The Greatest New Zealander, English Books of All Time

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This list represents a comprehensive and trusted collection of the greatest books. Developed through a specialized algorithm, it brings together 280 'best of' book lists to form a definitive guide to the world's most acclaimed books. For those interested in how these books are chosen, additional details can be found on the rankings page.

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  1. 1. Black Beauty by Anna Sewell

    "Black Beauty" is a heartwarming and poignant novel that follows the life of a beautiful black horse named Black Beauty. From his early years as a carefree colt to his later life as a loyal and hardworking carriage horse, Black Beauty encounters various owners and experiences both kindness and cruelty. Through his eyes, readers witness the mistreatment of horses and the importance of compassion and empathy towards animals. This timeless classic serves as a powerful reminder of the enduring bond between humans and animals.

  2. 2. The Bone People by Keri Hulme

    "The Bone People" is a complex, emotional novel that explores the lives of three characters - a reclusive artist, a young mute boy, and his adoptive father - in New Zealand. The narrative delves into themes such as Maori culture, love, violence, and isolation while showcasing the struggle of these individuals as they try to form a family unit despite their personal traumas and societal pressures. The book's unique blend of prose and poetry, along with its blend of English and Maori language, adds to its depth and richness.

  3. 3. Mary Poppins by PL Travers

    In this beloved classic, a magical and enigmatic nanny named Mary Poppins arrives at the Banks' household to care for their mischievous children. With her peculiar and extraordinary abilities, Mary Poppins takes the children on whimsical adventures, teaching them valuable life lessons along the way. As the family learns to appreciate the wonder and joy in everyday life, Mary Poppins proves that even the most ordinary moments can be extraordinary.

  4. 4. 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.

  5. 5. Ghost Stories Of An Antiquary by M. R. James

    "Ghost Stories of an Antiquary" is a collection of chilling tales that delve into the supernatural and macabre. Written by M. R. James, these stories transport readers to eerie settings, where ancient artifacts, haunted houses, and vengeful spirits lurk. With a masterful blend of suspense and atmospheric descriptions, James weaves narratives that leave readers on the edge of their seats, questioning the boundaries between the real and the supernatural. Each story is a haunting exploration of the human psyche and the terrifying unknown, making this collection a must-read for fans of classic ghost stories.

  6. 6. The Arabian Nightmare by Robert Irwin

    "The Arabian Nightmare" is a captivating and surreal journey through the dreams and nightmares of a young scholar named Abdulla. Set in medieval Cairo, the book explores the blurred lines between reality and fantasy as Abdulla becomes entangled in a web of magical creatures, mythical beings, and supernatural occurrences. With richly descriptive prose and a deep understanding of Arabian folklore, the story delves into themes of identity, love, and the power of storytelling, leaving readers questioning the nature of dreams and the boundaries of the human imagination.

  7. 7. The White Devil by John Webster

    "The White Devil" is a gripping and darkly captivating play that delves into the themes of revenge, corruption, and deceit. Set in 16th century Italy, the story follows the lives of two powerful families, the Brachiano and the Medici, as they engage in a web of treachery and manipulation. As tensions rise and secrets unravel, the characters are consumed by their own desires, leading to a tragic and bloody climax. With its complex characters and intricate plot, "The White Devil" explores the depths of human nature and the destructive consequences of unchecked ambition.

  8. 8. Troilus And Criseyde by Geoffrey Chaucer

    The narrative is a medieval romance that tells the tragic tale of the young Trojan prince Troilus and his doomed love affair with the beautiful Criseyde amidst the backdrop of the Trojan War. After falling deeply in love with Criseyde, Troilus's happiness is short-lived as political circumstances force her to leave Troy and join the Greek camp. Despite her initial vow to remain faithful, Criseyde succumbs to the advances of the Greek warrior Diomedes, leaving Troilus heartbroken and disillusioned. The story explores themes of love, fate, and the capricious nature of fortune, ultimately leading to Troilus's untimely death on the battlefield, as he is unable to reconcile his loss and despair.

  9. 9. Death On The Nile by Agatha Christie

    "Death On The Nile" is a thrilling murder mystery set aboard a luxurious Nile river cruise. When a young and beautiful heiress is found dead, renowned detective Hercule Poirot must navigate a web of deceit, jealousy, and hidden motives to uncover the truth behind her untimely demise. As the suspects become increasingly desperate to protect their secrets, Poirot races against time to solve the puzzle before the killer strikes again.

  10. 10. Faces In The Water by Janet Frame

    "Faces in the Water" is a chilling exploration of mental illness, based on the author's own experiences in psychiatric hospitals. The protagonist is a woman who is institutionalized after a suicide attempt and suffers through the dehumanizing treatment of the era, including electroshock therapy. The narrative is a surreal and fragmented reflection of her mental state, as she grapples with her sanity and the inhumane conditions of her confinement. The novel serves as a powerful critique of the mental health system and the societal attitudes towards mental illness in the mid-20th century.

  11. 11. The Sheep Look Up by John Brunner

    "The Sheep Look Up" is a dystopian science fiction novel that presents a grim and polluted future where environmental degradation and overpopulation have reached catastrophic levels. The story follows various characters as they navigate a world plagued by toxic pollution, food shortages, and rampant disease outbreaks. With a sharp critique of corporate greed and government negligence, the novel explores the consequences of humanity's disregard for the environment and the urgent need for change.

  12. 12. The Blazing World A New World by Margaret Cavendish

    "The Blazing World" is a pioneering work of science fiction and feminist literature that tells the story of a young woman who is kidnapped by a merchant and taken on a voyage to the North Pole, where she enters a parallel universe. In this other world, she becomes the empress of a society inhabited by a variety of hybrid creatures. The empress engages in philosophical discussions with the inhabitants and uses her power to lead a grand intellectual and military campaign back in her own world. The narrative explores themes of power, gender, and the role of science and knowledge, as the protagonist asserts her authority in a world that reflects the author's imaginative and intellectual ambitions.

  13. 13. The Changeling by Thomas and William Rowley Middleton

    "The Changeling" is a Jacobean tragedy that delves into themes of love, betrayal, and madness. The narrative centers around Beatrice-Joanna, a young woman who falls in love with Alsemero while being betrothed to another man, Alonzo. Desperate to be with her true love, she enlists the help of her father's disfigured servant, De Flores, to murder Alonzo. However, this act of violence sets off a chain of deceit and horror, as De Flores demands Beatrice-Joanna's virginity as payment for his crime. The play intertwines this main plot with a subplot set in a madhouse, using the setting to explore the thin line between sanity and insanity, ultimately leading to a tragic conclusion where the consequences of the characters' actions catch up with them.

  14. 14. A Man Lay Dead by Ngaio Marsh

    "A Man Lay Dead" is a captivating murder mystery set in a country house, where a group of guests gather for a weekend of games and entertainment. When a harmless game of murder turns into a real-life crime, Inspector Alleyn is called in to solve the case. As he delves into the lives and secrets of the eccentric characters, he uncovers a web of deceit, jealousy, and hidden motives. With a clever plot, intriguing characters, and a touch of humor, this book keeps readers guessing until the final twist.

  15. 15. Plumb by Maurice Gee

    In "Plumb" by Maurice Gee, readers are introduced to a small New Zealand town called Waimaru, where a tragic accident occurs, leaving a young boy dead. The aftermath of this event reveals the dark secrets and hidden tensions within the community, as the lives of various characters intertwine and unravel. With beautifully crafted prose and a keen exploration of human nature, Gee delves into themes of guilt, loss, and the complexities of human relationships, creating a gripping and thought-provoking narrative.

  16. 16. The Jewel Of Seven Stars by Bram Stoker

    "The Jewel of Seven Stars" is a gripping gothic horror novel that follows the story of a young archaeologist who becomes entangled in a mysterious and ancient curse. When an Egyptian mummy is brought to London, strange occurrences begin to unfold, leading the protagonist on a perilous journey to uncover the secrets of an ancient queen and her quest for immortality. As the suspense builds, the protagonist must confront supernatural forces and make a desperate attempt to break the curse before it consumes them all.

  17. 17. The Poet And The Lunatics by G. K. Chesterton

    "The Poet And The Lunatics" by G. K. Chesterton is a whimsical and satirical novel that follows the adventures of Gabriel Gale, a poet who finds himself entangled in a series of mysterious events. As he navigates through a world populated by eccentric characters and bizarre situations, Gabriel becomes embroiled in a plot involving secret societies, mistaken identities, and the blurred lines between sanity and madness. With his signature wit and clever wordplay, Chesterton explores the nature of art, reality, and the human condition in this delightful and thought-provoking tale.

  18. 18. High Citadel by Desmond Bagley

    In "High Citadel" by Desmond Bagley, a group of strangers find themselves stranded in the Andes mountains after their plane crashes. As they struggle to survive in the harsh conditions, they discover that they are not alone. With danger lurking in every corner, they must work together to overcome their differences and escape the treacherous mountain range.

  19. 19. Badjelly The Witch by Spike Milligan

    The book is a whimsical children's story that follows the adventures of siblings Tim and Rose as they search for their lost cow, Lucy. Their quest leads them into an enchanted forest where they encounter a host of magical creatures, including giants, a fairy, and an evil witch named Badjelly who can turn people into sausages with her magic wand. With courage and the help of their new fantastical friends, the children must outwit Badjelly and rescue their beloved cow, embarking on a journey filled with humor, whimsy, and the triumph of good over evil.

  20. 20. The Malcontent by John Marston

    "The Malcontent" is a Jacobean-era tragicomedy that delves into themes of political intrigue, revenge, and moral corruption within a court setting. The play centers around the character Malevole, the disguised and deposed Duke Altofronto, who maneuvers through a web of deceit as he seeks to expose the hypocrisy and villainy of those who usurped his throne. Through a series of satirical and darkly humorous episodes, the protagonist navigates a treacherous court filled with unscrupulous characters, ultimately aiming to restore justice and reclaim his rightful position. The work is known for its biting wit, complex characterizations, and exploration of the human condition, reflecting the moral ambiguities of the time.

  21. 21. Esther Waters by George Moore

    "Esther Waters" is a compelling novel that follows the life of a young woman named Esther, who works as a kitchen maid and becomes pregnant after a brief affair with a footman. Facing societal judgment and abandonment, Esther is determined to provide a better life for her child. She finds work as a nursemaid and eventually marries a coachman, only to face further challenges and heartbreak. Through Esther's journey, the novel explores themes of love, class, and the struggles of a single mother in Victorian England.

  22. 22. The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton

    Set during the New Zealand Gold Rush of the 19th century, this novel follows Walter Moody, a prospector who stumbles upon a secret meeting of twelve local men who are trying to solve a series of unsolved crimes. As the story unfolds, it becomes clear that the crimes, which include a rich man's disappearance, a prostitute's attempted suicide, and a huge fortune found in a drunkard's cottage, are all interconnected. The novel's complex narrative structure, which uses astrology to organize its characters and events, adds another layer of intrigue to the story.

  23. 23. The Short Stories by Katherine Mansfield

    The book is a collection of short stories that delve into the complexities of human relationships and emotions, often focusing on moments of epiphany in the lives of ordinary people. Set primarily in the early 20th century, the stories explore themes such as love, loss, and the search for meaning amidst the mundane. The author's keen observations and subtle wit bring to life a range of characters, from lonely spinsters to disillusioned couples, each portrayed with a deep sense of empathy and psychological insight. Through her masterful use of language and narrative structure, the author captures the fleeting impressions and nuances of everyday existence, leaving a lasting impact on the reader.

  24. 24. Astrophel And Stella by Philip Sidney

    The book is a collection of Elizabethan sonnets and songs that tell the story of the speaker's unrequited love for the beautiful and unattainable Stella. Through a series of passionate and articulate poems, the speaker, Astrophel, explores themes of love, desire, and jealousy, often employing astronomical imagery to reflect the heights of his adoration and the depths of his despair. The work is notable for its rich language and the way it captures the complexities of love, as well as for its influence on the development of the English sonnet form.

  25. 25. 'Tis Pity She's A Whore by John Ford

    The play is a tragic tale set in Parma, Italy, centered around the forbidden love between Giovanni and his sister Annabella. Despite societal taboos and the grave moral implications, the siblings embark on an incestuous relationship, which leads to Annabella's pregnancy. As the story unfolds, their secret is threatened by external suitors, family pressures, and societal expectations, resulting in a series of deceitful acts, betrayals, and violent outcomes. The play explores themes of passion, morality, and the devastating consequences of transgressing social boundaries, culminating in a dramatic and bloody conclusion that underscores the destructive power of forbidden love.

Reading Statistics

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If you're interested in downloading this list as a CSV file for use in a spreadsheet application, you can easily do so by clicking the button below. Please note that to ensure a manageable file size and faster download, the CSV will include details for only the first 500 books.