JK Rowling snubbed by Platinum Jubilee reading list

JK Rowling snubbed by Platinum Jubilee reading list: Harry Potter and Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings are both missed off BBC list of books from Queen’s 70 year reign

  • The Philosopher’s Stone did not make the cut despite its huge global popularity
  • JRR Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings series of books were also omitted from list
  • But the list does feature other titles turned into popular television series or films
  • It includes Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale  and Yann Martel’s Life of Pi
  • Comes as JK Rowling has faced continual accusations of transphobia since 2020

Harry Potter and The Lord of the Ring have both been missed off the BBC’s list of books from the Queen’s 70-year reign.

The BBC’s Big Jubilee Read has been compiled following a five-month search that has involved librarians from towns and villages across the UK – along with readers in 54 countries. 

It aims to offer 70 pieces of ‘brilliant, beautiful and thrilling writing’ produced by authors from all over the Commonwealth over the last 70 years, 14 of whom are from the UK.

But two of Britain’s most prestigious novelists have been omitted from the list, The Times reports.

JK Rowling’s Harry Potter, almost certainly the UK’s largest literary export over the period, has been left out alongside JRR Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings – beloved since its publication in 1954.

Both franchises were hugely popular globally, both in terms of the original books and subsequent films. 

It comes as Ms Rowling, 56, has faced continual accusations of transphobia after she mocked an online article in June 2020 which used the words ‘people who menstruate’ instead of ‘women’.

She later defended herself against the claims in a passionate essay, but has been criticised over her views ever since.

JK Rowling pictured at the world premiere of the movie Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore at the Royal Festival Hall in London last month

JRR Tolkien pictured with a map of Middle Earth, part of The Lord of the Rings series, in 1962

The BBC’s Big Jubilee Read has been created to commemorate the Queen’s 70 years on the throne

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was considered for the list, but did not make the cut despite its global popularity

An initial long list of 153 books had to be cut down by more than half to 70 – one for each year of the monarch’s reign. 

Susheila Nasta, emeritus professor of modern literature at Queen Mary and Westfield University, said there was a ‘big discussion over about JK Rowling’ before the list was completed.

She added: ‘She was on the long-list with Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. 

‘A space was cleared for someone equally as good but whose work was not as well known. There were some very tricky decisions.’

But the list, to be published in full on Monday, does feature other books that have later been turned into popular television series or films.

Included are Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, John Le Carré’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and Yann Martel’s Life of Pi.

Debbie Hicks, creative director of The Reading Agency charity that joined with the BBC to create the list, said: ‘We want this list to be the start of a national conversation about great reads. 

‘We were determined that this would be a reader-driven list.’

She added that several books featured on the list due to their ‘cultural and historical significance in the decade they were published’, including lesser known titles such as The Lonely Londoners Trinidad and Tobago author Sam Selvon’s – a story on the Windrush generation arriving in the UK and trying to fit in.

But despite the list having been made to mark the Queen’s Jubilee, some of her favourite reads have also not made the cut.

She is understood to have inherited a love for horse racing novels from her mother, particularly those of former jockey Dick Francis.

And while there are books based around birds, whales and tigers, there was no place for horse racing hits such as Black Beauty and National Velvet.

Suzy Klein, Head of Arts and Classical Music TV at the BBC said: ‘Nineteen years on from the Big Read, the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee feels like the perfect opportunity to foreground some of the greatest writing from across the Commonwealth in our Big Jubilee Read. 

The list of 70 books – one for each year of Elizabeth II’s reign – is a real opportunity to discover stories from across continents and taking us through the decades, books that we might never have otherwise read, and reading authors whose work deserves a spotlight to be shone on it. 

‘It’s a really exciting way to share the love of books with readers of all ages, and to give book groups and book borrowers a plethora of great titles to try, borrow, share and discuss.’ 

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