The Nation’s Favourite Second Novel is Pride and Prejudice

We are delighted to announce that the Nation’s Favourite Second Novel is Jane Austen classic comedy of manners.

Second novels are a notorious challenge for writers. Whether their first novel was a triumph or a flop, the pressure is always on the follow-up. But what do readers make of second novels? Do we even know which of our favourite novels are second novels?  We decided to hold a public vote to raise literary awareness and discussion. We hope above all that the process will encourage people to read more novels. Some of our Fellows discuss writing their own second novels in our recent RSL Review article.

The top ten second novels as voted by the public are:
1. Jane Austen – Pride and Prejudice
2. Tan Twan Eng – The Garden of Evening Mists
3. Anne Brontë – The Tenant of Wildfell Hall
4. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – Half of a Yellow Sun
5. Barbara Pym – Excellent Women
6. Gabriel Garcia Márquez – One Hundred Years of Solitude
7. Mikhail Bulgakov – The Master and Margarita
8. Salman Rushdie – Midnight’s Children
9. James Joyce – Ulysses
10. = Charles Dickens – Oliver Twist
= J.R.R. Tolkien – Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

This is the most fascinating poll, and we’ll be talking about it for a long time. So many surprises. The only unsurprising result is the winner, and personally I’m thrilled that Jane Austen has come out tops. Deborah Moggach, author of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and screenwriter of the 2005 Pride and Prejudice film

Great fanfare usually accompanies the publication of a writer’s first novel, so it’s wonderful that the Royal Society of Literature is celebrating the nation’s favourite second novels. I was delighted to find my own novel, The Garden of Evening Mists, on the list, and I’m extremely honoured that it’s been voted the second of the nation’s most favourite second novels, behind Pride & Prejudice. Thank you to everybody who voted for my book, and also to those who voted for the other books.
Tan Twan Eng, runner-up to Jane Austen

What a cornucopia of reading these top ten books provide! Who would have thought the Nation’s Favourite Second Novels would result in such a diverse and enticing short list. I have a fantasy of getting under the blankets and not  re-emerging until I’ve read or re-read them all. Here’s to second novels.
Lisa Appignanesi, Chair of the RSL

Download the press release for more information.

The winner of the 2017 RSL Encore Award for the best new second novel of the year.

We are grateful to everyone who nominated books for the vote in our open call for suggestions in January. The final voting list was agreed by the RSL’s governing Council.

View the full voting list as a PDF.

In selecting the books for the voting list, we used the following criteria:

  • Each book is the second full novel published by its author (not necessailry the second novel the author has written). Novellas, collections of short stories and any non-fiction works are not counted.
  • The writers may be living or dead and may come from any nation.
  • The books may have been written in any language, but must be available in English. The second novel judgement is based on order of original publication, not order of publication in translation.
  • Novels written by members of the RSL Council, or by the RSL’s Presidents and Vice-Presidents, have been excluded, as have all the novels entered for the 2017 Encore Award.
  • We hope that the voting list overall includes a varied and fascinating range of novels. We realise that lots of great novelists are missing from the list – usually because we felt that their second novel is not well-known or accomplished enough to attract many votes. We apologise in advance for any glaring omissions – and look forward to hearing your views.