From time to time people have wondered why they should build up the habit of reading books. Books are not only a powerful source of entertainment, but also a great impetus to widen a person’s horizon and perceptions on life, society, culture, etc.
Sometimes books can introduce us to a world unknown or a feeling that’s long forgotten, or sometimes books can enrapture us. Some books compel us to dive deeper, scour through and chase mysteries beyond our understanding, then widen our views.
We can’t help but imagine ourselves playing the roles as portrayed by the books characters. We feel we can relate to the characters. Sometimes we shake our head in pungent disgust.
So, what’s the secret to writing a best-selling book? What makes a quality book that transcends time and make us respond with all five senses? How they are so comprehensive and in depth about the life we are leading?
Since the beginning of time people enjoyed telling stories and capturing others attention. However, some books etched in our mind for so long that we celebrate regardless of time. In this article, I’ll talk about such books.
I compiled some of the greatest books that define the humankind’s length of vision and imagination — books that are truly unique and mesmerizing and will remain distinctive until the end of time. My list contains 100 greatest books of all time that you must read to fulfill the fleeting moment you’re to pass in this world. Let’s explore the list –
1. The Odyssey By Homer – it’s one of two main ancient Greek epic poems credited to Homer. A sequel to the Illiad, the poem set the foundation for the modern Western canon. Experts pinpoint the period the Odyssey being composed around the end of the eighth century BC. The poem focuses on the end of the Trojan War. But, the Greek hero, Odysseus still hasn’t returned home to Ithaka. His wife, Penelope, is now constantly dealing with overzealous suitors. He does return home after a ten-year long journey. But, Ithaka doesn’t look serene. Finally peace is restored in Ithaka after long ordeals with the help of Athene.
Ah how shameless – the way these mortals
blame the gods. From us alone they say come all
their miseries yes but they themselves with their
own reckless ways compound their pains beyond
their proper share.
2. The Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain – the story is about a young boy, Huck. Huck chases down freedom and adventure. The Mississippi shores provide the background for the whole book. His drunken father kidnaps Huck to swindle his $6000. Huck succeeds in escaping the deserted house in the woods. But, instead of returning to the widow’s house who adopted Huck, Huck decides to keep running away. The book, then, goes on to detail Huck’s journey and adventures that he experiences along his free, self-governed life.
“Conscience says to me ‘What had poor Miss
Watson done to you, that you could see her nigger go
off right under your eyes and never say one single
word? What did that poor old woman do to you, that
you could treat her so mean?…’ I got to feeling so
mean and so miserable I most wished I was dead.”
3. Pride & Prejudice By Jane Austen – the book revolves around two sisters named Elizabeth and Jane Bennet. They are along with three more sisters are a country gentleman’s daughters. The story is set in 19th century where both parents venture on an assiduous journey to marry off their daughters. When a young gentleman, Bingley, from London starts residing adjacent to the Bennet’s. Mrs Bennet feels she found a perfect match for Jane. Although Jane and Bingley become close eventually, Bingley leaves her afterwards. Elizabeth looks for an answer from Darcy who knew Bingley. Finally Jane and Bingley meet and sort out their misunderstanding. Elizabeth and Darcy also agree to marry.
“A lady’s imagination is very rapid; it jumps from
admiration to love, from love to matrimony in a
4. The Iliad By Homer – the epic poem’s credit is attributed to Homer. The premise of the poem is set in the Trojan war. It introduces us to a scene that takes us to a period nine years after the Greek armies first arrived at Troy. The poem tells us of a cataclysm that plagued the Greek armies because Agamemnon has declined to return the daughter of a priest of Apollo. Achilles, the epic’s protagonist gets in trouble with Agamemnon due to the girl. A battle ensues between the Achaians and the Trojans. Zeus, and other Gods get involved. The poem ends with the funeral of Hector.
“Achilles glared at him and answered, “Fool,
prate not to me about covenants. There can be no
covenants between men and lions, wolves and lambs
can never be of one mind, but hate each other out
and out an through. Therefore there can be no
understanding between you and me, nor may there
be any covenants between us, till one or other shall
5. The Education of Henry Adams by Henry Adams – it’s an autobiography that details the memoirs and struggle of Henry Adams. The autobiography outlines how he dealt with the dawning 20th century. As much as medical, scientific discoveries the Education mentions, it also mentions the contemporary world woven among civil wars, World War I. Henry Adams duly noted the scientific breakthroughs he observed over the course of his lifetime. The book can introduce the Millenials or enthusiasts to the late 19th century.
“Chaos often breeds life, when order breeds habit. Political politics consists of ignoring facts.”
6. In Search of Lost Time By Marcel Proust – it’s a novel written in seven volumes. The novel is considered to be Proust’s best work and it gained prominence for both its length and its backdrop of involuntary memory. The novel follows the recollections of life experience of a narrator who’s never duly introduced. It’s an extended perception of the narrator when he was growing up — how he learnt about art, social changes, then his romantic introspection.
“If a little dreaming is dangerous, the cure for
it is not to dream less, but to dream more, to dream
all the time.”
7. Middlemarch By George Elliott – it’s also known as Middlemarch, A Study of Provincial Life. It’s a novel written by English author George Elliott. It’s considered his masterpiece. The novel’s foundation is laid in the imaginary Midlands town of Middlemarch during 1829-32. It revolves around the lives of the inhabitants of Middlemarch. The novel merges their stories to cast a light on idealism, hypocrisy, political reform, the status of women, religion, self-interest, etc. These themes are portrayed by Dorothea Brooke, Mary Garth, Edward Casaubon, Arthur Brooke, Sir James Chettam, Fred Vincy, and many more.
“We mortals, men and women, devour many a
disappointment between breakfast and dinner-time;
keep back the tears and look a little pale about the
lips, and in answer to inquiries say, “Oh, nothing!”
Pride helps; and pride is not a bad thing when it
only urges us to hide our hurts— not to hurt others.”
8. Moby-Dick By Herman Melville – the novel is also known as The Whale. The novel grows on the Monomaniacal Captain, Ahab who hunts down the white whale that ate his leg on his previous whaling journey. The book is a recollection of Melville’s experience at sea and it took him a year and a half to write it. The novel is prominent because of its detailed descriptions of whale hunting, extracting whale oil, while setting a stage for the good and evil to appear. It also responds to the existence of God, social statuses and classes.
“Better to sleep with a sober cannibal than a
9. Anna Karenina – this is the novel that Leo Tolstoy considered his first true novel. The novel is widely considered as a capstone of realist fiction. The novel tells us the story of a married aristocrat and her affair with the wealthy Count Vronsky. Vronsky, a young bachelor, who proposed to marry Anna, but she’s too afraid to leave her husband due to Russian social norms, the moral laws of the Russian Orthodox Church. Although they both elope to Italy, her mounting insecurities and infidelity make her locked in a battle within herself.
“If you look for perfection, you’ll never be content.”
10. The Portrait Of A Lady By Henry James – the novel surrounds a spirited young American woman, Isabel Archer. After being invited to visit her aunt’s husband near London, she faces two marriage proposals. But, she refuses all in fear of losing freedom. So, one of her cousins leaves her enormous wealth. Upon inheriting, she starts traveling the continent. She, then, meets an American expatriate. She eventually gets married to him. But, the marriage rapidly gets bitter. And, Isabel finds herself vacillating whether she should leave him.
“I’m yours for ever–for ever and ever. Here I
stand; I’m as firm as a rock. If you’ll only trust me,
how little you’ll be disappointed. Be mine as I am
11. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad – the novella tells the story of the narrator, Marlow. It details the story of Marlow’s job as an ivory transporter. Marlow becomes interested in an ivory-procurement agent named Kurtz. Marlow describes the European traders’ treatment of the Natives in horror. The novella is set on the deck of the Nellie, which gives the perfect setting for a frame story.
“No, it is impossible; it is impossible to
convey the life-sensation of any given epoch of
one’s existence–that which makes its truth, its
meaning–its subtle and penetrating essence. It is
impossible. We live, as we dream–alone.”
12. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte – the novel follows the emotions and life experiences of its obscure and eponymous heroine. Her transition to adulthood and her love for Mr Rochester who wants to marry her illegally. Jane Eyre orphaned when she was a baby. As she struggles to fit in, she befriends Helen. Eventually Jane and Rochester get married.
“I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free
human being with an independent will.”
13. Disgrace by JM Coetzee – the novel won the Booker Prize. JM Coetzee was also awarded the Nobel Prize in literature for its publication. The novel deals with an English professor in post-apartheid South Africa and his discordant sexual desire. The professor loses his credibility as a lecturer at a technical university after a seducing his student. His predatory behavior finally comes to light and he’s forced to resign. He, then, takes refuge in his daughter’s farm and things take a dramatic but deadly turn.
“You are going to end up as one of those sad
old men who poke around in rubbish bins.”
“I’m going to end up in a hole in the ground… And
so are you. So are we all.”
14. Mrs Dalloway By Virginia Woolf – the novel walks us through a day in the life of Clarissa Dalloway. Dalloway is an aristocratic woman in post-First World War England. The story vacillates back and forth in time and travels in and out of the character’s mind to portray her life — how arranging a party in the evening teleported her to the time of her youth. The party Dalloway hosted in the evening grants her an opportunity to meet most of the characters she met in the book.
“She thought there were no Gods; no one was
to blame; and so she evolved this atheist’s religion
of doing good for the sake of goodness.”
15. Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe – Crusoe avoids pursuing his parents-defined career by setting sail from the Queen’s Dock in Hull. His voyage wasn’t tranquil at all. His ship is wrecked multiple times from storm, captured by pirates, yet he can’t be discouraged. He goes on to import slaves from Africa. His ship is wrecked again and he takes refuge in an island where he encounters native cannibals. These cannibals hunt and eat prisoners. Crusoe befriends a prisoner trying to escape and names him “Friday”. He along with Friday helps two prisoners escape. Crusoe gets on an English ship and returns to England.
“Thus fear of danger is ten thousand times more
terrifying than danger itself.”
16. David Copperfield By Charles Dickens – the novel follows the life of David Copper-field and details his ordeals, and happiness from childhood to maturity. The novel also gives us a glimpse of the writer’s own life experiences. David passes his childhood in relative happiness with his mother until his stepfather comes along. Trouble ensues when David bites his stepfather. His stepfather sent him to a boarding school. David walks from London to Dover. He meets his kind-hearted, unmarried aunt who sends him to a far better school. After a long series of trials and tribulation, David finds happiness marrying Agnes.
“Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure
nineteen six, result happiness. Annual income twenty
pounds, annual expenditure twenty pound ought and
six, result misery.”
17. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte – it’s the only novel written by Emily Bronte. And, it’s widely considered a classic of English literature. Mr Earnshaw, a Yorkshire farmer and owner of Wuthering Heights. And, he brings home an orphan from Liverpool — who his flesh-and blood son, Hindley finds it difficult to get along with. Hindley suspects that the orphan has taken up his place in his father’s affection. The novel also centers around the romance of Mr Earnshaw’s daughter, Cathy and Heathcliff, the orphan.
18. Brighton Rock by Graham Greene – the novel, written by Graham Greene, was first published in 1938. The novel follows the story of the anti-hero, Pinkie Brown, who is teenage sociopath and wannabe gangster, who’s merciless to his victims. Hale who came to Brighton in hopes of distributing cards for a newspaper competition is murdered by Pinkie. Ida Arnold, a kind-hearted woman who knew Hale vows to bring justice to Hale.
19. Scoop By Evelyn Waugh – the novel begins with John Boot visiting his high-society friend, Mrs Julia Stitch. Boot later breaks it down to Mrs Stitch that he’s afflicted with his girlfriend that he must leave London. Mrs Stitch suggests that he travel to East Africa as a war correspondent. She gets him a job at the Megalopolitan Newspaper Corporation where he gets to cover the war.
20. The War of the Worlds by HG Wells – it’s a science fiction novel written, first published in 1897. Although at the time of its publication it was classed as a scientific romance, it established as a commentary on British imperialism, Victorian superstition, fears and prejudice. The novel tells us the story of bloodsucking Martian invaders.
21. Tristram Shandy by Laurence Sterne – it’s a humorous novel. The novel is published subsequently in nine volumes. It tells us the story of an eponymous character, and it appears to be their biography. It’s revealed that Tristam as the narrator. Apart from this character, his parents, and his uncle Toby are the main characters. The novel details the misunderstanding and conflict of interests that exist among the characters, yet finding humor in everything.
22. 1984 by George Orwell – it’s a dystopian novel published in 1949. Airstrip One (formerly known as Great Britain) sets the stage for the novel. The novel portrays a society that’s heavily dominated and controlled by a powerful and privileged elite where the average Joe and Jane are constantly under rigorous government surveillance. Big Brother epitomizes the tyranny. Winston Smith is the protagonist of the novel. He works for a party newspaper, but he hates the party for the propaganda and lies he has to write and he dreams of rebelling against Big Brother.
“He who controls the past controls the future. He who
controls the present controls the past.”
23. A Passage to India by EM Forster – the novel is founded against the British occupation of India and the British Raj. The novel focuses on a young Indian Muslim physician who is falsely accused of sexual assault by Adela. This trial and accusation intensifies the racial tensions between Indians and the British colonials. It also provides a backdrop for outlining prejudice existent in India.
24. Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert – it’s the debut novel of Gustave Flaubert. The story follows a country doctor’s wife, Emma Bovary. She’s bored in her marriage to the doctor and pursues a life that has excitement, adventure and passion she craves for. As she begins an affair with Charles, things divert to a new. She starts leading a lavish lifestyle and becomes indebted. She, then, consumes arsenic and dies a painful death.
25. The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins – although the Moonstone refers to a diamond, it shouldn’t be confused with the semi-precious moonstone gem. The novel is of epistolary, mystery and supernatural genre and it follows the story of a young Englishwoman, Rachel Verinder who receives a large Indian diamond on her 18th birthday. Her uncle who gifted her with the diamond is a corrupt British army officer. The diamond is of great value to Hindus. So, we dig deep into the story of tracing the stone and recovering it.
26. Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell – the novel was first published in trickling eight installments. However, it was later released with minor copy in book form. The novel contains no substantial plot. The novel is comprised of a series of satirical events that portray villagers adapt to changes happening in mid Victorian England.
27. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley – Frankenstein or the Modern Prometheus is widely considered the first true science fiction. Mary Shelley was a teenager when she wrote the book. Since then, it has been adapted to movies countless times. A multitude of writers drew inspiration from it and the book set the bar for the science fiction genre. The book focuses on the story of Victor Frankenstein. Victor’s a young scientist who creates a near-human creature and the ordeal the experiment ensues.
”Nothing is so painful to
the human mind as a great and sudden change.”
28. Tom Jones by Henry Fielding – it’s a comic novel. The novel focuses on a boy who is left abandoned in the bed of affluent Squire Allworthy. The boy, Thomas grows up as a kind-hearted and honest youth who develops romantic interest toward Molly. Tom impregnates Molly, but finds himself attracted to another woman, Sophia Western. Lastly Allworthy decides to bequeath his wealth to Tom. Tom can be viewed as conniving and shady, but finally he’s corrected by his love for Sophia.
29. Life: a User’s Manual by George Perec – it’s a book that anybody can enjoy as it puts a readers on the pavement to many books. The more you delve deep into the book, the more you will recognize the subtle references to many other novels and popular culture. It tells the story of a ten-storied building and the jigsaw puzzle of lives revolving in a Parisian apartment block.
30. War & Peace by Leo Tolstoy – the novel is considered one of the major works of world literature. It chronicles the history of the French invasion of Russia. And, the novel also focuses on Napoleonic era’s impact on Tsarist Society. It’s one of the longest novels ever to be written. The novel’s foundation is laid 60 years before Tolstoy’s day, however he drew valuable elements for the novel from the people who lived through the 1812 French invasion of Russia.
31. Atonement by Ian MccEwan – set in three time periods, Atonement merges 1935 England, wartime England and France, and present-day England. The metafiction novel was published in 2001. It follows the story of a 13-year-old girl, Briony, who misinterprets a sexual act between Robbie and Cecilia as rape. Later when her cousin, Lola, is raped, she identifies Robbie as the rapist.
32. Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky – Suite Francaise is the title attributed to a planned series of five novels written by Irene. She was a French writer and had Ukrainian-Jewish roots. When she finished the first two of the series, she was arrested for being a Jew and gassed at Auschwitz. The novellas were published 60 years after her murder. And, they paint how life was like in Nazi-occupied France.
33. A Dance to the Music of Time – this is a 12-volume cycle of novels. The painting of the same name by Nicolas Poussin inspired Anthony Powell to write the novels. The novels portray the movements, power and manners in English political, military and cultural life in the mid-20th century. Nick Jenkins narrated the sequence. Nick recounts and puts his past life and present life in parallel. He recalls the people he had met and interaction among them over the last half a century.
34. Clarissa by Samuel Richardson – the epistolary novel is also known as the History of a Young Lady. It was published in 1748. Clarissa Harlowe, the protagonist of Clarissa, is a beautiful and veracious lady. Born into wealth, she wants to lead a different life that’s not constrained by luxury and aristocracy. Lovelace, who she considers as vile, corrupt wants to marry her. But, she becomes seriously ill from mounting pressure exerted upon her by her family and Lovelace. Eventually she dies a tragic death.
35. The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler – it’s a hardcore detective and crime novel. The novel follows the chronicles of a private investigator, Philip Marlowe. He’s been called to the home of the affluent and elderly General Sternwood who wants Philip to take care of Arthur. Arthur Geiger wants to blackmail his young daughter. The novel is popular for its complexity, brain teasers and clues left for readers to solve.
36. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe – it’s a novel written by a Nigerian author that focuses on a post-colonial period. It is a book read as a fundamental book throughout Africa and also read and studied in English-speaking countries across the world. The novel binds the life story of Okonkwo. He’s a local wrestling champion and an Igbo leader. The novel is divided into three parts. The first part deals with his family’s description and personal history, the customs and lifestyle of the Igbo people. The second and third part describe British colonialism encroached on the Igbo community and Christian missionaries’ impact on the society.
37. The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton – the novel tells us the story of an impecunious woman, Lily Bart. She belongs to an affluent society in New York. Lily, the 29-year-old, is sacred that her beauty is declining, and with that her chances for marrying an eligible wealthy man are also fading. Lily finds a young bachelor, Selden, attractive and looks for his attention. Selden also finds Lily attractive. But, both of them couldn’t profess their love for each other. The moment Selden goes to her boardinghouse to tell her, he discovers Lily died from an overdose on chloral.
38. The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle – it belongs to a series of crime novels. It’s the third installment of the crime novels. The novel features the detective Sherlock Holmes. Sherlock Holmes investigates the murder of his friend, Sir Charles Baskerville. Holmes suspects Stapleton for the murder. He managed to find the killer and tie up the loose ends in a dramatic final scene.
39. Rabbit, Run by John Updike – Harry ‘Rabbit’ Angstrom plays the main role of this novel. He sells a kitchen gadget named MagiPeeler, and that’s his job. But, he’s totally distraught with the physical and romantic relationship he has with his wife, Janice. He looks for an impetus that will put zing into their relationship. Suddenly he decides to leave everything behind. He meets his old basketball coach and has dinner with two girls. One of whom he begins a two-month affair with. He learns that his wife is in labor. His newborn daughter drowns. And, the death makes him understand the thing he’s looking for might not exist.
40. Nausea by Jean-Paul Sartre – the novel focuses on Antoine Roquentin, a historian living Bouville, France. The historian suddenly develops a bizarre habit of defining inanimate objects and comes to the conclusion that those objects and situations trespass on his normal movements and evoke feelings of nausea. Nothing can answer to the question he is asking of the existence.
41. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark – the novel is set in 1930s, Edinburgh. Miss Jean Brodie is assigned a teacher to tutor six ten-year-old girls. Miss Jean teaches the girls on art, history, personal love life, travel, fascism, classical studies and many more. These six girls are tightly woven that they become known as the Brodie Set. Miss Jean doesn’t stay the same as they grow up — things turn deadly.
42. The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera – it’s a 1984 novel. The novel deals with two men, two women, a dog and their lives in 1968 Prague Spring period of Czechoslovak. It details the artistic and intellectual life of Czech society.
43. Go Tell It on the Mountain by James Baldwin – it’s a semi-autobiographical novel. It walks us through the story of John Grimes. John is an intelligent teenager living in 1930’s Harlem. The novel also provides a backdrop for his family and his church. The novel points out hypocritical, and repressive roles of the Pentecostal Church when it comes to the treatment of African-Americans.
44. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck – the book won the National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize for fiction. It was first published in 1939. The novel focuses on the Joads and their lives during the Great Depression— the family’s ordeals because of drought, economic difficulty, agricultural industry upheaval. The novel is widely read in American high school and college literature classes.
45. Beloved by Toni Morrison – the novel’s premise is set after the American Civil War. Sethe who flees slavery is hunted down by her slave owners. Sethe kills her two-year-old daughter, so the slave owners can’t recapture her and daughter and take them back to Sweet Home — the plantation she escaped. Years later, the murdered daughter returns with furry vengeance.
“If a Negro got legs he ought to use them. Sit
down too long, somebody will figure out a way to tie
46. Underworld by Don DeLillo – the novel was a best-seller, and is one of the best novels written Don. The novel centers around Nick Shay and Marian Shay. Nick’s the novel’s protagonist who invests a significant time of his life on reconciling with his father’s disappearance. Nick and Marian, both have built illicit relationship outside the wedlock, but both remain married. We learn about the details of the murder Nick’s been accused of at the end of the book.
47. The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger – it’s a controversial novel. It was initially published for adult readers. However, it gained prominence among teenagers and adults due to its reflection on teenage stress and isolation. The novel is set around the 1950s. Holden Caulfield who narrates the novel is the protagonist. He tells us that he’s not sure about his location, but he’s about to undergo treatment in a psychiatric hospital.
48. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood – it’s a dystopian novel, set in the Republic of Gilead. The novel tells us that Gilead is aa theocratic military dictatorship. It was formed after the extinction of the USA. Gilead is experiencing terrible hindrance; low reproduction rates. So, the handmaids can only bear children for the elite couples that can’t gestate. Offred is the narrator who tells us the story of her life, how she’s been exploited, and considered merely a machine to produce children.
49. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov – it’s one of the most controversial novels, yet regarded as one of the major 20th century literal works. A middle-aged literature professor named Humbert Humbert develops obsessive passion to build sexual relationship with prepubescent girls; “nymqhets”. He constantly fantasizes about drugging and molesting little girls. Humbert’s obsession comes true when he sees the daughter of a landlady called Mrs Charlotte.
“Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my
soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of
three steps down the palette to tap, at three, on the
50. Austerlitz by WG Sebald – it’s a novel published in 2001. And, it was the writer’s final novel. The novel focuses on the kindertransport of the late 1930s. One of the topics the novel is connected with is World War and its impacts on people, especially on children.
51. The Tin Drum by Gunter Grass – The Tin Drum is the fictional autobiography of an unreliable narrator, Oskar Matzerath. Oskar tells us his recounts of growing up in Nazi Germany. Oskar has paranormal abilities to stunt his growth. Disgusted at the adult world, he decides to remain a three-year-old child.
52. The Glass Bead Game by Herman Hesse – the novel took the writer 11 years to complete. And, it’s Hesse’s masterpiece. The novel was written during a time when the world was rife with self-destruction, war, conflict, etc. The writer pleaded with human beings urgently for emergence of humanitarianism. The novel responds to humans’ constant, frantic search for perfection.
53. The Savage Detectives by Roberto Bolano – the novel is split into three sections. A 17-year-old, Juan Garcia provides us with the narration that continues for two sections. Juan Garcia Madero is an ambitious poet. He meets two older poets. They embark on a journey to assemble more poets, artists, painters and dancers. Madero gets into trouble after helping a prostitute escape.
54. London Fields by Martin Amis – the novel is set during the term of Margaret Thatcher. A failed novelist, Sam Young narrates the novel. He’s chronically ill. He decides to leave America and spend his first-months in London. The novel features a muse-woman, Nicola Six. Her second name implies that she will murdered on November 6. She plays different roles to suit manipulating advances against three guys, Talent, Guy Clinch and Sam.
55. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez – the novel explains the history of the desultory town of Macondo. The novel centers around the people who founded the town, the Burendias. The novel tells us a story that follows the family through generations. However, it’s atypical for a novel. It doesn’t contain no single plot and no single timeline. The family members are ultra-dysfunctional and incestuous.
56. My Name is Red by Orhan Pamuk – it’s an historical novel. The novel’s foundation is laid in late 16th century Istanbul. The novel centers around miniaturists in the Ottoman Empire of 1591. The novel paved the way for building Pamuk’s reputation and his clinch of Nobel Prize. Kara (Black) is a miniaturist who returns to Istanbul to assist his uncle with a secret book, Enishte. The novel mixes mystery, romance, philosophical puzzles and creates a conflict between art and religion.
57. Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift – the novel was first published in 1726. Since then, it’s been adapted to film several times. Many modern writers become inspired from it. The novel details the story of the adventures of Lemuel Gulliver. He’s the narrator and protagonist of the story. He is a surgeon by profession, but an avid traveller. Gulliver embarks on four distinct voyages. Each journey gets engulfed by a storm. All journeys bring absurd situations and new perspectives to Gulliver’s life, from being stranded in miniature Lilliputians land to befriending talking horses.
58. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson – the novella is a blend of horror, mystery, drama and science fiction. The novella deals with a London Lawyer named Gabriel John Utterson who notices bizarre behavior between his old friend, Dr Henry Jekyll. Jekyll transforms between two personae, he stays Dr Henry Jekyll during the daytime, but becomes Mr Edward Hyde at night who commits murders, and assaults people. The novella incorporated the good and evil into a story. Dr Jekyll invents a potion that helps him transform.
59. The Cairo Trilogy by Naguib Mahfouz – it’s a trilogy of novels written by Nobel Prize winner, Naguib Mahfouz. The novel focuses on the life of Abd al-Jawad and follows his family for three generations. It is set from 1919 — the year when the Egyptians revolted against the British colonizers — to the period when the second World War is about to end. Throughout the trilogy, Mahfouz tried establishing the fact that evolutionary spirit of humankind leads to social progress.
60. Dr Zhivago by Boris Pasternak – it’s a novel first published in 1957. It’s set in Italy during the time period between the Russian Revolution of 1905 and the Civil War. It tells us the story of a man, Yuri Zhivago, who is afflicted between his love for two women. Simultaneously we get to learn of the political upheaval and uncertain course gripping the twentieth century Russia.
61. Crime & Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevesky – it’s a psychological novel published in twelve monthly installments during 1866. The novel follows the story of a tormented, and impecunious ex-student in St Petersburg. He plans on murdering people in order to make up for the crimes prevalent in society. He feels killing becomes a responsibility when it serves a higher purpose. So, he hatches a plan to kill an absent-minded pawnbroker to snatch her cash.
62. A Bend in the River by VS Naipaul – the novel is one of the best novels of the 20th century. And, it was written by a Nobel laureate. It follows the story of an Arab-African man with Indian roots, Salim. Salim is a shopkeeper, residing in a small, developing city. Growing up in a community that’s distinct in Africa, Salim notices the changes that are prevailing over Africa.
63. Crash by JG Ballard – the narrator of the novel is James Ballard, named after the writer himself. After being caught up with a car accident, Ballard encounters a named Dr Robert Vaughan; a sinister figure who introduces him to a new form of fetish — indulging in car crashes. Crash explores how technology is impacting people’s psychology and how people are changing along with technology.
64. If On a Winter’s Night a Traveler by Italo Calvino – unlike many other novels, this novel begins from a second-person perspective with a single reader, you. The novel details the stories right from the moment a reader’s purchase. It provides a unique experience for the reader and nothing can come between the reader and the book until they finish reading ten different novels. In the end, the reader will realize good books aren’t meant to end, they’re meant to exist in people’s mind forever.
65. The Leopard by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa – the novel outlines the story of Don Fabrizio Corbera, Prince of Salina. He finds himself in a dwindling situation as civil war and revolution is becoming intense. He’s scared of the changes that are gripping his reign. The novel details the emerging upheaval in Sicilian life and society during the Risorgimento.
66. The Dream of the Red Chamber by Cao Xueqin – it is written in the mid-18th century and considered one of the “four great” Chinese novels. It was probably written during the Qing Dynasty, and describing the rise and fall of the writer and, by extension of the Qing Dynasty. The novel details the serialized chronicles of two affluent, aristocratic Jia clan — the Rongguo House and the Ningguo House.
67. Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant by Anne Tyler – the novel starts off with Pearl Cody Tull’s deathbed rumination and finishes with her funeral. The novel centers around a different family where the mother runs the family. Because of their mother’s stern control, the Tull children grow up looking at life as turbulent and irrational.
68. All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Remarque – Paul Baumer, a 19-year-old man, narrates the novel. He decides to fight in German army on the French front in the first world war. Paul and his friends decide to enlist after listening to the arousing speeches of their teacher, Kantorek.
69. The Trial by Franz Kafka – it’s a novel written by a German-language writer. It’s one of his best-known novels. It tells us the story of a man (Josef K.) arrested and prosecuted by a distant and inaccessible authority. The two unidentified agents who arrested didn’t reveal the nature of his crime or the organization they belong to. Josef gets a phone call instructing him to attend to court. Although a day is set for the hearing, no time is set.
70. Catch – 22 by Joseph Heller – the novel follows the story of a young airman. The airman’s name is Yossarian who doesn’t want to be killed in the second world war. So, he fakes illness and nervous breakdown to avoid being being drafted. Yossarian’s story teaches us the cruelty of war that how merciless it is to take the actors who stage it into account.
71. Alice’s Adventure in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll – Lewis Carroll is the pseudonym of English mathematician Charles Lutwidge. It begins with a girl named Alice chasing down a White Rabbit in a waistcoat. The White Rabbit pulls out a pocket watch, signals her to hurry up since he’s late. She, then, falls through a rabbit hole while pursuing the White Rabbit. She, then, encounters a magical world populated by talking, bizarre, and anthropomorphic creatures.
72. Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys – the novel tells us the story of Antoinette Cosway. She’s a Creole heiress. She’s tormented from the clasps of an oppressive patriarchal society. Having been married to an Englishman, whose name the author never revealed. Antoinette longs for the day when will become as free as a bird.
73. Oscar and Lucinda by Peter Carey – it’s a novel by Australian author, Peter Carey who won the 1988 Booker Prize for the book. The novel revolves around gambling and how betting can change someone’s life. Oscar Hopkins, the Cornish son of aa Plymouth Brethren minister. He rejects his father’s belief in favor of Anglicanism. Oscar gets addicted to gambling and the story details his experience from it.
74. The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco – William of Baskerville and Adso of Melk reach a Benedictine monastery in Northern Italy. They are invited to attend a theological disputation. As soon as they arrived, the monastery is rattled by a suicide. As the story advances, several other deaths start occurring. William’s highly developed cognitive skills come handy solving the abbey’s mysteries.
75. The Stranger by Albert Camus – the novel details the story of a man trying reconcile with his apathy of the world. Meursault, the protagonist, meets an abusive womanizer after the death of his mother. But, the acquaintance gets him to commit a murder.
76. Germinal by Emile Zola – a young man, Etienne Lantier, looking to be employed as a mechanic in the mine meets an elderly man, Bonnemort. Bonnemort tells him there’s no work for a mechanic in the mine. So, Etienne becomes employed in the mine as a hewer. The miners are marginalized and exploited. They strike and become rebellious as their demands get rejected.
77. The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas – D’Artagnan, an impoverished but honest young man sets out for Paris to turn the wheel of his fortune. d’Artagnan wants to become a musketeer. So, he wants to meet his father’s friend. d’Artagnan is later appointed to retrieve the Queen’s stolen diamond tags. He embarks on a journey to London.
78. The Red and the Black by Stendhal – it’s a historical novel with a psychological backdrop. It was published in two volumes. Julien Sorel is a provincial young man and a poor carpenter’s son. He develops a habit of reading and gets inspired to become a great man. He is able to appear powerful socially despite his mild upbringing through assiduity, hard work, deception and hypocrisy.
79. Old Goriot by Honore de Balzac – it a novel written by a French novelist. The novel’s premise was set in 1819. The novel chronicles the tangled lives of three characters: Goriot, Vautrin, and Eugene. The novel observes the changes that took place during the Bourbon Restoration. Rastignac finds it difficult to fit in after moving to Paris. The author uses scrupulous, copious detail to describe the Maison Vauquer and the inhabitants. He also described the world around efficiently.
80. On the Road by Jack Kerouac – the novel is based on chronicling the expeditions Kerouac and his friends made across America. The novel tells us that Dean Moriarty who just got out of jail meets Sal Paradise. Dean and Paradise goes on to a journey that lasts for three years and takes them back and forth across the country.
81. Eugene Onegin by Alexander Pushkin – it’s a novel written by Russian author, Alexander Pushkin. It’s widely regarded as a classic of Russian literature. The novel’s hero became so eponymous that the protagonist was featured for a number of Russian literary heroes. Eugene, the protagonist, refuses the love of passionate Tatyana Larin. However, his friend, poet and romantic Vladimir Lensky wants to be romantically attached with her sister Olga. A duel ensues to settle the score between Eugene and Onegin over Olga.
82. The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing – Anna Freeman Wulf gained commercial success by writing a novel based on her experiences garnered during the second World War in South Central Africa. Now she lives in London, and wrote four notebooks recording her life and her drudge to pull it together in a fifth golden notebook.
83. Under the Net by Iris Murdoch – Jake Donahue just returned to London from his trip to France. After returning, he comes to learn that his friend, Finn is being evicted from their free lodgings with their landlady, Madge. The novel details the struggle of his life.
84. The Tale of Genji by Murasaki Shikibu – it’s one of the classical works that defines Japanese literature. Analysts pinned the period when it had been written in the early years of the 11th century. It’s also referred to as the world’s first novel, the first modern novel, or the first psychological novel. The novel details the life story of Hikaru Genji or “Shining Genji”. He’s the son of an ancient Japanese emperor, Kiritsubo.
85. Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons – the novel’s scenarios are set in Sussex, England around 1930s. Flora’s parents die when she’s a nineteen-year-old girl. She receives an income of one hundred pounds a year. She writes to her various cousins, asking them to grant her accommodation. She decides to stay with an aunt who lives at Cold Comfort Farm. Flora’s chronicles and how she won hostile people over are described.
86. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy by John le Carre – George Smiley, a spy’s spy, is spending his retirement unhappily for a year after an operation in Czechoslovakia. Peter Guillam, a former colleague, approaches him and asks him to undertake an operation to uncover a Soviet mole.
87. The Sorrows of Young Werther by Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe – the novel is narrated from a range of letters written by Werther. The novel tells us the story of a young artist having a sensitive disposition. Caught in a love triangle, Werther tries to fix his relationship with the other two. But, eventually it becomes so unbearable that he had to make a decision.
88. One Thousand and One Nights by Anonymous – the Arabian Nights, also called One Thousand and One Nights compiles stories and folk tales from West and South Asia. Different versions of The Arabian Nights differ greatly, how the story of the ruler Shahrayar and his wife Scheherazade frames all the stories.
89. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams – Arthur Dent is a down-to-earth person, immersed in his business when a bulldozer approaches and tries to tear down his house, so it could create a new bypass. Arthur has a friend named Ford Perfect, who is an alien, warns him that ships from the Vogon Constructor wants to destroy the Earth to make way for hyperspace express bypass.
90. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee – it’s a classic novel set in Alabama. It won the Pulitzer Prize and became successful instantly. It’s of Southern Gothic genre novel. The novel tells us the rough textures of racial issues, how racial injustice can divide a society. The novel also includes class, courage and gender issues.
91. The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien – the novel is often mistakenly called a trilogy since it’s published in three volumes. Actually it’s a lengthy novel, split into six books. The story unfolds during the Third Age of Middle-Earth. Middle-Earth is a continent where magical things happen. However, it doesn’t stay the same when a cataclysm breaks out for a ring that has the power to rule Middle-Earth.
92. To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf – this novel bears the symbol of high modernism. It centers around the Ramsay family. The family made a series of visits to the Isle of Skye. The novel is written just as thoughts and observations, no suspense takes place.
93. The Stories of Anton Chekhov by Anton Chekhov – Anton Chekhov is regarded as one of the greatest short-story writers in the world literature history. He began his career by writing jokes and anecdotes for popular magazines. Some of his famous short-stories include – A Living Chattel, An Enigmatic Nature, An Inquiry, A Chameleon, Misery, Grisha, etc.
94. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison – the novel informs us of many of the social and intellectual issues African-Americans were facing in the early twentieth century. The novel is narrated from the narrator’s present, then looking back into his past.
95. Ulysses by James Joyce – it follows the passage of Leopold Bloom in the streets of Dublin on a normal day, June 16, 1904. Ulysses is the Latinized form of Odysseus, the protagonist of Homer’s epic poem, Odyssey. The novel doesn’t distant itself the original aspects of Odyssey. We can observe striking resemblance between Leopold Bloom and Odysseus. It sets a premise built in the context of modernism and Dublin’s and Ireland’s relationship to Britain.
“Stately, plump Buck Mulligan came from the
stairhead, bearing a bowl of lather on which a mirror
and a razor lay crossed.”
96. Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra – it’s a Spanish novel. Don Quixote is regarded as the most glorifying work of literature from the Spanish Golden Era and the entire Spanish literary canon. The novel chronicles the adventures of a hidalgo named Mr Alonso Quixano. He develops a passion for reading lots of chivalry romances that he becomes inspired to venture on an adventure to establish justice in the world.
97. Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis – it was Amis’ first novel and it won him the Somorset Maugham Award for fiction. The novel follows the story of Jim Dixon who is a midieval history lecturer. Dixon tries hard to make a good impression on the faculty and to overcome his colleagues. Dixon also finally overcame Margaret who faked a suicide attempt to gain his sympathy. Dixon settles with Christine lastly.
98. Les Misérables by Victor Hugo – in the English-speaking countries, the novel is known as The Miserable, The Wretched, The Wretched Poor, etc. Les Misérables is regarded as one of the greatest novels of the 19th century. The novel follows and tells the stories of lives and introspection of several characters. The novel mostly focuses on Jean Valjean, an ex-convict. Jean breaks parole in hopes of experiencing redemption. A police inspector, Javert, pursues him for breaking parole.
“What Is Love? I have met in the streets a very
poor young man who was in love. His hat was old,
his coat worn, the water passed through his shoes
and the stars through his soul.”
99. The Warden by Anthony Trollope – The Warden is the writer’s fourth novel. It was published in 1885. The Warden focuses on the meek, modest and elderly clergyman, Reverend Septimus Harding who works at Hiram’s Hospital. He’s the warden and looks after an almshouse for 12 elderly workmen. He provides them with a little income from his own stipend.
100. Waiting for the Mahatma by RK Narayan – it’s a novel published in 1955. The novel even features Mahatma Gandhi as a character. The writing style of the novel bears the hallmark of Narayan as he’s well-known for his comedic style. The story centers around a high school student, Sriram and the love of his life, Bharati. Because of Bharati’s activism with Quit India Movement led by Gandhi, Sriram also gets involved with the movement. Their movement becomes a success as the British leaves in 1947. And, they also get engaged.
Bottom Line – books have the power to teach you a lesson, point you in a different direction, introduce you to a new perspective.
However, the books listed above can change your life, serve as another compass or guide. How you will guide your life in the future depends on the tactics you deploy to develop your mind today.
So, this ultimate top 100 books list here can at least make you feel like you have been looking for this moment the whole time.