Bocas Lit Fest

What does a region’s reading list say about it? As the Bocas Lit Fest reveals the 100 Caribbean Books That Made Us, we invite you to explore what lies beneath a crowd-sourced canon – the real revelations have only just begun!

In response to the BBC’s 100 Books That Shaped Our World, 2019, where only six titles were Caribbean-based, we turned to our social media channels to attempt to answer the question: what might a Caribbean list of 100 defining reads look like? We deliberately left the question as open as we could – we asked our audiences which books have meant the most to them, and to our region. The campaign opened in April 2020, and in just over a week’s time, we had crossed 100 recommended titles! After five weeks, more than 300 beloved Caribbean books were named  – the stories that hold pride of place on our bookshelves and in our hearts, and a testament to the astounding expanse of literary greatness that is Caribbean literature.

Many of the same book titles kept popping up during our open call on social media – it might be argued that these are some of our favourite reads – and the 24 titles that were named five times or more by our audience became the basis for our final 100 book selection. The remainder were thoughtfully narrowed down by an incredible panel of Caribbean literature lovers, readers and reviewers – Marina Warner; Ian Randle; Teresa White; Susheila Nasta; Aaron Kamugisha; Vladimir Lucien; Colin Grant; Alison Donnell; Sharma Taylor; Sharon Leach; Ronald Cummings and Andre Bagoo.

The Final List

Now, we are delighted to reveal the final 100 Caribbean Books That Made Us – an unranked, expansive list as wide-ranging as the Caribbean Sea and its diaspora, spanning multiple genres, generations, styles, languages, settings and themes – a timeless reading list for the Caribbean reader, by the Caribbean reader. Inside these book covers are a range of concerns – class division, colourism, colonialism, development, exile, belonging, identity formation, and love and the challenges of love.

We welcome all discussions that this list undoubtedly provokes – what is a Caribbean book? What is most important in determining Caribbean authorship? Classic or contemporary – which period has truly defined us? Is this list a direct extension of our literature syllabi across the region? Are our stories really our own, or are we still writing back to real and imagined colonisers?

Over the course of this year, we hope you are inspired to read from and question the list, share with family and friends, and revisit with pride the literature that is ours. Thoughts on the list? Post them on this page or start your own conversations on social media using the hashtag #100CbnBooksThatMadeUS.

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