The 100 best books of all time
In 2002, the Norwegian Book Clubs gathered 100 authors from 54 countries and asked each one to list the 10 best works of fiction of all time. The authors responded and this list was created. The titles are arranged alphabetically by author name, so no one book stands above any other. The listmakers did, however, honor a single work – "Don Quixote" by Miguel de Cervantes – with the title of "best literary work ever written." The following is the group's definitive list of the world's 100 best books. How many have you read?
1.'Things Fall Apart,' by Chinua Achebe
In this 1958 novel by Nigerian author Chinua Achebe, wrestler and town leader Okonkwo seems to have an idyllic life – until he loses his temper and causes his family to be thrown out of his village for a period of seven years. While Okonkwo is gone, European missionaries arrive, and the village to which he returns years later seems very different from the one that he remembers.
2.'Fairy Tales,' by Hans Christian Andersen
Any number of fantasy stories – tales so popular that most have by now become woven into the very fabric of Western culture – are included in this collection by Danish author Hans Christian Andersen, including the story of "The Emperor's New Clothes," "The Little Mermaid," "The Princess and the Pea," "The Snow Queen," and "The Ugly Duckling."
3.'The Divine Comedy,' by Dante Alighieri
This epic poem by Italian master poet Dante Alighieri – a three-part work which describes the poet's journey through Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven – is both the best known work of Italian literature and one of the outstanding gems of world literature.
4.'Epic of Gilgamesh,' anonymous
This epic poem from Mesopotamia – one of oldest surviving works of literature on the planet – tells the story of Gilgamesh, the king of the ancient city of Uruk, who befriends a man named Enkidu and with whom he embarks on several adventures.
5.'Book of Job,' anonymous
'The Book of Job' – an ancient Hebrew text and one of the books of the Old Testament – follows the struggles of Job, a prosperous man and faithful servant of God, who is tested when Satan destroys his worldly possessions and causes him to suffer. The Book of Job is one of the most famous attempts of all literature to explain the tribulations of the righteous.
6.'One Thousand and One Nights,' anonymous
This famous collection of Middle Eastern folk tales is framed by the story of Scheherazade, the young wife of a Persian king, who tells her husband stories that continue for many nights in an effort to hold off her planned execution. The tales which Scheherazade tells her husband include both histories and comedies.
7.'Njáls saga,' anonymous
'Njáls saga' is an Icelandic saga dating from medieval times. The work's protagonists are Njáll, a wise lawyer, and his friend, a warrior named Gunnarr, both of whom are tragically drawn into the feuding prevalent in their country at that time.
8.'Pride and Prejudice,' by Jane Austen
Novelist Jane Austen examines country society and social norms of England in the early 1800s in the humorous, sharply observed "Pride and Prejudice," in which heroine Elizabeth Bennet is forced to reassess her initial impression of the surly yet very wealthy Mr. Darcy.
9.'Le Père Goriot,' by Honoré de Balzac
This 1835 novel by French master Honoré de Balzac follows three protagonists, all of whom reside in a boarding house. There's Goriot, the father of two daughters who forgoes his own comfort so his daughters can rise in society; Rastignac, a young law student who tries to advance professionally and socially; and Vautrin, a mysterious criminal.
10.'Molloy,' 'Malone Dies,' and 'The Unnamable,' by Samuel Beckett
This trilogy by Irish avant-garde writer Samuel Beckett was selected for the list as a single entry. "Molloy" follows the possibly connected characters of Molloy and Moran, while "Malone Dies" centers on a man named Malone who is writing a novel about a man named Macmann. "The Unnamable" is made up of a monologue by an unidentified character.
11.'The Decameron,' by Giovanni Boccaccio
Italian Renaissance author, poet, and humorist Giovanni Boccaccio's collection of stories begins with a frame story about a group of young men and women who are temporarily living outside Florence, waiting for a dangerous plague to be over. To help pass the time, they tell a new tale every night.
12.'Ficciones,' by Jorge Luis Borges
This collection of short stories by Argentine author Jorge Luis Borges is divided into two parts titled "The Garden of Forking Paths" and "Artifices," with narratives focusing on – among other things – a wizard who attempts to build a boy and a detective who believes a murder may be connected to the forbidden name of God.
13.'Wuthering Heights,' by Emily Bronte
English novelist and poet Emily Bronte's best known work tells the story of a great love, that of Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliffe, a young boy taken in by her family. Bronte's novel follows their love affair as it leads on to tragic consequences.
14.'The Stranger,' by Albert Camus
This famously existential novel by Algerian-born French novelist and journalist Albert Camus follows the story of Meursalt, an unemotional French-Algerian, who commits murder after becoming afflicted with something close to heatstroke.
15.'Poems,' by Paul Celan
The work of Romanian-born German-language poet Paul Celan often centers on his experiences with the Holocaust. Celan sometimes relied on unusual phrasing (lines consisting of a single word) and his language – particularly in his later poetry – is often cryptic.
16.'Journey to the End of the Night,' by Louis-Ferdinand Céline
French writer Louis-Ferdinand Céline is credited with having modernized French and world literature with this semi-autobiographical novel. The book – which is sometimes described as nihilistic – expresses a great pessimism about humankind but is also laced with sharp humor. The novel follows the story of Ferdinand Bardamu, who lives through World War I and other conflicts and eventually becomes a doctor.
17.'Don Quixote,' by Miguel de Cervantes
"Don Quixote" – the masterwork of 17th-century Spanish author Miguel de Cervantes and a novel considered to be the best work of fiction of all time by the organizers of this list – is the story of a man originally known as Alonso Quijano, who reads too many chivalric novels and comes to believe himself to be a knight. Don Quixote rides throughout the Spanish countryside, attempting to right wrongs and rescue fair ladies, all the while trailed by his faithful manservant Sancho Panza. In one of the book's best-known incidents, Don Quixote tilts at windmills, imagining that they are ferocious giants.
18.'The Canterbury Tales,' by Geoffrey Chaucer
"The Canterbury Tales" is a collection of stories supposedly shared by pilgrims who are traveling together and having a competition to see who can tell the best tale. Geoffrey Chaucer – the author, who was also a 14th-century philosopher, alchemist, astronomer, bureaucrat, courtier, and diplomat – infuses several of the tales with a spirit of satire. Chaucer is sometimes known as the father of English literature.
19.'Stories,' by Anton Chekhov
Russian physician, dramatist and author Anton Chekhov is considered by many to be one of the best short story writers of all time. His ability to depict the interiors of his characters and his use of stream-of-consciousness narrative are often credited with revolutionizing the genre. Two of Chekhov's best-known stories include "The Lady with the Dog," which centers on a banker from Russia who has an affair with a woman he meets while on vacation, and "The Bet," which follows a debate between a lawyer and a banker as to which would be worse: life-long imprisonment or execution under the death penalty.
20.'Nostromo,' by Joseph Conrad
This philosophical novel by Polish-born British writer Joseph Conrad is set in the fictional South American country of Costaguana. The plot centers on silver mine owner Charles Gould, who is wary of what will happen to his silver and asks an Italian expatriate longshoreman named Nostromo to conceal it for him on an island. Conrad uses this book to explore themes of capitalism, revolution, and social justice.
21.'Great Expectations,' by Charles Dickens
"Great Expectations" was the second-to-last completed novel written by England's Charles Dickens and many consider it to be one of his greatest works. The novel – which, after "David Copperfield," is believed to be the most autobiographical of all Dickens' writings – follows the story of an orphan named Pip, who unexpectedly comes into money but begins to loses his moral compass when he starts living as a gentleman of means.
22.'Jacques the Fatalist,' by Denis Diderot
In this novel by 18th-century French Enlightenment writer and critic Denis Diderot, a valet named Jacques is asked by his master to tell the stories of the romances in his life as they travel together. Jacques' narrative is often interrupted as the two met other characters. The novel is often humorous and frankly entertaining but it also offers philosophical consideration of subjects such as free will.
23.'Berlin Alexanderplatz,' by Alfred Döblin
This 1929 novel by German author and physician Alfred Döblin is considered a masterpiece of German modernism. Set in 1920s working-class Berlin, the novel follows the story of Franz Biberkopf has just been let out of jail but is quickly drawn back into a life of crime.
24.'Crime and Punishment,' by Fyodor Dostoevsky
Considered one of the greatest works of Russian literary giant Fyodor Dostoyevsky, "Crime and Punishment" follows the story of Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov, an impoverished student living in St. Petersburg, who murders and robs a pawnbroker after forming a theory that some people are above the rules that other, lesser human beings must follow.
25.'The Idiot,' by Fyodor Dostoevsky
"The Idiot" tells the story of Prince Lev Nikolayevich Myshkin, a naive and trusting character who lives for several years in a Swiss sanatorium and then, upon returning to Russia, finds himself torn between the affections of two women. Because he is a virtuous person, Myshkin struggles to survive in a cynical world.
26.'The Possessed,' by Fyodor Dostoevsky
" The Possessed" – or "Demons" as it is also known in English – is a story of politics. The novel's five main characters represent different political philosophies. The plot follows Pyotr Verkhovensky – the son of philosopher and estate-owner Stepan Trofimovich Verkhovensky – who has begun to sympathize with revolutionary ideals. The younger Verkhovensky organizes a local revolutionary circle and the activities of the group soon turn deadly.
27.'The Brothers Karamazov,' by Fyodor Dostoevsky
Dostoevsky's last novel is considered by many readers to be his greatest work. "'The Brothers Karamazov" follows three very different brothers who are brought together after their father – a ne'er-do-well who was often a burden to others – is murdered, and the brothers are forced to examine their relationship with him. Through the three brothers and their story, Dostoevsky grapples with questions of God, faith, free will, doubt, human suffering, and reason.
28.'Middlemarch,' by George Eliot
George Eliot's "Middlemarch: A Study of Provincial Life," is considered by many to be one of the greatest novels ever written in the English language. Set in the fictitious Midlands town of Middlemarch in the early 1830s, the book's cast is large and its subplots are many, but at the novel's core is the story of Dorothea Brooke, an idealistic young woman who marries an older scholar imagining that she will be able to share in his intellectual pursuits. Related to her story is that of Tertius Lydgate, a reform-minded young doctor who foolishly chooses a beautiful but shallow and materialistic woman as a mate. Themes explored in the novel include the status of women, the nature of marriage, religion, idealism, hypocrisy, political reform, and education.
29.'Invisible Man,' by Ralph Ellison
Ralph Ellison's 1952 novel "Invisible Man," featuring an unnamed African American protagonist, is written in a style that Ellison later said was influenced by poet T.S. Eliot and incorporates elements of modern symbolism. Through following the struggles of the protagonist from high school up through his expulsion from an all-black college and on to New York where he gets involved with a political movement called the Brotherhood, Ellison is able to examine social and intellectual questions of individuality and personal identity and their relationship to the black nationalist movement, Marxism, and the racial reform policies of Booker T. Washington.
30.'Medea,' by Euripides
Euripides' tragedy (originally produced in 431 BC) tells the story of Medea, who marries Jason, leader of the Argonauts, and becomes the mother of his children. Medea feels betrayed by Jason when he wants to marry another woman and chooses to exact unspeakable revenge.
31.'Absalom, Absalom!,' by William Faulkner
Faulkner's 1936 novel centers on protagonist and ambitious plantation owner Thomas Sutpen, whose story – the saga of three generations of tragic family history taking place in the American South before, during, and after the Civil War – is told by various narrators, each of whom presents a very different version of events.
32.'The Sound and the Fury,' by William Faulkner
"The Sound and the Fury," Faulkner's fourth novel, set in the fictional Yoknapatawpha County, is divided into four parts with different narrators and differing narrative styles. The novel tells the story of the Comptons, a once renowned Southern family now on the decline in the aftermath of the Civil War.
33.'Madame Bovary,' by Gustave Flaubert
"Madame Bovary," the first published novel of Gustave Flaubert, tells the tragic story of Emma Bovary, the wife of a provincial French doctor, who longs for a life of wealth and glory, and who seeks fulfillment outside her marriage.
34.'Sentimental Education,' by Gustave Flaubert
"Sentimental Education," Flaubert's last novel to be published during his lifetime, tells the story of Frédéric Moreau, a rather feckless young man from the French countryside who falls in love with an older woman at the time of the French revolution of 1848.
35.'Gypsy Ballads,' by Federico García Lorca
"Gypsy Ballads," a 1928 compilation of the poetry of Spanish poet, dramatist, and theater director Federico García Lorca, is a work inspired by the traditional ballads and poems that were an important part of culture throughout the Spanish countryside.
36.'One Hundred Years of Solitude,' by Gabriel García Márquez
"One Hundred Years of Solitude," the 1967 novel by Columbian author and Nobel laureate Gabriel García Márquez, is perhaps his best known work and is often considered his masterpiece. "Solitude" follows the story of the Buendía family that lives for seven generations in the mysterious town of Macondo, Colombia.
37.'Love in the Time of Cholera,' by Gabriel García Márquez
Márquez's 1985 novel "Love in the Time of Cholera" follows the story of Florentino Ariza, a man who conducts many love affairs with women. A woman named Fermina Daza falls in love with Florentino when she is young and – despite her marriage to a medical doctor devoted to "order and progress" – Florentino and Fermina continue to meet periodically throughout their lives.
38.'Faust,' by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
"Faust," a play by German literary giant Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, follows the title character, who is God's "favorite human being," as he is lured into a deal with the devil (here known as Mephistopheles) with consequences for everyone around him.
39.'Dead Souls,' by Nikolai Gogol
Nineteenth-century Russian realist writer Nikolai Gogol's 1842 novel "Dead Souls" was never completed and finishes in the middle of a sentence. Gogol's intent in this work was to offer critical commentary on Russian society and the plight of the serfs living in the country at the time. The protagonist of "Dead Souls" is a man named Chichikov who tries to rise in society by buying the "dead souls" of serfs.
40.'The Tin Drum,' by Günter Grass
In this 1959 novel by Nobel Prize-winning German author Günter Grass, protagonist Oskar Matzerath – a man who stays at the maturity level of a child throughout his life – values his tin drum above all else. "The Tin Drum" is related by Oskar as he resides in a mental ward.
41.'The Devil to Pay in the Backlands,' by João Guimarães Rosa
In this 1956 novel by Brazilian diplomat João Guimarães, an elderly man, Riobaldo, narrates the story of his life for the edification of someone who has come to visit him. "The Devil to Pay in the Backlands," considered a classic of Latin American literature, is a 500-page monologue in which Riobaldo describes how he became a bandit and was drawn into the wars between rival robber gangs.
42.'Hunger,' by Knut Hamsun
An unnamed protagonist suffers from hunger as he roams the streets of Oslo in this 1890 novel by Nobel Prize-winning Norwegian author Knut Hamsun. The book is based in part on experiences from Hamsun's life before he became a successful writer.
43.'The Old Man and the Sea,' by Ernest Hemingway
This 1952 novel by Nobel Prize-winning American writer Ernest Hemingway tells the story of Santiago, an aging fisherman who has gone 84 days without catching a fish but who remains determined to capture a large marlin. A young apprentice Manolin continues to care for Santiago, even though his parents have ordered him to stay away from the old fisherman because of what they believe to be Santiago's bad luck.
44.'Iliad,' by Homer
This epic poem, attributed to Homer and believed to have been written around the eighth century BC, is one of the oldest works of Western literature. Set during the final year of the Trojan War, the "Iliad" tells the larger story of the war's beginnings and its aftermath, including tales of the various monarchs and warriors who fought in it, including Achilles, Priam, Odysseus, and Agamemnon.
45.'Odyssey,' by Homer
Viewed as a sequel to the "Iliad," the "Odyssey" follows the Greek hero Odysseus, who fights for 10 years to return home after the Trojan War. During Odysseus's prolonged absence, his wife Penelope and son Telemachus must find a way to resolve their problems at home.
46.'A Doll's House,' by Henrik Ibsen
Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen's 1879 play tells the story of Nora Helmer, a middle-class housewife, who is forced to confront the personal dilemmas in her marriage and those of others when she is confronted with a crime from her past.
47.'Ulysses,' by James Joyce
Irish author James Joyce's 1922 novel centers on protagonist Leopold Bloom and others in Dublin as they move through their activities on the perfectly ordinary day of June 16, 1904. Parallels are drawn between Joyce's story and that of the epic poem "The Odyssey."
48.'Stories,' by Franz Kafka
These posthumously published short stories by German-language author Franz Kafka include "A Hunger Artist," in which a protagonist looks back to a time when society used to be fascinated by "hunger artists" who would deny themselves food for entertainment; and "A Country Doctor," a story which traces the obstacles a doctor faces in attempting to help a young patient.
49.'The Trial,' by Franz Kafka
In this novel by Kafka, first published in 1925, a protagonist with the last name of "K" works as a bank's chief financial officer, until he is arrested by an unknown agency and finds he must defend himself against unknown charges in a strange trial.
50.'The Castle,' by Franz Kafka
In "The Castle," a novel which was never finished by Kafka, a protagonist named K. goes to visit a village and, introducing himself as a land surveyor, attempts to win an audience with the owners of a castle.
51.'Shakuntula,' by Kālidāsa
This 4th-century (circa) play by classic Sanskrit-language poet and dramatist Kālidāsa tells the story (originating from Hindu mythology and told in the "Mahabharata") of the young girl Shakuntula, who is raised by the wise man Kanva but is discovered by a king and subsequently married to him. Shakuntula finds her life in turmoil when a sage named Durvasa curses her.
52.'The Sound of the Mountain,' by Yasunari Kawabata
Japanese writer Yasunari Kawabata's novel follows a Japanese businessman named Shingo, who works in Tokyo and who now – as he is getting older – is beginning to focus more on the members of his family, including his daughter-in-law Kikuko.
53.'Zorba the Greek,' by Nikos Kazantzakis
"Zorba the Greek," the 1946 novel by Greek author Nikos Kazantzakis, follows a rather bookish, unnamed narrator who feels he is out of touch with the common person and so hires a man named Alexis Zorba to work as his foreman in a previously unopened lignite mine. The narrator's relationship with the outspoken Zorba soon begins to complicates his life.
54.'Sons and Lovers,' by D.H. Lawrence
In "Sons and Lovers," the 1913 novel by English writer D.H. Lawrence, a young artist named Paul feels smothered by his mother's affection and tries to embark on relationships to separate himself from her.
55.'Independent People,' by Halldór Laxness
"Independent People," the epic novel published in the 1930s by Icelandic Nobel laureate Halldór Laxness, follows Guðbjartur Jónsson, a sheep farmer in Iceland who longs to live a life of economic independence with his new wife, but who faces misfortunes and must battle the supposedly cursed land on which his farm was built.
56.'Poems,' by Giacomo Leopardi
The poetic works of 19th-century Italian poet and essayist Giacomo Leopardi are renowned for both their lyric beauty and their philosophical messages often related to the poet's ideas of cosmic suffering. Two of Leopardi's best known idylls – brief poems describing rustic life – included in this collection are "Il Sogno" and "La vita solitaria."
57.'The Golden Notebook,' by Doris Lessing
Author Anna Wulf tries to combine her four notebooks into a single compilation in this 1962 novel by Zimbabwean-British writer and Nobel laureate Doris Lessing. The book details the lives of Anna and her children, among other characters, but also includes color-coded sections which purport to be excerpts from each of the four notebooks.
58.'Pippi Longstocking,' by Astrid Lindgren
Swedish author Astrid Lindgren's children's novel "Pippi Longstocking" centers on the independent young girl Pippi (modeled on Lindgren's own daughter Karin), who captivates two other children, Tommy and Annika, with her unusual strength, her braids that stick out from her head, and her pet horse and monkey.
59.'A Madman's Diary,' by Lu Xun
This short story published by Chinese writer Lu Xun in 1918 presents itself as based on the actual story of a man who believes that many people he knows are planning to eat him. He also imagines that he sees the phrase "Eat People" in the lines of text as he reads.
60.'Children of Gabelaawi,' by Naguib Mahfouz
Egyptian writer and Nobel laureate Naguib Mahfouz creates an allegory about Judaism, Christianity, and Islam and their history together, with this story set in an imaginary Cairo neighborhood about a father who favors his son Adam over his other children named Satan, Moses, Muhammad, and Jesus.
61.'Buddenbrooks,' by Thomas Mann
"Buddenbrooks" was the first novel of German writer Thomas Mann, published in 1901. The novel centers on several generations of a bourgeois German family living in the city of Lübeck. Mann traces the lives of each and examines the way that the willingness of later generations to embrace modern values eventually dooms the family.
62.'The Magic Mountain,' by Thomas Mann
In Mann's 1924 novel, a young man named Hans Castorp goes to visit his cousin, who is afflicted with tuberculosis, in a sanatorium, and is profoundly affected by the patients he encounters there.
63.'Moby-Dick,' by Herman Melville
American writer Herman Melville's 1851 classic centers on Ishmael, a sailor who takes a job on a whaling ship where he encounters Captain Ahab, a man who lost his leg to a large white sperm whale and is now determined to take revenge on the animal.
64.'Essays,' by Michel de Montaigne
French Renaissance writer Michel de Montaigne's 1580 collection of essays is a frank examination of human beings and their ways – the author included. The topics covered in Montaigne's essays are wide-ranging, including Montaigne's disagreement with the decision to explore America, his mistrust of romantic love, and his disdain for the human pursuit of fame.
65.'History,' by Elsa Morante
Italian writer Elsa Morante's 1974 novel follows a woman named Ida – a schoolteacher living in Rome with her two sons, Antonio and Giuseppe – as they fight to survive and maintain reason during and after World War II.
66.'Beloved,' by Toni Morrison
"Beloved" is perhaps the best known novel by Nobel Laureate and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Toni Morrison. In this novel, protagonist Sethe – a former slave – is troubled by a haunted house and the appearance of a mysterious young woman named Beloved.
67.'The Tale of Genji,' by Murasaki Shikibu
Often called the first novel ever, Shikibu's story from the early 11th century follows Genji – the handsome son of the emperor of Japan and his beloved concubine – as he engages in various love affairs and rises in the political ranks of his country.
68.'The Man Without Qualities,' by Robert Musil
In Austrian writer Robert Musil's unfinished three-part novel, a protagonist named Ulrich – an Austro-Hungarian who works as a mathematician – is dissatisfied with life and feels he has no purpose. As Ulrich helps others prepare for a celebration of the emperor's reign, he finds that the planners are divided in their ideas about the celebrations and the future of their country.
69.'Lolita,' by Vladimir Nabokov
Russian novelist and poet Vladimir Nabokov's 1955 novel "Lolita" tells the story of protagonist Humbert Humbert, a middle-aged professor who develops a fascination with the 12-year-old Dolores (whom he calls Lolita) and seeks to isolate her from her family and the rest of her world.
70.'Nineteen Eighty-Four,' by George Orwell
George Orwell's 1949 political novel "Nineteen Eighty-Four" is known as a master work of dystopian science-fiction. In the novel – which coined the terms "Big Brother" and "doublethink" – the residents of a totalitarian state called Oceania are controlled by the leader of the ruling party. Protagonist Winston Smith, even as he busily rewrites history for the state, secretly hates the party and dreams of rebellion.
71.'Metamorphoses,' by Ovid
A Latin narrative poem by the Roman poet Ovid dating from the year 8 AD, "Metamorphoses" tells the history of the world through stories of transformation.
72.'The Book of Disquiet,' by Fernando Pessoa
This fragmentary novel was published 47 years after the death of 20th-century Portuguese author and poet Fernando Pessoa. "The Book of Disquiet" is presented as the diary of a man named Bernardo Soares, who is unmarried and works as a bookkeeper. The topics Soares cover in his diary include everything from sleep to possible relationships for himself as well as more philosophical questions.
73.'Tales,' by Edgar Allan Poe
This collection of short stories by famously macabre American author Edgar Allan Poet includes "The Tell-Tale Heart," "The Pit and the Pendulum," "The Purloined Letter," "The Masque of the Red Death," "The Cask of Amontillado," and other tales of mystery.
74.'In Search of Lost Time,' by Marcel Proust
This massive, seven-volume novel (one of the longest in all of world literature) by French author Marcel Proust tells the story of an unnamed protagonist called the Narrator who goes through childhood, falls in love, struggles with questions of jealousy and desire, and observes others in their own struggles as he moves through various levels of early 20th-century French society. This work is considered by many to be one of the greatest and most influential novels of the 20th century.
75.'The Life of Gargantua and of Pantagruel,' by François Rabelais
In this five-volume novel by 16th-century French writer François Rabelais, a father-son pair of giants get involved in various misadventures as Pantagruel, the son, embarks on a sea voyage and ponders whether he should marry. The work is satiric in tone and famed for its crude humor.
76.'Pedro Páramo,' by Juan Rolfo
In this 1955 novel by Mexican writer and photographer Juan Rolfo, protagonist Juan Preciado goes in search of his father, the title character. As he goes, he begins to see people he believes are dead and the reader learns what Juan's town was like in the time of his father Pedro.
77.'Masnavi,' by Rumi
"Masnavi" is a series of six books of poetry by the celebrated 13th-century Persian poet Jalal al-Din Muhammad Rumi. The poem (which runs to more than 25,000 verses) is based on Sufi teaching intended to lead the reader to a full understanding of and love for God.
78.'Midnight's Children,' by Salman Rushdie
This sprawling 1980 novel by Booker Prize-winning British Indian novelist and essayist Salman Rushdie deals with questions about India's future as it moves from colonialism under Britain to independence. The book's protagonist, born at the stroke of midnight as India gains its independence, is gifted with special powers.
79.'Bostan,' by Saadi
Medieval Persian poet Saadi describes his understanding of the human race and what he has learned from his various journeys in this compilation of poems composed in rhyming couplets.
80.'Season of Migration to the North,' by Tayeb Salih
In this 1966 novel by Sudanese writer Tayeb Salih, an unnamed protagonist has lived in England for years to attend school but is now coming home to his village in the Sudan. There he meets a man named Mustafa who has less positive opinions about the education he received in Europe. "Season of Migration to the North" is considered by some critics to be one of the most important Arabic novels of the 20th century.
81.'Blindness,' by José Saramago
In this novel by Portuguese Nobel Laureate José Saramago everyone in an unnamed city suddenly becomes blind except for the wife of a doctor. The doctor's wife sticks close to a group of other people for solidarity as society begins to break down around them.
82.'Hamlet,' by William Shakespeare
Shakespeare's famous tragedy centers on the titular prince of Denmark, who believes his uncle, now the ruling king, killed his father. Hamlet resolves but then hesitates to take revenge, affecting everyone around him.
83.'King Lear,' by William Shakespeare
The monarch of the title disowns his youngest daughter, Cordelia, and learns the magnitude of his mistake when his two older daughters mistreat and disrespect him in Shakespeare's play.
84.'Othello,' by William Shakespeare
A Moorish general marries a white woman, Desdemona, but is soon persuaded by his false friend Iago that she's having an affair with another soldier in this Shakespearean tragedy.
85.'Oedipus the King,' by Sophocles
"Oedipus the King" is an Athenian tragedy by the great Greek tragedian Sophocles. In this work, the character of Oedipus unknowingly fulfills a prophecy that he will kill his father, the king, and marry his mother.
86.'The Red and the Black,' by Stendhal
In this novel by 19th-century French writer Stendhal (pen name for Marie-Henri Beyles), the protagonist Julian Sorel is born into a poor family but yearns to rise higher in life. Some of those he meets in high society manipulate him as he tries to fulfill his ambitions.
87.'Tristram Shandy,' by Laurence Sterne
"Tristram Shandy," a rambling novel originally published in nine volumes, is the work of 18th-century Anglo-Irish novelist and clergyman Laurence Sterne. Sterne's title hero tries to tell the story of his life but continually gets diverted by numerous characters, including various members of his family, a man named Doctor Slop, a maid named Susannah, and others.
88.'Zeno's Conscience,' by Italo Svevo
Italian author and businessman Italo Svevo self-published his novel "Zeno's Conscience" in 1923. The book is presented as the memoir of a man named Zeno Cosini, who fills the book with his discussions of such topics as his addiction to nicotine, the day he met his wife, and his search for a doctor to cure him of a malady from which he believes he suffers.
89.'Gulliver's Travels,' by Jonathan Swift
This 18th-century satiric novel by Irish writer and clergyman Jonathan Swift novel follows the hero Gulliver as he is shipwrecked on the shores of the land of Lilliput, an island where he is considered a giant because the residents of the country are less than six inches in height.
90.'War and Peace,' by Leo Tolstoy
This 1869 novel by Russian writer Leo Tolstoy is considered by many readers to be his masterwork. "War and Peace" follows the stories of several families of the Russian aristocracy, with their problems and major life events, in the period before, during, and after Napoleon's invasion of Russia in 1812.
91.'Anna Karenina,' by Leo Tolstoy
In Tolstoy's novel published in serial form in the 1870s, the aristocratic Anna leaves her husband and child for the dashing Count Vronsky. Ultimately, however, she is undone by societal disapproval, regret over leaving her child, and her own fears that Vronsky will betray her.
92.'The Death of Ivan Ilych,' by Leo Tolstoy
This 1886 novella is considered to be one of the masterpieces of Tolstoy's later years. "The Death of Ivan Ilych" tells the story of a high-court judge in 19th-century Russia who, after a domestic accident, realizes that he is dying – and begins to wonder if he has ever really lived.
93.'Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,' by Mark Twain
Ernest Hemingway is often quoted saying that, "All modern American literature comes from" Mark Twain's 1885 novel "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn." The book's plot is centered around the adventures of a boy named Huck Finn as he travels on a raft with escaped slave Jim down the Mississippi, meeting a cast of colorful characters along the way, and providing Twain with a powerful vehicle for a satiric critique of life in the American South in the years before the Civil War. The book is also noted for Twain's use of a distinctly American vernacular.
94.'Ramayana,' by Valmiki
This ancient Sanskrit epic is attributed to the Hindu sage Valmiki. The work – which consists of 24,000 verses in seven books – tells the story of Rama, who is said to be the seventh avatar of the god Vishnu. Rama's life is chronicled as wanders the world, waiting 14 years before he is able to assume the throne.
95.'Aeneid,' by Virgil
This epic Latin poem, written by ancient Roman poet Virgil between 29 and 19 BC, tells the story of the Roman hero Aeneas, who is born a Trojan and becomes the legendary ancestor of the Romans. In the first six of 12 books, Aeneas makes his way to Italy. The second six books tell the story of the Trojans' victorious war on the Latins.
96.'Mahabharata,' by Vyasa
Together with the "Ramayana," the "Mahabharata" is one of the two major Sanskrit epics of ancient India. Vyasa's text centers on a struggle to win the throne of Hastinapura, a prize which is desired by both the Pandava and Kaurava families and for which they engage in a battle that tests the bonds of loyalty and morality.
97.'Leaves of Grass,' by Walt Whitman
Walt Whitman's 1855 collection of poetry, which praises the natural world, includes his famous works "Song of Myself" and "I Sing The Body Electric."
98.'Mrs Dalloway,' by Virginia Woolf
British modernist author Virginia Woolf's 1925 novel "Mrs. Dalloway" follows the titular character, Clarissa Dalloway, throughout a day in her life in post-World War I London. Dalloway is planning to throw a party that night and spends her day pondering her life choices even as she makes party preparations and encounters a figure from her past.
99.'To the Lighthouse,' by Virginia Woolf
In Woolf's 1927 novel, a married couple named Ramsay are visiting their summer home on the Isle of Skye with various friends. Some members of the group return again ten years later, after World War I has wrought many changes.
100.'Memoirs of Hadrian,' by Marguerite Yourcenar
Belgian-born French writer Marguerite Yourcenar imagines the life of the Roman emperor Hadrian in this 1951 novel, which is presented as a letter Hadrian is writing to his successor Marcus Aurelius, in which Hadrian reminisces about his life and regrets.