The Greatest Books From 1940 to 1949


How is this list generated?


This list is generated from 129 "best of" book lists from a variety of great sources. An algorithm is used to create a master list based on how many lists a particular book appears on. Some lists count more than others. I generally trust "best of all time" lists voted by authors and experts over user-generated lists. On the lists that are actually ranked, the book that is 1st counts a lot more than the book that's 100th. If you're interested in the details about how the rankings are generated and which lists are the most important(in my eyes) please check out the list details page.

If you have any comments, suggestions, or corrections please feel free to e-mail me.


  1. 1 . The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger

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

  2. 2 . Nineteen Eighty Four by George Orwell

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

  3. 3 . The Stranger by Albert Camus

    Since it was first published in English, in 1946, Albert Camus's extraordinary first novel, The Stranger (L'Etranger), has had a profound impact on millions of American readers. Through this story ...

  4. 4 . For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway

    It tells the story of Robert Jordan, a young American in the International Brigades attached to a communist guerilla unit during the Spanish Civil War. As an expert in the use of explosives, he is ...

  5. 5 . Animal Farm by George Orwell

    Animal Farm is a dystopian novella by George Orwell. Published in England on 17 August 1945, the book reflects events leading up to and during the Stalin era before World War II. Orwell, a democrat...

  6. 6 . Under the Volcano by Malcolm Lowry

    To describe his perennial theme, Lowry once borrowed the words of the critic Edmund Wilson: "the forces in man which cause him to be terrified of himself." You see exactly what he means in this cor...

    - Time
  7. 7 . Native Son by Richard Wright

    The novel tells the story of 20-year old Bigger Thomas, an African American living in utter poverty. Bigger lived in Chicago's South Side ghetto in the 1930s. Bigger was always getting into troubl...

  8. 8 . The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

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

    - Google
  9. 9 . All the King's Men by Robert Penn Warren

    All the King's Men portrays the dramatic political ascent and governorship of Willie Stark, a driven, cynical populist in the American South during the 1930s.

  10. 10 . Doctor Faustus by Thomas Mann

    Doctor Faustus is a German novel written by Thomas Mann, begun in 1943 and published in 1947 as Doktor Faustus: Das Leben des deutschen Tonsetzers Adrian Leverkühn, erzählt von einem Freunde ("Doct...

  11. 11 . A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

    The American classic about a young girl's coming-of-age at the turn of the century. This P.S. edition features an extra 16 pages of insights into the book, including author interviews, recommended ...

    - Google
  12. 12 . The Plague by Albert Camus

    A haunting tale of human resilience in the face of unrelieved horror, Camus' novel about a bubonic plague ravaging the people of a North African coastal town is a classic of twentieth-century liter...

  13. 13 . Independent People by Halldor Laxness

    Independent People is an epic novel by Nobel laureate Halldór Laxness, published in 1946. It deals with the struggle of poor Icelandic farmers in the early 20th century, only freed from debt bondag...

  14. 14 . The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers

    Written in Charlotte, North Carolina in a house on East Blvd, it is about a deaf man named John Singer and the people he encounters in a 1930s mill town in the U.S. state of Georgia.

  15. 15 . The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand

    The Fountainhead's protagonist, Howard Roark, is an individualistic young architect who chooses to struggle in obscurity rather than compromise his artistic and personal vision. The book follows hi...

  16. 16 . Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh

    Brideshead Revisited, The Sacred & Profane Memories of Captain Charles Ryder is a novel by the English writer Evelyn Waugh, first published in 1945. Waugh wrote that the novel "deals with what is t...

  17. 17 . The Man Who Loved Children by Christina Stead

    The novel tells the story of a highly dysfunctional family, the Pollits. The story centers on the family's impoverishment, the failure of the father Sam to provide for them, the parents' marital ba...

  18. 18 . Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton

    An Oprah Book Club selection, Cry, the Beloved Country, the most famous and important novel in South Africa’s history, was an immediate worldwide bestseller in 1948. Alan Paton’s impassioned novel ...

    - Google
  19. 19 . Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren

    Pippi Longstocking is a children's book written in 1945 by Astrid Lindgren. Pippi is a 9-year old that lives in an old villa in a Swedish town. (which remains unnamed for the series) She meet To...

  20. 20 . Complete Poems of Giacomo Leopardi by Giacomo Leopardi

    Giacomo Taldegardo Francesco di Sales Saverio Pietro Leopardi (June 29, 1798 – June 14, 1837) was an Italian poet, essayist, philosopher, and philologist.

  21. 21 . Death of Virgil by Hermann Broch

    It is the reign of the Emperor Augustus, and Publius Vergilius Maro, the poet of the Aeneid and Caesar's enchanter, has been summoned to the palace, where he will shortly die. Out of the last hours...

    - Google
  22. 22 . Zorba the Greek by Nikos Kazantzakis

    Zorba the Greek is a novel written by the Greek author Nikos Kazantzakis, first published in 1946. It is the tale of a young Greek intellectual who ventures to escape his bookish life with the aid ...

  23. 23 . Darkness at Noon by Arthur Koestler

    Darkness At Noon stands as an unequaled fictional portrayal of the nightmare politics of our time. Its hero is an aging revolutionary, imprisoned and psychologically tortured by the Party to which ...

  24. 24 . Loving by Henry Green

    Loving tells the story of the servants in Kinalty Castle, an upper-class Irish household during World War II.

  25. 25 . The Tartar Steppe by Dino Buzzati

    Often Likened to Kafka's The Castle, this great Italian novel, first published in 1945, is both a scathing criticism of military life and a meditation on the human thirst for glory. It tells of you...

  26. 26 . The Moon and the Bonfires by Cesare Pavese

    An orphan rescued from death by a farm family returns to Italy from America after World War II with money in his pockets, but wealth cannot protect him from the harsh realities of life. Original.

    - Google
  27. 27 . The Razor's Edge by W. Somerset Maugham

    Larry Darrell is a young American in search of the absolute. The progress of his spiritual odyssey involves him with some of Maugham's most brilliant characters - his fiancée Isabel whose choice be...

    - Google
  28. 28 . The Naked Dead by Norman Mailer

    The Naked and the Dead is a 1948 novel by Norman Mailer. It was based on his experiences and exaggerations of that experience with the 112th Cavalry Regiment during the Philippines Campaign (1944–4...

  29. 29 . The Heart of the Matter by Graham Greene

    The Heart of the Matter deals with Catholicism and moral change in the protagonist, Scobie (a police officer). Greene was a British intelligence officer stationed in Freetown, Sierra Leone. He drew...

  30. 30 . The Makioka Sisters by Junichiro Tanizaki

    Tanizaki's masterpiece is the story of four sisters, and the declining fortunes of a traditional Japanese family. It is a loving and nostalgic recreation of the sumptuous, intricate upper-class lif...

    - Google
  31. 31 . The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene

    The novel tells the story of a Roman Catholic priest in the state of Tabasco in Mexico during the 1930s, a time when the Mexican government, still effectively controlled by Plutarco Elías Calles, s...

  32. 32 . The Man with the Golden Arm by Nelson Algren

    The Man with the Golden Arm is a novel by Nelson Algren that recounts the life of "Frankie Machine", a card-dealer in an illicit poker game being run not far from the tenement in which he lives. Ma...

  33. 33 . Froth on the daydream by Boris Vian

    Froth on the Daydream (French: L'Écume des Jours) is a 1947 novel by the French author Boris Vian. It tells the story of a man who marries a woman, who develops an illness that can only be treated ...

  34. 34 . The Glass Bead Game by Hermann Hesse

    In an unspecified future symbolic world of the twenty-third century, Joseph Knecht achieves and rejects his long-sought ideal of uniting thought and action in isolated Castalia, where scholar-playe...

    - Google
  35. 35 . Poems of Federico García Lorca by Federico García Lorca

    Spain's greatest twentieth-century poet and most influencial modernist speaks to a new generation of readers in this revised edition of his complete poetical works. Reprint.

    - Google
  36. 36 . Tales of the South Pacific by James A. Michener

    Tales of the South Pacific is a Pulitzer Prize winning collection of sequentially related short stories about World War II, written by James A. Michener in 1946. The stories were based on observati...

  37. 37 . The Sheltering Sky by Paul Bowles

    The story centers on Port and Kit Moresby, a married couple originally from New York who travel to the North African desert accompanied by their friend Tunner. The journey, initially an attempt by ...

  38. 38 . Embers by Sandor Marai

    Originally published in 1942 and now rediscovered to international acclaim, this taut and exquisitely structured novel by the Hungarian master Sandor Marai conjures the melancholy glamour of a deca...

    - Google
  39. 39 . My Name Is Aram by William Saroyan

    "Marvelously captivating." — The New York Times. First published in 1940, Saroyan's international bestseller recounts the exploits of an Armenian clan in northern California at the turn of the 20th...

    - Google
  40. 40 . The Short Stories of F. Scott Fitzgerald by F. Scott Fitzgerald

    F. Scott Fitzgerald is best known for his novels such as THE GREAT GATSBY, but during his all-too-brief literary life, he sold some 160 short stories to popular magazines. Here, noted scholar and b...

    - Google
  41. 41 . Love in a Cold Climate by Nancy Mitford

    One of Nancy Mitford’s most beloved novels, Love in a Cold Climate is a sparkling romantic comedy that vividly evokes the lost glamour of aristocratic life in England between the wars. Polly Hampto...

    - Google
  42. 42 . The Royal Game by Stefan Zweig

    On a cruise ship bound for Buenos Aires, an electifying encounter takes place between the reigning world chess champion and an unknown passenger. The stranger’s diffident manner masks his extraordi...

    - Google
  43. 43 . The Heat of the Day by Elizabeth Bowen

    Set in war-time London, this book is probably the nearest thing to a novel of suspense that Elizabeth Bowen has written. All the elements of a thriller are here, but what Bowen makes of them is an ...

    - Google
  44. 44 . The Horse's Mouth by Joyce Cary

    Joyce Cary wrote two trilogies, or 'triptychs' as he later called them, and both are Faber Finds. The first comprises Herself Surprised (1941), To Be a Pilgrim (1942) and The Horse's Mouth (1944). ...

    - Google
  45. 45 . The Slaves of Solitude by Patrick Hamilton

    A welcome reissue of one of Patrick Hamilton's best, with an introduction by Doris Lessing. The Slaves of Solitude is set in a wartime boarding house in a small town on the Thames. The Rosamund Tea...

    - Google
  46. 46 . The Lottery and Other Stories by Shirley Jackson

    The Lottery, one of the most terrifying stories written in this century, created a sensation when it was first published in The New Yorker. "Power and haunting," and "nights of unrest" were typical...

    - Google
  47. 47 . Cannery Row by John Steinbeck

    Unburdened by the material necessities of the more fortunate, the denizens of Cannery Row discover rewards unknown in more traditional society. Henry the painter sorts through junk lots for pieces ...

    - Google
  48. 48 . A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams

    The Pulitzer Prize and Drama Critics Circle Award winning play—reissued with an introduction by Arthur Miller (Death of a Salesman and The Crucible), and Williams' essay "The World I Live In." It i...

    - Google
  49. 49 . The Collected Works of Paul Valéry by Paul Valéry

    Ambroise-Paul-Toussaint-Jules Valéry (French: [pɔl valeʁi]; 30 October 1871 – 20 July 1945) was a French poet, essayist, and philosopher. In addition to his poetry and fiction (drama and dialogues)...

    - Google
  50. 50 . The Hamlet by William Faulkner

    The Hamlet, the first novel of Faulkner's Snopes trilogy, is both an ironic take on classical tragedy and a mordant commentary on the grand pretensions of the antebellum South and the depths of its...

    - Google