Finest Works of Fiction by Martin Seymour-Smith and Editors

In Novels and Novelists, A Guide to the World of Fiction (1980) Seymour-Smith and the other contributors selected about 55 works of fiction as receiving full marks on the four criteria used for evaluation: Readability, Characterization, Plot, and Literary Merit. These represent, for the contributors, the finest works of fiction that have been written.

  1. Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio

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    In the early summer of the year 1348, as a terrible plague ravages the city, ten charming young Florentines take refuge in country villas to tell each other stories — a hundred stories of love, adv...


  2. 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...


  3. Amelia by Henry Fielding

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    Amelia is a sentimental novel written by Henry Fielding and published in December 1751. It was the fourth and final novel written by Fielding, and it was printed in only one edition while the autho...

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  4. Moll Flanders by Daniel Defoe

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    The Fortunes & Misfortunes of the Famous Moll Flanders Who was Born in Newgate, and during a Life of continu'd Variety for Threescore Years, besides her Childhood, was Twelve Year a Whore, five tim...

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  5. 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...


  6. 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, ...


  7. Adolphe by Benjamin Constant

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    Adolphe is a privileged and refined young man, bored by the stupidity he perceives in the world around him. After a number of meaningless conquests, he at last encounters Ellenore, a beautiful and ...

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  8. A Hero of Our Time by Mikhail Lermontov

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    A Hero of Our Time is a novel by Mikhail Lermontov published in 1840. It tells the story of a young officer, Pechorin, sent to the Caucasus after a duel. This is what the author himself wrote about...

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  9. Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol

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    Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol, Russian writer, was first published in 1842, and is one of the most prominent works of 19th-century Russian literature. Gogol himself saw it as an "epic poem in prose",...


  10. The Betrothed by Alessandro Manzoni

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    The Betrothed is an Italian historical novel by Alessandro Manzoni, first published in 1827, in three volumes. It has been called the most famous and widely read novel of the Italian language. S...


  11. Fairy Tales and Stories by Hans Christian Anderson

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    a Danish author and poet noted for his children's stories. These include "The Steadfast Tin Soldier", "The Snow Queen", "The Little Mermaid", "Thumbelina", "The Little Match Girl", and the "The Ugl...


  12. Cousin Bette by Honoré de Balzac

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    La Cousine Bette (English: Cousin Betty or Cousin Bette) is an 1846 novel by French author Honoré de Balzac. Set in mid-19th century Paris, it tells the story of an unmarried middle-aged woman who ...


  13. 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,...


  14. The Blithedale Romance by Nathaniel Hawthorne

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    The Blithedale Romance (1852) is Nathaniel Hawthorne's third major romance. In Hawthorne (1879), Henry James called it "the lightest, the brightest, the liveliest" of Hawthorne's "unhumorous fictio...

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  15. Oblomov by Ivan Goncharov

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    Oblomov is the best known novel by Russian writer Ivan Goncharov, first published in 1859. Oblomov is also the central character of the novel, often seen as the ultimate incarnation of the superflu...


  16. The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot

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    The Mill on the Floss is a novel by George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans), first published in three volumes in 1860 by William Blackwood. The first American edition was published by Thomas Y. Crowell Co., ...


  17. 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...


  18. 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...


  19. 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...


  20. 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...


  21. A Sentimental Education by Gustave Flaubert

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    The novel describes the life of a young man (Frederic Moreau) living through the revolution of 1848 and the founding of the Second French Empire, and his love for an older woman (based on the wife ...


  22. 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...


  23. 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...


  24. 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...


  25. 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...


  26. 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...


  27. The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy

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    Thomas Hardy's first masterpiece, The Mayor of Casterbridge opens with a scene of such heartlessness and cruelty that it still shocks readers today. A poor workman named Michael Henchard, in a fit ...

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  28. The Maias: Episodes from Romantic Life by Eça de Queirós

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    Carlos, heir to a great fortune, becomes a doctor and drifts along spending time at the theater, reading, and having affairs, until he falls deeply in love but has to hide a terrible secret.

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  29. Mysteries by Knut Hamsun

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    The eccentric behavior of a stranger brings excitement to a quiet Norwegian town.

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  30. 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...


  31. The Confusions of Young Törless by Robert Musil

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    'between the life we live and the life we feel...there is the invisible border, like a narrow gate' Set in a boarding school in a remote area of the Habsburg Empire at the turn of the last century,...

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  32. 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...


  33. The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka

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    The Metamorphosis (German: Die Verwandlung) is a novella by Franz Kafka, first published in 1915. It is often cited as one of the seminal works of short fiction of the 20th century and is widely st...


  34. We by Yevgeny Zamyatin

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    Translated by Natasha Randall Foreword by Bruce Sterling Written in 1921, We is set in the One State, where all live for the collective good and individual freedom does not exist. The novel takes t...

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  35. Confessions of Zeno by Italo Svevo

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    Zeno's Conscience is a novel by Italian businessman and author Italo Svevo. The main character is Zeno Cosini and the book is the fictional character's memoirs that he keeps at the insistence of hi...


  36. A Passage to India by E.M. Forster

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    A Passage to India is set against the backdrop of the British Raj and the Indian independence movement in the 1920s. The story revolves around four characters: Dr. Aziz, his British friend Cyril Fi...


  37. An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser

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    Clyde Griffiths is a young man with ambitions. He's in love with a rich girl, but it's a poor girl he has gotten pregnant, Roberta Alden, who works with him at his uncle's factory. One day he takes...

    - Time

  38. The Castle by Franz Kafka

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    The Castle is a novel by Franz Kafka. In it a protagonist, known only as K., struggles to gain access to the mysterious authorities of a castle who govern the village where he wants to work as a la...


  39. The Fortunes Of Richard Mahony by Henry Handel Richardson

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    Richard Mahony is a restless man. Ballarat, England, Melbourne, Europe, the bush: elsewhere is always better. Searching for a place, a meaning, a life, Mahony and his wife Mary journey from wealth ...

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  40. 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...


  41. 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,...


  42. The Complete Works of Nathanael West by Nathanael West

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    Nathanael West, born Nathan Weinstein (October 17, 1903 – December 22, 1940), was an American author, screenwriter and satirist. - Wikipedia

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  43. The Man Who Loved Children by Christina Stead

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    The novel tells the story of a highly dysfunctional family, the Pollits. The story centers on the family's impoverishment, the failure of the father Sam to provide for them, the parents' marital ba...


  44. Under the Volcano by Malcolm Lowry

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    To describe his perennial theme, Lowry once borrowed the words of the critic Edmund Wilson: "the forces in man which cause him to be terrified of himself." You see exactly what he means in this cor...

    - Time

  45. The Moon and the Bonfires by Cesare Pavese

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    An orphan rescued from death by a farm family returns to Italy from America after World War II with money in his pockets, but wealth cannot protect him from the harsh realities of life. Original.

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  46. The Go-Between by L.P. Hartley

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    “The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.” Summering with a fellow schoolboy on a great English estate, Leo, the hero of L. P. Hartley’s finest novel, encounters a world of ...

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  47. Gimpel the Fool by Isaac B Singer

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    "Gimpel the Fool" (1953) is a short story by Isaac Bashevis Singer, translated into English by Saul Bellow in 1953. It tells the story of Gimpel, a simple bread maker who is the butt of many of his...


  48. The Loneliness of the Long-distance Runner by Alan Sillitoe

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    In the title story, a boy is made into a distance runner when he arrives at reform school. As he remembers the botched robbery that placed him in custody, he begins to wonder just who he is running...

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  49. The Stories of Anton Chekhov by Anton Chekhov

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    Anton Pavlovich Chekhov was a Russian short-story writer, playwright and physician, considered to be one of the greatest short-story writers in the history of world literature. His career as a dram...


  50. Collected Stories by William Somerset Maugham

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    Thirty-one short stories which provide a rich view of Maugham's prolific talent, wide-ranging vision, and engaging style.

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  51. 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...


  52. Humboldt's Gift by Saul Bellow

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    Humboldt's Gift is a 1975 novel by Saul Bellow, which won the 1976 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and contributed to Bellow's winning the Nobel Prize in Literature the same year. The novel, which Bell...


  53. The Seance and Other Stories by Isaac Bashevis Singer

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    Translated by from Yiddish by Roger H. Klein and others.

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  54. Short Friday: And Other Stories by Isaac Bashevis Singer

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    Isaac Bashevis Singer (Yiddish: יצחק באַשעװיס זינגער; November 21, 1902 – July 24, 1991) was a Polish-born Jewish-American author. The Polish form of his birth name was Izaak Zynger and he used his...

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  55. The Selected Works of Cesare Pavese by Cesare Pavese

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    "There is only one pleasure, that of being alive. All the rest is misery," wrote Cesare Pavese, whose short, intense life spanned the ordeals of fascism and World War II to witness the beginnings o...

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