One of the judges who helped put together the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee Playlist has defended the snobbery of JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series.
The list of 70 books by Commonwealth authors was compiled with the help of librarians across the UK – as well as readers from 54 countries – during a five-month research.
Over the weekend, the BBC’s Big Jubilee Read unveiled its final selection, consisting of 10 books for each decade of the Queen’s reign.
Susheila Nasta, Emeritus Professor of Modern Literature at Queen Mary University of London, said there had been a “great discussion about JK Rowling”, but that the first installment of the series, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stonewas eventually omitted because it is a “children’s book”.
Some critics have pointed out that Australian author Markus Zusak’s 2005 novelThe book thief however, made the cut, despite being widely considered a children’s book.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Nasta said the aim of the list was to suggest books readers “may not have read before”. Nasta added that the Philosophical Stone was on the long list, which had to be trimmed by 153 books, with just 14 writers from the UK making the final cut.
by Rowling The wildly popular fantasy series has sold over £500million worldwide since 1997 and has generated over £5.6billion in profit from the eight film adaptations.
JRR Tolkien the Lord of the Rings was also omitted from the list, along with that of Ian Fleming james bond novels, despite the two iconic series selling over £100 million each.
British Man Booker Prize winners Kazuo Ishiguro, Hillary Mantel and Bernadine Evaristo feature alongside Anthony Burgess A clockwork orange (1962), John le Carré’s Tinker Tailor Spy Soldier (1974) and Zadie Smith White teeth (2000).
Overseas, Chinua Achebe arrow of god (1964), by Margaret Atwood The Handmaid’s Tale (1985), Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Half of a yellow sun (2006) and Eleanor Catton The lights (2013) all feature.
Suzy Klein, head of arts and classical music at BBC TV, said the list is “a real opportunity to discover stories from all continents”, and features “books we might not have never to be read otherwise” and “authors whose work deserves a spotlight to shine on it”.
Besides the winners, the list includes lesser-known titles like 1956 from Trinidadian and Tobagonian Sam Selvon The Lonely Londonerswhich is about the Windrush generation arriving in the UK and adjusting to their new life.
“It’s a really exciting way to share the love of books with readers of all ages and give book groups and book borrowers a plethora of great titles to try, borrow, share and discuss,” added Klein.