Dotun Adebayo’s Virtual Bookshelf

If you’re a literary insomniac, there can be no better way of spending one evening a week than by listening to Dotun Adebayo’s Sunday night (or, more accurately, the early hours of Monday morning) Book Phone-In on BBC Radio Five Live.

The times have now changed and it’s moved half an hour earlier. So, from 1.30-3.00 am, renaissance man Dotun, together with a literary partner, discuss the wonderful world of books, from the perspective of people who are passionate about reading and good writing. When I didn’t have a day job I’d often write through the night, so the show would make for an inspiring backdrop. Nowadays, I have to be up by 6.30 every morning so I’m not always able to follow it and that’s tricky because of the ambitious change in the show’s original format.

The UpAllNight Virtual Bookshelf is a growing list that will eventually reach a hundred titles, showcasing the best, most thought-provoking, influential or simply plain useful books that are voted on each week by the listeners. Throughout the night, callers ring in to champion their personal favourites. When the hundred titles are in place, the challenge to Dotun is to actually read them all.

The full list is:

1. The Oxford English Dictionary

2. The Complete Works of Shakespeare

3. Borstal Boy by Brendan Behan (nominated by Coreena in Essex)

4. The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams (nominated by John from Gravesend)

5. The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame (nominated by Oriel from Bristol)

6. The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists by Robert Tressell (nominated by David from Ironbridge)

7. To Kill a Mocking Bird by Harper Lee (nominated by Paula from Lewisham)

8. Animal Farm by George Orwell (nominated by Steve in Ormskirk)

9. The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster (nomiated by Casper in Tooting and replacing The Bible on the final night of the voting)

10. Cider with Rosie by Laurie Lee

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

12. Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson (nominated by Matthew from Edinburgh)

13. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson

14. The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer

15. The Oxford Advanced Atlas by John Bartholomew (nominated by Irene Coleford from Gloucester)

16. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller (nominated by Pat from Newcastle)

17. The Nation’s Favourite: Poems with a Foreword by Griff Rhys Jones (nominated by Steve from Ormskirk)

18. The Weirdstone of Brisingamen by Alan Garner (nominated by Claire in Elgin and replacing The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, which had been nominated by Carina from Brighton, on the final Super Sunday)

19. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

20. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

21. The Water Babies by Charles Kingsley

22. All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque (nominated by Tony from Aberdare)

23. The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank. Often known as “The Diary of Anne Frank”

24. Sherlock Holmes: the Complete Illustrated Short Stories by Arthur Conan Doyle

25. Cannery Row by John Steinbeck

26. His Dark Materials Trilogy by Philip Pullman (nominated by Ellen in Leeds)

27. On the Road by Jack Kerouac

28. The Millennium Trilogy by Stieg Larsson. [Originally, the entry was solely for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (the first book of Stieg Larsson’s trilogy). However, on 18th October 2010 and following my own nomination of the Harry Potter series, this vote was changed retrospectively to encompass all three Larsson titles.]

29. The Shipping News by Annie Prouxl

30 A Kestral for a Knave by Barry Hines (nominated by Gavin in Portsmouth and Simon

in Brighouse). You might know this better as “Kes”

31. The Machine-Gunners by Robert Westall

32. Dune by Frank Herbert (nominated by Tom in Harwich)

33. Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy

34. Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable

35. Dracula by Bram Stoker

36. “The Shooting of Dan McGrew” in The Songs of a Sourdough by Robert W. Service

(nominated by Dan in Deptford). This is a poem within a collection

37. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

38. The Further Letters of Henry Root by Henry Root (aka William Donaldson)

39. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas (nominated by Andrew in Blackheath)

40. Spitfire Women of World War II by Giles Whittell

41. Wyrd Sisters by Terry Pratchett. This is a Discworld novel

42. The Time Traveler’s Wife by AudreyNiffenegger (nominated by Careena in Brighton)

43. Asterix the Gaul by René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo (nominated by Liz in Highbury). The nomination was for the series, of which this is the first title

44. The Iliad by Homer

45. Eragon by Christopher Paolini

46. Shogun by James Clavell

47. Under Milk Wood by Dylan Thomas

48. Papillon by Henri Charrière

49. The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

50. The Magus by John Fowles

51. A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson

52. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte (nominated by Jane in Buckinghamshire)

53. Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: an Indian History of the American West by Dee Brown

54. Wilt by Tom Sharpe

55. Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein (nominated by Brian in Northampton)

56. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

57. The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith

58. No Mean City by Alexander McArthur (nominated by Dan in Kensington)

59. Harry Potter (all seven books) by J.K. Rowling (nominated by me! Later in the same phone-in, Pam in Stonehouse in Gloucestershire also nominated Harry Potter)

60. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

61. Persuasion by Jane Austin

62. Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks

63. A Book of Nonsense by Edward Lear (nominated by Adrian in Salford)

64. In the Sewers of Lvov by Robert Marshall (nominated by Jim in Huntingdon)

65. The Rings of Saturn by W. G. Sebald (nominated on the final Super Sunday by critic Stephanie Cross, replacing  The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne)

66. Scoop by Evelyn Waugh (nominated by Nigel in Bolton)

67. Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey (there was a four-way tie and Stephanie Cross had to select the winner at random. The other titles were Frankenstein, Swallows and Amazons and Reaper Man)

68. The Third Policeman by Flann O’Brien

69. Para Handy by Neil Munro (nominated by Jonathan in Alnwick)

70. The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy (nominated by Alan in the Wirrall). There was a three-way tie and Hephzibah Anderson had to select the winner at random. The other titles were Orwell’s 1984 and Puzo’s The Godfather

71. Rendezvous with Rama by Arthur C. Clarke (nominated by Brian in Northampton)

72. Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett (nominated by Robert in Birmingham)

73. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens (nominated by Steve in Leeds)

74. The Godfather by Mario Puzo (nominated (again!) by Fats in Winston Green in Birmingham)

75. An Evil Cradling by Brian Keenan

76. Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson

77. Don Quixote by Miguel De Cervantes (nominated by David in Manchester)

78. The Civil War by Shelby Foote (nominated by Paul in Bury)

79. The Compleat Angler by Izaak Walton

80. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte (nominated by Jacqui from Edgbaston)

81. Goodbye to All That by Robert Graves (nominated by Mary in Merseyside)

82. Coming back to Me by Marcus Trescothick (nominated by Claire in Elgin)

83. The Good Soldier Svejk by Jaroslav Hasek (nominated by Tony in Aberdaire)

84. The Riddle of the Sands by Erskine Childers

85. The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis

86. Seven Pillars of Wisdom by T.E. Lawrence (nominated by Claire in Elgin)

87. 1984 by George Orwell (nominated by Harry in Sevenoaks)

88. Middlemarch by George Eliot (nominated by Rebecca in Yeovil)

89. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck (nominated by Tony in Doncaster)

90. Chastened by Hephzibah Anderson

91. Red Dragon by Thomas Harris (nominated by Casper in Tooting)

92. The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov (nominated by Peter in Hampshire)

93. Children of the Flames by Lucette Matalon Lagnado and Sheila Cohn Dekel (nominated by Jo in Spalding)

94. When the Wind Blows by Raymond Briggs (nominated by Adrian in Salford)

95. The Odyssey by Homer (nominated by Nick in Surrey)

96. Fever Pitch by Nick Hornby

97. Gormenghast by Mervyn Peake (nominated by Elizabeth in Singapore)

98. Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts (nominated by Cath in Fleetwood on Super Sunday)

99. Lord of the Flies by William Golding (nominated by Pete on Super Sunday)

100. Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier (nominated by Simon in Manchester on Super Sunday)

I missed “Super Sunday” (which was sprung upon us all rather suddenly!) so lost the chance to nominate Dotun’s Can I Have my Balls Back Please? which I’ve been reading and is very well written and extremely funny. Is it too late? If I can pluck up courage and phone in to nominate (see book 59), then anyone can – it’s really not as frightening as you might think. Although the 100 titles are now chosen, apparently there will still be some movement over the next few weeks so keep listening to the show and phone in if you can:

Telephone 0500 909 693


Text 85058

Being unable to listen every week, I originally had a problem in knowing what to nominate, especially because the virtual bookshelf has been going for over a year now so it’s easy to lose track of all the current titles (especially when a few are discarded, again by public vote). I couldn’t actually find the online listing so, thanks to the great man himself sending it through, I thought I’d post the booklist online and update it every week, meaning everyone could see exactly where we stand.

Now I’ve discovered the brief BBC listing, I’ll still maintain this page as a site that has a little more information about the show and the books. Normally I wouldn’t link to a particular book supplier, but as it’s a booklist voted on by members of the public and Amazon has much the most customer reviews, I’ve linked every title to its Amazon page and, where possible, to the specific version of a book that has the most reviews.

Each week, Dotun’s joined by various literary critics from the UK newspaper scene. When I first listened to the show, it was always Hephzibah Anderson of the Daily Mail and Observer (now the author of Chastened), but as Hephzibah’s own literary career has taken off the net’s widened. Other contributors are Travis Elborough (Independent, The Guardian, Observer and author of Wish You Were Here), Stephanie Cross (Daily Mail, Observer, TLS), Anita Sethi and Helen Brown (Daily Telegraph). Murrough O’Brien, book reviewer for the Independent on Sunday, has done the show, but it might prove detrimental to his future employment prospects having rather shockingly professed (October 2010) that he was unaware of Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy – very nearly the best-selling book series of the last decade. [Note to Independent on Sunday Editor: if you’re after a new book reviewer…]. In the home straight (te nervous nineties) Dotun was also joined by The Guardian’s Alex Clark.

The latest to join Dotun’s entourage is Stuart Evers, a former publisher who now writes for The Guardian, Independent, New Statesman and Time Out.

Dotun’s a writer himself, having penned Sperm Bandits and had some of his newspaper columns combined into the book Can I have my Balls back Please? He also edited Westside Storeys. Another great thing about Dotun is that he shares my love of books and football. If you’re the same, you could do a lot worse than listen to his (Saturday Night, Sunday Morning) World Football Phone-in.

10 Responses to “Dotun Adebayo’s Virtual Bookshelf”

  1. […] on the show, how to nominate and all the books currently on the shelf, I’ve created a separate page on this site. Clicking on Dotun’s smiling face will take you straight […]

  2. […] night, I plucked up the courage to ring Dotun Adebayo’s Virtual Bookshelf. Readers of this blog will know I’m a fan. Normally nowadays I can’t listen live, as the […]

  3. I think that it is a terrible shame that the Harry Potter series, interesting as they may be for children and the somewhat literary challenged, are on a virtual bookshelf nominated for the whole country. I would like to nominate one of the best living writers in the English language today, namely Salman Rushdie and his wondrous book Midnights Children.
    I have previously nominated this book along with many other listeners.
    It is like a magical flying carpet transporting you from present day India, the lifestyle, customs, and festivals, to Pakistan and to Kashmir where the story begins. Everyday politics and lifes are interwoven with a fairytale concerning a boy born at midnight on the day of Indian independance from Britian and given supernatural gifts along with all the children born at or around the exact time.
    It gives you an insight into India which makes you long to go there but also the magical gifts of the boy, and the stories connected with it are very reminiscent of the Arabian tales of one thousand and one nights.
    I would be so happy if this very special book could make it on to the virtual bookshelf.

  4. Hi Angela – as the person who nominated Harry, I have to disagree. Rowling’s are the best-written children’s books I’ve come across and not at all for the literary challenged. However, on a bookshelf of a hundred titles, I’m sure there’s room for both her magic and Rushdie’s magic realism. You should ring the show and nominate Midnight’s Children.

  5. Thanks for list man! I have phoned the man many times under the name paul from bury and was invited to take part in the show a year ago. I nominated the usa civil war! And several tracks on the virtual jukebox. Thanks again!

    • You’re welcome James/Paul. I’ll look out for you on the Virtual Jukebox (us insomniacs, eh?). I toyed with nominating British Sea Power’s Lately last week…

  6. […] phone in. This means every week people will visit the page to find out which title was added to Dotun Adebayo’s “virtual bookshelf” the week before. Visitors interested in reading books are exactly the people I want to check out my […]

  7. You’ve got my favourite book of all time ” Wind in the Willows” and I’m proud to say that I’ve read most of the books on the list (70) but thank you for giving me a ” now l want to read these” list.

  8. Impressive list of fine titles! Good to have come across this site.

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