The Greatest "Fiction" Books Since 1980

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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. 76. 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.

  2. 77. The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley

    This novel reimagines the Arthurian legends from the perspectives of the women involved. It centers around Morgaine, Arthur's half-sister, who is a priestess of Avalon, and Gwenhwyfar, Arthur's queen. The story explores their roles in the political and spiritual conflicts that arise as Christianity begins to replace the old pagan ways. It delves into themes of love, loyalty, and power, while offering a fresh take on a classic tale.

  3. 78. Bastard Out of Carolina by Dorothy Allison

    "Bastard Out of Carolina" is a poignant coming-of-age story set in South Carolina. The narrative follows the life of a young girl who, despite being born out of wedlock, strives to find her place in a world that continuously subjects her to physical and emotional abuse. The book explores themes of poverty, violence, and resilience in the face of adversity, providing a raw and unflinching look at the protagonist's struggle for acceptance and love.

  4. 79. Love Medicine by Louise Erdrich

    "Love Medicine" is a novel that explores the lives of several generations of a Native American family living on a reservation in North Dakota. The narrative is presented through a series of interconnected stories, each told from the perspective of different family members, and spans over 60 years, from 1934 to 1999. The book explores themes of love, family, identity, and the struggle between tradition and modernity. It provides a deep and poignant look into the complexities of Native American life and culture, and the challenges faced by the community.

  5. 80. High Fidelity by Nick Hornby

    This novel revolves around the life of a record store owner in his mid-thirties who is obsessed with pop culture, particularly music. He has just been dumped by his long-term girlfriend and begins to question his life choices. As he revisits his top five breakups, he decides to get in touch with the exes to find out what went wrong in each relationship. Throughout this process, he learns a lot about himself, his fears, and his shortcomings while trying to make sense of his life.

  6. 81. Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

    The novel is a historical fiction set in the 1500s, during the reign of King Henry VIII. The story is told from the perspective of Thomas Cromwell, a man of humble beginnings who rises to become the King's chief minister. The narrative explores the political and religious upheavals of the time, including King Henry's break with the Catholic Church and his controversial marriage to Anne Boleyn. The protagonist's cunning, ambition, and survival instincts are central to the plot as he navigates the treacherous waters of the Tudor court.

  7. 82. It by Stephen King

    A group of seven childhood friends, known as The Losers Club, come together in their small hometown to confront an evil entity that they first battled as children. This malevolent force, which often takes the form of a terrifying clown, preys on the children of their town by exploiting their deepest fears. The friends must confront their own personal demons and past traumas in order to once again face this entity, and the novel alternates between their childhood and adult experiences with this evil.

  8. 83. The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje

    "The English Patient" is a story of four diverse individuals brought together at an Italian villa during the final days of World War II. The narrative revolves around a severely burned man who can't remember his name or past, a young Canadian nurse who tends to him, a Sikh British Army sapper, and a Canadian thief. As they navigate their own traumas and losses, the past of the mysterious patient slowly unravels, revealing a tale of love, identity, and betrayal.

  9. 84. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J. K Rowling

    In the fifth installment of this iconic series, the young wizard Harry Potter returns for his fifth year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, only to discover that much of the wizarding world, including the Ministry of Magic, is in denial about the teenager's recent encounter with the evil Lord Voldemort. Harry is also beset by disturbing dreams while the sinister prison guards of Azkaban have been stationed at Hogwarts to protect the school, and Harry's budding abilities as a wizard are put to the test. Meanwhile, a secret society, the Order of the Phoenix, is working to fight Voldemort and his followers, and Harry's role in the coming conflict is becoming ever more significant.

  10. 85. Red Dragon by Thomas Harris

    A former FBI profiler, who is renowned for capturing a notorious serial killer, is lured out of retirement to track down a new killer who has a taste for families. The new killer, dubbed "The Tooth Fairy", is a complex character with a troubled past that leads him to commit his heinous crimes. As the profiler delves deeper into the investigation, he is forced to confront his own demons and the manipulative games of the serial killer he previously captured, who is now behind bars.

  11. 86. Selected Stories of Alice Munro by Alice Munro

    This collection of short stories offers a comprehensive view of the author's narrative talent, showcasing her ability to create complex characters and situations that reflect the human condition. Set in various locations, from small Canadian towns to exotic foreign locales, each story delves into the intricate relationships, personal struggles, and quiet triumphs of its characters. The author's writing is marked by her keen observation, psychological insight, and the ability to convey the extraordinary within the ordinary, making each story a unique exploration of life's complexities.

  12. 87. Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier

    "Cold Mountain" is a novel set during the American Civil War, following a wounded Confederate soldier who deserts the army to make a perilous journey back home to his beloved. The narrative alternates between his arduous trek and the struggles of the woman he left behind as she tries to maintain their North Carolina homestead. The novel explores themes of love, survival, and the destructive impact of war on the human spirit.

  13. 88. Life of Pi by Yann Martel

    A young Indian boy named Pi Patel survives a shipwreck and finds himself adrift in the Pacific Ocean on a lifeboat with a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker. Over the course of 227 days, Pi uses his knowledge of animal behavior and survival skills to coexist with the tiger, ultimately leading to an unusual and deeply spiritual journey. The story explores themes of faith, survival, and the interpretation of reality.

  14. 89. Bridget Jones's Diary by Helen Fielding

    The book is a humorous and honest portrayal of a single woman's life in London. The protagonist, a 30-something year old woman, struggles with her weight, smoking, and alcohol consumption, all while trying to navigate her love life and career. The story is told through her personal diary entries, which include her daily calorie counts, number of cigarettes smoked, and other personal anecdotes. It's a modern take on romantic relationships and self-improvement, with a healthy dose of comedy.

  15. 90. The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 3/4 by Sue Townsend

    The book is a humorous and touching glimpse into the life and mind of a British adolescent boy, navigating the challenges of teenage life. Written in diary format, the protagonist grapples with everything from acne, unrequited love, school bullies, family issues, and his aspirations of becoming an intellectual. His misinterpretations of the adult world around him, coupled with his overly serious and introspective nature, provide plenty of comedy and make for an endearing and relatable coming-of-age story.

  16. 91. Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card

    A young prodigy is enlisted into a military academy in space, where he is trained through complex war games to combat an impending alien invasion. Despite his initial struggles with isolation and manipulation by the academy's leaders, he rises through the ranks due to his strategic genius and leadership skills. The protagonist grapples with the moral implications of war and the cost of his own humanity, as he is groomed to be the Earth's ultimate weapon against the alien threat.

  17. 92. Lanark by Alasdair Gray

    "Lanark" is an unconventional narrative that combines elements of fantasy, dystopia, and realism. The protagonist, a man named Lanark, moves through two parallel existences. In one, he's a young man named Duncan Thaw in post-war Glasgow, struggling with his artistic ambitions and personal relationships. In the other, he's Lanark in the grim, bureaucratic city of Unthank, suffering from a mysterious skin condition and grappling with his identity and purpose. The novel explores themes of love, alienation, creativity, and the human condition, presenting a complex and thought-provoking portrait of life and society.

  18. 93. Matilda by Roald Dahl

    The book follows the story of Matilda, an exceptionally intelligent young girl who is neglected and mistreated by her parents. She finds solace and companionship in the local library, where she develops a love of books and a remarkable talent for telekinesis. Matilda eventually uses these abilities to defend her friends from their tyrannical headmistress, Miss Trunchbull, and help her kind-hearted teacher, Miss Honey, reclaim her life.

  19. 94. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J. K Rowling

    In the sixth installment of the series, the protagonist returns for his sixth year at a magical school, where he excels in potions class with the help of an old textbook once belonging to the mysterious "Half-Blood Prince". As he delves deeper into his enemy's past through private lessons with the headmaster, he learns more about the Dark wizard's history and his own destiny. Amidst this, the school is no longer the safe haven it once was, and danger lurks within the castle walls. The year ends with a devastating loss, setting the stage for the final showdown.

  20. 95. Little, Big by John Crowley

    "Little, Big" is a complex tale that weaves together elements of magical realism, fantasy, and family saga. The story follows the Drinkwater family who live in an eccentric house known as Edgewood, which is somehow bigger on the inside than the outside. The family is connected to the realm of Faerie, and the narrative explores their interactions with this magical world. The book spans multiple generations and intertwines the lives of its characters with the cycles of history and myth, creating a multi-layered narrative about love, family, destiny, and the nature of storytelling itself.

  21. 96. Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson

    In a future America where the federal government has largely collapsed and been replaced by corporate entities, a computer hacker and pizza delivery driver becomes embroiled in a plot involving a dangerous new drug and a computer virus called "Snow Crash". He is joined by a teenage skateboard courier and a host of other characters in a high-stakes race to uncover the truth behind the virus and its origins in ancient Sumerian culture. The narrative explores themes of linguistics, philosophy, computer science, religion, and cryptography.

  22. 97. Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

    The novel is set in Nigeria during the Biafran War, exploring the impact of the conflict on the lives of its characters. The story is told from the perspective of three characters: a young houseboy, a radical university professor, and the professor's wealthy lover. The narrative delves into themes of love, race, and war, offering a vivid depiction of the horrors of conflict and the resilience of the human spirit.

  23. 98. What We Talk About When We Talk About Love by Raymond Carver

    This collection of short stories explores the complexities of love through various perspectives. The narratives delve into the lives of everyday people, showcasing their struggles, their desires, and their failures. Love is depicted in its many forms, from passionate and romantic to destructive and obsessive, providing a raw and honest depiction of human relationships. The stories highlight how love can both heal and hurt, uniting and dividing people in unexpected ways.

  24. 99. The War of the End of the World by Mario Vargas Llosa

    The book is a historical novel that recounts the War of Canudos, a conflict in late 19th-century Brazil over religious fanaticism, political instability, and social inequality. The story is centered around an apocalyptic movement led by a charismatic, messianic figure who convinces the poor and downtrodden to rise up against the Brazilian government, leading to a brutal and bloody conflict. The book explores themes of faith, power, poverty, and the destructive potential of fervent belief.

  25. 100. The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris

    In this gripping psychological thriller, a young FBI trainee is enlisted to interview an incarcerated and manipulative cannibalistic serial killer to gain insight into the mind of another active serial murderer. The trainee must navigate a complex game of cat and mouse, using her own wits and the killer's insights to understand and anticipate the criminal's moves before he strikes again. As she delves deeper into the investigation, she confronts not only the horrors of the criminal mind but also the darkness within her own past, leading to a tense and chilling confrontation.

Reading Statistics

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Download

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.

Download