Le Monde's 100 Books of the Century

This is one of the 305 lists we use to generate our main The Greatest Books list.

  • The Stranger by Albert Camus

    The narrative follows a man who, after the death of his mother, falls into a routine of indifference and emotional detachment, leading him to commit an act of violence on a sun-drenched beach. His subsequent trial becomes less about the act itself and more about his inability to conform to societal norms and expectations, ultimately exploring themes of existentialism, absurdism, and the human condition.

    The 31st Greatest Book of All Time
  • In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust

    This renowned novel is a sweeping exploration of memory, love, art, and the passage of time, told through the narrator's recollections of his childhood and experiences into adulthood in the late 19th and early 20th century aristocratic France. The narrative is notable for its lengthy and intricate involuntary memory episodes, the most famous being the "madeleine episode". It explores the themes of time, space and memory, but also raises questions about the nature of art and literature, and the complex relationships between love, sexuality, and possession.

    The 6th Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Trial by Franz Kafka

    The book revolves around a bank clerk who wakes one morning to find himself under arrest for an unspecified crime. Despite not being detained, he is subjected to the psychological torment of a bizarre and nightmarish judicial process. The story is a critique of bureaucracy, exploring themes of guilt, alienation and the inefficiency of the justice system.

    The 39th Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

    A young prince from a tiny asteroid embarks on a journey across the universe, visiting various planets and meeting their strange inhabitants. Along the way, he learns about the follies and absurdities of the adult world, the nature of friendship, and the importance of retaining a childlike wonder and curiosity. His journey eventually leads him to Earth, where he befriends a fox and learns about love and loss before finally returning to his asteroid.

    The 62nd Greatest Book of All Time
  • Man's Fate by Andre Malraux

    Set in 1920s Shanghai during a time of political upheaval, the novel explores the existential themes of life, death, and the human condition through the experiences of a group of revolutionaries. The narrative follows their struggles and sacrifices for their cause, the Communist revolution, and their inevitable confrontation with their own mortality and the harsh realities of life. The book delves into the complexities of political ideologies, human relationships and the constant struggle between hope and despair.

    The 247th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Journey to the End of The Night by Louis-Ferdinand Céline

    The novel is a semi-autobiographical work that explores the harsh realities of life through the cynical and disillusioned eyes of the protagonist. The narrative follows his experiences from the trenches of World War I, through the African jungles, to the streets of America and the slums of Paris, showcasing the horrors of war, colonialism, and the dark side of human nature. The protagonist's journey is marked by his struggle with despair, loneliness, and the absurdity of existence, offering a bleak yet profound commentary on the human condition.

    The 124th Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

    The book follows the Joad family, Oklahoma farmers displaced from their land during the Great Depression. The family, alongside thousands of other "Okies," travel to California in search of work and a better life. Throughout their journey, they face numerous hardships and injustices, yet maintain their humanity through unity and shared sacrifice. The narrative explores themes of man's inhumanity to man, the dignity of wrath, and the power of family and friendship, offering a stark and moving portrayal of the harsh realities of American migrant laborers during the 1930s.

    The 15th Greatest Book of All Time
  • For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway

    Set in the backdrop of the Spanish Civil War, the novel follows the story of an American dynamiter, who is assigned the task of blowing up a bridge during a crucial attack on the city of Segovia. Alongside the war narrative, the story also explores his relationships with various characters, including his love affair with a young Spanish woman. The narrative beautifully encapsulates themes of love, war, death, and the transient nature of life.

    The 79th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Le Grand Meaulnes by Henri Alain-Fournier

    The novel centers around a mysterious and charismatic adolescent, Augustin Meaulnes, who arrives at a rural school in Sologne, France, and quickly becomes the focus of intrigue among his peers. The story is narrated by his friend, François Seurel, who recounts the adventures that ensue when Meaulnes stumbles upon a surreal estate where a lavish party is taking place, leading him to meet and fall for the enchanting Yvonne de Galais. The tale weaves themes of lost love, yearning, and the painful transition from the innocence of childhood to the complexities of adulthood, as Meaulnes becomes obsessed with finding the estate and Yvonne again, embarking on a quest that will profoundly affect all involved.

    The 549th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Froth on the daydream by Boris Vian

    "Froth on the Daydream" is a tragic love story set in a surreal world. The protagonist is a wealthy young man who marries a woman he loves deeply. However, their bliss is short-lived when she develops a strange illness - a water lily growing in her lung. As her health deteriorates, so does their wealth and social standing, leading to a bleak and heartbreaking end. This novel is a poignant exploration of love, loss, and the harsh realities of life, all set within a fantastical and dreamlike landscape.

    The 934th Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir

    This influential work explores the treatment and perception of women throughout history, arguing that women have been repressed and defined only in relation to men. The author presents a detailed analysis of women's roles in society, family, work, and in the creation of their own identities. She discusses the concept of 'the other' and how this has been used to suppress women, while also examining the biological, psychological, and societal impacts of this oppression. The book is a seminal text in feminist theory, challenging traditional notions of femininity and calling for equality and freedom for women.

    The 130th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett

    "Waiting for Godot" is a play that explores themes of existentialism, despair, and the human condition through the story of two characters, Vladimir and Estragon, who wait endlessly for a man named Godot, who never arrives. While they wait, they engage in a variety of discussions and encounter three other characters. The play is characterized by its minimalistic setting and lack of a traditional plot, leaving much to interpretation.

    The 96th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Being and Nothingness by Jean Paul Sartre

    This philosophical work delves into the concept of existentialism and phenomenology, offering an in-depth analysis of human consciousness and existence. The author argues that we are all essentially free and responsible for our actions, and that we construct our own identities through our actions and interactions with others. The book also explores the idea of 'nothingness' and 'bad faith', suggesting that we often deny our freedom and hide from the responsibility of our actions, leading to a life of inauthenticity.

    The 630th Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco

    Set in a wealthy Italian monastery in the 14th century, the novel follows a Franciscan friar and his young apprentice as they investigate a series of mysterious deaths within the monastery. As they navigate the labyrinthine library and decipher cryptic manuscripts, they uncover a complex plot involving forbidden books, secret societies, and the Inquisition. The novel is a blend of historical fiction, mystery, and philosophical exploration, delving into themes of truth, knowledge, and the power of the written word.

    The 108th Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Gulag Archipelago by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

    "The Gulag Archipelago" is a comprehensive and stark account of the Soviet Union's forced labor camp system. The narrative, based on the author's own experiences as a prisoner and on extensive research, documents the history, operation, and life inside the Gulag system. It also provides a critical examination of the regime's legal system, police operations, and political leadership. The book is an intense indictment of the Soviet Union's totalitarian regime, revealing its brutality, inhumanity, and vast scale of its prison camp network.

    The 193rd Greatest Book of All Time
  • Words by Jacques Prévert

    "Words" is a comprehensive collection of poems that delve into the beauty, complexity, and power of language. The author uses simple, everyday language to explore profound themes such as love, loss, and the human condition. The book also includes a series of vignettes that offer insight into the author's view of the world, each one a testament to his belief in the transformative power of words. The poems are both accessible and deeply moving, making this collection a must-read for anyone interested in contemporary poetry.

    The 3439th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Alcools by Guillaume Apollinaire

    "Alcools" is a collection of poems that explores various themes such as love, loss, and the passage of time. The work is notable for its innovative use of form and syntax, often eschewing traditional punctuation and capitalization. The poems are rich in imagery and symbolism, drawing on a wide range of influences from mythology to modern urban life. The collection is considered a landmark of modernist literature, reflecting the author's unique vision and distinctive poetic voice.

    The 1246th Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Blue Lotus by Hergé

    In "The Blue Lotus," a young reporter is sent on a mission to Shanghai during the Sino-Japanese War, where he uncovers a dangerous opium trafficking operation. Along the way, he befriends a Chinese boy who helps him navigate the cultural and political complexities of the region. The story combines elements of adventure, mystery, and political intrigue, set against the backdrop of historical events.

    The 3441st Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

    This book is a real-life account of a young Jewish girl hiding from the Nazis during World War II, written in diary format. The girl and her family are forced to live in a secret annex in Amsterdam for two years, during which she writes about her experiences, fears, dreams, and the onset of adolescence. The diary provides a poignant and deeply personal insight into the horrors of the Holocaust, making it a powerful testament to the human spirit.

    The 60th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Tristes Tropiques by Claude Lévi-Strauss

    "Tristes Tropiques" is a blend of autobiography, travel literature, and anthropology by a renowned scholar. The book is a recounting of the author's travels and anthropological work, primarily in Brazil, in the 1930s. It provides a critical and philosophical reflection on his experiences and observations, offering insights into indigenous tribes like the Nambikwara and Tupi-Kawahib, and exploring themes of cultural change, the nature of anthropology, and the author's own disillusionment with Western civilization.

    The 824th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

    Set in a dystopian future, the novel explores a society where human beings are genetically bred and pharmaceutically conditioned to serve in a ruling order. The society is divided into five castes, each with its specific roles. The narrative follows a savage who rejects the norms of this new world order and struggles to navigate the clash between the values of his upbringing and the reality of this technologically advanced, emotionless society. His resistance prompts a deep examination of the nature of freedom, individuality, and happiness.

    The 42nd Greatest Book of All Time
  • Nineteen Eighty Four by George Orwell

    Set in a dystopian future, the novel presents a society under the total control of a totalitarian regime, led by the omnipresent Big Brother. The protagonist, a low-ranking member of 'the Party', begins to question the regime and falls in love with a woman, an act of rebellion in a world where independent thought, dissent, and love are prohibited. The novel explores themes of surveillance, censorship, and the manipulation of truth.

    The 5th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Asterix the Gaul by Rene Goscinny

    In this comic book, a small Gaulish village in ancient France resists Roman occupation with the help of a magic potion that gives them superhuman strength. The story revolves around the adventures of a brave and clever warrior and his lovable, hefty sidekick. Their adventures are filled with humor, satire, and historical references, as they outwit their Roman adversaries and protect their village from various threats.

    The 1854th Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Bald Soprano by Eugène Ionesco

    "The Bald Soprano" is a play that explores the absurdity of everyday life through a nonsensical narrative. It revolves around two middle-class English couples, the Smiths and the Martins, who engage in meaningless and repetitive conversations. The play is known for its unconventional structure, lack of plot, and the characters' surreal behavior, which are all used to satirize the banality and futility of routine and social norms. The title refers to a character who is never seen or mentioned again after the opening scene.

    The 1558th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality by Sigmund Freud

    This book is a seminal work that presents the author's theories on human sexuality, including his concept of sexual development through psychosexual stages. It explores topics such as the sexual aberrations, infantile sexuality, and the transformation of puberty. The author argues that sexual drive is present from birth, and that children go through several stages of sexual development. He also discusses the idea of sexual perversions and their origins. This book is considered a foundational text in the field of psychoanalysis.

    The 1207th Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Abyss by Marguerite Yourcenar

    "The Abyss" is a historical novel set in the 16th century that follows the life of Zeno, a physician, philosopher, and scientist. The narrative explores Zeno's journey from his birth in Bruges to his travels across Europe, his experiences during the Inquisition, and his ultimate death in Constantinople. The book delves into the intellectual and spiritual challenges of the Renaissance era, providing a profound exploration of the human condition, the quest for knowledge, and the struggle between faith and reason.

    The 2005th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

    The novel tells the story of Humbert Humbert, a man with a disturbing obsession for young girls, or "nymphets" as he calls them. His obsession leads him to engage in a manipulative and destructive relationship with his 12-year-old stepdaughter, Lolita. The narrative is a controversial exploration of manipulation, obsession, and unreliable narration, as Humbert attempts to justify his actions and feelings throughout the story.

    The 7th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Ulysses by James Joyce

    Set in Dublin, the novel follows a day in the life of Leopold Bloom, an advertising salesman, as he navigates the city. The narrative, heavily influenced by Homer's Odyssey, explores themes of identity, heroism, and the complexities of everyday life. It is renowned for its stream-of-consciousness style and complex structure, making it a challenging but rewarding read.

    The 3rd Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Tartar Steppe by Dino Buzzati

    The novel follows a young officer who spends his entire life waiting for an attack that never comes at a remote desert outpost. The protagonist's life is consumed by the monotonous routine and the fear of the unknown, reflecting on the human condition and the dread of the passage of time. The desert symbolizes the emptiness and futility of life, while the constant anticipation of a foreign invasion that never happens represents the anxiety and fear of death.

    The 327th Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Counterfeiters by André Gide

    "The Counterfeiters" is a complex novel that explores themes of authenticity, morality, and identity, primarily through the lens of a group of friends in Paris. The story revolves around a series of counterfeit coins, which serve as a metaphor for the characters' struggles with their own authenticity and self-perception. The narrative also delves into the lives of the characters, their relationships, personal struggles, and their journey towards self-discovery. The book is noted for its non-linear structure and metafictional elements, with the author himself being a character in the story.

    The 262nd Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Horseman on the Roof by Jean Giono

    "The Horseman on the Roof" is a historical novel set in 19th century France during a cholera epidemic. The story revolves around an Italian nobleman who is a member of a secret revolutionary group. He is forced to flee his homeland due to political turmoil and ends up in Provence, where he encounters and falls in love with a beautiful woman. As he travels through the plague-ridden countryside, he faces various trials and struggles, reflecting on the nature of honor, duty, and love.

    The 2331st Greatest Book of All Time
  • Belle du Seigneur by Albert Cohen

    "Belle du Seigneur" is a tragic love story set in the 1930s, revolving around a high-ranking Jewish official who works for the League of Nations and his passionate affair with a married Swiss aristocrat. The narrative delves deep into their intense relationship, exploring themes of obsession, self-destruction, and existential despair, all set against the backdrop of the impending Second World War. The novel is also notable for its satirical portrayal of diplomatic life and its exploration of Jewish identity.

    The 1149th Greatest Book of All Time
  • One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez

    This novel is a multi-generational saga that focuses on the Buendía family, who founded the fictional town of Macondo. It explores themes of love, loss, family, and the cyclical nature of history. The story is filled with magical realism, blending the supernatural with the ordinary, as it chronicles the family's experiences, including civil war, marriages, births, and deaths. The book is renowned for its narrative style and its exploration of solitude, fate, and the inevitability of repetition in history.

    The Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner

    The novel is a complex exploration of the tragic Compson family from the American South. Told from four distinct perspectives, the story unfolds through stream of consciousness narratives, each revealing their own understanding of the family's decline. The characters grapple with post-Civil War societal changes, personal loss, and their own mental instability. The narrative is marked by themes of time, innocence, and the burdens of the past.

    The 21st Greatest Book of All Time
  • Thérèse Desqueyroux by François Mauriac

    The novel revolves around the life of Thérèse Desqueyroux, a woman trapped in a loveless marriage in rural France. She is married to Bernard for the sake of property and wealth, not love. Feeling suffocated by the societal expectations and her husband's domination, Thérèse tries to poison Bernard. However, her plan fails and she is acquitted due to lack of evidence. The rest of the novel explores Thérèse's introspection, her struggle with guilt, and her quest for redemption and freedom.

    The 1330th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Zazie in the Metro by Raymond Queneau

    A young, precocious girl named Zazie comes to Paris to stay with her flamboyant uncle, a professional female impersonator. She is obsessed with riding the Metro, but a strike thwarts her plans. As she explores the city on her own, she encounters a variety of eccentric characters, gets into mischief, and ultimately causes chaos in the city. The novel is a humorous and satirical look at Parisian life, filled with word play and surreal elements.

    The 734th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Confusion by Stefan Zweig

    "Confusion" is a compelling narrative that explores the intense and passionate relationship between a student and his charismatic professor. Set in the early 20th century, the story unfolds as the protagonist becomes entangled in the professor's personal life, discovering his mentor's secret past, his struggling marriage, and his hidden homosexual desires. The book presents a profound exploration of human emotions, identity, and the complexities of love, against the backdrop of the societal norms of the time.

    The 2016th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

    Set against the backdrop of the American Civil War and Reconstruction era, this novel follows the life of a young Southern belle, who is known for her beauty and charm. Her life takes a turn when she is forced to make drastic changes to survive the war and its aftermath. The story revolves around her struggle to maintain her family's plantation and her complicated love life, especially her unrequited love for a married man, and her tumultuous relationship with a roguish blockade runner.

    The 47th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Lady Chatterley's Lover by D. H. Lawrence

    "Lady Chatterley's Lover" is a controversial novel that explores themes of class, sexuality, and the human condition. The story revolves around a young, upper-class woman married to a paralyzed war veteran who, feeling emotionally and physically neglected, embarks on a passionate affair with the estate's gamekeeper. The narrative delves into the protagonist's sexual awakening and her struggle against societal norms, ultimately advocating for emotional honesty and physical intimacy as essential components of a fulfilling life.

    The 184th Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann

    In this novel, the protagonist, a young, ordinary man, visits his cousin at a tuberculosis sanatorium in the Swiss Alps. Intending to stay for only a few weeks, he ends up remaining there for seven years, becoming a patient himself. The book explores his experiences and relationships with other patients and staff, delving into philosophical discussions on life, time, and the nature of disease. It also provides a vivid portrayal of the European society and intellectual life on the eve of World War I.

    The 43rd Greatest Book of All Time
  • Bonjour Tristesse by Francoise Sagan

    This novel centers around a 17-year-old girl living with her playboy father in the French Riviera. The pair lead a carefree, hedonistic lifestyle until the father decides to remarry, causing the protagonist to hatch a plan to prevent the marriage and return to their old way of life. The story explores themes of youth, love, and the struggle between desire and morality.

    The 396th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Silence de la Mer by Vercors

    The novel is set during the German occupation of France in World War II and tells the story of an older man and his niece who are forced to host a German officer in their home. The pair respond to their unwanted guest by maintaining a strict silence, refusing to engage in conversation with him. Despite their resistance, the German officer, who is cultured and sophisticated, shares his love of French culture and his hopes for a peaceful Europe. The story explores themes of resistance, occupation, and the power of silence.

    The 3604th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Life, a User's Manual by Georges Perec

    The novel explores the lives of the inhabitants of a Parisian apartment block through a complex, multi-layered narrative. It delves into the interconnected stories of the building's residents, revealing their secrets, desires, and disappointments. The narrative is structured like a puzzle, with the author employing a variety of literary styles and devices, making it a complex and intriguing exploration of human life.

    The 451st Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle

    This classic mystery novel follows a detective and his partner as they investigate a supernatural hound that has been haunting the Baskerville family for generations, supposedly causing the death of the recent family head. As the pair navigate the eerie moors surrounding the Baskerville estate, they unravel a plot of deception and murder, all while trying to protect the new heir from the same grisly fate. The story is a thrilling blend of mystery, suspense, and horror.

    The 122nd Greatest Book of All Time
  • Under Satan's Sun by Georges Bernanos

    "Under Satan's Sun" is a gripping narrative set in the rural French countryside, where a young, idealistic priest struggles with his faith and the harsh realities of his parishioners' lives. He battles against alcoholism, loneliness, and the indifference of his congregation. The novel explores the themes of faith, despair, and redemption, offering a profound and introspective look into the human condition and the challenges of spiritual leadership.

    The 1166th Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

    Set in the summer of 1922, the novel follows the life of a young and mysterious millionaire, his extravagant lifestyle in Long Island, and his obsessive love for a beautiful former debutante. As the story unfolds, the millionaire's dark secrets and the corrupt reality of the American dream during the Jazz Age are revealed. The narrative is a critique of the hedonistic excess and moral decay of the era, ultimately leading to tragic consequences.

    The 2nd Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Joke by Milan Kundera

    "The Joke" follows the life of Ludvik Jahn, a man expelled from the Czechoslovak Communist Party, his university, and the army for a harmless joke he sends in a postcard to a girlfriend. The narrative explores his life before, during, and after his punishment, and his attempts to exact revenge on those who wronged him. Set against the backdrop of the Prague Spring and the Soviet Invasion, the novel delves into the themes of political satire, the absurdity of totalitarianism, and the individual's struggle against an impersonal and oppressive system.

    The 1397th Greatest Book of All Time
  • A Ghost at Noon by Alberto Moravia

    A Ghost at Noon is a tale of a troubled marriage set against the backdrop of Rome and Capri. The story follows a screenplay writer who is struggling with his failing marriage and the production of his new film. As his wife becomes infatuated with their young guide in Capri, the writer becomes increasingly paranoid and jealous, ultimately leading to the collapse of their relationship. The narrative parallels the story of Homer's Odyssey, which the protagonist is adapting for the screen, adding another layer of complexity to the story.

    The 1493rd Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie

    In a small English village, a wealthy man named Roger Ackroyd is found dead, stabbed with a dagger. The victim's friend, a retired detective, comes out of retirement to solve the murder. The detective uncovers a web of deceit, blackmail, and hidden relationships among the victim's family and employees. The shocking twist ending reveals the unlikely murderer and the ingenious method used to commit the crime.

    The 261st Greatest Book of All Time
  • Nadja by André Breton

    The novel is a surrealistic exploration of the narrator's relationship with a young woman named Nadja. As the narrator becomes infatuated with Nadja, their encounters become more and more dreamlike. The book delves into the nature of reality and the power of the subconscious mind, blurring the lines between dreams and reality. It is also a commentary on the socio-political climate of Paris in the early 20th century, showcasing the author's views on art, life, and love.

    The 758th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Aurélien by Louis Aragon

    "Aurélien" is a novel set in post-World War I Paris, following the life of the protagonist, a war veteran, who falls in love with a woman he sees in a café. However, the woman is already engaged to a friend of his, leading to a tumultuous love triangle. The book explores themes of love, war, and the struggle of the human condition, presenting a vivid picture of the social and political landscape of Paris during the 1920s.

    The 2032nd Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Satin Slipper by Paul Claudel

    "The Satin Slipper" is a complex and symbolic narrative that explores the themes of love, faith, and destiny. Set in the 16th century, the story revolves around two characters, a Spanish conquistador and a married lady of the Spanish court, who are deeply in love but are kept apart by their respective duties and responsibilities. Their love story is intertwined with historical events and mythical elements, creating a rich tapestry of human emotions and spiritual contemplations.

    The 2033rd Greatest Book of All Time
  • Six Characters in Search of an Author by Luigi Pirandello

    In this metatheatrical play, six characters come to life and demand that a theater director tell their tragic story, which was left incomplete by their author. As the director and his actors interact with these characters, the boundaries between fiction and reality blur, leading to a philosophical exploration of the nature of human identity, the reliability of art, and the unreliability of perception. The characters' story, involving a complex web of familial relationships, adultery, and suicide, further complicates the narrative, challenging the audience's understanding of truth and illusion.

    The 608th Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui by Bertolt Brecht

    "The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui" is a satirical play that uses the rise of a fictional 1930s Chicago mobster, Arturo Ui, to parallel the rise of Adolf Hitler in Nazi Germany. The narrative is a critique of those who allowed Hitler to come to power, emphasizing that his rise was indeed resistible. The play explores themes of power, corruption, manipulation, and the dangers of complacency, showcasing the destructive potential of unchecked ambition and the failure of society to prevent the ascent of dangerous individuals.

    The 1725th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Friday by Michel Tournier

    The novel tells the story of Robinson, a European man who becomes the sole survivor of a shipwreck on a remote tropical island. He attempts to create a civilization in his image, but his efforts are largely unsuccessful. When a native named Friday eventually arrives on the island, Robinson attempts to teach him his ways. However, Friday, who is free-spirited and in tune with nature, fundamentally challenges Robinson's worldview. The novel explores themes of colonialism, the nature of civilization, and the tension between individual freedom and societal order.

    The 2361st Greatest Book of All Time
  • War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells

    This classic science fiction novel tells the story of a Martian invasion of Earth, as experienced by an unnamed protagonist and his brother. The Martians, who are technologically far superior to humans, cause widespread devastation with their heat-ray weapons and towering tripods. Despite humanity's best efforts to resist, they seem unstoppable. The novel is a commentary on British imperialism and explores themes of human survival and evolution.

    The 220th Greatest Book of All Time
  • If This Is a Man by Primo Levi

    This book is a deeply moving and insightful memoir of a survivor of Auschwitz, a Nazi concentration camp during World War II. The author, an Italian Jew, provides a detailed account of his life in the camp, the brutal conditions, the dehumanization, and the struggle for survival. The narrative is a profound exploration of the human spirit, resilience, and the will to live, despite unimaginable horror and suffering. It also raises profound questions about humanity, morality, and the capacity for evil.

    The 251st Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien

    This epic high-fantasy novel centers around a modest hobbit who is entrusted with the task of destroying a powerful ring that could enable the dark lord to conquer the world. Accompanied by a diverse group of companions, the hobbit embarks on a perilous journey across Middle-earth, battling evil forces and facing numerous challenges. The narrative, rich in mythology and complex themes of good versus evil, friendship, and heroism, has had a profound influence on the fantasy genre.

    The 17th Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Tendrils of the Vine by Colette

    "Tendrils of Vines" is a poignant narrative that explores the life of a young woman navigating her way through the complexities of love, loss, and self-discovery in rural France. The protagonist's journey is beautifully intertwined with the growth and life of the vineyard she inherits, symbolizing her personal growth and resilience. The book paints a vivid picture of the French countryside and the art of winemaking, while delving into themes of femininity, independence, and the indomitable spirit of the human heart.

    The 3622nd Greatest Book of All Time
  • Capital of Pain by Paul Éluard

    "Capital of Pain" is a collection of surrealist poetry that explores themes of love, loss, and the human condition. The author, a key figure in the Surrealist movement, uses vivid and often disturbing imagery to express deep emotional turmoil and existential angst. The poems range from the intensely personal to the broadly philosophical, offering a glimpse into the author's inner world and his reflections on life, death, and the nature of reality.

    The 3624th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Martin Eden by Jack London

    The novel follows the life of a poor, self-educated sailor who becomes a successful writer. The protagonist struggles to rise above his social class, driven by his love for a refined, upper-class woman. His journey leads him through various experiences, from physical labor to intellectual pursuits, highlighting the challenges of social mobility and the disillusionment that often accompanies success. Despite achieving his dreams, he becomes disenchanted with the very society he sought to join, leading to a tragic end.

    The 944th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Ballad of the Salt Sea by Hugo Pratt

    This graphic novel follows the adventures of a young sailor who becomes entangled in a dangerous plot involving pirates, kidnappings, and political intrigue in the South Seas. Set in the early 20th century, the story is filled with historical references and exotic locales, providing a rich backdrop for the complex narrative. The sailor's journey is not just physical but also emotional, as he navigates the treacherous waters of personal relationships and moral dilemmas.

    The 1922nd Greatest Book of All Time
  • Writing Degree Zero by Roland Barthes

    This book is a critical exploration of the nature and history of literature, focusing on the social and historical aspects of writing. It argues that language and literature are shaped by historical, social, and political forces, and that they are not neutral or natural. The author suggests that the style and form of writing are as important as the content, and he introduces the idea of "writing degree zero", which refers to a kind of writing that is stripped of style and personality, and is therefore capable of conveying truth in a direct and unmediated way.

    The 3633rd Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum by Heinrich Böll

    "The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum" is a story about a young woman who becomes the target of a media smear campaign after she falls in love with a man who is suspected of being a political radical. The media's relentless invasion of her privacy and the negative portrayal of her character lead to tragic consequences, highlighting the destructive power of sensationalist journalism. The novel is also a critique of the political climate in Germany during the 1970s.

    The 1117th Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Opposing Shore by Julien Gracq

    The book is a captivating tale of a young military officer who is posted to a remote coastal fortress in an imaginary Mediterranean country. As he awaits a long-anticipated enemy invasion, he finds himself drawn into the local customs and intrigued by the enigmatic presence of the enemy on the opposing shore. The narrative delves into themes of waiting, the passage of time, and the psychological impact of imagined threats, all set against a backdrop of political and military tension.

    The 1498th Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Order of Things by Michel Foucault

    "The Order of Things" is a philosophical exploration of the historical changes in the human sciences, including economics, natural history, and philology. The author delves into the concept of 'epistemes' or the unconscious rules that govern the way people perceive the world, and how these have changed over the centuries. The book challenges the idea that knowledge has progressively improved over time, instead suggesting that each era has its own unique framework for understanding and interpreting the world.

    The 3638th Greatest Book of All Time
  • On the Road by Jack Kerouac

    This novel follows the story of a young man and his friend as they embark on a series of cross-country road trips across America during the late 1940s and early 1950s. The protagonist, driven by a desire for freedom and a quest for identity, encounters a series of eccentric characters and experiences the highs and lows of the Beat Generation. The narrative is a testament to the restlessness of youth and the allure of adventure, underscored by themes of jazz, poetry, and drug use.

    The 40th Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Wonderful Adventures of Nils by Selma Lagerlöf

    The book follows the story of Nils, a mischievous boy who is transformed into a tiny elf by a magical creature as punishment for his bad behavior. Now tiny and capable of talking to animals, Nils embarks on a journey across Sweden on the back of a goose. Throughout his adventures, he learns important lessons about nature, geography, and folklore, and his experiences gradually transform him into a better person.

    The 2100th Greatest Book of All Time
  • A Room of One's Own by Virginia Woolf

    This book is an extended essay that explores the topic of women in fiction, and the societal and economic hindrances that prevent them from achieving their full potential. The author uses a fictional narrator and narrative to explore the many difficulties that women writers faced throughout history, including the lack of education available to them and the societal expectations that limited their opportunities. The central argument is that a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.

    The 176th Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury

    This science fiction novel is a collection of intertwined short stories that depict the colonization of Mars by humans fleeing from a troubled Earth, and the conflict between aboriginal Martians and the new colonists. The book delves into issues such as nuclear war, racism, and censorship. As the human settlers arrive and begin to shape the Martian landscape to their needs, they face a series of strange and haunting encounters with the Martian civilization, leading to unexpected and often tragic outcomes.

    The 789th Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Ravishing of Lol Stein by Marguerite Duras

    The Ravishing of Lol Stein is a novel that explores the life of the eponymous character, who is traumatized by her fiancé's betrayal at a ball. This event leads her into a mental breakdown, after which she returns to her hometown and marries an older man. However, her life takes a turn when she becomes obsessed with a young couple, leading her to question her own sanity and reality. The book delves into themes of love, obsession, and the thin line between sanity and madness.

    The 1499th Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Interrogation by J. M. G. Le Clezio

    "The Interrogation" is a narrative about a man named Adam Pollo, a former student and possible deserter from the military, who is living alone in a seaside town. Throughout the story, Adam's mental state deteriorates as he struggles with existential questions, social isolation, and an inability to distinguish between reality and his own thoughts. His erratic behavior and increasingly unstable mind lead to an inevitable confrontation with society.

    The 3641st Greatest Book of All Time
  • Tropisms by Nathalie Sarraute

    "Tropisms" is a collection of 24 short sketches that delve into the hidden undercurrents of human interactions and the subtle, often unnoticed movements of thought and feeling. The book, often considered a precursor to the nouveau roman literary movement, explores the mundane aspects of everyday life and the psychological complexities beneath them, using a unique, impressionistic style. The term 'tropisms' refers to the instinctive reactions of humans, similar to the biological responses of plants to stimuli.

    The 3643rd Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Journal of Jules Renard by Jules Renard

    "The Journal of Jules Renard" is a collection of the author's personal thoughts, observations, and reflections recorded over a period of almost 30 years. The entries range from the author's insights into human nature, his commentary on social and political issues of his time, his struggles with writing and creativity, and his personal life. The journal is celebrated for its sharp wit, keen observation, and profound insight into the human condition, making it a timeless classic in literature.

    The 1669th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Lord Jim by Joseph Conrad

    The novel revolves around a young, idealistic British seaman, who commits a crime of cowardice at sea. He abandons his ship, leaving hundreds of passengers to their fate. He is publicly censured for this act and spends the rest of his life in shameful obscurity in the South Seas, trying to repress the guilt of his past and regain his lost honor. His quest for redemption leads him to a remote island where he gets a chance to prove his courage, but his tragic flaw ultimately leads to his downfall.

    The 139th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Écrits: The First Complete Edition in English by Jacques Lacan

    This book is a comprehensive collection of essays by a renowned psychoanalyst, offering readers an in-depth understanding of his theories on human psychology. The author delves into complex topics such as the unconscious, the mirror stage, and the concept of the Other, while also exploring the intersection of psychoanalysis with philosophy, linguistics, and anthropology. The book challenges conventional understanding of subjectivity and identity, making it a seminal work in the field of psychoanalysis.

    The 6712th Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Theater and Its Double by Antonin Artaud

    This book is a collection of manifestos, letters, and essays on theatre written by a 20th-century playwright and actor. It advocates for the Theatre of Cruelty, a form of theatre that rejects the comforts of traditional literature and the physicality of dance and pantomime. Instead, it emphasizes the use of symbolism, gesture, and expression to reveal the basest instincts of humanity and the subconscious mind. The author argues that theatre should not be a mere representation of reality but should affect the audience on a deep, visceral level.

    The 2104th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Manhattan Transfer by John Dos Passos

    This novel presents a panoramic view of New York City between the 1890s and the 1920s, capturing the sense of the city through the lives of its inhabitants. The narrative weaves together the stories of numerous characters from diverse backgrounds, including immigrants, businessmen, and bohemians. These characters' lives intersect and diverge, reflecting the dynamism and complexity of the city itself. The city is portrayed as a place of both opportunity and disillusionment, where dreams are both realized and shattered.

    The 678th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Fictions by Jorge Luis Borges

    "Collected Fiction" is a compilation of stories by a renowned author that takes readers on a journey through a world of philosophical paradoxes, intellectual humor, and fantastical realities. The book features a range of narratives, from complex, multi-layered tales of labyrinths and detective investigations, to metaphysical explorations of infinity and the nature of identity. It offers an immersive and thought-provoking reading experience, blurring the boundaries between reality and fiction, past and present, and the self and the universe.

    The 101st Greatest Book of All Time
  • Moravagine by Blaise Cendrars

    The novel follows the adventures of an eccentric, violent, and mentally unstable protagonist who is released from an asylum by his psychiatrist. The pair embark on a chaotic journey across Europe and America, encountering a variety of strange and often dangerous situations. The narrative explores themes of insanity, violence, and the human condition, offering a dark and surreal critique of modern society.

    The 2117th Greatest Book of All Time
  • The General of the Dead Army by Ismail Kadare

    The novel follows an Italian general who is tasked with recovering the bodies of fallen Italian soldiers in Albania after World War II. Accompanied by a priest, the general faces numerous challenges, including harsh weather, uncooperative locals, and his own growing despair. As he uncovers the stories of the dead, he is forced to confront the brutal realities of war and the haunting specter of his own mortality. The novel explores themes of war, death, and the human condition.

    The 3650th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Sophie's Choice by William Styron

    Set in post-World War II Brooklyn, this novel follows the story of a young Southern writer who becomes friends with a Jewish scientist and a beautiful Polish Catholic survivor of the Auschwitz concentration camp. The narrative unravels the tragic love triangle between the three characters, with the woman's haunting past and the horrific choice she had to make in the concentration camp serving as the heart of the story. The book delves into themes of survival, guilt, and the struggle to find meaning in the aftermath of atrocities.

    The 347th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Gypsy Ballads by Federico García Lorca

    "Gypsy Ballads" is a collection of poems that depict the lives, struggles, and customs of the Andalusian Gypsy community. The poems are rich in imagery and symbolism, exploring themes of love, death, passion, and tragedy. With its vivid portrayal of the Gypsy culture, the book provides a unique insight into their vibrant and complex world, while also reflecting on broader human experiences.

    The 682nd Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Strange Case of Peter the Lett by Georges Simenon

    This classic crime novel centers around a man named Peter the Lett, who is suspected of committing a series of murders in Paris. He is a foreigner, a loner, and has a mysterious past, which makes him the perfect suspect for the crimes. However, as the investigation unfolds, it becomes clear that the truth is far more complex. The narrative delves into themes of identity, prejudice, and the nature of guilt and innocence, offering a psychological portrait of a man caught in a web of circumstances beyond his control.

    The 3651st Greatest Book of All Time
  • Our Lady of the Flowers by Jean Genet

    The novel is a dark, poetic exploration of the criminal underworld in Paris, focusing on the life and fantasies of a homosexual prostitute and thief. The protagonist, while in prison, creates an elaborate fantasy world populated by outcasts, convicts, and murderers, including a transgender character who becomes his ideal of beauty and purity. The narrative is filled with graphic depictions of sex and violence, and explores themes of transgression, identity, and the transformative power of the imagination.

    The 1273rd Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Man Without Qualities by Robert Musil

    "The Man Without Qualities" is a satirical novel set in Vienna during the last days of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. It follows the life of Ulrich, a thirty-two-year-old mathematician, who is in search of a sense of life and reality but is caught up in the societal changes and political chaos of his time. The book explores themes of existentialism, morality, and the search for meaning in a rapidly changing world.

    The 144th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Furor and Mystery by René Char

    "Furor and Mystery" is a collection of poems that explores the themes of resistance, freedom, and the human condition. The author, a member of the French Resistance during World War II, uses his experiences to craft evocative and powerful verse. The poems are filled with metaphors and imagery, often drawing on nature and the Provencal landscape to illustrate the struggle against oppression and the search for truth.

    The 3657th Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger

    The novel follows the story of a teenager named Holden Caulfield, who has just been expelled from his prep school. The narrative unfolds over the course of three days, during which Holden experiences various forms of alienation and his mental state continues to unravel. He criticizes the adult world as "phony" and struggles with his own transition into adulthood. The book is a profound exploration of teenage rebellion, alienation, and the loss of innocence.

    The 4th Greatest Book of All Time
  • No Orchids for Miss Blandish by James Hadley Chase

    This novel is a crime thriller set in America, featuring the kidnapping of a wealthy heiress, Miss Blandish, by a low-level gangster. However, when a more powerful and sadistic gangster, Slim Grisson, learns of the situation, he kills the original kidnapper and takes Miss Blandish for himself. As the police and Miss Blandish's father desperately search for her, she finds herself developing Stockholm Syndrome for her cruel captor. The story is filled with violence, suspense, and unexpected twists, leading to a tragic end.

    The 1893rd Greatest Book of All Time
  • Blake and Mortimer by Edgar P. Jacobs

    "Blake and Mortimer" is a comic series centering on two British heroes, a military intelligence officer and a nuclear physicist. The pair often find themselves embroiled in various international intrigues, battling against super-powered villains, alien invaders, and ancient civilizations. The series is known for its detailed artwork and complex plots, often involving science fiction and paranormal themes.

    The 3661st Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge by Rainer Maria Rilke

    "The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge" is a semi-autobiographical novel narrated by a young man from Denmark living in Paris, who is trying to understand the world and his place in it. The protagonist is a poet and a dreamer, who spends his time observing and reflecting on the people and situations around him. The book is a collection of his thoughts, observations, and musings, which often revolve around themes of death, solitude, history, and the nature of existence. It's a deep and introspective exploration of the human condition and the nature of creativity.

    The 509th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Second Thoughts by Michel Butor

    "Second Thoughts" is a complex, stream-of-consciousness novel that unfolds during a train journey from Paris to Rome. The protagonist, a businessman, is traveling to meet his mistress, but as the journey progresses, he becomes increasingly introspective and starts to question his decisions. The narrative is nonlinear and fragmented, mirroring the protagonist's mental state, and the novel explores themes of time, memory, identity, and the nature of reality.

    The 2044th Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Burden of Our Time by Hannah Arendt

    "The Burden of Our Time" is a profound exploration of totalitarianism and the nature of power. The author delves into the rise of authoritarian regimes in the 20th century, particularly focusing on the Nazi and Stalinist systems. The book examines the socio-political conditions that enable such regimes to seize power, and the mechanisms they use to maintain control. It also presents a philosophical analysis of the human condition, exploring themes of freedom, authority, and the public and private realms of life.

    The 3663rd Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Origins of Totalitarianism by Hannah Arendt

    The book explores the roots of totalitarian systems, particularly focusing on Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia. It delves into the historical, social, and political circumstances that led to the rise of these oppressive regimes, including anti-Semitism, imperialism, and the decline of the nation-state. The author further discusses the nature of power, the role of propaganda, and the manipulation of the masses in these systems, providing a comprehensive analysis of totalitarianism.

    The 578th Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov

    This novel is a complex narrative that weaves together three distinct yet intertwined stories. The first story is set in 1930s Moscow and follows the devil and his entourage as they wreak havoc on the city's literary elite. The second story is a historical narrative about Pontius Pilate and his role in the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. The third story is a love story between the titular Master, a writer who has been driven to madness by the criticism of his work, and his devoted lover, Margarita. The novel is a satirical critique of Soviet society, particularly the literary establishment, and its treatment of artists. It also explores themes of love, sacrifice, and the nature of good and evil.

    The 41st Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Rosy Crucifixion by Henry Miller

    The book is a semi-autobiographical trilogy that explores the author's life in 1920s New York City. The protagonist, a struggling writer, navigates through his tumultuous relationship with his wife, his various extramarital affairs, and his quest for artistic freedom and personal identity. The narrative is characterized by its graphic depictions of sexuality, philosophical introspection, and critique of societal norms. The book is a testament to the author's rejection of conventional morality and his pursuit of a life driven by passion and creativity.

    The 3665th Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler

    In this classic detective novel, a private investigator is hired by a wealthy family to resolve a blackmail issue involving the younger daughter. As he delves deeper into the case, he uncovers a web of deceit, murder, and organized crime. The detective's investigation is further complicated by his growing attraction to the older daughter, adding a layer of personal involvement to an already complex case. The novel is renowned for its gritty depiction of 1930s Los Angeles and its sharp, witty dialogue.

    The 102nd Greatest Book of All Time
  • Amers by Saint-John Perse

    "Amers" is a poetic exploration of the sea as a metaphor for life and human existence. The book delves into the relationship between man and the sea, examining its vastness, mystery, and relentless force. The author uses his personal experiences and observations to create a vivid and lyrical portrayal of the sea and its influence on human life, exploring themes of exploration, discovery, and the human spirit.

    The 3666th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Gaston by André Franquin

    "Gaston" is a comic strip series that follows the humorous misadventures of a lazy and accident-prone office junior working at the fictional company Spirou. The series is known for its slapstick humor, but it also subtly satirizes the corporate world. Despite his lack of productivity and constant mistakes, Gaston never gets fired, highlighting the absurdity and inefficiency of bureaucracy.

    The 3667th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Under the Volcano by Malcolm Lowry

    Set in Mexico on the Day of the Dead in 1938, the novel follows the last day in the life of Geoffrey Firmin, a British consul with a severe alcohol addiction. Through his interactions with his estranged wife and half-brother, the book explores themes of despair, betrayal, and the destructive power of addiction, against the backdrop of political and social unrest. The impending eruption of the nearby volcano serves as a metaphor for Firmin's deteriorating mental state and the looming world war.

    The 119th Greatest Book of All Time
About this list

Le Monde, 101 Books

The 100 Books of the Century (French: Les cent livres du siècle) is a list of the one hundred best books of the 20th century, according to a poll conducted in the spring of 1999 by the French retailer Fnac and the Paris newspaper Le Monde.

Starting from a preliminary list of 200 titles created by bookshops and journalists, 17,000 French voted by responding to the question, "Which books have stayed in your memory?" (« Quels livres sont restés dans votre mémoire ? »).

The list of acclaimed titles mixes great novels with poetry and theatre, as well as the comic strip. The first fifty works on the list were the subject of an essay by Frédéric Beigbeder, The Last Inventory Before Liquidation, in which he notably drew attention to its French-centred character.

Added almost 10 years ago.

How Good is this List?

This list has a weight of 70%. To learn more about what this means please visit the Rankings page.

Here is a list of what is decreasing the importance of this list:

  • Voters: not critics, authors, or experts, but the books on the list were curated by critics/experts
  • Voters: are mostly from a single country/location
  • List: only covers 100 years

If you think this is incorrect please e-mail us at [email protected].