The 30 best books of last three decades have been revealed

There’s no better feeling than snuggling up and getting lost into a good book. It is the ultimate escapism, especially if it’s a gripping piece of fiction that you can’t put down.


As you may know, the British Book Awards are dedicated to celebrating those incredible gems that entertain us time and time again and this year, the prestigious ceremony is celebrating its 30th anniversary. To mark the milestone, the awards (also known as The Nibbies) have introduced a one-off category to award the best book of the past three decades.

best books of last three decades

Tough decision, we know. There have been hundreds of bestsellers in the last thirty years, so before the all important decision is made and the winner is crowned, the British Book Awards have created a long list of 30 best books from the past 30 years. And we don’t know about you, but we’ve certainly spotted some of our favourites in the line-up.

Commenting on the long list, Philip Jones, editor of The Bookseller and chair of the judges at the British Book Awards, said: ‘For 30 years the British Book Awards has celebrated and rewarded everything that is good about British publishing through its big, successful and prize-winning books.

best books of last three decades

‘This is an opportunity to relive a few memories of these past three decades, to cherish the books, authors, illustrators, agents, and publishers that brought them to market and the booksellers and librarians that sought out readers for them.’

So, how many have you read already?

The 30 best books of last three decades (in no particular order)

  1. A Year in Provence, Peter Mayle (Penguin), 1990
  2. Delia Smith’s Christmas (BBC Books), 1991
  3. Wild Swans, Jung Chang (William Collins), 1992
  4. The Art Book (Phaidon), 1995
  5. Longitude, Dava Sobel (Fourth Estate), 1997
  6. Northern Lights, Philip Pullman (Scholastic), 1997
  7. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, J K Rowling (Bloomsbury), 1998
  8. Bridget Jones’s Diary, Helen Fielding (Picador), 1998
  9. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, Louis de Bernieres  (Vintage), 1998
  10. The Illustrated Mum, Jacqueline Wilson and Nick Sharratt (Doubleday), 2000
  11. White Teeth, Zadie Smith (Penguin), 2001
  12. Sahara, Michael Palin (Weidenfeld Nicholson), 2003
  13. Brick Lane, Monica Ali (Transworld), 2004
  14. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time, Mark Haddon (David Fickling), 2004
  15. The Lovely Bones, Alice Sebold (Picador), 2004
  16. The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown (Transworld), 2005
  17. The Gruffalo’s Child, Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler (Macmillan), 2005
  18. The Sound of Laughter, Peter Kay (Century), 2007
  19. A Thousand Splendid Suns, Khaled Hosseini (Bloomsbury), 2008
  20. Breaking Dawn, Stephenie Meyer (Little, Brown), 2009
  21. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Stieg Larsson (Quercus), 2009
  22. Dreams From My Father, Barack Obama (Canongate), 2009
  23. Wolf Hall, Hilary Mantel (Fourth Estate), 2010
  24. One Day, David Nicholls (Hodder), 2010
  25. How to Be a Woman, Caitlin Moran (Ebury), 2011
  26. Fifty Shades of Grey, EL James (Cornerstone), 2012
  27. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, Gail Honeyman (HarperFiction), 2018
  28. The Lost Words, Jackie Morris and Robert Macfarlane (Hamish Hamilton), 2018
  29. 5 Ingredients by Jamie Oliver (Michael Joseph), 2018
  30. Normal People, Sally Rooney (Faber), 2019