The Greatest "Colonies" 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 273 '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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The "Colonies" category of books refers to stories that explore the establishment, growth, and impact of colonies throughout history. These books may focus on the experiences of colonizers, colonized peoples, or both, and may cover a range of topics including politics, economics, culture, and social dynamics. Whether set in the Americas, Africa, Asia, or elsewhere, "Colonies" books offer a nuanced look at the complex and often fraught relationships that have shaped our world.

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  1. 1. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

    Set in a dystopian future, this novel presents a society where women are stripped of their rights and are classified into various roles based on their fertility and societal status. The protagonist is a handmaid, a class of women used solely for their reproductive capabilities by the ruling class. The story is a chilling exploration of the extreme end of misogyny, where women are reduced to their biological functions, and a critique of religious fundamentalism.

  2. 2. The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith

    This influential economic book presents a groundbreaking theory that argues for free market economies. The author posits that individuals acting in their own self-interest within a system of natural liberty will result in societal benefit, a concept often referred to as the "invisible hand" theory. The book also critiques mercantilism and explores concepts such as the division of labor, productivity, and free markets. It is widely considered one of the foundational texts in the field of economics.

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

    The novel follows the story of a British colonial police officer stationed in Sierra Leone during World War II. He is an honest and diligent man but finds himself in a moral crisis when he is torn between his duty and his love for another woman. He is caught in a spiral of deceit, corruption, and betrayal that leads to his tragic end. The narrative delves into themes of guilt, faith, betrayal, and moral paradoxes.

  4. 4. The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin by Benjamin Franklin

    This book is an autobiography of one of America's founding fathers, detailing his life from childhood to adulthood. The author shares his journey from humble beginnings as a printer's apprentice to becoming a successful inventor, writer, businessman, and statesman. The book provides an insight into his thoughts and philosophies on various subjects such as education, self-improvement, and public service, offering a unique look at the early American history through his eyes.

  5. 5. Bel Ami by Guy de Maupassant

    "Bel Ami" is a novel set in 19th-century Paris, focusing on the life of an ambitious young man who rises from poverty to wealth and power. It explores themes of corruption, manipulation, and the societal power dynamics of the time. The protagonist utilizes his charm and wit to climb the social ladder, seducing and manipulating several influential women along the way. The story provides a critical look at the French bourgeoisie and the moral decay within this social class.

  6. 6. Burmese Days by George Orwell

    This novel is a scathing critique of British colonial rule in Burma during the 1920s. The protagonist, a disillusioned teak merchant, struggles with the bigotry and racism of his fellow Europeans, and his forbidden love for a Burmese woman. The narrative explores the effects of imperialism on both the oppressors and the oppressed, highlighting the hypocrisy, corruption, and inhumanity that result from such a system.

  7. 7. The Emigrants by Winfried Georg Sebald

    "The Emigrants" is a novel that explores the experiences and memories of four different emigrants, each with a unique and complex history. The narrative primarily focuses on the psychological impact of displacement and the haunting nature of the past. The author delves deep into their lives, revealing their struggles with identity, loss, and the persistent influence of their roots. The narrative is interwoven with historical events, photographs, and other documents, creating a rich tapestry that blurs the line between fact and fiction.

  8. 8. Max Havelaar by Multatuli

    "Max Havelaar" is a novel centered around a Dutch civil servant who is stationed in the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia) during the mid-19th century. The protagonist, trying to battle the corruption and exploitation of the local people by Dutch colonial rulers, becomes disillusioned with the system. The novel provides a scathing critique of the colonial regime's treatment of the indigenous people, highlighting their suffering and exploitation. The author uses various narrative techniques and perspectives, making it a significant work in Dutch literature.

  9. 9. The Sea by John Banville

    "The Sea" is a profound exploration of memory, grief, and loss. The novel follows the story of a widower who returns to a seaside town where he spent his childhood summers. His present-day experiences are interwoven with memories of a transformative event from his youth involving a wealthy family he befriended. As he grapples with the loss of his wife to cancer, he also deals with the haunting memories of the past. The narrative is a deep dive into the human psyche, exploring themes of love, loss, and the fluidity of time.

  10. 10. América Hispánica: (1492-1898) by Guillermo Céspedes del Castillo

    "América Hispánica: (1492-1898)" is a comprehensive historical analysis of Hispanic America from the time of Christopher Columbus's first voyage in 1492 to the end of Spanish rule in 1898. The author meticulously details the exploration, conquest, and colonization of the Americas, the establishment of Spanish rule, the socio-economic structures, and the eventual struggles for independence. The book offers a deep understanding of the complex and often turbulent history of Hispanic America during this period.

  11. 11. The Wretched of the Earth by Frantz Fanon

    This book is a psychological and political analysis of the dehumanizing effects of colonization upon the individual and the nation. It provides a clear, passionate condemnation of colonialism and its legacy, arguing that violence is a necessary component of decolonization. The author also discusses the challenges that newly independent nations face, including the struggle to establish a national culture and the threat of neocolonialism.

  12. 12. The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley

    The protagonist, a young orphan girl, is taken captive by a desert king in a foreign land. She discovers within herself a latent magical power and a destiny tied to the fate of the kingdom. As she trains under the king's tutelage, she becomes a warrior and a key figure in an impending war. The girl must navigate politics, magic, and her own self-discovery to protect her new home and its people.

  13. 13. Citizen And Subject by Mahmood Mamdani

    "Citizen and Subject" explores the complex relationship between citizenship and identity in postcolonial Africa. The author critically examines the concept of citizenship as a tool for exclusion and domination, particularly in the context of colonial and postcolonial states. Through a comprehensive analysis of case studies from Uganda and South Africa, Mamdani delves into the historical processes that have shaped the formation of citizenship and subjecthood, shedding light on the enduring legacies of colonialism and the challenges faced by marginalized groups in attaining full citizenship rights.

  14. 14. Liberty's Exiles: American Loyalists in the Revolutionary World by Maya Jasanoff

    The book provides an in-depth exploration of the experiences of American Loyalists who were forced into exile following the American Revolution. It details their struggles and hardships as they sought to rebuild their lives in far-flung corners of the British Empire, including Canada, the Caribbean, Sierra Leone, and India. The book also examines the broader impact of this mass migration on the shaping of the British Empire and the early United States.

Reading Statistics

Click the button below to see how many of these books you've read!


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.