Top 100 World Literature Titles

This is one of the 210 lists we use to generate our main The Greatest Books list.

  • Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

    This novel explores the life of Okonkwo, a respected warrior in the Umuofia clan of the Igbo tribe in Nigeria during the late 1800s. Okonkwo's world is disrupted by the arrival of European missionaries and the subsequent clash of cultures. The story examines the effects of colonialism on African societies, the clash between tradition and change, and the struggle between individual and society. Despite his efforts to resist the changes, Okonkwo's life, like his society, falls apart.

  • Night by Elie Wiesel

    This book is a memoir of the author's experiences during the Holocaust, specifically in the Auschwitz and Buchenwald concentration camps. The narrative focuses on the relationship between a father and son under the most extreme circumstances, the loss of faith in God, humanity, and in each other, and the horrifying reality of the systematic genocide of six million Jews during World War II. The book is a poignant and stark examination of the depths of human evil and the enduring power of hope and survival.

  • The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

    This novel is a powerful story set against the backdrop of tumultuous events in Afghanistan, from the fall of the monarchy through the Soviet invasion and the rise of the Taliban regime. It follows the life of a wealthy boy and his best friend, a servant's son, their shared love for kite flying, and a terrible incident that tears their lives apart. The narrative explores themes of guilt, betrayal and redemption as the protagonist, now an adult living in America, is called back to his war-torn homeland to right the wrongs of his past.

  • 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.

  • Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton

    "Cry, the Beloved Country" is a novel about a black Anglican priest from South Africa's rural Natal region who embarks on a journey to Johannesburg in search of his sister and son. The priest grapples with the racial injustice and social inequality of apartheid-era South Africa, while his son becomes involved in political activism and is wrongfully accused of a crime. The novel explores themes of love, fear, and social justice, while highlighting the destructive effects of apartheid on the human spirit and the South African landscape.

  • The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka

    The book tells the story of a man who wakes up one morning to find himself transformed into a giant insect. His transformation causes him to lose his job and become ostracized from his family, who are horrified and repulsed by his new form. As he grapples with his new reality, he becomes increasingly isolated and starts to lose his sense of humanity. The book explores themes of alienation, guilt, and identity, and is a profound examination of the human condition.

  • Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse

    "Siddhartha" is a novel about the spiritual journey of a young man named Siddhartha during the time of Gautama Buddha. Born into an Indian Brahmin family, Siddhartha rejects his privileged life to seek spiritual enlightenment. His journey takes him through periods of harsh asceticism, sensual indulgence, material wealth, and finally, to the simple life of a ferryman on a river where he finds peace and wisdom. The book explores themes of self-discovery, spiritual quest, and the desire for a meaningful life.

  • The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan

    This novel explores the complex relationships between four Chinese-American mothers and their American-born daughters. The narrative switches between the perspectives of the eight women, revealing their pasts, their struggles with cultural identity, and the misunderstandings that have grown between the generations. The mothers, who all experienced hardship in their native China, want their daughters to have better lives and thus push them to excel in America. The daughters, in turn, struggle to reconcile their American surroundings with their Chinese heritage.

  • Oedipus the King by Sophocles

    "Oedipus the King" is a tragic play that revolves around the life of Oedipus, the king of Thebes, who is prophesied to kill his father and marry his mother. Despite his attempts to avoid this fate, Oedipus unknowingly fulfills the prophecy. When he discovers the truth about his actions, he blinds himself in despair. The play explores themes of fate, free will, and the quest for truth, highlighting the tragic consequences of human hubris and ignorance.

  • The Odyssey by Homer

    This epic poem follows the Greek hero Odysseus on his journey home after the fall of Troy. It takes Odysseus ten years to reach Ithaca after the ten-year Trojan War. Along the way, he encounters many obstacles including mythical creatures, divine beings, and natural disasters. Meanwhile, back in Ithaca, his wife Penelope and son Telemachus fend off suitors vying for Penelope's hand in marriage, believing Odysseus to be dead. The story concludes with Odysseus's return, his slaughter of the suitors, and his reunion with his family.

  • A Doll's House by Henrik Ibsen

    This classic play focuses on the life of Nora Helmer, a woman living in a seemingly perfect marriage with her husband, Torvald. However, as the story unfolds, it becomes clear that Nora has been hiding a significant secret related to their finances. The revelation of this secret, and the subsequent fallout, challenges societal norms and expectations of the time, particularly in regards to gender roles and the institution of marriage. Nora's eventual decision to leave her husband and children in pursuit of her own independence serves as a powerful commentary on individual freedom and self-discovery.

  • All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque

    The novel tells the story of a young German soldier, Paul Bäumer, and his experiences during World War I. The narrative explores the physical and emotional toll of war, the camaraderie between soldiers, and the disillusionment of a generation thrown into a brutal conflict. The protagonist and his friends grapple with survival, fear, and the loss of innocence, providing a stark and poignant critique of the futility and destructiveness of war.

  • One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

    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.

  • Candide by Voltaire

    "Candide" is a satirical novel that follows the adventures of a young man, Candide, who is living a sheltered life in an Edenic paradise and being indoctrinated with Leibnizian optimism by his mentor. When he is expelled from the paradise for kissing a baron's daughter, he embarks on a journey around the world, witnessing the horrors of war, natural disasters, and human cruelty. Throughout his journey, Candide maintains his optimistic philosophy, despite the constant hardships he faces, ultimately concluding that one must cultivate their own garden, a metaphor for taking control of one's own destiny.

  • Antigone by Sophocles

    This ancient Greek tragedy follows the story of Antigone, a young woman who defies the king's edict in order to bury her brother according to their religious customs. The king, her uncle, sentences her to death for her disobedience, leading to a series of tragic events including his own son's suicide. The play explores themes of loyalty, honor, obedience, and the conflict between the laws of the state and the laws of the gods.

  • Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky

    A young, impoverished former student in Saint Petersburg, Russia, formulates a plan to kill an unscrupulous pawnbroker to redistribute her wealth among the needy. However, after carrying out the act, he is consumed by guilt and paranoia, leading to a psychological battle within himself. As he grapples with his actions, he also navigates complex relationships with a variety of characters, including a virtuous prostitute, his sister, and a relentless detective. The narrative explores themes of morality, redemption, and the psychological impacts of crime.

  • The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri

    In this epic poem, the protagonist embarks on an extraordinary journey through Hell (Inferno), Purgatory (Purgatorio), and Paradise (Paradiso). Guided by the ancient Roman poet Virgil and his beloved Beatrice, he encounters various historical and mythological figures in each realm, witnessing the eternal consequences of earthly sins and virtues. The journey serves as an allegory for the soul's progression towards God, offering profound insights into the nature of good and evil, free will, and divine justice.

  • The Iliad by Homer

    This epic poem focuses on the final weeks of the Trojan War, a conflict between the city of Troy and the Greek city-states. The story explores themes of war, honor, wrath, and divine intervention, with a particular focus on the Greek hero Achilles, whose anger and refusal to fight have devastating consequences. The narrative also delves into the lives of the gods, their relationships with humans, and their influence on the course of events.

  • Life of Pi by Yann Martel

    A young Indian boy named Pi Patel survives a shipwreck and finds himself adrift in the Pacific Ocean on a lifeboat with a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker. Over the course of 227 days, Pi uses his knowledge of animal behavior and survival skills to coexist with the tiger, ultimately leading to an unusual and deeply spiritual journey. The story explores themes of faith, survival, and the interpretation of reality.

  • Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmond Rostand

    "Cyrano de Bergerac" is a classic French play that tells the story of a nobleman named Cyrano, who is a talented poet and swordsman but has a very large nose. Despite being deeply in love with his cousin Roxane, Cyrano doesn't believe she could ever love him because of his appearance, so he helps his friend Christian woo her instead. Cyrano writes love letters to Roxane on behalf of Christian, and Roxane falls in love with the man she believes Christian to be. The story is a tragic tale of unrequited love, selflessness, and the power of inner beauty.

  • Les Misérables by Victor Hugo

    Set in early 19th-century France, the narrative follows the lives and interactions of several characters, particularly the struggles of ex-convict Jean Valjean and his journey towards redemption. The story touches upon the nature of law and grace, and elaborates upon the history of France, architecture of Paris, politics, moral philosophy, antimonarchism, justice, religion, and the types and nature of romantic and familial love. It is known for its vivid and relatable characters, and its exploration of societal and moral issues.

  • Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes

    This classic novel follows the adventures of a man who, driven mad by reading too many chivalric romances, decides to become a knight-errant and roam the world righting wrongs under the name Don Quixote. Accompanied by his loyal squire, Sancho Panza, he battles windmills he believes to be giants and champions the virtuous lady Dulcinea, who is in reality a simple peasant girl. The book is a richly layered critique of the popular literature of Cervantes' time and a profound exploration of reality and illusion, madness and sanity.

  • Nectar in a Sieve by Kamala Markandaya

    "Nectar in a Sieve" is a tale of an Indian peasant woman named Rukmani who endures the hardships of rural poverty, natural disasters, and personal tragedy, while trying to raise her children and maintain her marriage. The book explores themes of love, hope, and the strength of the human spirit against the backdrop of a rapidly changing India. Despite the constant struggles, Rukmani never loses her faith and hope, symbolizing the resilience and strength of ordinary people in the face of adversity.

  • Like Water For Chocolate by Laura Esquivel

    This novel is a romantic, magical realism tale set in turn-of-the-century Mexico. It chronicles the life of Tita, the youngest daughter in a traditional Mexican family, who is forbidden to marry due to a family custom that mandates the youngest daughter must care for her mother until death. Tita falls in love with Pedro, who in turn marries her elder sister to stay close to her. The story is uniquely structured around the twelve months of the year, each beginning with a traditional Mexican recipe. The protagonist's emotions become infused with her cooking, leading to strange effects on those who consume her culinary creations.

  • Epic of Gilgamesh by Unknown

    This ancient Mesopotamian epic follows the story of Gilgamesh, a demigod king who rules over the city of Uruk. Unhappy with his reign, the gods create a wild man named Enkidu to challenge him. However, Gilgamesh and Enkidu become close friends and embark on several adventures together, including defeating the demon Humbaba and killing the Bull of Heaven. After Enkidu's death, Gilgamesh becomes obsessed with finding immortality, leading him on a journey to meet Utnapishtim, the only human who has been granted eternal life. The narrative explores themes of friendship, mortality, and the meaning of life.

  • Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya

    The novel follows the story of a young boy in New Mexico in the 1940s who navigates the challenges of adolescence, faith, and identity with the guidance of a wise old woman named Ultima. Throughout the narrative, the boy grapples with moral dilemmas, the complexities of his Mexican-American heritage, and the clash between the Catholic faith and the traditional spiritual beliefs of his ancestors. The story is a rich tapestry of folklore, spirituality, and personal growth.

  • Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson, David Oliver Relin

    The book tells the true story of a man who, after a failed attempt to climb K2, the world's second highest mountain, is taken in by the people of a small village in Pakistan. Touched by their kindness and noticing their lack of educational facilities, he promises to build them a school. The story follows his journey of fulfilling this promise, which expands into a mission to build schools, especially for girls, in remote regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan, despite numerous challenges, including financial struggles, cultural barriers and threats from the Taliban.

  • Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert

    Madame Bovary is a tragic novel about a young woman, Emma Bovary, who is married to a dull, but kind-hearted doctor. Dissatisfied with her life, she embarks on a series of extramarital affairs and indulges in a luxurious lifestyle in an attempt to escape the banalities and emptiness of provincial life. Her desire for passion and excitement leads her down a path of financial ruin and despair, ultimately resulting in a tragic end.

  • Mythology by Edith Hamilton

    This book is a comprehensive guide to ancient Greek, Roman, and Norse mythologies, providing detailed accounts of various gods, goddesses, heroes, and other mythological creatures. It includes well-known stories like the Odyssey and the Iliad, along with lesser-known tales, and analyzes their significance in the cultures they originated from. The book also delves into the origins of these myths and their influence on later civilizations, offering readers a deep understanding of ancient cultures and their belief systems.

  • The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

    A young Andalusian shepherd named Santiago dreams of finding a worldly treasure and sets off on a journey across the Egyptian desert in search of it. Along the way, he encounters a series of characters who impart wisdom and help guide his spiritual journey. The novel explores themes of destiny, personal legend, and the interconnectedness of all things in the universe. The boy learns that true wealth comes not from material possessions, but from self-discovery and attaining one's "Personal Legend".

  • In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez

    In the Time of the Butterflies is a historical fiction novel that tells the story of the Mirabal sisters who were activists against the dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo in the Dominican Republic. The narrative is a blend of fact and fiction, presenting the personal lives and political involvement of the sisters, three of whom were assassinated for their roles in the resistance movement. The book explores themes of courage, sacrifice, love, and the power of women in the face of oppressive regimes.

  • Hiroshima by John Hersey

    This book provides a detailed account of the aftermath of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima during World War II, as experienced by six survivors. The narrative follows the survivors from the moment of the explosion to their lives in the following years. It explores their struggles, their resilience, and the profound physical, emotional, and social impacts of the event, offering a poignant examination of the human capacity to endure and rebuild in the face of unimaginable devastation.

  • Kaffir Boy by Mark Mathabane

    This autobiography tells the story of a young boy growing up in apartheid-era South Africa. Despite enduring extreme poverty, brutal police raids, and constant racial discrimination, the protagonist manages to escape his harsh reality through education and tennis. His determination and resilience eventually lead him to receive a scholarship to an American university, providing him a chance to escape the oppressive system of apartheid.

  • The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende

    "The House of the Spirits" is a multi-generational saga that explores the lives of the Trueba family, set against the backdrop of political upheaval in an unnamed Latin American country. The narrative is driven by the family's strong and magical women, including clairvoyant Clara and her granddaughter Alba. The story spans over three generations, weaving together personal, social, and political threads, and is rich in elements of magical realism. The novel explores themes of love, violence, social class, and the struggle for power.

  • A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah

    This memoir recounts the harrowing experiences of a young boy forcibly recruited into the Sierra Leonean army during the country's brutal civil war. The narrative follows his journey from an innocent child fascinated with rap music to a hardened child soldier, who is eventually rescued by UNICEF and rehabilitated. The book provides a stark, firsthand account of the horrors of war and the resilience of the human spirit.

  • The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

    A young sailor, unjustly accused of treason, is imprisoned without trial in a grim fortress. After a daring escape, he uncovers a hidden treasure and transforms himself into the mysterious and wealthy Count of Monte Cristo. He then sets out to exact revenge on those who wronged him, using his newfound power and influence. Throughout his journey, he grapples with questions about justice, vengeance, and whether ultimate power can ultimately corrupt.

  • One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

    This novel provides a detailed account of a single day in the life of a prisoner, Ivan Denisovich, in a Soviet labor camp in the 1950s. The narrative follows Ivan as he navigates the harsh realities of his daily routine, from the moment he wakes up to when he goes to bed. The book provides a stark portrayal of the brutality and inhumanity of the Soviet gulag system while also highlighting the resilience and dignity of the human spirit under such oppressive conditions.

  • A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

    This novel explores the lives of two Afghan women, Mariam and Laila, who are brought together by war and fate. Mariam, an illegitimate child, suffers from the stigma surrounding her birth and the abuse she faces from her bitter mother. When she is married off to Rasheed, her life becomes a nightmare. Later, she becomes a co-wife to Laila, a beautiful and educated girl who also ends up as Rasheed's wife due to a series of tragic events. Despite their initial rivalry, the two women form a bond and become sources of support for each other in the face of their husband's brutalities and the war-torn world of Kabul.

  • The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

    The Poisonwood Bible is a novel that follows the experiences of a missionary family in the Belgian Congo during the 1960s. The story is told from the perspective of the wife and four daughters of the Baptist minister who drags his family into the politically volatile Congo on a mission to save souls. The novel explores themes of cultural arrogance, religious zeal, and the clash of Western and African values, as well as the personal growth and self-discovery of the women in the family as they grapple with the harsh realities of their new life and the fallout from their father's single-minded vision.

  • Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress by Dai Sijie

    This novel tells the story of two teenage boys sent to a remote mountain village for re-education during China's Cultural Revolution. There, they meet a local tailor's daughter, who becomes their friend and the object of their shared affection. The boys discover a hidden suitcase filled with forbidden Western classics in Chinese translation, and their lives are forever changed. The books not only awaken their passion for literature, but also allow them to educate the Seamstress, ultimately leading to a heartbreaking love triangle and a tale of personal freedom against the odds.

  • A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce

    This novel is a semi-autobiographical account of a young man's intellectual and artistic development in late 19th-century Ireland. The protagonist struggles with issues of identity, faith, and nationality, ultimately rejecting the traditional values of his Catholic upbringing to pursue his own path as an artist. The book is renowned for its innovative narrative style and its exploration of themes such as individuality, freedom, and the nature of art.

  • 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.

  • Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

    This graphic novel is a memoir that provides a personal account of the author's childhood and young adult years in Iran during and after the Islamic revolution. The story portrays the impact of war, political upheaval, and religious extremism on ordinary people, while also exploring themes of identity, resilience, and the power of storytelling. Despite the harsh realities the protagonist faces, the narrative also includes moments of humor and warmth, providing a nuanced view of life in Iran during this tumultuous period.

  • The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay

    This novel follows the life of a young English boy named Peekay who grows up in South Africa during the 1930s and 1940s. Despite facing bullying, racial segregation, and the hardships of World War II, Peekay remains resilient and determined to follow his dream of becoming a world-class boxer. Along his journey, he encounters various mentors who teach him about survival, love, and the power of one person to make a significant difference in the world.

  • First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers by Loung Ung

    This memoir recounts the author's experiences as a young girl in Cambodia during the Khmer Rouge regime. She is forced from her home in Phnom Penh to a labor camp in the countryside along with her family, where they face starvation, disease, and brutality. The book details her survival through the genocide, her eventual escape to Thailand, and finally her immigration to the United States. It is a powerful story of resilience, courage, and the human spirit's ability to overcome overwhelming adversity.

  • The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

    Set in a dystopian future, this novel presents a society where women are stripped of their rights and are classified into various roles based on their fertility and societal status. The protagonist is a handmaid, a class of women used solely for their reproductive capabilities by the ruling class. The story is a chilling exploration of the extreme end of misogyny, where women are reduced to their biological functions, and a critique of religious fundamentalism.

  • Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

    Set in 19th-century Russia, this novel revolves around the life of Anna Karenina, a high-society woman who, dissatisfied with her loveless marriage, embarks on a passionate affair with a charming officer named Count Vronsky. This scandalous affair leads to her social downfall, while parallel to this, the novel also explores the rural life and struggles of Levin, a landowner who seeks the meaning of life and true happiness. The book explores themes such as love, marriage, fidelity, societal norms, and the human quest for happiness.

  • The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli

    This classic work of political philosophy provides a pragmatic guide on political leadership and power, arguing that leaders must do whatever necessary to maintain authority and protect their states, even if it means compromising morality and ethics. The book explores various types of principalities, military affairs, the conduct of great leaders, and the virtues a prince should possess. It is known for its controversial thesis, which suggests that the ends justify the means in politics.

  • Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See

    Set in 19th century China, the novel centers around the lifelong friendship of Lily and Snow Flower. Despite their different social classes, the two communicate through a secret language known as "nu shu" written on a fan. The story explores the rigid societal norms of the time, particularly the practice of foot binding and arranged marriages. As they navigate through the hardships of their lives, their friendship is tested, leading to a devastating betrayal that impacts their relationship.

  • Persepolis Two by Marjane Satrapi

    This graphic novel continues the story of a young girl growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution. After being sent to Europe for her safety, she struggles with feeling out of place and longs for her homeland. Eventually, she returns to Iran, only to find it vastly different from the place she remembered. The book explores themes of identity, culture, and the effects of political upheaval on a personal level.

  • The Aeneid by Virgil

    This epic poem tells the story of Aeneas, a Trojan who travels to Italy, where he becomes the ancestor of the Romans. It includes a series of prophecies about Rome's future and the deeds of heroic individuals, and is divided into two sections, the first illustrating the hero's journey and the second detailing the wars and battles that ensue as Aeneas attempts to establish a new home in Italy. The narrative is deeply imbued with themes of duty, fate, and divine intervention.

  • The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy

    This novel is a poignant tale of fraternal twins, a boy and a girl, who navigate through their childhood in Kerala, India, amidst a backdrop of political unrest and societal norms. The story, set in 1969, explores the complexities of their family's history and the tragic events that shape their lives. Their mother's transgression of caste and societal norms by having an affair with an untouchable leads to disastrous consequences, revealing the oppressive nature of the caste system and the destructive power of forbidden love. The novel also delves into themes of postcolonial identity, gender roles, and the lingering effects of trauma.

  • Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie

    The novel tells the story of Saleem Sinai, who was born at the exact moment when India gained its independence. As a result, he shares a mystical connection with other children born at the same time, all of whom possess unique, magical abilities. As Saleem grows up, his life mirrors the political and cultural changes happening in his country, from the partition of India and Pakistan, to the Bangladesh War of Independence. The story is a blend of historical fiction and magical realism, exploring themes of identity, fate, and the power of storytelling.

  • Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

    This novel follows the story of Florentino Ariza and Fermina Daza, who fall passionately in love in their youth. However, Fermina eventually marries a wealthy doctor, leaving Florentino heartbroken. Despite this, Florentino remains devoted to Fermina for over fifty years, patiently waiting for her husband's death to have another chance at her love. The story is set against the backdrop of a cholera epidemic, serving as a metaphor for the transformative power of love and the destructive power of obsession.

  • Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi

    The book is a memoir that takes place in Iran from 1979 to 1997, during the Islamic Revolution and the Iran-Iraq War. The story focuses on a professor who secretly gathers seven of her most committed female students to read forbidden Western literature in her home. As they read and discuss works by authors such as F. Scott Fitzgerald, Jane Austen, and Vladimir Nabokov, they explore their personal dreams and the losses they suffered due to the political, social, and cultural climate of the time.

  • The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

    Set in Nazi Germany during World War II, the novel follows the story of a young girl who finds solace in stealing books and sharing them with others. In the midst of the horrors of war, she forms a bond with a Jewish man her foster parents are hiding in their basement. The story is narrated by Death, offering a unique perspective on the atrocities and small acts of kindness during this period. The girl's love for books becomes a metaphor for resistance against the oppressive regime.

  • Annie John by Jamaica Kincaid

    The novel centers around the coming-of-age story of the protagonist, Annie John, in Antigua. Throughout her childhood and adolescence, she grapples with her complex relationship with her mother, her self-identity, and the colonial influence of the British on her island home. As she matures, her once close bond with her mother becomes strained, and she struggles with feelings of separation and independence. The narrative explores themes of colonialism, gender, and the complexities of mother-daughter relationships.

  • Chronicle of a Death Foretold by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

    The novel unfolds as a murder mystery, revealing the planned revenge killing of a young man named Santiago Nasar by the Vicario brothers. They believe Santiago has dishonored their sister, Angela, by taking her virginity before her marriage to another man. Despite the impending murder being common knowledge within the small Colombian town, a series of coincidences and misunderstandings prevent anyone from intervening, leading to Santiago's tragic and foretold demise. The narrative explores themes of honor, fate, and the collective responsibility of a community.

  • Obasan by Joy Kogawa

    The book is a semi-autobiographical novel that tells the story of a Japanese-Canadian woman named Naomi, who reflects on her experiences during World War II. As a child, Naomi was forced into internment along with thousands of other Japanese-Canadians, following the bombing of Pearl Harbor. The narrative explores the themes of racism, identity, silence, and the power of memory, as Naomi grapples with the trauma of her past and the impact of her cultural heritage on her present life.

  • Red Scarf Girl by Ji-li Jiang

    "Red Scarf Girl" is a memoir of the author's childhood during the Cultural Revolution in China. The story follows a 12-year-old girl from a previously respected family who is labeled a class enemy and forced to turn against her own parents. The book provides a deeply personal account of the extreme political and social upheaval during this period in China's history, highlighting the fear, confusion, and courage of a young girl struggling to reconcile her loyalty to her family and her loyalty to her country.

  • Medea by Euripides

    "Medea" is a Greek tragedy that tells the story of Medea, a former princess of the "barbarian" kingdom of Colchis, and her husband Jason, who leave her to marry Glauce, the daughter of Creon, king of Corinth. In a fit of rage, Medea decides to take revenge on Jason by killing their children, Jason's new wife, and her father, King Creon. The play explores themes of revenge, women's rights, and the dangers of absolute power.

  • I Have Lived a Thousand Years by Livia Bitton-Jackson

    This memoir tells the harrowing story of a 13-year-old Jewish girl's survival during the Holocaust. The narrative follows her life from her quiet existence in Hungary through the horrors of Auschwitz and other concentration camps, and finally to her liberation and the struggle to rebuild her life in the aftermath of such trauma. The memoir is a powerful testament to human resilience and the will to survive against all odds.

  • Girl in Hyacinth Blue by Susan Vreeland

    The novel explores the history of a fictional painting by Vermeer, as it passes through the hands of various owners. The narrative traces back from the present day to the time of the painting's creation, revealing the profound impact it has had on those who possessed it. The painting's subjects, a young girl in a blue dress, also becomes a symbol of beauty, loss, and the enduring power of art. The novel is a series of interconnected stories that together form a rich tapestry of human experience and the power of art to transform lives.

  • 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.

  • Living Up The Street by Gary Soto

    "Living Up The Street" is a collection of autobiographical essays that explore the experiences of a Mexican-American boy growing up in the barrios of Fresno, California. The book delves into the realities of working-class life, highlighting themes of poverty, violence, and the struggle for identity. The protagonist's journey through adolescence is marked by a series of humorous, tragic, and poignant moments, offering a vivid depiction of life in a Hispanic community in America.

  • The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri

    The novel tells the story of Gogol Ganguli, a second-generation Indian-American, who struggles with his unique name and his dual cultural identity. Born to immigrant parents from Kolkata, India, Gogol is named after the famous Russian author, Nikolai Gogol, a decision that shapes his life in unexpected ways. As he grows up, he finds himself torn between his parents' traditional Indian values and his desire to fit into mainstream American society. This internal conflict is further complicated by his relationships with women of different cultural backgrounds. The book explores themes of identity, cultural assimilation, and the immigrant experience.

  • Sold by Patricia McCormick

    The novel follows a young Nepalese girl who lives in a poor, rural village. When her stepfather sells her into slavery in a brothel in India, she must navigate the horrors of her new life. The narrative explores her struggle for survival, her attempts to escape, and the friendships she forms with other girls in the brothel. Ultimately, the novel is a harrowing exploration of human trafficking and sexual exploitation.

  • The Bookseller of Kabul by Asne Seierstad

    This book provides an intimate and eye-opening look into the everyday life of an Afghan family. The narrative follows a bookseller in Kabul, who despite the oppressive Taliban regime, courageously continues his trade. The story delves into his family dynamics, the struggles of his two wives, his children's lives, and the societal norms and customs they navigate. It paints a vivid picture of life in Afghanistan, exploring the themes of love, courage, resilience, and the power of literature.

  • What Is the What by Dave Eggers

    The novel is a fictionalized account of a real-life Sudanese refugee, Valentino Achak Deng, who was forced to flee from his village during the Second Sudanese Civil War. The story follows his harrowing journey as a child through Ethiopia and Kenya, his life in various refugee camps, and his eventual resettlement in the United States. The book explores themes of survival, identity, and the power of storytelling, while shedding light on the tragic history and ongoing humanitarian crisis in Sudan.

  • All But My Life by Gerda Weissmann Klein

    "All But My Life" is a poignant memoir of a young woman's six-year ordeal as a victim of Nazi cruelty. The narrative follows her life from a peaceful, upper-middle-class childhood in Bielitz, Poland, through her horrifying experiences and loss during the Holocaust, to her miraculous survival and marriage to an American soldier. It is a story of courage, resilience, and the enduring power of hope.

  • My Forbidden Face by Latifa

    The book is a powerful autobiographical account of a young woman's life under the repressive Taliban regime in Afghanistan. It provides an intimate look at the brutal conditions women had to endure, including the denial of basic human rights, education, and healthcare. The author's courage and resilience shine through as she secretly documents the atrocities and injustices, providing a unique perspective on this dark period in Afghanistan's history.

  • Before We Were Free by Julia Alvarez

    This novel tells the story of a young girl growing up in the Dominican Republic during a time of political turmoil. The protagonist and her family experience the fear and uncertainty of living under a dictatorship, as they are constantly surveilled by the government's secret police. Throughout the book, the protagonist navigates her own coming-of-age while also grappling with the larger issues of freedom, oppression, and resistance.

  • The Bonesetter's Daughter by Amy Tan

    This novel explores the complex relationship between a Chinese-American woman and her immigrant mother, who is suffering from dementia. As the mother's condition worsens, her daughter discovers a manuscript written in Chinese that reveals her mother's traumatic past and the true identity of her grandmother - a renowned bonesetter in China. The narrative oscillates between contemporary San Francisco and early 20th century China, illustrating the enduring power of family bonds, the weight of cultural heritage, and the profound impact of past events on present lives.

  • Dawn by Elie Wiesel

    "Dawn" is a poignant novel that explores the moral complexities of the aftermath of the Holocaust through the eyes of a young Holocaust survivor turned freedom fighter. He is tasked with the execution of a British officer in retribution for the British execution of a Jewish prisoner. As he awaits the dawn, the time set for the execution, he grapples with the morality of his actions, the value of life, and the haunting memories of his past. The narrative delves deep into the psychological and emotional turmoil of its protagonist, offering a profound exploration of guilt, responsibility, and the cost of violence.

  • Dreaming in Cuban by Cristina García

    "Dreaming in Cuban" is a multi-generational narrative that explores the lives of several women from a Cuban family, spanning from the 1930s to the 1980s. The story oscillates between Cuba and the United States, reflecting on the Cuban revolution, exile, and identity. Through the perspectives of each character, the novel delves into themes of political turmoil, family dynamics, and personal struggles amidst cultural shifts and geographical displacement.

  • Falling Leaves by Adeline Yen Mah

    "Falling Leaves" is a heartbreaking autobiography that recounts the life of a young girl who grows up in a wealthy but abusive family in 20th century China. Despite being the daughter of a prosperous businessman, she is treated as an outcast and blamed for her mother's death, who died shortly after her birth. The story portrays her struggle for acceptance and love within her family, her journey through the cultural revolution in China, and her eventual success as a physician in the U.S. It's a poignant exploration of the themes of familial bonds, resilience, and the human spirit's ability to overcome adversity.

  • The Hunchback of Notre-Dame by Victor Hugo

    Set in 15th-century Paris, this novel follows the story of Quasimodo, a deformed and hunchbacked bell-ringer of Notre-Dame Cathedral, who is shunned due to his appearance. Despite his physical deformities, Quasimodo falls in love with the beautiful gypsy girl, Esmeralda. However, his love is unrequited as she is in love with a handsome soldier. The novel explores themes of love, rejection, and the human struggle against fate and societal norms.

  • In My Hands by Irene Opdyke

    This memoir recounts the story of a Polish woman who, during World War II, worked as a housekeeper for a Nazi major while secretly aiding the Jewish resistance. She risked her life by hiding Jews in the basement of the Nazi officer's house, stealing food and supplies for them, and eventually leading them to safety. Despite the constant threat of discovery and the moral complexities she faced, she persevered in her efforts to save lives, demonstrating remarkable courage and resilience.

  • Le Morte d'Arthur by Thomas Malory

    This classic work is a compilation of stories and legends about the legendary King Arthur, his knights, and the Round Table. It tells of Arthur's rise to power, his quest for the Holy Grail, and his tragic downfall. The book, written in the 15th century, is considered one of the most influential pieces of Arthurian literature and has significantly shaped the modern perception of Arthur, Merlin, Guinevere, Lancelot, and other iconic characters.

  • Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen

    The book is a memoir that recounts the author's experiences and observations living in Kenya, then British East Africa, from 1914 to 1931. It is a lyrical meditation on her life amongst the diverse cultures and wildlife of Africa. The author shares her trials and tribulations of running a coffee plantation, her deep respect for the people and land of Africa, and her intimate understanding of the subtle nuances of African culture and society.

  • The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux

    The book tells the story of a beautiful soprano at the Paris Opera House named Christine Daaé who becomes the obsession of a mysterious, disfigured musical genius living in the subterranean labyrinth beneath the opera house. Known as the Phantom, he terrorizes the opera company to compel them to keep giving roles to Christine, whom he tutors in secret. The tale unfolds with love, jealousy, and violence, culminating in a dramatic conclusion.

  • Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

    "Purple Hibiscus" follows the story of a 15-year-old Nigerian girl, Kambili, and her older brother Jaja, who live a privileged life in Enugu. However, their father is a religious fanatic and a domestic tyrant. The siblings are sent to their Aunty Ifeoma's home, a university professor, who provides them a taste of freedom and shows them a different way of life outside their father's oppressive rule. The novel explores themes of colonialism, religious fanaticism, and the post-colonial political situation in Nigeria.

  • Ties That Bind, Ties That Break by Lensey Namioka

    Set in early 20th century China, the book tells the story of a young girl who challenges societal norms by refusing to have her feet bound, a painful tradition that symbolizes beauty and status. This decision leads to her being disowned by her family. She then becomes a servant for a wealthy family, where she learns English and eventually moves to America. The novel explores themes of tradition, gender roles, and the struggle for individuality and freedom.

  • Waiting by Ha Jin

    "Waiting" is a story set in China during the Cultural Revolution and its aftermath, revolving around the life of Lin Kong, a military doctor who is torn between his love for two women. He is stuck in an arranged marriage with his traditional wife in the countryside, while he falls in love with a modern, city nurse. The novel explores his 18-year struggle to divorce his wife and marry his lover, depicting the clash between traditional and modern Chinese culture, personal desires, and societal expectations.

  • Funny in Farsi by Firoozeh Dumas

    This memoir tells the story of an Iranian family who migrated to America in the 1970s, offering a humorous take on their experiences. The narrative focuses on the author's childhood and adolescence, exploring themes of cultural identity, assimilation, and the immigrant experience in America. It highlights the family's journey of navigating a new country and culture, while still holding on to their Iranian roots. The book showcases the author's ability to find humor in the most challenging situations, making it a heartwarming and amusing read.

  • A Book of Luminous Things by Czesław Miłosz

    "A Book of Luminous Things" is a collection of international poetry, curated by a renowned poet himself. The anthology is divided into thematic sections, each prefaced by a brief introduction from the editor. The poems cover a wide range of themes such as nature, love, history, and the essence of human existence. The book serves as a testament to the power of poetry in illuminating the complexities and beauty of human life.

  • Enrique's Journey by Sonia Nazario

    "Enrique's Journey" is a poignant narrative about a young Honduran boy who embarks on a perilous journey through Central America and Mexico to reach his mother in the United States. The story, based on a Pulitzer Prize-winning newspaper series, explores the harsh realities faced by immigrants, the devastating impact of family separations, and the unyielding determination of a child in search of his mother. It offers a deeply personal and eye-opening perspective on the challenges and perils faced by undocumented immigrants.

  • The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith

    The book follows the story of Precious Ramotswe, a woman in Botswana who opens the country's first and only female-run detective agency. She uses wisdom, intuition, and her understanding of human nature to solve various cases, from missing husbands to wayward daughters and con men. The story is not just about solving mysteries, but also provides a deep insight into the culture, landscape and people of Botswana.

  • Retold African American Folktales by David Haynes

    This book is a collection of African American folktales that have been retold and adapted for a modern audience. The stories are diverse and filled with magic, wisdom, and humor, reflecting the rich cultural heritage of African American communities. They present a variety of characters and situations, from tricksters outwitting their foes to heroes overcoming great odds, teaching lessons about resilience, courage, and the importance of community.

  • 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.

  • American Shaolin by Matthew Polly

    The book is a captivating memoir of a young American's experience in China where he spends two years studying at the Shaolin Temple, the birthplace of kung fu. The narrative follows his journey as he immerses himself in Chinese culture, learns Mandarin, and trains with the monks, becoming the first American to be accepted as a disciple. The author's transformation, both physically and spiritually, is depicted in a humorous and insightful manner, providing a unique perspective on Eastern philosophy and martial arts.

  • Apology by Plato

    This philosophical text is a dialogue of Socrates' defense in 399 BC against the charges of 'corrupting the young, and by not believing in the gods in whom the city believes, but in other daimonia that are novel.' The dialogue is Socrates' defense at his trial and is his final public statement before his execution. In it, he discusses the moral and philosophical justification for his actions and beliefs, ultimately leading to his conviction and death.

  • The Stories of Anton Chekhov by Anton Chekhov

    This collection of short stories explores the complexities of human nature and society in 19th-century Russia. Written by a renowned Russian author, the stories range from humorous to tragic, often focusing on the everyday lives and struggles of ordinary people. The author's keen observation and deep understanding of human nature shine through in these tales, making them timeless classics that continue to resonate with readers today.

  • Born Confused by Tanuja Desai Hidier

    The novel tells the story of an Indian-American teenage girl who struggles with her cultural identity. She feels caught between the traditional Indian values of her parents and the mainstream American culture she experiences every day. As she navigates high school, friendships, and first love, she begins to rediscover her heritage and embrace her Indian-American identity.

  • The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck

    This novel tells the story of a poor farmer in rural China, who struggles to survive and prosper. Over time, he manages to build a life for himself and his family, eventually becoming a wealthy landowner. However, his newfound wealth and status lead to a moral decline, as he becomes disconnected from the land that gave him everything. The narrative explores themes of wealth, poverty, and the human connection to the earth.

  • Chanda's Secrets by Allan Stratton

    Chanda's Secrets is a poignant story set in Sub-Saharan Africa, where the protagonist, a sixteen-year-old girl, grapples with the harsh reality of AIDS in her community. The novel explores the stigma and fear associated with the disease, as well as the courage and resilience of its characters. The protagonist's unwavering determination to keep her family together, despite societal pressures and personal tragedy, forms the crux of the narrative.

  • The Cherry Orchard by Anton Chekhov

    "The Cherry Orchard" is a classic play about an aristocratic Russian woman and her family as they return to their family estate, which includes a large and well-known cherry orchard. The family is on the brink of financial ruin and the estate is slated to be auctioned off. Despite various attempts to save their beloved home and orchard, they are ultimately unable to prevent the sale. The play is a poignant reflection on the changing social order and the decline of the aristocracy in Russia at the turn of the 20th century.

  • Chinese Cinderella by Adeline Yen Mah

    This book is a memoir of a young girl growing up in China during the 1940s and 1950s. The protagonist is considered unlucky by her family after her mother dies giving birth to her. She is mistreated by her stepmother and largely ignored by her father, leading to a lonely and challenging childhood. Despite these difficulties, she finds solace in her academic achievements and her Aunt Baba's support. The story is a testament to the power of hope and perseverance in the face of adversity.

  • City of the Beasts by Isabel Allende

    A 15-year-old boy is forced to move in with his eccentric grandmother after his mother falls ill. Together, they embark on a journey to the Amazon rainforest in search of a legendary, healing beast. Along the way, they encounter various challenges, including dangerous animals, harsh environments, and a group of indigenous people with mystical powers. The boy learns to overcome his fears and prejudices, forming a strong bond with the indigenous people and the rainforest itself.

  • Crow Lake by Mary Lawson

    "Crow Lake" is a compelling novel that explores the dynamics of a rural Canadian family dealing with tragedy. After the death of their parents, the Morrison children struggle to stay together and maintain their family farm. The story is narrated by the youngest daughter, who is now a successful zoologist, reflecting back on her childhood. The narrative delves into themes of love, loss, survival, and the power of education, all set against the backdrop of the harsh, yet beautiful, northern Ontario landscape.

About this list

Perfection Learning, 100 Books

The top 100 titles for the world literature classroom, ranked in order of popularity, chosen by literature teachers from across the country.

Added over 9 years ago.

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