The Road by Cormac McCarthy

    The Road is a 2006 novel by American writer Cormac McCarthy. It is a post-apocalyptic tale of a journey taken by a father and his young son over a period of several months, across a landscape blast...

  41. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

    After 103 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list and with four million copies of The Kite Runner shipped, Khaled Hosseini returns with a beautiful, riveting, and haunting novel that confirms h...

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  42. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

    Set in the London of AD 2540 (632 A.F. in the book), the novel anticipates developments in reproductive technology and sleep-learning that combine to change society. The future society is an embod...

  43. Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie

    Home Fire (2017) is the seventh novel by Kamila Shamsie. It reimagines Sophocles's play Antigone unfolding among British Muslims. The novel follows the Pasha family: twin siblings Aneeka and Parvai...

  44. Lord of the Flies by William Golding

    Lord of the Flies discusses how culture created by man fails, using as an example a group of British schoolboys stuck on a deserted island who try to govern themselves, but with disastrous results....

  45. Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman

    Sephy Hadley and Callum McGregor are two young people in love. But Sephy is a Cross, daughter of a government minister, and Callum is a Nought. In their world, Crosses and Noughts cannot be friends...

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  46. Strumpet City by James Plunkett

    Strumpet City is a 1969 historical novel by James Plunkett set in Dublin, Ireland, around the time of the 1913 Dublin Lock-out. In 1980, it was adapted into a successful TV drama by Hugh Leonard fo...

  47. The Color Purple by Alice Walker

    Taking place mostly in rural Georgia, the story focuses on female black life during the 1930s in the Southern United States, addressing the numerous issues including their exceedingly low position ...

  48. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

    As a Southern Gothic novel and a Bildungsroman, the primary themes of To Kill a Mockingbird involve racial injustice and the destruction of innocence. Scholars have noted that Lee also addresses is...

  49. V for Vendetta by Alan Moore

    V for Vendetta is a British graphic novel written by Alan Moore and illustrated by David Lloyd (with additional art by Tony Weare). Initially published, starting in 1982, in black-and-white as an o...

  50. Unless by Carol Shields

    Unless, first published by Fourth Estate, an imprint of Harper Collins in 2002, is the final novel by Canadian writer Carol Shields. Semi-autobiographical, it was the capstone to Shields's writing ...

  51. A House for Mr. Biswas by V. S. Naipaul

    It is the story of Mr Mohun Biswas, an Indo-Trinidadian who continually strives for success and mostly fails, who marries into the Tulsi family only to find himself dominated by it, and who finally...

  52. Cannery Row by John Steinbeck

    Unburdened by the material necessities of the more fortunate, the denizens of Cannery Row discover rewards unknown in more traditional society. Henry the painter sorts through junk lots for pieces ...

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  53. Disgrace by J. M. Coetzee

    Disgrace is a 1999 novel by South African-born author J. M. Coetzee, winner of the 2003 Nobel Prize in Literature; the book itself won the Booker Prize in 1999, the year in which it was published. ...

  54. Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens

    Our Mutual Friend (written in the years 1864–65) is the last novel completed by Charles Dickens and is in many ways one of his most sophisticated works, combining deep psychological insight with ri...

  55. Poor Cow by Nell Dunn

    Poor Cow is the first full-length novel by Nell Dunn, first published in 1967 by MacGibbon & Kee. The novel is a study of a working class girl from the East End of London, struggling through the sw...

  56. Saturday Night and Sunday Morning by Alan Sillitoe

    Saturday Night and Sunday Morning is the first novel by British author Alan Sillitoe and won the Author's Club First Novel Award. It was adapted by Sillitoe into a 1960 film starring Albert Finney...

  57. The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne by Brian Moore

    The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne is an unflinching and deeply sympathetic portrait of a woman destroyed by self and circumstance. First published in 1955, it marked Brian Moore as a major figure...

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  58. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark

    A slender novel but far from flimsy, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie enrolls the reader at Edinburgh's fictional Marcia Blaine School for Girls under the tutelage of one Jean Brodie, a magnetic, unco...

    - Time
  59. The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro

    The Remains of the Day (1989) is the third published novel by Japanese-British author Kazuo Ishiguro. The Remains of The Day is one of the most highly-regarded post-war British novels. It won the B...

  60. Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys

    In Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre, Bertha is the madwoman locked in the attic by her husband Rochester, the simmering Englishman whose children Jane has been hired to tutor. In Bronte's novel we lear...

    - Time
  61. Emily of New Moon by L. M. Montgomery

    Emily of New Moon is the first in a series of novels by Lucy Maud Montgomery about an orphan girl growing up in Canada. It is similar to the author's Anne of Green Gables series. It was first publ...

  62. Golden Child by Claire Adam

    A new novel from Sarah Jessica Parker's imprint, SJP for Hogarth: a deeply affecting debut novel set in Trinidad, following the lives of a family as they navigate impossible choices about scarcity,...

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  63. Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood

    Oryx and Crake is a 2003 novel by Canadian author Margaret Atwood. She has described the novel as speculative fiction and adventure romance, rather than pure science fiction, because it does not de...

  64. So Long, See You Tomorrow by William Maxwell

    On an Illinois farm in the 1920s, a man is murdered, and in the same moment the tenous friendship between two lonely boys comes to an end. In telling their interconnected stories, American Book Awa...

  65. Swami and Friends by R. K. Narayan

    Swami and Friends is the first of a trilogy of novels written by R. K. Narayan (1906–2001), English language novelist from India. The novel, the first book Narayan wrote, is set in British India in...

  66. The Country Girls by Edna O'Brien

    The Country Girls is a trilogy by Irish author Edna O'Brien. It consists of three novels: The Country Girls (1960), The Lonely Girl (1962), and Girls in Their Married Bliss (1964). The trilogy was ...

  67. Harry Potter And The Philosopher's Stone by J. K Rowling

    Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone is the first novel in the Harry Potter series written by J. K. Rowling and featuring Harry Potter, a young wizard. It describes how Harry discovers he is a ...

  68. The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton

    The Outsiders is a coming-of-age novel by S. E. Hinton, first published in 1967 by Viking Press. Hinton was 15 when she started writing the novel, but did most of the work when she was 16 and a jun...

  69. The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 3/4 by Sue Townsend

    The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 3⁄4 is the first book in Sue Townsend's brilliantly funny Adrian Mole series. Friday January 2nd I felt rotten today. It's my mother's fault for singing 'My ...

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  70. Twilight by Stephenie Meyer

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  71. A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth

    A Suitable Boy is a novel by Vikram Seth, released in 1994. At 1349 pages (1488 pages softcover) and 591,552 words, the book is one of the longest novels ever published in a single volume in the En...

  72. Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild

    Ballet Shoes: A Story of Three Children on the Stage is a children's novel by Noel Streatfeild, published by Dent in 1936. It was her first book for children, and was illustrated by the author's si...

  73. Cloudstreet by Tim Winton

    Cloudstreet is a 1991 novel by Australian writer Tim Winton. It chronicles the lives of two working-class families, the Pickles and the Lambs, who come to live together in a large house called Clou...

  74. Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons

    When sensible, sophisticated Flora Poste is orphaned at nineteen, she decides her only choice is to descend upon relatives in deepest Sussex. At the aptly named Cold Comfort Farm, she meets the doo...

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  75. I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith

    The 1934 journal of seventeen-year-old Cassandra Mortmain reveals her perspective on six stormy months in the eccentric and poverty-stricken life of her family in a ruined Suffolk castle, ending wi...

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  76. Middlemarch by George Eliot

    Middlemarch: A Study of Provincial Life is a novel by George Eliot, the pen name of Mary Anne Evans, later Marian Evans. It is her seventh novel, begun in 1869 and then put aside during the final i...

  77. Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin

    For almost four decades Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City has blazed its own trail through popular culture—from a groundbreaking newspaper serial to a classic novel, to a television event that e...

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  78. The Shipping News by E. Annie Proulx

    The story centers on Quoyle, a newspaper worker from upstate New York whose father had emigrated from Newfoundland. Shortly after the suicide of his parents, Quoyle's unfaithful and abusive wife Pe...

  79. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë

    The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is the second and final novel by the English author Anne Brontë. It was first published in 1848 under the pseudonym Acton Bell. Probably the most shocking of the Brontës...

  80. The Witches by Roald Dahl

    From the bestselling author of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and The BFG! This is not a fairy tale. This is about real witches. Grandmamma loves to tell about witches. Real witches are the most...

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  81. American Tabloid by James Ellroy

    American Tabloid is a 1995 novel by James Ellroy. The novel chronicles three rogue American law enforcement officers from November 22, 1958 through November 22, 1963. Each becomes involved in a web...

  82. American War by Omar El Akkad

    American War is the first novel by Canadian-Egyptian journalist Omar El Akkad. It is set in a near-future United States of America, ravaged by climate change, in which a second Civil War has broken...

  83. Ice-Candy-Man by Bapsi Sidhwa

    Now Filmed as 1947, a motion picture by Deepa Mehta Few novels have caught the turmoil of the Indian subcontinent during Partition with such immediacy, such wit and tragic power.

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  84. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

    Rebecca is considered to be one of her best works. Some observers have noted parallels with Jane Eyre. Much of the novel was written while she was staying in Alexandria, Egypt, where her husband wa...

  85. Regeneration by Pat Barker

    The first book of the Regeneration Trilogy and a Booker Prize nominee In 1917 Siegfried Sasson, noted poet and decorated war hero, publicly refused to continue serving as a British officer in World...

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  86. The Children of Men by P. D. James

    The Children of Men begins in England in 2021, in a world where all human males have become sterile and no child will be born again. The final generation has turned twenty-five, and civilization is...

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  87. The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle

    The Hound of the Baskervilles is a crime novel by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle featuring the detective Sherlock Holmes. Originally serialized in the Strand Magazine from August 1901 to April 1902, it ...

  88. The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid

    The Reluctant Fundamentalist is a novel by Mohsin Hamid that was published in 2007. The novel takes place during the course of a single evening in an outdoor Lahore cafe, where a bearded Pakistani ...

  89. The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith

    In a chilling literary hall of mirrors, Patricia Highsmith introduces Tom Ripley. Like a hero in a latter-day Henry James novel, is sent to Italy with a commission to coax a prodigal young America...

  90. The Quiet American by Graham Greene

    As young Pyle's well-intentioned policies blunder into bloodshed, Fowler, a seasoned and cynical British reporter, finds it impossible to stand safely aside as an observer. But Fowler's motives for...

  91. A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole

    A Confederacy of Dunces is a picaresque novel written by John Kennedy Toole, published in 1980, 11 years after the author's suicide. The book was published through the efforts of writer Walker Perc...

  92. Bartleby the Scrivener by Herman Melville

    "I prefer not to," he respectfully and slowly said, and mildly disappeared. Academics hail it as the beginning of modernism, but to readers around the world—even those daunted by Moby-Dick—Bartleby...

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  93. Habibi by Craig Thompson

    Habibi is a graphic novel by Craig Thompson published by Pantheon in September 2011. The 672-page book is set in a fictional Islamic fairy tale landscape and depicts the relationship between Dodola...

  94. How to be both by Ali Smith

    Passionate, compassionate, vitally inventive and scrupulously playful, Ali Smith’s novels are like nothing else. A true original, she is a one-of-a-kind literary sensation. Her novels consistently ...

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  95. Orlando: A Biography by Virginia Woolf

    In her most exuberant, most fanciful novel, Woolf has created a character liberated from the restraints of time and sex. Born in the Elizabethan Age to wealth and position, Orlando is a young noble...

  96. Nights At The Circus by Angela Carter

    Is Sophie Fevvers, toast of Europe's capitals, part swan...or all fake? Courted by the Prince of Wales and painted by Toulouse-Lautrec, she is an aerialiste extraordinaire and star of Colonel Kearn...

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  97. Nineteen Eighty Four by George Orwell

    The story follows the life of one seemingly insignificant man, Winston Smith, a civil servant assigned the task of perpetuating the regime's propaganda by falsifying records and political literatur...

  98. Psmith, Journalist by P. G. Wodehouse

    Psmith, Journalist is a novel by P.G. Wodehouse, first released in the United Kingdom as a serial in The Captain magazine between October 1909 and February 1910, and published in book form in the U...

  99. The Moor's Last Sigh by Salman Rushdie

    The Moor's Last Sigh is a 1995 novel by Salman Rushdie. Set in the Indian city of Bombay (or "Mumbai") and Cochin (or "Kochi"), it is the first major work that Rushdie produced after the The Satani...

  100. Zami: A New Spelling of My Name by Audre Lorde

    Zami: A New Spelling of My Name is a 1982 autobiography by American poet Audre Lorde. It started a new genre that the author calls biomythography, which combines history, biography, and myth. In th...