The 100 Greatest Novels by greatbooksguide.com

Critic Ted Gioia's selection of the 100 greatest novels ever written.

  1. 1. In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust

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    Swann's Way, the first part of A la recherche de temps perdu, Marcel Proust's seven-part cycle, was published in 1913. In it, Proust introduces the themes that run through the entire work. The narr...


  2. 2. The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

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    Dostoevsky's last and greatest novel, The Karamazov Brothers, is both a brilliantly told crime story and a passionate philosophical debate. The dissolute landowner Fyodor Pavlovich Karamazov is mur...


  3. 3. The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann

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    The Magic Mountain is a novel by Thomas Mann, first published in November 1924. It is widely considered to be one of the most influential works of 20th century German literature.


  4. 4. The Ambassadors by Henry James

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    This dark comedy, one of the masterpieces of James' final period, follows the trip of protagonist Lewis Lambert Strether to Europe in pursuit of his widowed fiancée's supposedly wayward son. Streth...


  5. 5. Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes

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    Alonso Quixano, a retired country gentleman in his fifties, lives in an unnamed section of La Mancha with his niece and a housekeeper. He has become obsessed with books of chivalry, and believes th...


  6. 6. Moby Dick by Herman Melville

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    First published in 1851, Melville's masterpiece is, in Elizabeth Hardwick's words, "the greatest novel in American literature." The saga of Captain Ahab and his monomaniacal pursuit of the white wh...


  7. 7. Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner

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    Absalom, Absalom! is a Southern Gothic novel by the American author William Faulkner, first published in 1936. It is a story about three families of the American South, taking place before, during,...


  8. 8. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

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    Epic in scale, War and Peace delineates in graphic detail events leading up to Napoleon's invasion of Russia, and the impact of the Napoleonic era on Tsarist society, as seen through the eyes of fi...


  9. 9. Tom Jones by Henry Fielding

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    A foundling of mysterious parentage brought up by Mr. Allworthy on his country estate, Tom Jones is deeply in love with the seemingly unattainable Sophia Western, the beautiful daughter of the neig...


  10. 10. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

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    Revered by all of the town's children and dreaded by all of its mothers, Huckleberry Finn is indisputably the most appealing child-hero in American literature. Unlike the tall-tale, idyllic worl...


  11. 11. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

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    One of the 20th century's enduring works, One Hundred Years of Solitude is a widely beloved and acclaimed novel known throughout the world, and the ultimate achievement in a Nobel Prize–winning car...


  12. 12. Wings of the Dove by Henry James

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    One of the masterpieces of James' final period, this novel tells the story of Milly Theale, an American heiress stricken with a serious disease, and her impact on the people around her. Some of the...


  13. 13. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

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    It is a murder story, told from a murder;s point of view, that implicates even the most innocent reader in its enormities. It is a cat-and-mouse game between a tormented young killer and a cheerful...


  14. 14. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

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    Great Expectations is written in the genre of "bildungsroman" or the style of book that follows the story of a man or woman in their quest for maturity, usually starting from childhood and ending i...


  15. 15. Les Misérables by Victor Hugo

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    Les Misérables is a novel by French author Victor Hugo and is widely considered one of the greatest novels of the 19th century. It follows the lives and interactions of several French characters ov...


  16. 16. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

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    The book is narrated in free indirect speech following the main character Elizabeth Bennet as she deals with matters of upbringing, marriage, moral rightness and education in her aristocratic socie...


  17. 17. The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

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    The Idiot is a novel written by the Russian author Fyodor Dostoyevsky and first published in 1868. It was first published serially in Russian in Russky Vestnik, St. Petersburg, 1868-1869. The Idiot...


  18. 18. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway

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    The novel explores the lives and values of the so-called "Lost Generation," chronicling the experiences of Jake Barnes and several acquaintances on their pilgrimage to Pamplona for the annual San F...


  19. 19. The Sleepwalkers by Hermann Broch

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    With his epic trilogy, The Sleepwalkers, Hermann Broch established himself as one of the great innovators of modern literature, a visionary writer-philosopher the equal of James Joyce, Thomas Mann,...

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  20. 20. The Trial by Franz Kafka

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    Written in 1914, The Trial is one of the most important novels of the twentieth century: the terrifying tale of Josef K., a respectable bank officer who is suddenly and inexplicably arrested and mu...


  21. 21. Ulysses by James Joyce

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    Ulysses chronicles the passage of Leopold Bloom through Dublin during an ordinary day, June 16, 1904. The title parallels and alludes to Odysseus (Latinised into Ulysses), the hero of Homer's Odyss...


  22. 22. Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert

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    For daring to peer into the heart of an adulteress and enumerate its contents with profound dispassion, the author of Madame Bovary was tried for "offenses against morality and religion." What shoc...


  23. 23. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

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    The novel chronicles an era that Fitzgerald himself dubbed the "Jazz Age". Following the shock and chaos of World War I, American society enjoyed unprecedented levels of prosperity during the "roar...


  24. 24. The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner

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    The Sound and the Fury is set in the fictional Yoknapatawpha County. The novel centers on the Compson family, former Southern aristocrats who are struggling to deal with the dissolution of their fa...


  25. 25. Middlemarch by George Eliot

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    Middlemarch: A Study of Provincial Life is a novel by George Eliot, the pen name of Mary Anne Evans, later Marian Evans. It is her seventh novel, begun in 1869 and then put aside during the final i...


  26. 26. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

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    The novel addresses many of the social and intellectual issues facing African-Americans in the early twentieth century, including black nationalism, the relationship between black identity and Marx...


  27. 27. The Golden Bowl by Henry James

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    Set in England, this complex, intense study of marriage and adultery completes what some critics have called the "major phase" of James' career. The Golden Bowl explores the tangle of interrelation...


  28. 28. The Red and the Black by Stendhal

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    Le Rouge et le Noir (The Red and the Black), subtitled Chronique du XIXe siécle ("Chronicle of the 19th century"), is an historical psychological novel in two volumes by Stendhal, published in 1830...


  29. 29. The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James

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    The story centres on Isabel Archer, an attractive American whom circumstances have brought to Europe. Isabel refuses the offer of marriage to an English peer and to a bulldog-like New Englander, to...


  30. 30. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

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    Anna Karenina tells of the doomed love affair between the sensuous and rebellious Anna and the dashing officer, Count Vronsky. Tragedy unfolds as Anna rejects her passionless marriage and must endu...


  31. 31. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

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    The story details an incident when Marlow, an Englishman, took a foreign assignment from a Belgian trading company as a ferry-boat captain in Africa. Although Conrad does not specify the name of th...


  32. 32. To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf

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    A landmark novel of high modernism, the text, centering on the Ramsay family and their visits to the Isle of Skye in Scotland between 1910 and 1920, skillfully manipulates temporality and psycholog...


  33. 33. Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray

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    No one is better equipped in the struggle for wealth and worldly success than the alluring and ruthless Becky Sharp, who defies her impoverished background to clamber up the class ladder. Her senti...


  34. 34. Fathers and Sons by Ivan Turgenev

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    Fathers and Sons is an 1862 novel by Ivan Turgenev, his best known work. The fathers and children of the novel refers to the growing divide between the two generations of Russians, and the chara...


  35. 35. Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov

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    The novel is presented as a poem titled "Pale Fire" with commentary by a friend of the poet's. Together these elements form two story lines in which both authors are central characters. The int...


  36. 36. The Adventures of Augie March by Saul Bellow

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    The Adventures of Augie March (1953) is a novel by Saul Bellow. It centers on the eponymous character who grows up during the Great Depression. This picaresque novel is an example of bildungsroman,...


  37. 37. Bleak House by Charles Dickens

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    Bleak House is the ninth novel by Charles Dickens, published in twenty monthly instalments between March 1852 and September 1853. It is held to be one of Dickens's finest novels, containing one of ...


  38. 38. Atonement by Ian McEwan

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    Atonement is a 2001 novel by British author Ian McEwan. It tells the story of protagonist Briony Tallis's crime and how it changes her life, as well as those of her sister Cecilia and her lover Rob...


  39. 39. Silas Marner by George Eliot

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    Silas Marner: The Weaver of Raveloe is the third novel by George Eliot, published in 1861. An outwardly simple tale of a linen weaver, it is notable for its strong realism and its sophisticated tre...


  40. 40. The Gambler by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

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    Based on Dostoevsky's own troubled experiences at the gaming tables, 'The Gambler' is a brilliant and telling portrayal of a man crippled by the overwhelming powers of addiction and obsession.

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  41. 41. Father Goriot by Honoré de Balzac

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    Le Père Goriot (English: Father Goriot or Old Goriot) is an 1835 novel by French novelist and playwright Honoré de Balzac (1799–1850), included in the Scènes de la vie privée section of his novel s...


  42. 42. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

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    Set during the Great Depression, the novel focuses on a poor family of sharecroppers, the Joads, driven from their home by drought, economic hardship, and changes in the agriculture industry. In a ...


  43. 43. The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger

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    The Catcher in the Rye is a 1945 novel by J. D. Salinger. Originally published for adults, the novel has become a common part of high school and college curricula throughout the English-speaking wo...


  44. 44. Emma by Jane Austen

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    Before she began the novel, Austen wrote, "I am going to take a heroine whom no-one but myself will much like."[1] In the very first sentence she introduces the title character as "Emma Woodhouse, ...


  45. 45. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

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    Jane Eyre is a first-person narrative of the title character, a small, plain-faced, intelligent and honest English orphan. The novel goes through five distinct stages: Jane's childhood at Gateshead...


  46. 46. Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

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    The narrative is non-linear, involving several flashbacks, and two primary narrators: Mr. Lockwood and Ellen "Nelly" Dean. The novel opens in 1801, with Mr. Lockwood arriving at Thrushcross Grange,...


  47. 47. Nostromo by Joseph Conrad

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    Edited with an introduction and notes by Martin Seymour-Smith. In his evocation of the republic of Costaguana, set amid the exotic and grandiose scenery of South America, Conrad reveals not only th...


  48. 48. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey

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    Narrated by the gigantic but docile half-Indian "Chief" Bromden, who has pretended to be a deaf-mute for several years, the story focuses on the antics of the rebellious Randle Patrick McMurphy, a ...


  49. 49. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

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    On November 15, 1959, in the small town of Holcomb, Kansas, four members of the Clutter family were savagely murdered by blasts from a shotgun held a few inches from their faces. There was no appar...


  50. 50. The American by Henry James

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    The American is a novel by Henry James, originally published as a serial in The Atlantic Monthly in 1876–1877 and then as a book in 1877. The novel is an uneasy combination of social comedy and mel...

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  51. 51. The Adventures of Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens

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    At the heart of Charles Dickens's second novel, first published in 1838, is a story as much about crime and poverty as it is about justice and charity. Orphaned at birth, Oliver Twist grows up unde...

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  52. 52. Miss Lonelyhearts by Nathanael West

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    First published in 1933, Miss Lonelyhearts remains one of the most shocking works of 20th century American literature, as unnerving as a glob of black bile vomited up at a church social: empty, bla...

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  53. 53. The French Lieutenant's Woman by John Fowles

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    The novel's protagonist is Sarah Woodruff, the title Woman, also known by the nickname of “Tragedy”, and by the unfortunate nickname “The French Lieutenant’s Whore”. She lives in the coastal town o...


  54. 54. The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen

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    The Corrections is a 2001 novel by American author Jonathan Franzen. It revolves around the troubles of an elderly Midwestern couple and their three adult children, tracing their lives from the mid...


  55. 55. Tristram Shandy by Laurence Sterne

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    As its title suggests, the book is ostensibly Tristram's narration of his life story. But it is one of the central jokes of the novel that he cannot explain anything simply, that he must make expla...


  56. 56. The Day of the Locust by Nathanael West

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    The Day of the Locust is a 1939 novel by American author Nathanael West, set in Hollywood, California during the Great Depression, depicting the alienation and desperation of a disparate group of i...


  57. 57. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

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    Published in 1937, it tells the tragic story of George Milton and Lennie Small, two displaced migrant ranch workers during the Great Depression in California. Based on Steinbeck's own experiences a...


  58. 58. Lord Jim by Joseph Conrad

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    Conrad's great novel of guilt and redemption follows the first mate on board the Patna, a raw youth with dreams of heroism who, in an act of cowardice, abandons his ship. His unbearable guilt and i...


  59. 59. Nineteen Eighty Four by George Orwell

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    The story follows the life of one seemingly insignificant man, Winston Smith, a civil servant assigned the task of perpetuating the regime's propaganda by falsifying records and political literatur...


  60. 60. The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym by Edgar Allan Poe

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    The only complete novel written by Edgar Allan Poe which follows life of the young Arthur Gordon Pym aboard a whaling ship called the Grampus. Shipwreck, mutiny, and cannibalism befall Pym, before ...

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  61. 61. Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh

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    Brideshead Revisited, The Sacred & Profane Memories of Captain Charles Ryder is a novel by the English writer Evelyn Waugh, first published in 1945. Waugh wrote that the novel "deals with what is t...


  62. 62. The Charterhouse of Parma by Stendhal

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    Balzac considered it the most important French novel of his time. André Gide later deemed it the greatest of all French novels, and Henry James judged it to be a masterpiece. Now, in a major litera...


  63. 63. Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather

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    Death Comes for the Archbishop is a 1927 novel by Willa Cather. It concerns the attempts of a Catholic bishop and a priest to establish a diocese in New Mexico Territory.


  64. 64. Animal Farm by George Orwell

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    Animal Farm is a dystopian novella by George Orwell. Published in England on 17 August 1945, the book reflects events leading up to and during the Stalin era before World War II. Orwell, a democrat...


  65. 65. The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper

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    The story is set in the British province of New York during the French and Indian War, and concerns—in part—a Huron massacre (with passive French acquiescence) of between 500 to 1,500 Anglo-America...


  66. 66. The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene

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    The novel tells the story of a Roman Catholic priest in the state of Tabasco in Mexico during the 1930s, a time when the Mexican government, still effectively controlled by Plutarco Elías Calles, s...


  67. 67. Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis

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    Set sometime around 1950, Lucky Jim follows the exploits of the eponymous James (Jim) Dixon, a reluctant Medieval history lecturer at an unnamed provincial English university. Having made a bad fir...


  68. 68. The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler

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    The Big Sleep (1939) is a crime novel by Raymond Chandler, the first in his acclaimed series about hardboiled detective Philip Marlowe. The work has been adapted twice into film, once in 1946 and a...


  69. 69. Harry Potter And The Philosopher's Stone by J. K. Rowling

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    Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone is the first novel in the Harry Potter series written by J. K. Rowling and featuring Harry Potter, a young wizard. It describes how Harry discovers he is a ...


  70. 70. The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

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    The Hound of the Baskervilles is a crime novel by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle featuring the detective Sherlock Holmes. Originally serialized in the Strand Magazine from August 1901 to April 1902, it ...


  71. 71. On the Road by Jack Kerouac

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    On the Road is a largely autobiographical work that was based on the spontaneous road trips of Kerouac and his friends across mid-century America. It is often considered a defining work of the post...


  72. 72. Kim by Rudyard Kipling

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    Kim is an orphan, living from hand to mouth in the teeming streets of Lahore. One day he meets a man quite unlike anything in his wide experience, a Tibetan lama on a quest. Kim's life suddenly acq...


  73. 73. Tess of the d'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy

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    Violated by one man, forsaken by another, Tess Durbeyfield is the magnificent and spirited heroine of Thomas Hardy’s immortal work. Of all the great English novelists, no one writes more eloquently...

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  74. 74. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

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    A Tale of Two Cities (1859) is a novel by Charles Dickens, set in London and Paris before and during the French Revolution. With 200 million copies sold, it is the most printed original English boo...


  75. 75. American Pastoral by Philip Roth

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    American Pastoral is a Philip Roth novel concerning Seymour "Swede" Levov, a Jewish-American businessman and former high school athlete from Newark, New Jersey. Levov's happy and conventional upper...


  76. 76. The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert A. Heinlein

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    On Luna - an open penal colony of the twenty-first century - a revolution is being plotted. The conspirators are a strange assortment: an engaging jack-of-all-trades, his luscious blonde girlfriend...

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  77. 77. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

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    At this challenge, Mary Shelley began work on the 'ghost story' that was to evolve into the most celebrated horror novel in literary history. Frankenstein was published the next year and become the...


  78. 78. The Fortress of Solitude by Jonathan Lethem

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    The Fortress of Solitude is a 2003 semi-autobiographical novel by Jonathan Lethem set in Brooklyn and spanning the 1970s, '80s, and '90s. It follows two teenage friends, Dylan Ebdus and Mingus Rude...


  79. 79. Riders of the Purple Sage by Zane Grey

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    The classic Zane Grey that established the modern western tradition.

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  80. 80. Neuromancer by William Gibson

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    The novel tells the story of a washed-up computer hacker hired by a mysterious employer to work on the ultimate hack. Gibson explores artificial intelligence, virtual reality, genetic engineering, ...


  81. 81. Money by Martin Amis

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    Money tells the story of, and is narrated by, John Self, a successful director of commercials who is invited to New York by Fielding Goodney, a film producer, in order to shoot his first film. Self...


  82. 82. The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

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    Hester Prynne is a beautiful young woman. She is also an outcast. In the eyes of her neighbors she has committed an unforgivable sin. Everyone knows that her little daughter, Pearl, is the product ...


  83. 83. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie

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    Agatha Christie's ginius for detective fiction is unparalleled. Her worldwide popularity is phenomenal, her characters engaging, her plots spellbinding. No one knows the human heart—or the dark pas...

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  84. 84. As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner

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    The book is told in stream of consciousness writing style by 15 different narrators in 59 chapters. It is the story of the death of Addie Bundren and her family's quest—noble or selfish—to honor he...


  85. 85. Daisy Miller by Henry James

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    Daisy Miller is a novella by Henry James that first appeared in Cornhill Magazine in June–July 1878, and in book form the following year. It portrays the courtship of the beautiful American girl Da...

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  86. 86. The Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy

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    The Return of the Native is Thomas Hardy's sixth published novel. It first appeared in the magazine Belgravia, a publication known for its sensationalism, and was presented in twelve monthly instal...


  87. 87. Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace

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    The lengthy and complex work takes place in a semi-parodic future version of North America. The novel touches on the topics of tennis, substance addiction and recovery programs, depression, child a...


  88. 88. For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway

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    It tells the story of Robert Jordan, a young American in the International Brigades attached to a communist guerilla unit during the Spanish Civil War. As an expert in the use of explosives, he is ...


  89. 89. The Possessed by Fyodor Dostoevsky

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    The Possessed is an 1872 novel by Fyodor Dostoevsky. Though titled The Possessed in the initial English translation, Dostoevsky scholars and later translations favour the titles The Devils or Demon...


  90. 90. The Death of Ivan Ilyich by Leo Tolstoy

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    The Death of Ivan Ilyich, first published in 1886, is a novella by Leo Tolstoy, one of the masterpieces of his late fiction, written shortly after his conversion to Christianity. The novel tells...


  91. 91. Buddenbrooks by Thomas Mann

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    Buddenbrooks was Thomas Mann's first novel, published in 1901 when he was twenty-six years old. It portrays the downfall (already announced in the subtitle, Decline of a family) of a wealthy mer...


  92. 92. The Kreutzer Sonata: And Other Stories by Leo Tolstoy

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    Renowned Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy was never one to shy away from complex or unpopular ideas. In the title story of this exquisite collection, named for one of Beethoven's most intricate works, ...

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  93. 93. Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

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    Created from two short stories, "Mrs Dalloway in Bond Street" and the unfinished "The Prime Minister", the novel's story is of Clarissa's preparations for a party of which she is to be hostess. Wit...


  94. 94. David Copperfield by Charles Dickens

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    The story of the abandoned waif who learns to survive through challenging encounters with distress and misfortune.


  95. 95. The Spoils of Poynton by Henry James

    Image of The Spoils of Poynton

    The Spoils of Poynton is a novel by Henry James, first published under the title The Old Things as a serial in The Atlantic Monthly in 1896 and then as a book in 1897. This half-length novel descri...

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  96. 96. A Bend in the River by V. S. Naipaul

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    In the "brilliant novel" ("The New York Times) V.S. Naipaul takes us deeply into the life of one man--an Indian who, uprooted by the bloody tides of Third World history, has come to live in an isol...


  97. 97. Dune by Frank Herbert

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    Dune is a science fiction novel written by Frank Herbert, published in 1965. It won the Hugo Award in 1966, and also the inaugural Nebula Award for Best Novel. Dune was also the first bestselling h...


  98. 98. Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy

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    In 1895 Hardy’s final novel, the great tale of Jude the Obscure, sent shock waves of indignation rolling across Victorian England. Hardy had dared to write frankly about sexuality and to indict the...


  99. 99. VALIS by Philip K. Dick

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    “Dick is one of the ten best American writers of the twentieth century, which is saying a lot. Dick was a kind of Kafka steeped in LSD and rage.”—Roberto Bolaño What is VALIS? This question is at t...

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  100. 100. Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon

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    The narrative is set primarily in Europe at the end of World War II and centers on the design, production and dispatch of V-2 rockets by the German military, and, in particular, the quest undertake...


  101. 101. The Man Without Qualities by Robert Musil

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    The Man without Qualities (1930-42) is a novel in three books by the Austrian novelist and essayist Robert Musil. The main issue of this "story of ideas", which takes place in the time of the Au...


  102. 101. The Black Swan by Thomas Mann

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    Thomas Mann's bold and disturbing novella, written in 1952, is the feminine counterpart of his masterpiece Death in Venice. Written from the point of view of a woman in what we might now call mid-l...

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  103. 101. The Leopard by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa

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    The Leopard is a novel by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa that chronicles the changes in Sicilian life and society during the Risorgimento. Published posthumously in 1958, after two rejections by the ...


  104. 101. Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy

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    Blood Meridian, or the Evening Redness in the West is a 1985 Western novel by American author Cormac McCarthy. It was McCarthy's fifth book, and was published by Random House. The narrative foll...