The Big Jubilee Read

The Jubilee weekend celebrations and Commonwealth Games may be over, but you can still take part in the Big Jubilee Read in Hampshire libraries. The Big Jubilee Read features 70 titles, all of which have been written by authors from Commonwealth countries, from Australia to Nigeria, published throughout Her Majesty The Queen’s reign.  

We have chosen a recommended read from each decade to get you started, for the full list of books please visit the website. Which will you read first? Drop us a comment below and let us know. 

1952 – 1961 

A House for Mr Biswas by V S Naipul 

A tale of a dysfunctional family set in post-colonial Trinidad. Mr Biswas is determined to achieve independence, and so he begins his struggle to buy a home of his own, finding one unsuitable home to another. A dark comedy packed with conflict with his in laws. Join Mr Biswas on his determined journey, battling through life.  

1962 – 1971 

Arrow of God by Chinua Achebe 

The Arrow of God is the third volume of Achebe’s African trilogy, following Things Fall Apart and No Longer At Ease. A story of a tribe with different customs and rituals, battling through the ideas of tradition and change. The chief priest of the god Ulu is starting to lose his authority. Is his village under threat?  

1972 – 1981 

Who do you think you are? By Alice Munro 

A collection of stories following Rose as she finds her way in life, away from her overbearing stepmother. Born in poverty in the back streets of a small Canadian town, Rose journeys through life from winning a scholarship to getting married. Written by Alice Munro, Winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature.  

1982 – 1991 

The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro 

A tale set in 1956 in post-war England in the great English house Darlington Hall. The ageing butler Stevens, heads out on what he thinks is a relaxing holiday to the West Country. This takes him deep into the countryside and his past. But he may find love along his way.  

1992 – 2001 

White Teeth by Zadie Smith 

With themes of friendship love and war, this book follows three families across three generations and one brown mouse. A tale of two unlikely wartime friends, Archie Jones and Samad Iqbal. This book highlights Britain’s relationship with immigrants from the British Commonwealth, set in multicultural London between the mid-1970s to the late 1990s.  

2002 – 2011 

The Secret River by Kate Grenville 

Set in London in the 1800s, we follow William Thornhill as he makes the biggest mistake of his life. Happily married to his childhood sweetheart Sal, will William’s family have to pay for his mistake? William’s sentence is to be shipped off to New South Wales for good. Although he doesn’t know it yet, he will soon have to make the most difficult decision of his life.  

2012 – 2022 

A Passage North by Anuk Arudpragasam 

Set in Sri Lanka at the end of the Civil War, we follow Krishan on his way north from Colombo into the Northern Province for a funeral. His journey follows an island devastated by violence. With themes of loss and longing, this story is a memorial for the missing and the dead.  

To borrow books from the Big Jubilee Read, please visit your local library in Hampshire. You can also reserve these titles online for £1 per book. We have also chosen 22 of the titles as additions to our extensive Reading Groups Sets – if you belong to a Reading Group you can borrow these by signing up for a special Reading Group membership in your local library. Some of the titles are also available as eBooks and eAudiobooks, which can be borrowed for free through the BorrowBox app

Join in with the Big Jubilee Read

If you’re a keen reader The Big Jubilee Read could be just the challenge you’re looking for. Featuring 70 titles, one for each year of Her Majesty The Queen’s reign, the books were all selected by a panel of experts to reflect our changing nation through fiction.

Each decade, from the 1950s to the 2020s includes ten books written by authors from Commonwealth countries including Australia, Canada, Guyana, India, Jamaica, Malaysia, Nigeria, Pakistan, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Trinidad and Tobago and the UK.

The star-studded list of authors which includes Margaret Atwood, E. R. Braithwaite, Anthony Burgess, John le Carré, Bernardine Evaristo, Seamus Heaney, Kazuo Ishiguro, Marlon James, Hilary Mantel, Andrea Levy, Arundhati Roy, Salman Rushdie, Zadie Smith, Douglas Stuart, Derek Walcott, and Markus Zusak; brings some of the best writers of the last 70 years back into the limelight.

In Hampshire we have purchased eleven full sets of the collection of seventy books, plus 22 additional reading group sets of key titles from every decade. To complement the full sets of printed books we have also purchased the titles as eBooks and eAudiobooks, where they were available, which can be borrowed for free through the BorrowBox app.

The full sets of the collection of seventy books, which can also be reserved for a small charge and sent to any public library in Hampshire, will be based at the following libraries from Saturday 28 May for the remainder of 2022:

For the full list of books please visit this website. Which will you read first…

The Lonely Londoners, Sam Selvon

A vivid picaresque comedy with serious, melancholy undertones, The Lonely Londoners documents the 1950s immigrant experience through the affectionate relationship of a new arrival and a rueful old timer.

Wide Sargasso Sea, Jean Rhys

Her grand attempt to tell what she felt was the story of Jane Eyre’s ‘madwoman in the attic’, this classic study of betrayal, a seminal work of postcolonial literature, is Jean Rhys’s brief, beautiful masterpiece.

The Sea, The Sea, Iris Murdoch

When Charles Arrowby retires from his glittering career in the London theatre, he buys a remote house on the rocks by the sea. He hopes to escape from his tumultuous love affairs but unexpectedly bumps into his childhood sweetheart and sets his heart on destroying her marriage. His equilibrium is further disturbed when his friends all decide to come and keep him company and Charles finds his seaside idyll severely threatened by his obsessions.

The God of Small Things, Arundhati Roy

This is the story of Rahel and Estha, twins growing up among the banana vats and peppercorns of their blind grandmother’s factory, and amid scenes of political turbulence in Kerala. Armed only with the innocence of youth, they fashion a childhood in the shade of the wreck that is their family: their lonely, lovely mother, their beloved Uncle Chacko (pickle baron, radical Marxist, bottom-pincher) and their sworn enemy, Baby Kochamma (ex-nun, incumbent grand-aunt).

The Bone People, Keri Hulme

The Bone People is the story of Kerewin, a despairing part-Maori artist who is convinced that her solitary life is the only way to face the world. Her cocoon is rudely blown away by the sudden arrival during a rainstorm of Simon, a mute six-year-old whose past seems to hold some terrible trauma. In his wake comes his foster-father Joe, a Maori factory worker with a nasty temper.

The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Attwood

Both an unforgettable portrait of defiance and authoritarian rule and a devastatingly powerful exploration of female oppression, The Handmaid’s Tale is a classic dystopian vision with an all-too chilling resonance for our times.

Wolf Hall – The Wolf Hall Trilogy, Hilary Mantel

The first novel in her Man Booker double award-winning Wolf Hall Trilogy sealed Hilary Mantel’s reputation as one of Britain’s greatest living writers. Bursting with life and colour and peopled by complex, fully-realised characters, it’s impossible to imagine a more convincing and thoroughly immersive historical novel.

Shuggie Bain, Douglas Stuart

An uncompromising yet tender and warmly witty exploration of love, pride and poverty, Shuggie Bain charts the endeavours of its eponymous protagonist – an ambitious and fastidious boy from a dire mining town with a thirst for a better life.