100 Best Novels Written in English by The Guardian

Respected literary critic Robert McCrum selects the definitive 100 novels written in English.

  1. Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan

    Image of Pilgrim's Progress

    One of the most powerful dramas of Christian faith ever written, this captivating allegory of man's religious journey in search of salvation follows the pilgrim as he travels an obstacle-filled roa...


  2. Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe

    Image of Robinson Crusoe

    A shipwreck’s sole escapee, Robinson Crusoe endures 28 years of solitude on a Caribbean island and manages not only to survive but also to prevail. A warm humanity, evocative details of his struggl...


  3. Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift

    Image of Gulliver's Travels

    From the preeminent prose satirist in the English language, a great classic recounting the four remarkable journeys of ship's surgeon Lemuel Gulliver. For children it remains an enchanting fantasy;...


  4. Clarissa by Samuel Richardson

    Image of Clarissa

    It tells the tragic story of a heroine whose quest for virtue is continually thwarted by her family, and is one of the longest novels in the English language.


  5. Tom Jones by Henry Fielding

    Image of Tom Jones

    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...


  6. Tristram Shandy by Laurence Sterne

    Image of Tristram Shandy

    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...


  7. Emma by Jane Austen

    Image of Emma

    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, ...


  8. Nightmare Abbey by Thomas Love Peacock

    Image of Nightmare Abbey

    Nightmare Abbey is a topical satire in which the author pokes light-hearted fun at the romantic movement in contemporary English literature, in particular its obsession with morbid subjects, misant...


  9. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

    Image of Frankenstein

    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...


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

    Image of The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym

    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 ...

    - Google

  11. Sybil: Or The Two Nations by Benjamin Disraeli

    Image of Sybil: Or The Two Nations

    Sybil was written by Benjamin Disraeli, future Prime Minister of Great Britain. He was greatly concerned with the poverty of the working classes, and this novel, with its in-depth exploration of th...

    - Google

  12. Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray

    Image of Vanity Fair

    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...


  13. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

    Image of Jane Eyre

    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...


  14. Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

    Image of Wuthering Heights

    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,...


  15. David Copperfield by Charles Dickens

    Image of David Copperfield

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


  16. The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

    Image of The Scarlet Letter

    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 ...


  17. Moby Dick by Herman Melville

    Image of Moby Dick

    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...


  18. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

    Image of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

    In 1862 Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, a shy Oxford mathematician with a stammer, created a story about a little girl tumbling down a rabbit hole. Thus began the immortal adventures of Alice, perhaps th...


  19. The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins

    Image of The Moonstone

    The Moonstone (1868) by Wilkie Collins is a 19th-century British epistolary novel, generally considered the first detective novel in the English language. The story was originally serialised in Cha...

    - Google

  20. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

    Image of Little Women

    Written and set in the Alcott family home, Orchard House, in Concord, Massachusetts, it was published in two parts in 1868 and 1869. The novel follows the lives of four sisters—Meg, Jo, Beth and Am...


  21. Middlemarch by George Eliot

    Image of Middlemarch

    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...


  22. The Way We Live Now by Anthony Trollope

    Image of The Way We Live Now

    'Trollope did not write for posterity,' observed Henry James. 'He wrote for the day, the moment; but these are just the writers whom posterity is apt to put into its pocket.' Considered by contempo...


  23. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

    Image of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

    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...


  24. Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson

    Image of Kidnapped

    Kidnapped is a historical fiction adventure novel by the Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson. Written as a "boys' novel" and first published in the magazine Young Folks from May to July 1886, th...


  25. Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome

    Image of Three Men in a Boat

    Conceived as a fairly serious guide to amateur boating on the Thames in 1889, Jerome K. Jerome's best-known novel ended up as a hilarious account of the misadventures of three friends and a dog as ...


  26. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

    Image of The Picture of Dorian Gray

    Celebrated novel traces the moral degeneration of a handsome young Londoner from an innocent fop into a cruel and reckless pursuer of pleasure and, ultimately, a murderer. As Dorian Gray sinks into...


  27. The Sign of Four by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

    Image of The Sign of Four

    When an Englishwoman receives mysterious gifts of pearls and a letter promising to right wrongs done to her, she calls upon Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson to investigate.

    - Google

  28. New Grub Street: A Novel by George Gissing

    Image of New Grub Street: A Novel

    New Grub Street is a novel by George Gissing published in 1891, which is set in the literary and journalistic circles of 1880s London. Gissing revised and shortened the novel for a French edition o...

    - Google

  29. Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy

    Image of Jude the Obscure

    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...


  30. The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane

    Image of The Red Badge of Courage

    The Red Badge of Courage is an 1895 war novel by American author Stephen Crane. It is considered one of the most influential works in American literature. The novel, a depiction on the cruelty of t...


  31. Dracula by Bram Stoker

    Image of Dracula

    Dracula is an 1897 novel by Irish author Bram Stoker, featuring as its primary antagonist the vampire Count Dracula. Dracula has been attributed to many literary genres including vampire literat...


  32. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

    Image of Heart of Darkness

    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...


  33. Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser

    Image of Sister Carrie

    When a girl leaves home at eighteen, she does one of two things. Either she falls into saving hands and becomes better, or she rapidly assumes the cosmopolitan standard of virtue and becomes worse....


  34. Kim by Rudyard Kipling

    Image of Kim

    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...


  35. The Call of the Wild by Jack London

    Image of The Call of the Wild

    The plot concerns a previously domesticated and even somewhat pampered dog named Buck, whose primordial instincts return after a series of events finds him serving as a sled dog in the treacherous...


  36. The Golden Bowl by Henry James

    Image of The Golden Bowl

    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...


  37. Hadrian the Seventh by Frederick Rolfe

    Image of Hadrian the Seventh

    One day George Arthur Rose, hack writer and minor priest, discovers that he has been picked to be Pope. He is hardly surprised and not in the least daunted. "The previous English pontiff was Hadria...

    - Google

  38. The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

    Image of The Wind in the Willows

    A classic in children's literature The Wind in the Willow is alternately slow moving and fast paced. The book focuses on four anthropomorphised animal characters in a pastoral version of England. T...


  39. The History of Mr. Polly by H. G. Wells

    Image of The History of Mr. Polly

    The History of Mr. Polly is a 1910 comic novel by H. G. Wells. The novel's principal conflict is Mr. Polly's struggle with life, told "in the full-blooded Dickens tradition." This moral struggle is...

    - Google

  40. Zuleika Dobson by Max Beerbohm

    Image of Zuleika Dobson

    Zuleika Dobson is a highly accomplished and superbly written book whose spirit is farcical," said E. M. Forster. "It is a great work--the most consistent achievement of fantasy in our time . . . so...


  41. Of Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham

    Image of Of Human Bondage

    The first and most autobiographical of Maugham's masterpieces. It is the story of Philip Carey, an orphan eager for life, love and adventure. After a few months studying in Heidelberg, and a brief ...


  42. The Thirty-Nine Steps by John Buchan

    Image of The Thirty-Nine Steps

    In The Thirty-Nine Steps (1915), the best-known of his thrillers (made into a popular movie by Alfred Hitchcock), John Buchan introduces his most enduring hero, Richard Hannay, who, despite claimin...


  43. The Rainbow by D. H. Lawrence

    Image of The Rainbow

    Set in the rural midlands of England, The Rainbow revolves around three generations of the Brangwen family over a period of more than sixty years, setting them against the emergence of modern Engla...


  44. The Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford

    Image of The Good Soldier

    Ford Madox Ford wrote The Good Soldier, the book on which his reputation most surely rests, in deliberate emulation of the nineteenth-century French novels he so admired. In this way he was able to...


  45. The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton

    Image of The Age of Innocence

    The Age of Innocence centers on an upperclass couple's impending marriage, and the introduction of a scandalous woman whose presence threatens their happiness. Though the novel questions the assump...


  46. Babbitt by Sinclair Lewis

    Image of Babbitt

    When Babbitt was first published in 1922, fans gleefully hailed its scathing portrait of a crass, materialistic nation; critics denounced it as an unfair skewering of the American businessman. Spar...


  47. Ulysses by James Joyce

    Image of Ulysses

    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...


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

    Image of A Passage to India

    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...


  49. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

    Image of The Great Gatsby

    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...


  50. Gentlemen Prefer Blondes: The Illuminating Diary of a Professional Lady by Anita Loos

    Image of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes: The Illuminating Diary of a Professional Lady

    The incomparable adventures of Lorelei Lee, a little girl from Little Rock who takes the world by storm. Anita Loos first published the diaries of the ultimate gold-digging blonde in the flapper da...

    - Google

  51. Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

    Image of Mrs. Dalloway

    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...


  52. Lolly Willowes by Sylvia Townsend Warner

    Image of Lolly Willowes

    In Lolly Willowes, Sylvia Townsend Warner tells of an aging spinster's struggle to break way from her controlling family—a classic story that she treats with cool feminist intelligence, while addin...

    - Google

  53. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway

    Image of The Sun Also Rises

    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...


  54. The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett

    Image of The Maltese Falcon

    A treasure worth killing for. Sam Spade, a slightly shopworn private eye with his own solitary code of ethics. A perfumed grafter named Joel Cairo, a fat man name Gutman, and Brigid O’Shaughnessy, ...


  55. As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner

    Image of As I Lay Dying

    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...


  56. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

    Image of Brave New World

    Set in the London of AD 2540 (632 A.F. in the book), the novel anticipates developments in reproductive technology and sleep-learning that combine to change society. The future society is an embod...


  57. Nineteen Nineteen by John Dos Passos

    Image of Nineteen Nineteen

    With 1919, the second volume of his U.S.A. trilogy, John Dos Passos continues his "vigorous and sweeping panorama of twentieth-century America" (Forum), lauded on publication of the first volume no...

    - Google

  58. Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons

    Image of Cold Comfort Farm

    When sensible, sophisticated Flora Poste is orphaned at nineteen, she decides her only choice is to descend upon relatives in deepest Sussex. At the aptly named Cold Comfort Farm, she meets the doo...

    - Google

  59. Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller

    Image of Tropic of Cancer

    Set in France (primarily Paris) during the 1930s, it is the tale of Miller's life as a struggling writer. Combining fiction and autobiography, some chapters follow a strict narrative and refer to M...


  60. Scoop by Evelyn Waugh

    Image of Scoop

    In Scoop, surreptitiously dubbed "a newspaper adventure," Waugh flays Fleet Street and the social pastimes of its war correspondants as he tells how William Boot became the star of British super-jo...


  61. Murphy by Samuel Beckett

    Image of Murphy

    Edited by J. C. C. Mays Murphy, Samuel Beckett's first novel, was published in 1938. Its work-shy eponymous hero, adrift in London, realises that desire can never be satisfied and withdraws from li...

    - Google

  62. At Swim Two-Birds by Flann O'Brien

    Image of At Swim Two-Birds

    At Swim-Two-Birds is a 1939 novel by Irish author Brian O'Nolan, writing under the pseudonym Flann O'Brien. It is widely considered to be O'Brien's masterpiece, and one of the most sophisticated ex...


  63. The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler

    Image of The Big Sleep

    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...


  64. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

    Image of The Grapes of Wrath

    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 ...


  65. Party Going by Henry Green

    Image of Party Going

    A group of rich, spoiled and idle young people heading off on a winter holiday are stranded at a railway station when their train is delayed by thick, enclosing fog. PARTY GOING describes their fou...

    - Google

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

    Image of The Catcher in the Rye

    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...


  67. All the King's Men by Robert Penn Warren

    Image of All the King's Men

    All the King's Men portrays the dramatic political ascent and governorship of Willie Stark, a driven, cynical populist in the American South during the 1930s.


  68. Joy in the Morning by P. G. Wodehouse

    Image of Joy in the Morning

    “To dive into a Wodehouse novel is to swim in some of the most elegantly turned phrases in the English language.”—Ben Schott Follow the adventures of Bertie Wooster and his gentleman’s gentleman, J...

    - Google

  69. Under the Volcano by Malcolm Lowry

    Image of Under the Volcano

    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

  70. The Heat of the Day by Elizabeth Bowen

    Image of The Heat of the Day

    Set in war-time London, this book is probably the nearest thing to a novel of suspense that Elizabeth Bowen has written. All the elements of a thriller are here, but what Bowen makes of them is an ...

    - Google

  71. Nineteen Eighty Four by George Orwell

    Image of Nineteen Eighty Four

    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...


  72. The End of the Affair by Graham Greene

    Image of The End of the Affair

    The End of the Affair (1951) is a novel by British author Graham Greene, as well as the title of two feature films (released in 1955 and 1999) that were adapted for the screen based on the novel. ...


  73. The Adventures of Augie March by Saul Bellow

    Image of The Adventures of Augie March

    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,...


  74. Lord of the Flies by William Golding

    Image of Lord of the Flies

    Lord of the Flies discusses how culture created by man fails, using as an example a group of British schoolboys stuck on a deserted island who try to govern themselves, but with disastrous results....


  75. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

    Image of Lolita

    The book is internationally famous for its innovative style and infamous for its controversial subject: the protagonist and unreliable narrator, middle aged Humbert Humbert, becomes obsessed and se...


  76. On the Road by Jack Kerouac

    Image of On the Road

    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...


  77. Voss by Patrick White

    Image of Voss

    Set in nineteenth-century Australia, a sweeping novel about a secret passion between the explorer Voss and the young orphan Laura. As Voss is tested by hardship, mutiny, and betrayal during his cro...

    - Google