1,000 Books to Read Before You Die: A Life-Changing List

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

  • Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

    Set in early 19th-century England, this classic novel revolves around the lives of the Bennet family, particularly the five unmarried daughters. The narrative explores themes of manners, upbringing, morality, education, and marriage within the society of the landed gentry. It follows the romantic entanglements of Elizabeth Bennet, the second eldest daughter, who is intelligent, lively, and quick-witted, and her tumultuous relationship with the proud, wealthy, and seemingly aloof Mr. Darcy. Their story unfolds as they navigate societal expectations, personal misunderstandings, and their own pride and prejudice.

    The 10th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Persuasion by Jane Austen

    This classic novel revolves around the life of Anne Elliot, a woman of 27 who is unmarried and living with her vain, snobbish, and foolish family who are on the brink of financial ruin. Seven years prior, she had been persuaded to reject a marriage proposal from the man she loved, a poor but ambitious naval officer named Frederick Wentworth. When he returns from the war a wealthy and successful captain, old feelings are rekindled. The story follows Anne's journey towards self-realization and second chances at love amidst the complexities of her social class.

    The 286th Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

    The book is a chilling tale that revolves around a group of four individuals who decide to stay in a notoriously haunted mansion to conduct a paranormal investigation. The main character, a shy, reclusive woman with a troubled past, becomes increasingly unstable as she experiences terrifying phenomena and becomes obsessed with the house. As the supernatural events escalate, the lines between reality and imagination blur, leading to a shocking and tragic conclusion.

    The 281st Greatest Book of All Time
  • A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

    This classic tale follows a miserly old man named Ebenezer Scrooge who despises Christmas and all forms of happiness. On Christmas Eve, he is visited by the ghost of his former business partner and three spirits representing Christmases Past, Present, and Yet to Come. These apparitions take him on a journey that forces him to confront his selfish ways, leading him to a transformation where he becomes a kinder and more generous person, embodying the true spirit of Christmas.

    The 374th 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
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

    Set in the racially charged South during the Depression, the novel follows a young girl and her older brother as they navigate their small town's societal norms and prejudices. Their father, a lawyer, is appointed to defend a black man falsely accused of raping a white woman, forcing the children to confront the harsh realities of racism and injustice. The story explores themes of morality, innocence, and the loss of innocence through the eyes of the young protagonists.

    The 8th 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
  • Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

    The novel follows the journey of a young boy named Huckleberry Finn and a runaway slave named Jim as they travel down the Mississippi River on a raft. Set in the American South before the Civil War, the story explores themes of friendship, freedom, and the hypocrisy of society. Through various adventures and encounters with a host of colorful characters, Huck grapples with his personal values, often clashing with the societal norms of the time.

    The 24th Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster

    A young boy named Milo, who is always bored and uninterested in the world around him, unexpectedly receives a magic tollbooth. When he drives through it in his toy car, he is transported to the Kingdom of Wisdom. Here, he embarks on a quest to rescue the princesses Rhyme and Reason, who have been exiled by the warring brothers, King Azaz of Dictionopolis (where words are supremely important) and the Mathemagician of Digitopolis (where numbers are most valued). Along his journey, Milo learns the value of learning and the excitement that can be found in the world around him.

    The 417th Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey

    A detective, laid up in the hospital, becomes fascinated with a portrait of Richard III, the historical figure accused of murdering his nephews to secure his throne. He decides to apply his investigative skills to delve into the mystery, using historical documents and records as his clues. As he pieces together the puzzle, he begins to question the accepted narrative of Richard as a villain, suggesting that this image was a fabrication by the Tudors to legitimize their own claim to the throne.

    The 366th Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain

    The book chronicles the mischievous adventures of a young boy living on the Mississippi River in the mid-19th century. The protagonist, a clever and imaginative boy, often finds himself in trouble for his pranks and daydreams. His escapades range from his romance with a young girl, his search for buried treasure, his attendance at his own funeral, and his witnessing of a murder. The narrative captures the essence of childhood and the societal rules of the time.

    The 231st Greatest Book of All Time
  • Northern Lights by Philip Pullman

    This novel introduces readers to a parallel universe where human souls manifest as talking animal companions known as daemons. The story follows a young girl who embarks on a perilous journey to the Arctic to save her kidnapped friend. Along the way, she uncovers a sinister plot involving stolen children and a mysterious substance called Dust. With the help of a rugged polar bear warrior and a host of other allies, she confronts a series of challenges that test her courage and resolve. This fantasy adventure blends elements of magic, science, and theology, setting the stage for an epic trilogy that explores themes of freedom and the nature of the universe.

    The 9351st Greatest Book of All Time
  • All Creatures Great And Small by James Herriot

    The book is a heartwarming collection of stories that chronicle the experiences of a country veterinarian in rural England. Set in the picturesque Yorkshire Dales, the narrative follows the young vet as he navigates the challenges and joys of treating a wide variety of animals, from farm livestock to family pets. Through his interactions with the animals and their often eccentric owners, the book paints a rich, humorous, and affectionate portrait of country life in the mid-20th century, highlighting the enduring bond between humans and animals.

    The 8745th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Beloved by Toni Morrison

    This novel tells the story of a former African-American slave woman who, after escaping to Ohio, is haunted by the ghost of her deceased daughter. The protagonist is forced to confront her repressed memories and the horrific realities of her past, including the desperate act she committed to protect her children from a life of slavery. The narrative is a poignant exploration of the physical, emotional, and psychological scars inflicted by the institution of slavery, and the struggle for identity and self-acceptance in its aftermath.

    The 26th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

    In a dystopian future where books are banned and burned by the government to prevent dissenting ideas, a fireman named Guy Montag, whose job is to burn books, begins to question the society he serves. After a series of events, including meeting a free-thinking teenager and witnessing a woman choosing to die with her books, Montag begins to secretly collect and read books, leading to his eventual rebellion against the oppressive regime. The narrative serves as a critique of censorship, conformity, and the dangers of an illiterate society.

    The 106th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett

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

    The 96th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown

    This classic children's book follows a young rabbit's bedtime routine, as it says goodnight to everything around: from the red balloon and a pair of mittens, to the kittens, the picture of the cow jumping over the moon, the old lady whispering "hush", and more. The soothing, repetitive text and warm, detailed illustrations create a peaceful, comforting atmosphere that eases children into sleep.

    The 541st Greatest Book of All Time
  • Hamlet by William Shakespeare

    This classic play revolves around the young Prince of Denmark who is thrown into a state of emotional turmoil after his father's sudden death and his mother's quick remarriage to his uncle. The prince is visited by the ghost of his father who reveals that he was murdered by the uncle, prompting the prince to seek revenge. The narrative explores themes of madness, revenge, and moral corruption as the prince navigates the complex political and emotional landscape of the Danish court.

    The 83rd Greatest Book of All Time
  • Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll

    This sequel to Alice's Adventures in Wonderland sees the young protagonist, Alice, embarking on another whimsical journey after stepping through a looking glass. In this mirror-image world, Alice encounters talking flowers, living chess pieces, and a variety of eccentric characters, including Tweedledee and Tweedledum, the Red Queen, and Humpty Dumpty. The narrative is structured around a game of chess, with Alice striving to become a queen. The book is filled with clever wordplay, riddles, and fantastical elements, reflecting the author's unique take on logic and language.

    The 405th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

    A young woman marries a wealthy widower and moves into his large English country house. She quickly realizes that the memory of her husband's first wife, Rebecca, haunts every corner of the estate. The housekeeper's obsessive devotion to Rebecca and the mysterious circumstances of her death continue to overshadow the second wife's attempts to make a happy life with her husband. As secrets about Rebecca's life and death are revealed, the new wife must grapple with her own identity and place within the household.

    The 57th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

    The novel follows the life of Jane Eyre, an orphan who is mistreated by her relatives and sent to a charity school. As she grows up, Jane becomes a governess at Thornfield Hall, where she falls in love with the brooding and mysterious Mr. Rochester. However, she soon learns of a dark secret in his past that threatens their future together. The story is a profound exploration of a woman's self-discovery and her struggle for independence and love in a rigid Victorian society.

    The 20th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

    This novel follows the life of Janie Crawford, a young African-American woman, in the early 20th century. She embarks on a journey through three marriages and self-discovery while challenging the societal norms of her time. The narrative explores her struggle for personal freedom, fulfillment, and identity against the backdrop of racism and gender expectations, ultimately emphasizing the importance of independence and personal growth.

    The 49th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret by Judy Blume

    The book is a coming-of-age story about a sixth-grade girl who is growing up without a religious affiliation, due to her parents' interfaith marriage. The protagonist is in search of a single religion while also confronting typical pre-teen issues such as buying her first bra, having her first period, coping with crushes and the changes that come with growing up. The book explores themes of friendship, religion, love, and self-identity.

    The 266th 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 Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon

    The book follows the lives of two Jewish cousins, one a skilled escape artist and the other a talented artist, before, during, and after World War II. They create a popular comic book superhero, which brings them fame and fortune. However, their success is complicated by personal struggles, including the escape artist's attempts to rescue his family from Nazi-occupied Prague and the artist's struggle with his sexuality. The narrative explores themes of escapism, identity, and the golden age of comic books.

    The 256th Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

    "The Wind in the Willows" is a charming tale about the adventures of four anthropomorphic animal friends - Mole, Rat, Badger, and the rebellious and extravagant Toad. The story is set in the idyllic English countryside and explores themes of friendship, exploration, and respect for nature. The narrative is marked by Toad's reckless behavior, his obsession with motor cars, and his eventual redemption. The other characters, with their contrasting personalities, bring balance and depth to the story.

    The 128th 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
  • Winnie the Pooh by A. A Milne

    This classic children's tale follows the charming adventures of a lovable, honey-loving bear named Winnie the Pooh and his friends in the Hundred Acre Wood. With his companions, including the timid Piglet, the gloomy Eeyore, the energetic Tigger, and the wise Owl, Pooh navigates through various situations and dilemmas, often with humorous and heartwarming results. The book is a celebration of friendship, imagination, and the simple joys of life.

    The 165th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

    A young boy named Max, dressed in his wolf costume, wreaks such havoc through his household that he is sent to bed without his supper. In his room, a mysterious, wild forest and sea grows out of his imagination, and Max sails to the land of the Wild Things. The Wild Things are fearsome-looking monsters, but Max conquers them by “staring into their yellow eyes without blinking once”, and he is made the king of all wild things. However, he soon finds himself lonely and homesick and returns home to his bedroom where he finds his supper waiting for him, still hot.

    The 424th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Bleak House by Charles Dickens

    "Bleak House" is a complex narrative that critiques the British judiciary system through a long-running legal case known as Jarndyce and Jarndyce. The story follows the lives of numerous characters, including the kind-hearted Esther Summerson, her friends Richard and Ada, and their guardian, Mr. Jarndyce, who are all caught in the web of a legal dispute over an inheritance. The novel is known for its detailed depiction of the legal system, its vivid characters, and its exploration of social issues of the time.

    The 161st Greatest Book of All Time
  • Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

    This classic novel explores the lives of the Dashwood sisters, Elinor and Marianne, as they navigate love, heartbreak, and societal expectations in 18th-century England. The two sisters, one characterized by practicality and restraint (sense) and the other by emotional intensity and romanticism (sensibility), must negotiate their paths through a world where marriage often has more to do with wealth and social status than with love. The story is a sharp critique of the limitations placed on women in a rigidly patriarchal society.

    The 518th 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 89th Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Spy Who Came in From the Cold by John le Carré

    This novel is a fascinating tale of espionage during the Cold War, centered around a British intelligence officer who is seemingly ready to end his spy career. However, he is given one last mission before his retirement: to bring down the head of East German Intelligence. As he navigates the dangerous world of spies and double agents, he is forced to confront his own past and the sacrifices he has made for his country. The story is a complex exploration of morality, loyalty, and the personal cost of political conflict.

    The 152nd Greatest Book of All Time
  • One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez

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

    The Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Book Of Three by Lloyd Alexander

    "The Book of Three" is a fantasy novel that follows the adventures of a young assistant pig-keeper named Taran, who dreams of being a grand hero. Set in the mythical land of Prydain, Taran embarks on a quest to find a missing oracle pig, Hen Wen, who holds the knowledge of future events. Along the way, he is joined by an intriguing and diverse group of companions, including a brave princess, a minstrel with a magical harp, and a furry creature named Gurgi. Together, they face the evil Horned King, encountering various challenges that test Taran's courage and ultimately teach him valuable lessons about heroism, responsibility, and self-discovery.

    The 8745th Greatest Book of All Time
  • 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 339th Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Call of the Wild by Jack London

    This book tells the story of a domesticated dog named Buck who is stolen from his home in California and sold into service as a sled dog in Alaska. As he faces harsh conditions and brutal treatment, Buck must learn to adapt to the wild and harsh environment, ultimately reverting to his ancestral instincts in order to survive. The book explores themes of nature versus nurture, civilization versus wilderness, and the struggle for dominance.

    The 159th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Mansfield Park by Jane Austen

    The novel follows the story of Fanny Price, a young girl from a poor family who is sent to live with her wealthy relatives at Mansfield Park. Despite being treated poorly by her relatives, Fanny grows up to be a virtuous and sensible woman. She quietly falls in love with her cousin Edmund, who is in love with a flirtatious and beautiful woman named Mary Crawford. The novel explores themes of morality, marriage, and the contrast between appearance and reality.

    The 976th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Watership Down by Richard Adams

    This novel follows a group of rabbits as they flee their warren due to a foreseen catastrophe. The rabbits, led by Hazel and his psychic brother Fiver, face numerous challenges and adventures as they search for a new home. They encounter predators, hostile rabbit communities, and human threats. The book explores themes of leadership, survival, and freedom, all set within the natural world and its inherent dangers.

    The 180th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Macbeth by William Shakespeare

    This classic play follows the tragic tale of Macbeth, a Scottish general whose ambition is sparked by a prophecy from three witches that he will one day become King of Scotland. Consumed by ambition and spurred on by his wife, Macbeth murders King Duncan and takes the throne. However, guilt and paranoia plague him, leading to a reign of terror and further bloodshed. His desperate attempts to cling onto power lead to his downfall, illustrating the destructive power of unchecked ambition.

    The 226th 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
  • Orlando: A Biography by Virginia Woolf

    The novel follows the life of a young nobleman in Elizabethan England who inexplicably transforms into a woman at the age of 30 and lives on for three centuries without aging. Throughout the centuries, the protagonist experiences various historical events, engages in relationships with both men and women, and explores the complexities of gender identity and sexuality. The book is an exploration of the fluidity of gender and time, as well as a critique of societal norms and expectations.

    The 147th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

    "Northanger Abbey" is a coming-of-age novel that follows the story of Catherine Morland, a young and naive girl who is invited to stay with the wealthy Tilney family at their estate, Northanger Abbey. Catherine's imagination is fueled by her love for gothic novels, leading her to create fantastical scenarios in her mind. As she navigates the complexities of society and falls in love, Catherine learns valuable lessons about the dangers of letting her imagination run wild and the importance of distinguishing reality from fiction.

    The 1001st 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 232nd Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Plague by Albert Camus

    The novel is set in the Algerian city of Oran during the 1940s, where a deadly plague sweeps through, causing the city to be quarantined. The story is told through the eyes of a doctor who witnesses the horror and suffering caused by the disease. The narrative explores themes of human resilience, solidarity, and the struggle against the absurdities of life. It also examines how individuals and society respond to death and disease, creating a profound meditation on the nature of existence and human endurance.

    The 135th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

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

    The 42nd Greatest Book of All Time
  • The House at Pooh Corner by A. A Milne

    This book follows the adventures of a lovable bear named Pooh and his friends in the Hundred Acre Wood. The story introduces a new character, Tigger, who adds more excitement to Pooh's world. From building a house for Eeyore, to an expedition to the North Pole, and the invention of a new game called Poohsticks, the friends navigate through their world with humor and wisdom. The book ends with a touching farewell scene as one of the characters prepares to leave the forest.

    The 959th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut

    The novel follows the life of Billy Pilgrim, a World War II veteran who has become "unstuck in time," experiencing his life events out of order. This includes his experiences as a prisoner of war in Dresden during the Allies' firebombing, his post-war life as a successful optometrist, his abduction by aliens from the planet Tralfamadore, and his eventual death. The book is a critique of war and a demonstration of the destructive nature of time, with a nonlinear narrative that reflects the chaos and unpredictability of life.

    The 54th 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
  • A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine L'Engle

    The novel follows the story of a young girl named Meg Murry, her younger brother Charles Wallace, and their friend Calvin O'Keefe as they embark on a cosmic journey to rescue Meg and Charles Wallace's father. The father, a scientist, has been missing since he discovered a new planet using the concept of Tesseract, which is a wrinkle in time. Guided by three mysterious celestial beings, the children travel across different dimensions, face evil forces, and learn about the power of love and self-sacrifice.

    The 203rd Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

    An aging Cuban fisherman struggles with a giant marlin far out in the Gulf Stream, isolated from the world and from human help. For days, he fights the marlin alone, admiring its strength, dignity, and faithfulness to its identity—its destiny is as true as his as a fisherman. He finally kills the marlin, but sharks attack and devour it before he can return to the shore. The fisherman returns home empty-handed but remains undefeated, having proven his abilities to himself.

    The 81st Greatest Book of All Time
  • A Walk In The Woods by Bill Bryson

    The book is a humorous and insightful account of the author's attempt to walk the Appalachian Trail, one of America's longest and most challenging continuous hiking paths. Alongside an eccentric old friend, the author embarks on a journey that introduces them to a series of memorable characters, natural wonders, and daunting physical challenges. Through witty narrative and personal reflection, the book explores the history and ecology of the trail, the concept of wilderness, and the author's own limits and quirks. It highlights both the beauty and the absurdity of undertaking such a monumental trek.

    The 5414th Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

    Set in a dystopian future, the novel revolves around a teenager named Katniss Everdeen, who lives in a post-apocalyptic nation where the government, in order to maintain control, forces each of its twelve districts to send a boy and girl to participate in a televised annual event. This event, known as the Hunger Games, is a fight to the death. When Katniss's younger sister is selected to participate, Katniss volunteers to take her place. The book follows her struggle for survival in the cruel game, against the backdrop of a brewing rebellion against the oppressive regime.

    The 872nd Greatest Book of All Time
  • Possession by A. S. Byatt

    "Possession" is a novel that interweaves two storylines, one set in contemporary times and the other in the Victorian era. The contemporary plot follows two academics who uncover a secret love affair between two 19th-century poets, while the Victorian storyline presents the clandestine romance itself. As the modern scholars delve deeper into the past, they find themselves falling in love as well, mirroring the historical romance they are researching. The book explores themes of love, passion, and the power of the written word.

    The 267th 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
  • 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.

    The 168th Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger

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

    The 4th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe

    The book is a classic adventure novel about a man who spends 28 years on a remote tropical island near Trinidad, encountering cannibals, captives, and mutineers before being rescued. The story is noted for its realistic portrayal of the protagonist's physical and psychological development and for its detailed depiction of his attempts to create a life for himself in the wilderness. The novel has been interpreted as an allegory for the development of civilization, as well as a critique of European colonialism.

    The 77th 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
  • Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell

    "Cranford" is a novel that explores the lives and social dynamics of a group of women in a small, fictional English town. The narrative is episodic, focusing on the women's everyday experiences, their relationships, and the societal changes they face. The story is characterized by its humor, warmth, and keen observations of human nature, offering a compassionate and insightful portrayal of life in a small community during the Victorian era.

    The 697th Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Adventures of Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens

    This classic novel follows the life of a young orphan named Oliver Twist, who endures a miserable existence in a workhouse and then is placed with an undertaker. He escapes and travels to London where he meets the Artful Dodger, a member of a gang of juvenile pickpockets led by the elderly criminal, Fagin. Despite numerous adversities, Oliver remains pure at heart and is eventually saved from a life of crime, revealing his true identity and claiming his rightful inheritance.

    The 273rd Greatest Book of All Time
  • Long Day's Journey Into Night by Eugene O'Neill

    "Long Day's Journey Into Night" is a semi-autobiographical play that explores the complex dynamics of a family tormented by addiction and regret. The narrative follows the Tyrone family, composed of two parents and their two adult sons, over the course of a single day. As the day progresses, the family members engage in soul-baring conversations that reveal their individual struggles with alcohol and drug addiction, their deep-seated resentments, and the love that binds them together despite their flaws. The play is a poignant examination of the human condition, familial bonds, and the destructive power of addiction.

    The 505th Greatest Book of All Time
  • A Passage to India by E. M. Forster

    The novel takes place in British-ruled India, where the cultural divide between the British and the Indians is explored. The story focuses on the experiences of an Indian Muslim, Dr. Aziz, and his interactions with an English woman, Miss Quested, and her elderly friend, Mrs. Moore. After an expedition to the Marabar Caves, Miss Quested accuses Dr. Aziz of assault, leading to a trial that deepens the racial tensions and prejudices between the colonizers and the colonized. The novel is a critique of British imperialism and a study of the cultural and racial misunderstandings and ill-will between the British and the Indian people.

    The 53rd Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum

    A young girl from Kansas is swept away by a tornado to a fantastical land called Oz. To return home, she must find the mysterious Wizard in the Emerald City, and on her journey, she befriends a Scarecrow in need of a brain, a Tin Woodman longing for a heart, and a Cowardly Lion seeking courage. They all hope the Wizard can grant their wishes, but they must first overcome the Wicked Witch of the West who poses a great danger to them.

    The 330th Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie

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

    The 263rd 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 238th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

    This classic novel follows the lives of the four March sisters - Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy - as they navigate the challenges and joys of adolescence and adulthood in 19th century New England. As they grow, they grapple with issues of poverty, gender roles, love, and personal identity, each in her own unique way. The story is a testament to the power of family, sisterhood, and female resilience in a time of societal constraints.

    The 65th 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
  • 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
  • The Once and Future King by T. H. White

    This novel is a retelling of the Arthurian legend, from Arthur's childhood tutelage under the wizard Merlyn to his eventual death. The story follows Arthur's journey from a naive boy to a wise and just king, his establishment of the Round Table, his marriage to Guinevere, and his complex relationship with his illegitimate son, Mordred. The narrative explores themes of power, justice, war, and human nature, offering a nuanced and humanizing portrayal of a well-known mythical figure.

    The 234th Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James

    This classic novel explores the life of a young, independent American woman who inherits a large amount of money and moves to Europe, where she falls into a manipulative and oppressive marriage. The story delves into themes of personal freedom, responsibility, and betrayal, as the protagonist navigates the complexities of high society, love, and the consequences of her choices.

    The 63rd Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Color Purple by Alice Walker

    Set in the early 20th century, the novel is an epistolary tale of a young African-American woman named Celie, living in the South. She faces constant abuse and hardship, first from her father and then from her husband. The story unfolds through her letters written to God and her sister Nettie, revealing her emotional journey from oppression to self-discovery and independence, aided by her relationships with strong women around her. The narrative explores themes of racism, sexism, domestic violence, and the power of sisterhood and love.

    The 51st Greatest Book of All Time
  • Charlotte's Web by E. B. White

    A young girl named Fern saves a runt piglet from being slaughtered and names him Wilbur. When Wilbur grows too large, he is sent to live in her uncle's barn, where he befriends a clever spider named Charlotte. When Wilbur's life is in danger again, Charlotte weaves messages into her web to convince the farmer that Wilbur is too special to kill. The book explores themes of friendship, sacrifice, and the cycle of life.

    The 99th Greatest Book of All Time
  • King Lear by William Shakespeare

    This classic tragedy revolves around the aging King Lear, who decides to divide his kingdom among his three daughters based on their declarations of love for him. The two elder daughters, Goneril and Regan, flatter him with insincere praises, while the youngest, Cordelia, refuses to play the game and is disowned. As the king's sanity deteriorates, his kingdom falls into chaos under the rule of his deceitful elder daughters. The play explores themes of power, loyalty, madness, and justice, culminating in a tragic ending where almost all the main characters, including King Lear and Cordelia, die.

    The 260th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Tom Jones by Henry Fielding

    This classic novel tells the story of Tom Jones, a charming and good-hearted but impulsive young man, who is expelled from his adoptive family home due to his wild behavior and love for the beautiful Sophia Western. His journey through 18th-century England is filled with adventures, misadventures, and a colorful cast of characters, as he struggles with his identity and seeks redemption. The narrative explores themes of class, virtue, and morality, and is known for its humor, social satire, and vivid characterization.

    The 92nd Greatest Book of All Time
  • Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin

    "Tales of the City" is a collection of interconnected stories set in 1970s San Francisco, focusing on the lives and experiences of a diverse group of residents living in the same apartment complex. The narrative explores various themes such as love, friendship, sexuality, and identity, providing a vivid snapshot of life in this iconic city during a transformative period of social change. The book is known for its candid portrayal of LGBTQ+ characters and issues, a groundbreaking approach at the time of its publication.

    The 606th 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 Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

    This comedic science fiction novel follows the intergalactic adventures of an unwitting human, Arthur Dent, who is rescued just before Earth's destruction by his friend Ford Prefect, a researcher for a galactic travel guide. Together, they hitch a ride on a stolen spaceship, encountering a range of bizarre characters, including a depressed robot and a two-headed ex-president of the galaxy. Through a series of satirical and absurd escapades, the book explores themes of existentialism, bureaucracy, and the absurdity of life, all while poking fun at the science fiction genre and offering witty commentary on the human condition.

    The 73rd Greatest Book of All Time
  • Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick

    Set in a post-apocalyptic world, the novel presents a future where Earth's life has been greatly damaged by a nuclear global war, leaving most species extinct. The remaining human population has been encouraged to emigrate to off-world colonies to preserve the human race. Those who remain on Earth are tasked with maintaining the ecological balance by owning and caring for animals, replacing extinct species with mechanical replicas when necessary. The story revolves around a bounty hunter, who is tasked with "retiring" rogue androids that pose a threat to humans, and his emotional and moral struggles as he goes about his work.

    The 292nd 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 Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown

    This thriller novel follows symbologist Robert Langdon and cryptographer Sophie Neveu as they investigate a murder in the Louvre Museum in Paris. The murder leads them to a trail of clues hidden in the works of Leonardo da Vinci, revealing a religious mystery protected by a secret society for two thousand years. The mystery involves a conspiracy within the Catholic Church and threatens to overturn the foundations of Christianity.

    The 622nd Greatest Book of All Time
  • 2666 by Roberto Bolaño

    The novel is a sprawling, ambitious work that spans continents and time periods, centering around an elusive, reclusive German author. It intertwines five different narratives: a group of European academics searching for the author, a professor in Mexico dealing with his own personal crises, a New York reporter sent to cover a boxing match in Mexico, an African-American journalist in Detroit, and the horrifying and unsolved murders of hundreds of women in a Mexican border town. The narratives are linked by themes of violence, mystery, and the search for meaning in a chaotic world.

    The 490th 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
  • The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami

    A man's search for his wife's missing cat evolves into a surreal journey through Tokyo's underbelly, where he encounters a bizarre collection of characters with strange stories and peculiar obsessions. As he delves deeper, he finds himself entangled in a web of dreamlike scenarios, historical digressions, and metaphysical investigations. His reality becomes increasingly intertwined with the dream world as he grapples with themes of fate, identity, and the dark side of the human psyche.

    The 277th Greatest Book of All Time
  • From The Mixed Up Files Of Mrs Basil E Frankweiler by EL Konigsburg

    In this captivating book, two siblings, Claudia and Jamie, decide to run away from home and live in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. As they explore the museum during the day and hide in the exhibits at night, they stumble upon a mysterious statue that may have been created by the famous sculptor Michelangelo. Determined to solve the statue's origin, Claudia and Jamie embark on an exciting adventure, uncovering secrets and learning valuable lessons about family, art, and self-discovery along the way.

    The 950th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift

    This classic satire follows the travels of a surgeon and sea captain who embarks on a series of extraordinary voyages. The protagonist first finds himself shipwrecked on an island inhabited by tiny people, later discovers a land of giants, then encounters a society of intelligent horses, and finally lands on a floating island of scientists. Through these bizarre adventures, the novel explores themes of human nature, morality, and society, offering a scathing critique of European culture and the human condition.

    The 44th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Clear Light of Day by Anita Desai

    "Clear Light of Day" is a novel set in Old Delhi, which explores the dynamics of the Das family. The story shifts back and forth in time, reflecting on the lives of siblings Bim, Raja, Baba, and Tara, and their relationships with each other and their aunts. The narrative delves into themes of memory, time, and decay, as well as the political upheaval of the Partition of India. The novel is a poignant study of family relationships, personal change, and loss.

    The 1222nd Greatest Book of All Time
  • Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

    The novel is a poignant exploration of a young African-American man's journey through life, where he grapples with issues of race, identity, and individuality in mid-20th-century America. The protagonist, who remains unnamed throughout the story, considers himself socially invisible due to his race. The narrative follows his experiences from the South to the North, from being a student to a worker, and his involvement in the Brotherhood, a political organization. The book is a profound critique of societal norms and racial prejudice, highlighting the protagonist's struggle to assert his identity in a world that refuses to see him.

    The 28th Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde

    This comedic play revolves around two protagonists who both use the pseudonym "Ernest" to escape their social obligations. Their plans unravel when they fall in love and their betrothed women reveal they are only willing to marry men named Ernest. The situation is further complicated by a case of mistaken identity, a lost handbag, and a surprising revelation about one of the protagonist's parentage. The play uses wit and humor to satirize the social conventions of Victorian England, particularly the importance placed on trivialities.

    The 605th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare

    This classic play tells the tragic love story of two young individuals from feuding families in Verona, Italy. Despite their families' ongoing conflict, the pair secretly marry and vow to be together, no matter the cost. Their commitment leads to a series of unfortunate events, including misunderstandings, banishments, and ultimately, their untimely deaths. Their demise, however, reconciles their feuding families, leaving a poignant message about the destructive power of hate and the redemptive power of love.

    The 719th Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Warden by Anthony Trollope

    The novel presents the moral dilemma of Reverend Septimus Harding, who finds himself at the center of a legal and moral controversy. He serves as the warden of Hiram's Hospital, an almshouse supported by a medieval charitable bequest. When the legitimacy of his income from a charity is questioned, he must decide whether to keep his comfortable position at the possible cost of his integrity. The novel explores themes of power, greed, and morality.

    The 1305th Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis

    Four siblings are evacuated from London during World War II and sent to live with an old professor in the countryside. In his house, they discover a magical wardrobe that serves as a portal to the land of Narnia, a world filled with mythical creatures and ruled by an evil White Witch. The children are soon caught up in a struggle to free Narnia from the witch's eternal winter, aided by the majestic lion Aslan. The story combines elements of fantasy, adventure, and Christian allegory.

    The 210th Greatest Book of All Time
  • 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.

    The 50th 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 236th 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
  • 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.

    The 100th Greatest Book of All Time
  • The End of the Affair by Graham Greene

    Set in London during and just after World War II, the novel revolves around a love affair between Maurice Bendrix, a writer, and Sarah Miles, the wife of a civil servant. The story is narrated by Bendrix, who is obsessed with Sarah and hires a private investigator to follow her when he suspects she's having another affair. The novel explores themes of love, hate, and the existence of God, with Sarah's faith playing a significant role in the narrative.

    The 285th Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith

    The Talented Mr. Ripley is a psychological thriller that follows the story of Tom Ripley, a young man struggling to make ends meet in New York City. When a wealthy shipbuilder mistakes Tom for a close friend of his son, Dickie Greenleaf, he offers him an all-expenses-paid trip to Italy to persuade his wayward son to return home. Instead, Tom becomes obsessed with the luxurious lifestyle of Dickie and his girlfriend, Marge, and goes to extreme lengths to make it his own, including identity theft and murder.

    The 154th 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 407th Greatest Book of All Time
About this list

1,000 Books to Read Before You Die(Book), 970 Books

A list written by James Mustich, a bookseller, editor, and writer. Here's the publisher's description:

Celebrate the pleasure of reading and the thrill of discovering new titles in an extraordinary book that’s as compulsively readable, entertaining, surprising, and enlightening as the 1,000-plus titles it recommends.

Covering fiction, poetry, science and science fiction, memoir, travel writing, biography, children’s books, history, and more, 1,000 Books to Read Before You Die ranges across cultures and through time to offer an eclectic collection of works that each deserve to come with the recommendation, You have to read this. But it’s not a proscriptive list of the “great works”—rather, it’s a celebration of the glorious mosaic that is our literary heritage.

Added about 2 months ago.

How Good is this List?

This list has a weight of 22%. To learn more about what this means please visit the Rankings page.

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

  • Voters: 1 person voted
  • List: only covers mostly "Western Canon" books
  • List: criteria is not just "best/favorite"
  • List: contains over 500 books(Quantity over Quality)

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