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The Times reported that a panel of Commonwealth experts, academics, booksellers and librarians, assembled by the Reading Agency has decided not to include The Lord of the Rings (as well as Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone) in the final list of 70 novels in the Big Jubilee Read to mark Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II's Platinum Jubilee. Both books seemed to be in the initial list of 153 titles.

Debbie Hicks, creative director of The Reading Agency, said:

'We want this list [of 70 novels] to be the start of a national conversation about great reads.

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

What is the official criteria for inclusion in the final 70 novels? Is there an objective explanation of why The Lord of the Rings failed to meet the criteria?

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    Not included isn't strictly the same as excluded. Once you're past the headline, the article states that there were over 150 books shortlisted, and only 70 in the final list. More than half would be left out. I suspect you'll have a better chance finding out why those in the list were selected than an explicit reason for Tolkien and Rowling not being chosen.
    – Michael
    Apr 17 at 20:20
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    @Michael Thank you for the feedback. Updated the question accordingly. Apr 17 at 20:29
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    1/2 I've noticed a very strong tendency in modern "best scifi in the last x years" lists to include the usual suspects (Asimov, LeGuin, Iain Banks, Douglas Adams, etc) and then to pepper in a bunch of less well-known books, particularly those written by black female authors (esquire.com/entertainment/books/g39358054/best-sci-fi-books, for example). Whereas if you objectively selected bestselling, you'd end up with a list that was exclusively pale and male.
    – Valorum
    Apr 18 at 15:47
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    2/2 So that seems to be what this is about. By deliberately leaving out some expected names, you make space for less well known authors and also garner some additional publicity, hence why they've talked, in interviews, about the reasons why they considered and rejected JK Rowling, because leaving her out gets you extra publicity for the other books that they're trying to publicise.
    – Valorum
    Apr 18 at 15:50
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    Any "Best Of" collection (call it what you will) is de facto wrong from any perspective except that of those who chose the books for the collection. So if you don't like the list, make your own. That's the only way for the list to be "right". :-) Apr 18 at 20:36

1 Answer 1

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Possibly they decided to pass on The Lord of the Rings because it was written prior to the cut off date (though published afterwards). There are seventy books on the list, split up into ten for each decade of Elizabeth II's reign - whilst The Lord of the Rings was published in the earliest 1952-1961 decade, it was written in stages between 1937 and 1949, which was before she came to the throne.

It also seems they wanted a selection of books from around the whole Commonwealth. By not including LotR in the 50s decade they were able to check Nigeria, Jamaica, Barbados, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, India and Wales off the list. There are currently nine other books already that are solely from England.

Finally, I think they also wanted to skew towards lesser known authors where possible - Isobel Hunter, chief executive of Libraries Connected, said the campaign will help “libraries to introduce readers to writers they might not have come across before". Pretty much everyone is already well aware of Lord of the Rings, so they might have preferred to free up space for some more obscure books and authors (though I note some very well known books like Douglas Adams' The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy are on the list).

You'd probably need an interview or quote from someone on the selection panel for a true answer, though. There is a mention of why Harry Potter ultimately didn't make the cut:

Susheila Nasta, professor emeritus of modern literature at Queen Mary and Westfield University, said there was a “great discussion about JK Rowling” before the list was completed.

She added: “She was long-listed with Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.

Space has been made available for someone who is equally good, but whose work was not so well known. There were some very tough decisions.’

The website does claim "The books on The Big Jubilee Read list have been chosen for adults", so I'd be a little surprised to see Harry Potter on it anyway.

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    "By not including LotR in the 50s decade they were able to check Nigeria, Jamaica, Barbados, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, India and Wales off the list." This reads like LotR alone would have taken 7 slots in the list :-) (apart from this, very nice answer).
    – lfurini
    Apr 18 at 7:03
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    The Daily Mail points out that they included children's novel 'The Book Thief'
    – Valorum
    Apr 18 at 19:45

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