Clarisse Loughrey | @clarisselou
If the world needed anything more as of now, it’s tolerance.
Thus, this year’s celebrations of the UN’s International Tolerance Day feel achingly needed, in whatever form they may take. Bath Spa University looked to literature in its commemorations; publishing a list of ten books that have encouraged free thought and positive change in society.
The globe-spanning list looks across the centuries, across genres and styles, to deliver a selection which encompasses humanity at its most diverse and compassionate; including modern entries like the young adult novel Two Boys Kissing, to classics such as Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar and Virginia Woolf’s Orlando.
Students, academics, authors, and librarians all helped compile the list as part of Bath Spa University Library’s ‘Reads and Rights’ campaign; a year-long project intended to celebrate diversity and equality across history and in the literary sphere, highlighting the authors and books which have inspired debate and change around the world.
Nominations were determined by using five different categories to ensure diversity: race, gender, disability, mental health, and sexuality – with the public voting both online and via Twitter for the book which they believed to have had the biggest personal impact on them, or in wider society’s understanding and response to issues of inequality.
You can see the full list below:
1. Two Boys Kissing, David Levithan
2. Nevada, Imogen Binnie
3. The Reason I Jump, Naoki Higashida
4. The Story of My Life, Helen Keller
5. I am Malala, Malala Yousafzai
6. Orlando, Virginia Woolf
7. Elizabeth is Missing, Emma Healey
8. The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath
9. If this is a Man, Primo Levi
10. Ain’t I a Woman, bell hooks
“The worlds that we glimpse and share through books and reading have the power to shape people’s ideas and beliefs, for the good,” stated Alison Baud, Bath Spa University Director of Library and Learning Services. “Through a story we can be inspired to challenge our value system and spark conversation that can lead to a better society for us all.”
“In a fragmented world, where sadly inequalities still occur every day, it is important that we all have access to such powerful tools as books and part of the Reads and Rights campaign was to showcase the incredible value that libraries have in society. It is vital that investment is made in libraries for this very reason and we hope that our project will play an important role in highlighting the benefits of ensuring that the public continue to have free access to books.”