From Zero to Well-Read in 100 Books by Jeff O'Neal at Bookriot.com

100 books that, in the opinion of Bookriot.com editor-in-chief Jeff O'Neal, one should read before deeming themselves "well-read".

  1. The Odyssey by Homer

    The Odyssey is one of two major ancient Greek epic poems attributed to Homer. It is, in part, a sequel to the Iliad, the other work traditionally ascribed to Homer. The poem is fundamental to the m...


  2. The Iliad by Homer

    The Iliad is an epic poem in dactylic hexameters, traditionally attributed to Homer. Set in the Trojan War, the ten-year siege of Ilium by a coalition of Greek states, it tells of the battles and e...


  3. Oedipus the King by Sophocles

    Oedipus the King is an Athenian tragedy by Sophocles that was first performed c. 429 BC. It was the second of Sophocles's three Theban plays to be produced, but it comes first in the internal chron...


  4. Beowulf by Unknown

    Beowulf is an Old English heroic epic poem of unknown authorship, dating as recorded in the Nowell Codex manuscript from between the 8th and the early 11th century, set in Denmark and Sweden. Commo...


  5. The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer

    With their astonishing diversity of tone and subject matter, The Canterbury Tales have become one of the touchstones of medieval literature. Translated here into modern English, these tales of a mo...


  6. The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri

    Belonging in the immortal company of the great works of literature, Dante Alighieri's poetic masterpiece, The Divine Comedy, is a moving human drama, an unforgettable visionary journey through the ...


  7. Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare

    This lyrical tragedy of two star-crossed lovers and their feuding families is one of the world's most famous love stories.

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  8. Hamlet by William Shakespeare

    The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, or more simply Hamlet, is a tragedy by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written between 1599 and 1601. The play, set in Denmark, recounts how Pri...


  9. Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes

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


  10. The Bible by Christian Church

    The Authorized King James Version is an English translation of the Christian Bible begun in 1604 and completed in 1611 by the Church of England. Printed by the King's Printer, Robert Barker, the fi...


  11. Candide by Voltaire

    Candide, ou l'Optimisme is a French satire written in 1759 by Voltaire, a philosopher of the Age of Enlightenment. Candide is characterized by its sarcastic tone and its erratic, fantastical, an...


  12. Dream of the Red Chamber by Cao Xueqin

    Dream of the Red Chamber is a masterpiece of Chinese vernacular literature and one of China's Four Great Classical Novels. The novel was composed some time in the middle of the 18th century during ...


  13. Faust by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

    Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's Faust is a tragic play, although more appropriately it should be defined a tragicomedy, despite the very title of the work. It was published in two parts: Faust. Der Tr...


  14. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

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


  15. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

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


  16. Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

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


  17. The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

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


  18. Moby Dick by Herman Melville

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


  19. Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman

    Leaves of Grass (1855) is a poetry collection by the American poet Walt Whitman. Among the poems in the collection are "Song of Myself," "I Sing the Body Electric," "Out of the Cradle Endlessly Roc...


  20. Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert

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


  21. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

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


  22. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

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


  23. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

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


  24. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

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


  25. The Complete Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle

    Since his first appearance in Beeton’s Christmas Annual in 1887, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes has been one of the most beloved fictional characters ever created.


  26. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

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


  27. The Call of the Wild by Jack London

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


  28. The Golden Bowl by Henry James

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


  29. Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery

    Anne of Green Gables is a bestselling novel by Canadian author Lucy Maud Montgomery published in 1908. It was written as fiction for readers of all ages, but in recent decades has been considered a...


  30. In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust

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


  31. The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton

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


  32. Ulysses by James Joyce

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


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

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


  34. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

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


  35. Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

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


  36. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway

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


  37. The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner

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


  38. All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque

    All Quiet on the Western Front (German: Im Westen nichts Neues) is a novel by Erich Maria Remarque, a German veteran of World War I. The book describes the German soldiers' extreme physical and men...


  39. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

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


  40. Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

    What more can a mystery addict desire than a much-loathed murder victim found aboard the luxurious Orient Express with multiple stab wounds, thirteen likely suspects, an incomparably brilliant dete...


  41. The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien

    A fantasy novel and children's book by J. R. R. Tolkien. Set in a time "Between the Dawn of Færie and the Dominion of Men", The Hobbit follows the quest of home-loving Bilbo Baggins to win a share ...


  42. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

    The main character, an African American woman in her early forties named Janie Crawford, tells the story of her life and journey via an extended flashback to her best friend, Pheoby, so that Pheoby...


  43. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

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


  44. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

    Since 1943, the wise little boy from Asteroid B-612 has led children and their adults to deeper understandings of love, friendship, and responsibility. The Little Prince is a cherished story, read ...

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

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


  46. Death Of A Salesman by Arthur Miller

    Death of a Salesman is a 1949 play written by American playwright Arthur Miller. It was the recipient of the 1949 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and Tony Award for Best Play. The play premiered on Broadw...

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  47. Nineteen Eighty Four by George Orwell

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


  48. The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis

    World War II has just begun and four children, Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy Pevensie, are evacuated from London in 1940 to escape the Blitz. They are sent to live with Professor Digory Kirke, who ...


  49. Charlotte's Web by E. B. White

    The novel tells the story of a pig named Wilbur and his friendship with a barn spider named Charlotte. When Wilbur is in danger of being slaughtered by the farmer, Charlotte writes messages praisin...


  50. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

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


  51. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

    A totalitarian regime has ordered all books to be destroyed, but one of the book burners suddenly realizes their merit

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  52. Casino Royale by Ian Fleming

    This, the first of Ian Flemings tales of secret agent 007, finds Bond on a mission to neutralize a lethal, high-rolling Russian operative called Le Chiffreby ruining him at the baccarat table.

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  53. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

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


  54. Poems of Emily Dickinson by Emily Dickinson

    Emily Elizabeth Dickinson (December 10, 1830 – May 15, 1886) was an American poet. Born in Amherst, Massachusetts, to a successful family with strong community ties, she lived a mostly introverted ...


  55. Howl and Other Poems by Allen Ginsberg

    Howl and Other Poems is a collection of poetry by Allen Ginsberg published November 1, 1956. It contains Ginsberg's most famous poem, "Howl", which is considered to be one of the principal works of...


  56. Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand

    Ayn Rand's epochal novel, first published in 1957, has been a bestseller for more than four decades as well as an intellectual landmark. It is the story of a man who said that he would stop the mot...


  57. On the Road by Jack Kerouac

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


  58. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

    A novel of great power that turns the world upside down. The Nigerian novelist Achebe reached back to the early days of his people's encounter with colonialism, the 1890's, though the white man and...

    - Time

  59. Rabbit, Run by John Updike

    Rabbit, Run depicts five months in the life of a 26-year-old former high school basketball player named Harry 'Rabbit' Angstrom, and his attempts to escape the constraints of his life.


  60. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

    As a Southern Gothic novel and a Bildungsroman, the primary themes of To Kill a Mockingbird involve racial injustice and the destruction of innocence. Scholars have noted that Lee also addresses is...


  61. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

    Catch-22 is a satirical, historical novel by the American author Joseph Heller, first published in 1961. The novel, set during the later stages of World War II from 1943 onwards, is frequently cite...


  62. The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing

    This book, as well as the couple that followed it, enters the realm of what Margaret Drabble in The Oxford Companion to English Literature has called Lessing's "inner space fiction", her work that ...


  63. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

    The Bell Jar is American writer and poet Sylvia Plath's only novel, which was originally published under the pseudonym "Victoria Lucas" in 1963. The novel is semi-autobiographical with the names of...


  64. Dune by Frank Herbert

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


  65. House Made of Dawn by N. Scott Momaday

    House Made of Dawn is a novel by N. Scott Momaday, widely credited as leading the way for the breakthrough of Native American literature into the mainstream. It was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for F...


  66. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut

    An anti-war science fiction novel by Kurt Vonnegut about World War II experiences and journeys through time of a soldier called Billy Pilgrim.


  67. The Complete Stories of Flannery O'Connor by Flannery O'Connor

    The publication of this extraordinary volume firmly established Flannery O'Connor's monumental contribution to American fiction. There are thirty-one stories here in all, including twelve that do n...


  68. The Complete Tales and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe by Edgar Allan Poe

    Edgar Allan Poe (January 19, 1809 – October 7, 1849) was an American writer, poet, editor and literary critic, considered part of the American Romantic Movement. Best known for his tales of mystery...


  69. The Stand by Stephen King

    The Stand is a post-apocalyptic horror/fantasy novel by American author Stephen King. It re-works the scenario in his earlier short story, Night Surf. The novel was originally published in 1978 and...


  70. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

    The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is the title of the first of five books in the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy comedy science fiction series by Douglas Adams. The novel is an adaptation of th...


  71. If on a Winter's Night a Traveller by Italo Calvino

    Calvino's anti-novel is about the efforts of his two characters — a man called only The Reader, and the Other Reader, a woman named Ludmilla — to read ten very different novels. They are never able...


  72. Waiting for the Barbarians by J.M. Coetzee

    For decades the Magistrate has been a loyal servant of the Empire, running the affairs of a tiny frontier settlement and ignoring the impending war with the barbarians. When interrogation experts a...


  73. Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie

    Midnight's Children is a loose allegory for events in India both before and, primarily, after the independence and partition of India, which took place at midnight on 15 August 1947. The protagonis...


  74. The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera

    The Unbearable Lightness of Being (1984), by Milan Kundera, is a philosophic novel about a man and his two women and their lives in the Prague Spring of the Czechoslovak Communist period in 1968. ...


  75. Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

    Love in the Time of Cholera is a novel by Nobel Prize winning Colombian author Gabriel García Márquez that was first published in Spanish in 1985, with an English translation released in 1988 by Al...


  76. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

    The Handmaid's Tale is a feminist dystopian novel, a work of science fiction or speculative fiction, written by Canadian author Margaret Atwood and first published by McClelland and Stewart in 1985...


  77. Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons

    Watchmen is a graphic novel—a book-length comic book with ambitions above its station—starring a ragbag of bizarre, damaged, retired superheroes: the paunchy, melancholic Nite Owl; the raving dooms...

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  78. Beloved by Toni Morrison

    Beloved (1987) is a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Nobel laureate Toni Morrison. The novel, her fifth, is loosely based on the life and legal case of the slave Margaret Garner, about whom Morrison...


  79. The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien

    The Things They Carried is a collection of related stories by Tim O'Brien, about a platoon of American soldiers in the Vietnam War, originally published in hardcover by Houghton Mifflin, 1990. Whil...


  80. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami

    The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle (ねじまき鳥クロニクル, Nejimaki-dori Kuronikuru?) is a novel by Haruki Murakami. The first published translation was by Alfred Birnbaum. The American translation and its British ad...


  81. Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace

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


  82. A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin

    The kingdom of the royal Stark family faces its ultimate challenge in the onset of a generation-long winter, the poisonous plots of the rival Lannisters, the emergence of the Neverborn demons, and ...

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  83. American Pastoral by Philip Roth

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


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

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


  85. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon

    The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay is a 2000 novel by American author Michael Chabon that won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2001. The novel follows the lives of the title characters, a C...


  86. The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen

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


  87. Life of Pi by Yann Martel

    Life of Pi is a fantasy adventure novel written by Canadian author Yann Martel. In the story, the protagonist Piscine "Pi" Molitor Patel, an Indian boy from Pondicherry, explores issues of spiritua...


  88. Everything Is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer

    Everything Is Illuminated is the first novel by the American writer Jonathan Safran Foer, published in 2002. It was adapted into a film starring Elijah Wood in 2005.


  89. Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

    Cloud Atlas (published in the United States as Cloud Atlas: A Novel) is a 2004 novel, the third book by British author David Mitchell. It won the British Book Awards Literary Fiction Award and the ...


  90. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

    The Book Thief is a best-selling novel by Markus Zusak published in 2005. It was a 2007 Michael L. Printz Award Honor Book. As of September 2009 it has been on the New York Times Children's Best Se...


  91. The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown

    The Da Vinci Code is a 2003 mystery-detective fiction novel written by American author Dan Brown. It follows symbologist Robert Langdon and Sophie Neveu as they investigate a murder in Paris's Louv...


  92. The Road by Cormac McCarthy

    The Road is a 2006 novel by American writer Cormac McCarthy. It is a post-apocalyptic tale of a journey taken by a father and his young son over a period of several months, across a landscape blast...


  93. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz

    The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (2007) is a best-selling novel written by Dominican-American author Junot Díaz. Although a work of fiction, the novel is set in New Jersey where Díaz was raised...


  94. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

    In a future North America, where the rulers of Panem maintain control through an annual televised survival competition pitting young people from each of the twelve districts against one another, si...

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  95. The Help by Kathryn Stockett

    The Help is a 2009 novel by American author Kathryn Stockett. The story is about African-American maids working in white households in Jackson, Mississippi, during the early 1960s. A USA Today arti...

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  96. A Visit From The Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

    Jennifer Egan's spellbinding novel circles the lives of Bennie Salazar, an ageing former punk rocker and record executive, and Sasha, the passionate, troubled young woman he employs. Although Benni...

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  97. Fifty Shades of Grey: by E L James

    When literature student Anastasia Steele goes to interview young entrepreneur Christian Grey, she encounters a man who is beautiful, brilliant, and intimidating. The unworldly, innocent Ana is star...

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  98. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

    "I fell in love the way you fall asleep: slowly, then all at once." Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her fina...

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  99. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

    Who are you? What have we done to each other? These are the questions Nick Dunne finds himself asking on the morning of his fifth wedding anniversary, when his wife Amy suddenly disappears. The pol...

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