There are some novels, poems and works of non-fiction that are so important that they become more than just literature – they define their age in a way that history books never can, and have shaped the imagination of Britain.
This second series of The Secret Life of Books tells the story of six more key masterpieces, showing just why they are still so vital.
Amongst the eclectic mix are a memoir of drug addiction, an epic Elizabethan poem, a collection of nonsense verse, a Victorian classic, a children’s adventure tale, and a nostalgic hymn to rural life.
The presenters include legendary punk poet, John Cooper Clarke; actor and director Fiona Shaw; undisputed national treasure, Nicholas Parsons; novelist and sharp-eyed observer of provincial life, Joanna Trollope; former political journalist, John Sergeant; and cultural historian Dr Nina Ramirez.
As part of a journey that takes them across the length and breadth of the British Isles, each presenter goes back to the original manuscript or rare first edition of their chosen book to unwrap its hidden history and explore why it was of such importance in its time – and why it continues to matter today.
- Dive deeper into the books featured in this series with extra videos and activities
- Expand your mind with a free app, poetry prescription interactive, animations and podcasts
- Try free courses about poems, literature and creative writing
- Take your interest further by finding out how you could study with the Open University
- Find out about episodes and when and where you can watch The Secret Life of Books on TV
- Join the discussion to let us know your favourite books and thoughts on the series
Learn about the deadly war for readers in Georgian London and write your own confessions. Read more: Confessions of an English Opium Eater
Discover Laurie Lee’s glamorous London life and explore the village he made famous. Read more: Cider with Rosie
Find out which six books were featured in the first series of The Secret Life of Books.
Poetry Prescription Featuring: Activity Sarah Browning under CC-BY-NC-2.0 licence under Creative-Commons license
Feeling loving, adventurous or scared? Poetry Prescription will find you the perfect poem to reflect your mood. Launch now: Poetry Prescription
Download the app from the BBC Four series The Secret Life of Books. Launch now: The Secret Life of Books: Download the app
Explore the wonders of the literary world with these five quirky animations. Watch now: Outside the book
In the last century which women writers have truly challenged the existing forms of literature? How did they make... Watch now: Women Writers: Voices in Transition
The author at home Featuring: Video David Iliff [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons under Creative-Commons license
Why do people visit museums of writers' homes? Discover the secret life of authors in this short video. Watch now: The author at home
Start writing fiction is a free course that helps you to get started with your own fiction writing, focusing on the... Try: Start writing fiction: characters and stories now
Have you always wanted to try to write poetry but never quite managed to start? This free course, What is poetry?, is... Try: What is poetry? now
Do you want to get more out of your reading? This free course, Approaching prose fiction, is designed to develop the... Try: Approaching prose fiction now
Do you want to get more out of your reading of poetry? This free course, Approaching poetry, is designed to develop... Try: Approaching poetry now
Take your interest in literature further by studying with the Open University. Read more: Become a student: study English Literature
English literature is a broad and accessible subject that is important in its own right and offers connections to a... Visit prospectus for BA (Honours) English Literature
Study Children's Literature with the OU Copyright: © Haywiremedia | Dreamstime.com - Kids Reading Books in Fantasy Library
From 18th Century chapbooks through to Young Adult novels, explore a vibrant world. Read more: Study Children's Literature with the OU