The Best Classics

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

  • One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey

    Set in a psychiatric hospital in Oregon, the novel is narrated by a half-Native American patient known as Chief Bromden, who pretends to be deaf and mute. The story follows the arrival of a new patient, a boisterous, rebellious man who challenges the oppressive and dehumanizing system of the hospital, particularly the tyrannical Nurse Ratched. The book explores themes of individuality, rebellion, and the misuse of power, ultimately leading to a tragic conclusion.

    The 98th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Call to Arms by Xun Lu

    "Call to Arms" is a collection of short stories that vividly capture the impact of the socio-political upheaval during the early 20th century in China. The narratives delve into the lives of ordinary people, predominantly the peasantry and the lower classes, who are often caught in the throes of societal change and struggle for survival. Through a blend of realism and symbolism, the stories explore themes of tradition versus modernity, the human condition, and the quest for justice, reflecting the author's critical engagement with the national and cultural issues of his time.

    The 571st Greatest Book of All Time
  • Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys

    This novel is a postcolonial prequel to "Jane Eyre," exploring the life of Mr. Rochester's mad wife, Bertha. Set in Jamaica during the 1830s, it follows the story of Antoinette Cosway, a white Creole heiress, from her youth in the Caribbean to her unhappy marriage and move to England. Caught in a society that both rejects and exoticizes her, Antoinette is ultimately driven into madness by her oppressive husband and the haunting legacy of colonialism.

    The 113th Greatest Book of All Time
  • 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 13th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Notes from the Underground by Fyodor Dostoevsky

    This novel is a profound exploration of the human psyche through the eyes of a bitter and isolated retired civil servant living in St. Petersburg. The protagonist, a self-proclaimed "sick" and "spiteful" man, delves into his past experiences and personal philosophies in a series of rambling and often contradictory monologues. His existential musings touch on themes such as free will, determinism, and the nature of human action, often challenging the prevailing ideologies of his time. The narrative provides a deep and unsettling insight into the darker aspects of human consciousness.

    The 424th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Story of the Eye by Georges Bataille

    This novel is a provocative exploration of the dark side of human nature, featuring two teenage characters who engage in increasingly bizarre and violent sexual games. Their actions, driven by their obsession with eroticism and death, lead them into a world of perversion and madness. The narrative is filled with explicit sexual content and shocking imagery, reflecting the author's fascination with the transgressive and the taboo.

    The 999th Greatest Book of All Time
  • A Spy In The House Of Love by Anaïs Nin

    Set in the bohemian high society of 1950s New York, the novel follows the life of Sabina, a woman trapped in a loveless marriage who seeks fulfillment and identity through a series of passionate love affairs. As she navigates the complexities of love and sexuality, Sabina struggles with her own self-deception and the societal expectations that confine her. The story is a psychological exploration of a woman's quest for self-discovery and liberation.

    The 6169th 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
  • Venus in Furs by Leopold Von Sacher-Masoch

    The novel explores the themes of love, dominance, submission, and power dynamics through the story of a man who becomes infatuated with a woman named Wanda. He convinces her to enter into a contract where he becomes her slave, allowing her to treat him in any way she pleases. Over time, the man's obsession with being humiliated and dominated leads him to a path of self-destruction as he grapples with his desires and the reality of his situation. The novel is a vivid portrayal of masochism and the complexities of human sexuality.

    The 2942nd Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer

    The Canterbury Tales is a collection of 24 stories that follows a group of pilgrims traveling from London to Canterbury to visit the shrine of Saint Thomas Becket. Told in Middle English, the tales are narrated by a diverse group of pilgrims, including a knight, a miller, a reeve, and a pardoner, who share their stories to pass the time during their journey. The tales, which range from chivalrous romances to bawdy fabliaux, provide a colorful, satirical, and critical portrayal of 14th century English society.

    The 103rd Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky

    This classic novel explores the complex, passionate, and troubled relationship between four brothers and their father in 19th century Russia. The narrative delves into the themes of faith, doubt, morality, and redemption, as each brother grapples with personal dilemmas and family conflicts. The story culminates in a dramatic trial following a murder, which serves as a microcosm of the moral and philosophical struggles faced by each character, and by extension, humanity itself.

    The 32nd Greatest Book of All Time
  • Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

    This classic novel follows the journey of a seaman who travels up the Congo River into the African interior to meet a mysterious ivory trader. Throughout his journey, he encounters the harsh realities of imperialism, the brutal treatment of native Africans, and the depths of human cruelty and madness. The protagonist's journey into the 'heart of darkness' serves as both a physical exploration of the African continent and a metaphorical exploration into the depths of human nature.

    The 25th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Diamonds Are Forever by Ian Fleming

    This novel follows a British secret agent who is tasked with infiltrating a diamond smuggling ring. The agent travels from London to New York, Las Vegas, and eventually Africa, facing various threats and challenges along the way. As he delves deeper into the operation, he uncovers a sinister plot involving a ruthless American gangster and a deadly assassin. The agent must use his cunning and skills to survive and stop the criminals.

    The 6169th 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 Secret Agent by Joseph Conrad

    "The Secret Agent" is a dark political satire set in London in the late 19th century, revolving around a secret agent who is also a shopkeeper, his anarchist friends, and his family. The story unfolds as the agent is coerced by his foreign employers to orchestrate a bombing in a bid to provoke a political response, but the plan goes disastrously wrong, leading to tragic consequences and a deep exploration of themes such as anarchism, espionage, terrorism, and betrayal.

    The 459th Greatest Book of All Time
  • A Room With a View by E. M. Forster

    Set in Italy and England, the novel tells the story of a young English woman, Lucy Honeychurch, who travels to Florence with her older cousin and chaperone. During her stay in Italy, Lucy meets and falls in love with a free-spirited man, but due to societal pressures, she becomes engaged to a wealthy but pretentious man back home in England. The novel explores themes of societal norms, personal growth, and the struggle between heart and mind as Lucy must decide between conforming to societal expectations or following her own desires.

    The 290th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

    This classic novel is a tale of love, revenge and social class set in the Yorkshire moors. It revolves around the intense, complex relationship between Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff, an orphan adopted by Catherine's father. Despite their deep affection for each other, Catherine marries Edgar Linton, a wealthy neighbor, leading Heathcliff to seek revenge on the two families. The story unfolds over two generations, reflecting the consequences of their choices and the destructive power of obsessive love.

    The 11th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Don Juan: A Poem by Lord Byron

    This epic satirical poem tells the story of Don Juan, a handsome, charming young man from Spain who gets into various adventures and romantic escapades throughout Europe and the Ottoman Empire. Throughout his journey, he encounters a variety of characters, including pirates, sultans, and aristocrats, while also engaging in numerous love affairs. The narrative, filled with humor, irony, and social commentary, serves as a critique of societal norms and conventions, particularly those related to love and morality.

    The 919th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Cat on a Hot Tin Roof by Tennessee Williams

    This classic play explores the turbulent relationships within a wealthy Southern family. The main characters include an alcoholic ex-football player, his wife, and his domineering father, who is dying of cancer. The story revolves around the family's internal conflict, deceit, and denial as they grapple with the patriarch's impending death and the question of who will inherit the family's wealth. Themes of sexual desire, repression, greed, and death are prominent in this intense, emotional drama.

    The 5216th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Love in a Cold Climate by Nancy Mitford

    Set in the 1930s, the novel revolves around the lives of British aristocracy, focusing on the love lives of young women in high society. The protagonist's cousin, Polly, shocks her family by choosing to marry a middle-aged, socially inferior man instead of a wealthy aristocrat. Meanwhile, the protagonist herself navigates her own romantic relationships amidst a backdrop of lavish parties, eccentric relatives, and societal expectations. The story offers a humorous and satirical look at the British upper class, highlighting their idiosyncrasies and the pressures they face.

    The 964th Greatest Book of All Time
  • David Copperfield by Charles Dickens

    This novel follows the life of its titular protagonist from his childhood to maturity. Born to a young widow, David endures a difficult childhood when his mother remarries a harsh and abusive man. After his mother's death, he is sent to a boarding school before being forced into child labor. As he grows, David experiences hardship, love, and loss, all the while meeting a colorful array of characters. The novel is a journey of self-discovery and personal growth, showcasing the harsh realities of 19th-century England.

    The 45th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Middlemarch by George Eliot

    Set in the fictitious English town of Middlemarch during the early 19th century, the novel explores the complex web of relationships in a close-knit society. It follows the lives of several characters, primarily Dorothea Brooke, a young woman of idealistic fervor, and Tertius Lydgate, an ambitious young doctor, who both grapple with societal expectations, personal desires, and moral dilemmas. Their stories intertwine with a rich tapestry of other townsfolk, reflecting themes of love, marriage, ambition, and reform, making a profound commentary on the human condition.

    The 23rd Greatest Book of All Time
  • Long Walk To Freedom by Nelson Mandela

    "Long Walk to Freedom" is a powerful autobiography that chronicles the extraordinary life of Nelson Mandela. From his humble beginnings in a rural village to becoming the first black president of South Africa, Mandela's journey is one of resilience, determination, and unwavering commitment to justice and equality. Through his personal experiences, he provides a vivid account of the struggle against apartheid, his 27 years of imprisonment, and the eventual triumph of democracy. This book serves as an inspiring testament to Mandela's unwavering spirit and his lifelong fight for freedom and human rights.

    The 1252nd Greatest Book of All Time
  • Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

    The book is a tragic tale of two displaced ranch workers during the Great Depression in California. The two main characters, an intelligent but uneducated man and his mentally disabled companion, dream of owning their own piece of land. However, their dreams are thwarted by circumstances beyond their control, leading to a heart-wrenching conclusion. The book explores themes of friendship, dreams, loneliness, and the harsh realities of the American Dream.

    The 219th Greatest Book of All Time
  • She by H. Rider Haggard

    The novel is a classic adventure tale set in a lost African civilization, revolving around a beautiful and immortal queen who has the power to kill at will and is known only as "She". The story follows two men who discover her hidden kingdom while on an expedition. The queen believes one of them to be the reincarnation of her long-lost love and tries to win him over while the other man falls in love with her. The narrative explores themes of power, immortality, and love.

    The 1431st Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton

    Set in the 1870s, the novel revolves around Newland Archer, a young lawyer from New York's high society, who is engaged to the beautiful and conventional May Welland. His life takes a turn when he meets May's cousin, the Countess Ellen Olenska, who has returned from Europe after leaving her scandalous husband. Torn between his duty and passion, Archer struggles with the constraints of the society he is a part of. The book offers a vivid portrayal of the struggle between individual desires and societal expectations in the upper-class New York society of the late 19th century.

    The 88th Greatest Book of All Time
  • 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.

    The 383rd Greatest Book of All Time
  • Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy

    This novel tells the story of Jude Fawley, a working-class young man who dreams of becoming a scholar. The traditional class structure in 19th-century England prevents him from realizing his dream and his only solace is his love for his cousin, Sue Bridehead. Their scandalous relationship and the tragic events that follow form the heart of the narrative, which explores themes of love, class, religion, and morality.

    The 231st Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Old Curiosity Shop by Charles Dickens

    The Old Curiosity Shop tells the story of Little Nell Trent, a beautiful and virtuous young girl who lives with her grandfather in his shop of curiosities. After her grandfather loses his entire fortune with his gambling addiction, he and Nell are forced to leave their home and live as beggars. The novel follows their journey across England and the various characters they meet along the way, including the villainous dwarf Quilp, who pursues them relentlessly. The book is a mix of humor and pathos, exploring themes of virtue, resilience, and the harsh realities of life in 19th-century England.

    The 1300th Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson

    This classic novel explores the duality of human nature through the story of a respected London doctor who creates a potion that transforms him into a sinister, violent alter ego. As the doctor increasingly loses control over when the transformations occur, his alter ego's evil deeds escalate, causing havoc in the community. The narrative is a chilling exploration of humanity's capacity for evil and the struggle for individuals to reconcile their public personas with their private desires.

    The 233rd Greatest Book of All Time
  • Dracula by Bram Stoker

    This classic horror novel tells the story of Count Dracula's attempt to move from Transylvania to England so that he may find new blood and spread the undead curse, and of the battle between Dracula and a small group of people led by Professor Abraham Van Helsing. The narrative is composed of journal entries, letters, and telegrams written by the novel's protagonists, providing different perspectives on the gruesome events unfolding. The book touches on themes of sexuality, gender roles, and the clash of modern science with traditional superstition.

    The 85th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

    This classic novel tells the story of a young scientist who creates a grotesque but sentient creature in an unorthodox scientific experiment. The scientist, horrified by his creation, abandons it, leading the creature to seek revenge. The novel explores themes of ambition, responsibility, guilt, and the potential consequences of playing God.

    The 30th Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Turn of the Screw by Henry James

    A young governess is hired to care for two children at a remote English estate. However, she soon becomes convinced that the grounds are haunted by two former employees who have taken control of the children. As she fights to free the children from these apparitions, the line between reality and her own fears becomes increasingly blurred, leading to a chilling and ambiguous conclusion.

    The 270th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray

    This classic novel follows the lives of two contrasting women, the cunning and ruthless Becky Sharp and the sweet and naive Amelia Sedley, against the backdrop of English society during the Napoleonic Wars. The book is a satirical exploration of the obsession with wealth, status, and social climbing, and the moral bankruptcy that can result from such pursuits. The narrative weaves an intricate tale of love, betrayal, and redemption, exposing the vanity and hypocrisy of high society.

    The 72nd Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Castle of Otranto: A Gothic Story by Horace Walpole

    "The Castle of Otranto: A Gothic Story" is a novel set in a medieval Italian castle and is considered the first gothic novel. The story revolves around the tyrannical Prince Manfred, who is determined to secure his family's reign in Otranto, despite the fact that his sickly son is killed by a giant helmet on his wedding day. The novel is filled with supernatural elements, including moving portraits, a bleeding statue, and a ghostly knight, as Manfred desperately tries to marry his late son's bride, leading to a series of tragic events. The novel is known for its exploration of the conflict between medieval and renaissance values, and its influence on the gothic literature genre.

    The 879th 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
  • Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote

    This classic novella explores the life of a young writer in New York City and his relationship with his neighbor, a charismatic and eccentric woman who lives off the generosity of wealthy men. The woman, who dreams of a life of luxury and freedom, captivates the writer with her charm and mystery. The story is a poignant examination of love, friendship, identity, and the struggle for personal freedom in a society bound by conventions.

    The 474th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Emma by Jane Austen

    The novel revolves around Emma, a well-meaning but disaster-prone matchmaker, who ignores her own romantic feelings while setting out to find a suitor for her friend Harriet. Her efforts cause more problems than solutions as she leaves a trail of mishaps behind her. As her plans go awry, Emma realizes that she herself may be the one in love. The book is a classic exploration of social manners, love, and marriage in 19th-century England.

    The 95th 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 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.

    The 29th 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
  • Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

    This novel follows the story of a young girl named Alice who falls down a rabbit hole into a fantastical world full of peculiar creatures and bizarre experiences. As she navigates through this strange land, she encounters a series of nonsensical events, including a tea party with a Mad Hatter, a pool of tears, and a trial over stolen tarts. The book is renowned for its playful use of language, logic, and its exploration of the boundaries of reality.

    The 22nd 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
  • Household Tales by Brothers Grimm

    "Household Tales" is a collection of German fairy tales that includes popular stories such as "Cinderella", "Little Red Riding Hood", "Hansel and Gretel", and "Snow White". These narratives, often featuring magical elements and moral lessons, have been influential in shaping Western popular culture. The tales range from the whimsical and humorous to the dark and cautionary, reflecting a wide array of human experiences and emotions.

    The 316th Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

    The novel follows the life of a handsome young man who, after having his portrait painted, is upset to realize that the painting will remain beautiful while he ages. After expressing a wish that the painting would age instead of him, he is shocked to find that his wish comes true. As he indulges in a life of hedonism and immoral acts, his portrait becomes increasingly grotesque, reflecting the damage his actions have on his soul. The story serves as a cautionary tale about the dangers of vanity, selfishness, and the pursuit of pleasure without regard for consequences.

    The 92nd Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Beautiful and Damned by F. Scott Fitzgerald

    This novel tells the story of Anthony Patch, a 1920s socialite and presumptive heir to a tycoon's fortune, and his wife Gloria. As they await the inheritance of his grandfather's estate, their reckless marriage deteriorates into a cycle of alcohol, parties, and squabbles, leading to their downfall. The narrative provides an exploration of the themes of greed, status, and the fleeting nature of youth and beauty.

    The 2398th Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Alex Haley

    This book is an autobiography narrating the life of a renowned African-American activist. It delves into his transformation from a young man involved in criminal activities to becoming one of the most influential voices in the fight against racial inequality in America. The book provides a deep insight into his philosophies, his time in prison, conversion to Islam, his role in the Nation of Islam, his pilgrimage to Mecca, and his eventual split from the Nation. It also addresses his assassination, making it a powerful account of resilience, redemption, and personal growth.

    The 140th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Vile Bodies by Evelyn Waugh

    "Vile Bodies" is a satirical novel that explores the lives of young, rich, and often aimless people in England during the interwar period. The narrative follows the protagonist, a struggling writer, who is engaged to be married but is constantly thwarted by lack of funds. The book is filled with eccentric characters, wild parties, and scandalous behavior, providing a humorous yet critical commentary on the moral decline of a society obsessed with wealth and status.

    The 1864th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Against Nature by J. K. Huysmans

    The novel follows the life of an eccentric aristocrat who retreats from society to live in isolation, dedicating himself to the pursuit of excessive aestheticism. He surrounds himself with art, literature, and music, and indulges in sensual pleasures and extravagant interior decoration. The protagonist's obsession with artifice over nature and his quest for absolute individualism and self-gratification are explored, reflecting the decadent movement of the late 19th-century France.

    The 716th Greatest Book of All Time
  • 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
  • Animal Farm by George Orwell

    "Animal Farm" is a satirical fable set on a farm where the animals revolt, overthrow their human farmer, and take over the running of the farm for themselves. The story is an allegory of the Russian Revolution and the rise of Stalin, and the tale is told by the animals that inhabit the farm, primarily pigs who become the ruling class. Despite their initial attempts at creating an equal society, corruption and power ultimately lead to a regime as oppressive as the one they overthrew.

    The 74th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels

    This influential political pamphlet advocates for the abolition of private property, the rights of the proletariat, and the eventual establishment of a classless society. The authors argue that all of history is a record of class struggle, culminating in the conflict between the bourgeoisie, who control the means of production, and the proletariat, who provide the labor. They predict that this struggle will result in a revolution, leading to a society where property and wealth are communally controlled.

    The 196th Greatest Book of All Time
  • 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.

    The 46th Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Time Machine by H. G. Wells

    A Victorian-era scientist invents a machine that allows him to travel through time. He first journeys to the year 802,701 A.D., where he encounters the Eloi, a society of small, elegant, childlike adults who live in harmony but lack curiosity and drive. He later discovers the Morlocks, a nocturnal, subterranean species who prey on the Eloi. After rescuing an Eloi named Weena, the protagonist loses his time machine and must devise a plan to recover it and return to his own time, all while exploring the social and evolutionary implications of the two distinct societies.

    The 185th Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick

    Set in an alternate history where the Axis powers won World War II, this novel explores life in a world where the United States is divided into three parts: the Pacific States of America, controlled by Japan; the Rocky Mountain States, a neutral buffer zone; and the United States of America, controlled by Nazi Germany. The story follows several characters, including a jewelry designer, a trade minister, and a German secret agent, as they navigate this dystopian reality. The narrative is further complicated by the existence of a banned novel that depicts an alternate reality where the Allies won the war, causing characters to question their understanding of reality.

    The 512th Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham

    In this post-apocalyptic novel, the majority of the world's population is blinded by a comet shower, leaving society vulnerable to the Triffids - venomous, mobile plants that were previously farmed for their oil. The protagonist, who retains his sight after being hospitalized during the comet shower, must navigate this new world, dealing with the Triffids and the desperate remnants of humanity. The novel explores themes of survival, adaptation, and the inherent fragility of civilization.

    The 621st Greatest Book of All Time
  • We by Yevgeny Zamyatin

    In this dystopian novel, the story is set in the future, where the protagonist, a mathematician, lives in a highly regulated society where citizens are known by numbers, not names, and every action is dictated by the state. Individuality and freedom are suppressed, and even the concept of love is replaced by regulated sexual liaisons. The mathematician begins to question the infallibility of the state after meeting a rebellious woman, leading to a series of events that challenge the very foundations of his world.

    The 456th Greatest Book of All Time
  • A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

    This novel follows the life of a violent young man named Alex, who is part of a youth subculture in a dystopian future England. Alex and his gang engage in a nightmarish spree of rape, assault, and robbery, until he is arrested and subjected to a psychological experiment by the government to "cure" him of his violent tendencies. The novel explores themes of free will, morality, and the nature of evil, while using a unique slang language invented by the author.

    The 87th Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Invisible Man by H. G. Wells

    The book is a gripping science fiction tale about a scientist who discovers a way to make himself invisible. However, the inability to reverse the process leads him into madness and terror. The narrative explores themes of alienation, social responsibility, and the moral implications of scientific advancement. The invisible man's struggle with his condition and society's reaction to his invisibility serve as a critique of humanity's fear and misunderstanding of the unknown.

    The 1654th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Hell's Angels by Hunter S. Thompson

    This book provides an immersive exploration of the infamous motorcycle gang, the Hell's Angels, as seen through the eyes of a journalist who spent a year living and riding with them. The narrative delves into the lifestyle, mindset, and public perception of these notorious figures, offering a raw and unfiltered look into their world. It also examines the wider cultural context of the 1960s, including societal anxieties and the counterculture movement, and how these factors intersect with the Hell's Angels' existence.

    The 1878th Greatest Book of All Time
  • A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

    Set against the backdrop of the French Revolution, this classic novel explores themes of class struggle, sacrifice, and resurrection. The narrative follows the lives of several characters, including a dissipated English lawyer, a man who is a long-term prisoner in the Bastille, and a woman who becomes embroiled in the political turmoil of the time. The story is a riveting tale of love and sacrifice, with the infamous guillotine looming in the background, symbolizing the violence and unrest of the era.

    The 237th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Another Country by James Baldwin

    "Another Country" is a profound exploration of racial, sexual, and creative issues in 1950s Manhattan. The story follows the lives of various characters, including a jazz drummer, a Southern white woman, and a black playwright, among others. As the narrative unfolds, it delves into their struggles with identity, prejudice, and interpersonal relationships, offering a raw and unflinching portrayal of America's social and cultural landscape during a time of intense change and conflict.

    The 545th Greatest Book of All Time
  • In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

    This true crime novel tells the story of the brutal 1959 murder of a wealthy farmer, his wife and two of their children in Holcomb, Kansas. The narrative follows the investigation led by the Kansas Bureau of Investigation that ultimately leads to the capture, trial, and execution of the killers. The book explores the circumstances surrounding this horrific crime and the effects it had on the community and the people involved.

    The 76th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Junky by William S. Burroughs

    This novel is a semi-autobiographical account of the author's life as a drug addict in the 1950s. The protagonist, living in New York City, becomes addicted to heroin and resorts to petty crime to support his habit. As he navigates the seedy underworld of drug addiction, he experiences the highs and lows of substance abuse, the desperate scramble for the next fix, and the constant threat of arrest. The book offers a stark, brutally honest portrayal of addiction and its effects on the human psyche.

    The 1323rd Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins

    "The Moonstone" is a detective novel that revolves around a large, valuable yellow diamond that was stolen from an Indian temple and is now in England. The diamond is bequeathed to a young woman on her eighteenth birthday, but is stolen that same night. The novel follows the investigation of the theft, which is complicated by a series of confusing events and false leads. The resolution involves the unraveling of a tangled web of deception, crime, and colonial guilt.

    The 297th Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Confessions of Jean-Jacques Rousseau by Jean-Jacques Rousseau

    "The Confessions of Jean-Jacques Rousseau" is an autobiographical work by a prominent philosopher of the Enlightenment era, who candidly shares his life story, from his humble beginnings in Geneva to his later years in exile. The book delves into his personal struggles, his intellectual journey, and his relationships, all while exploring his philosophical ideas on education, politics, and morality. The author's introspective narrative provides a unique perspective on his life and times, making it a seminal work in the history of autobiography.

    The 314th 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
  • The Monkey Wrench Gang by Edward Abbey

    "The Monkey Wrench Gang" is a novel about four environmental activists who form a group to sabotage projects that they believe harm the natural environment in the American Southwest. The group's activities range from vandalism to arson, as they target billboards, bridges, and bulldozers, among other things. The novel explores themes of civil disobedience, the ethics of violence, and the tension between individual freedom and societal structures, all set against the backdrop of the expansive western landscape.

    The 1809th Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Subterraneans by Jack Kerouac

    Set in the mid-1950s, this novel follows the story of a group of young, intellectual bohemians living in San Francisco. The protagonist, an aspiring writer, falls in love with a troubled African-American woman. Their interracial relationship, though passionate, is fraught with difficulties due to societal pressures, personal insecurities, and substance abuse. Ultimately, the relationship ends tragically, leaving the protagonist to reflect on the nature of love, loss, and the human condition.

    The 6169th Greatest Book of All Time
  • 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.

    The 86th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Death Of A Salesman by Arthur Miller

    This classic play explores the life of a failing salesman who, in his quest for the American Dream, struggles with his relationships and his own sense of reality. The protagonist's life spirals into despair as he grapples with his unfulfilled ambitions, strained family dynamics, and ultimately, his own mortality. The narrative delves deep into the themes of identity, illusion, and the destructive nature of the American Dream.

    The 620th Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins

    A captivating tale of mystery and suspense, "The Woman in White" follows the story of a young art teacher, Walter Hartright, who encounters a mysterious woman dressed in white on a moonlit road. The woman is revealed to be a mental asylum escapee, and as Hartright delves into her story, he uncovers a web of deceit, madness, and dangerous secrets involving a wealthy, titled family. The narrative explores themes of identity, insanity, and the abuse of power, with a complex plot filled with twists and turns.

    The 164th 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
  • The Complete Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle

    This book is a comprehensive collection of all 56 short stories and four novels centered around the brilliant detective, Sherlock Holmes, and his loyal friend, Dr. John Watson. Set in late 19th and early 20th century London, the stories follow Holmes as he uses his exceptional deductive reasoning and astute observation skills to solve a variety of complex and intriguing mysteries. From murder and theft to espionage and the supernatural, no case is too challenging for this iconic detective.

    The 235th Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Thirty-Nine Steps by John Buchan

    Set on the eve of World War I, the novel follows an ordinary man who becomes entangled in a dangerous plot after a mysterious stranger shows up at his apartment, claiming to be a spy. When the stranger is murdered, the protagonist is falsely accused and becomes a fugitive, fleeing to the Scottish highlands. He must unravel a conspiracy of international espionage and prevent a political assassination to clear his name.

    The 404th Greatest Book of All Time
  • 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.

    The 19th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Thérèse Raquin by Émile Zola

    "Thérèse Raquin" is a novel about a young woman who is unhappily married to her cousin, a sickly and selfish man. She embarks on a passionate and destructive affair with one of her husband's friends, leading to a series of tragic events. The novel explores themes of lust, guilt, and the psychological consequences of such immoral actions, set against the bleak backdrop of the Parisian underworld.

    The 684th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Dangerous Liaison by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos

    "Dangerous Liaison" is a tale of manipulation, revenge, and seduction set in the French aristocracy before the French Revolution. The novel follows the Marquise de Merteuil and the Vicomte de Valmont, two rivals who use sex as a weapon to humiliate and degrade others, all the while enjoying their cruel games. Their targets are the virtuous (and married) Madame de Tourvel and the young Cecile de Volanges. The book is a dramatic exploration of decadence, corruption, and ultimate retribution.

    The 211th Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

    Set in 17th-century Puritan Boston, this novel tells the story of a woman who conceives a daughter through an affair and struggles to create a new life of repentance and dignity. She is forced to wear a scarlet "A" on her dress as a sign of her adultery while her lover, a revered local minister, remains unnamed and unpunished. Throughout the book, themes of sin, legalism, and guilt are explored.

    The 58th Greatest Book of All Time
  • 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 14th Greatest Book of All Time
  • I, Claudius by Robert Graves

    This historical novel is a first-person narrative told from the perspective of the Roman Emperor Claudius, who was considered an unlikely ruler due to his physical ailments and perceived lack of intelligence. The story covers the reigns of Augustus, Tiberius, and Caligula before Claudius unexpectedly becomes emperor. The narrative provides a critical look at the corruption, violence, and political machinations of the Roman Empire, offering a unique perspective on history.

    The 307th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Hangover Square: A Story of Darkest Earl's Court by Patrick Hamilton

    Set in 1939, on the eve of World War II, the novel follows George Harvey Bone, a lonely, alcoholic man living in London's Earl's Court, who is infatuated with a manipulative small-time actress, Netta. George suffers from a form of split personality disorder, which leads him into periods of 'dead moods' where he contemplates murdering Netta. The book paints a grim picture of pre-war London, filled with despair, failed ambitions, and the looming threat of a global conflict.

    The 2276th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Lives of the Caesars by Suetonius

    "Lives of the Caesars" is a historical narrative that provides a detailed account of the personal and public lives of the first twelve Roman emperors, from Julius Caesar to Domitian. The author presents a vivid depiction of their character, behavior, appearance, and private lives, as well as their political actions, military exploits, and administrative policies. The book is a valuable source of information about the Roman Empire's early days, offering a unique perspective on the power, corruption, and extravagance of the Roman elite.

    The 1325th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson

    This classic adventure novel tells the story of young Jim Hawkins, who stumbles upon a treasure map and embarks on a perilous journey to find the buried treasure. Along the way, he encounters a host of memorable characters, including the cunning and treacherous Long John Silver. The narrative is filled with action, intrigue, and suspense, as Hawkins and his companions face pirates, mutiny, and other dangers in their quest for the hidden treasure.

    The 104th Greatest Book of All Time
  • 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.

    The 37th Greatest Book of All Time
  • 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.

    The 105th Greatest Book of All Time
  • From Russia with Love by Ian Fleming

    In this thrilling spy novel, British secret agent James Bond is targeted by a Russian intelligence group, who lures him into a trap using a beautiful cipher clerk as bait. The plot thickens as Bond falls for the clerk and must navigate a series of dangerous encounters with Russian operatives, including a deadly face-off with a sadistic killer. The story is a blend of action, suspense, and romance, set against the backdrop of the Cold War.

    The 1361st Greatest Book of All Time
  • War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

    Set in the backdrop of the Napoleonic era, the novel presents a panorama of Russian society and its descent into the chaos of war. It follows the interconnected lives of five aristocratic families, their struggles, romances, and personal journeys through the tumultuous period of history. The narrative explores themes of love, war, and the meaning of life, as it weaves together historical events with the personal stories of its characters.

    The 16th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons

    When a young, sophisticated woman is suddenly orphaned and left penniless, she decides to live with her eccentric relatives on their rundown farm. Using her urban sensibilities and wit, she sets about bringing order to the chaos and improving the lives of her relatives. Through her efforts, she manages to transform the gloomy, grim farm into a place of happiness and productivity. This novel is a hilarious parody of romantic, pastoral novels and is filled with eccentric characters and absurd situations.

    The 230th Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Diary of a Nobody by George Grossmith, Weedon Grossmith

    "The Diary of a Nobody" is a humorous account of the daily life of Charles Pooter, a middle-class clerk living in London. The novel, written in diary format, details Pooter's experiences, social anxieties, and domestic issues with a comic touch. His encounters with tradesmen, his social gaffes, and his relationship with his son, who has a very different lifestyle, form the crux of the story. Despite the mundane nature of his life, Pooter's self-importance and serious demeanor contribute to the humor and charm of the book.

    The 838th Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens

    The book is a humorous and satirical depiction of English society in the 19th century, told through the travels and adventures of a group of gentlemen from London, led by a kind-hearted and naive man. Their escapades take them to various locales where they encounter a plethora of eccentric characters and find themselves in comical and sometimes absurd situations. The narrative is interspersed with tales and anecdotes told by the characters themselves, adding to the richness and diversity of the overall story.

    The 213th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Scoop by Evelyn Waugh

    "Scoop" is a satirical novel that explores the world of journalism through the lens of an accidental war correspondent. The protagonist, a nature columnist, is mistakenly sent to cover a war in Africa due to a mix-up at a newspaper office. The book humorously depicts his struggles and mishaps as he navigates the chaotic world of war reporting, providing a critique of sensationalist journalism and the often absurd nature of international news.

    The 636th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis

    "Lucky Jim" is a comic novel that follows the life of Jim Dixon, a young and disillusioned lecturer at a provincial British university. Struggling with his job and his pretentious boss, Dixon navigates through a series of humorous and often absurd situations, including a disastrous public lecture and a chaotic weekend at his boss's house. The novel satirizes the snobbishness and hypocrisy of the academic world, and explores themes of class, ambition, and the struggle to find personal authenticity in a conformist society.

    The 238th Greatest Book of All Time
About this list

The Times, 93 Books

The Times selection of the 100 best classic works of literature.

Added over 9 years ago.

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