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The 100 Greatest Novels of All Time: A List by The Guardian


Sometime back we shared 100 Books to Read in a Lifetime: A List by Amazon on The Book Haven. Here is another list by The Guardian and this one is quite different from Amazon’s list. What’s your take on it?

Check out the list on The Guardian.

  1.  Don Quixote Miguel De Cervantes
    The story of the gentle knight and his servant Sancho Panza has entranced readers for centuries.
  2. Pilgrim’s Progress John Bunyan
    The one with the Slough of Despond and Vanity Fair.
  3. Robinson Crusoe Daniel Defoe
    The first English novel.
  4. Gulliver’s Travels Jonathan Swift
    A wonderful satire that still works for all ages, despite the savagery of Swift’s vision.
  5. Tom Jones Henry Fielding
    The adventures of a high-spirited orphan boy: an unbeatable plot and a lot of sex ending in a blissful marriage.
  6. Clarissa Samuel Richardson
    One of the longest novels in the English language, but unputdownable.
  7. Tristram Shandy Laurence Sterne
    One of the first bestsellers, dismissed by Dr Johnson as too fashionable for its own good.
  8. Dangerous Liaisons Pierre Choderlos De Laclos
    An epistolary novel and a handbook for seducers: foppish, French, and ferocious.
  9. Emma Jane Austen
    Near impossible choice between this and Pride and Prejudice. But Emma never fails to fascinate and annoy.
  10. Frankenstein Mary Shelley
    Inspired by spending too much time with Shelley and Byron.
  11. Nightmare Abbey Thomas Love Peacock
    A classic miniature: a brilliant satire on the Romantic novel.
  12. The Black SheepHonoré De Balzac
    Two rivals fight for the love of a femme fatale. Wrongly overlooked.
  13. The Charterhouse of Parma Stendhal
    Penetrating and compelling chronicle of life in an Italian court in post-Napoleonic France.
  14. The Count of Monte Cristo Alexandre Dumas
    A revenge thriller also set in France after Bonaparte: a masterpiece of adventure writing.
  15. Sybil Benjamin Disraeli
    Apart from Churchill, no other British political figure shows literary genius.
  16. David Copperfield Charles Dickens
    This highly autobiographical novel is the one its author liked best.
  17. Wuthering Heights Emily Brontë
    Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff have passed into the language. Impossible to ignore.
  18. Jane Eyre Charlotte Brontë
    Obsessive emotional grip and haunting narrative.
  19. Vanity Fair William Makepeace Thackeray
    The improving tale of Becky Sharp.
  20. The Scarlet Letter Nathaniel Hawthorne
    A classic investigation of the American mind.
  21. Moby-Dick Herman Melville
    ‘Call me Ishmael’ is one of the most famous opening sentences of any novel.
  22. Madame Bovary Gustave Flaubert
    You could summarise this as a story of adultery in provincial France, and miss the point entirely.
  23. The Woman in White Wilkie Collins
    Gripping mystery novel of concealed identity, abduction, fraud and mental cruelty.
  24. Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland Lewis Carroll
    A story written for the nine-year-old daughter of an Oxford don that still baffles most kids.
  25. Little Women Louisa M. Alcott
    Victorian bestseller about a New England family of girls.
  26. The Way We Live Now Anthony Trollope
    A majestic assault on the corruption of late Victorian England.
  27. Anna Karenina Leo Tolstoy
    The supreme novel of the married woman’s passion for a younger man.
  28. Daniel Deronda George Eliot
    A passion and an exotic grandeur that is strange and unsettling.
  29. The Brothers Karamazov Fyodor Dostoevsky
    Mystical tragedy by the author of Crime and Punishment.
  30. The Portrait of a Lady Henry James
    The story of Isabel Archer shows James at his witty and polished best.
  31. Huckleberry Finn Mark Twain
    Twain was a humorist, but this picture of Mississippi life is profoundly moral and still incredibly influential.
  32. The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde Robert Louis Stevenson
    A brilliantly suggestive, resonant study of human duality by a natural storyteller.
  33. Three Men in a Boat Jerome K. Jerome
    One of the funniest English books ever written.
  34. The Picture of Dorian Gray Oscar Wilde
    A coded and epigrammatic melodrama inspired by his own tortured homosexuality.
  35. The Diary of a Nobody George Grossmith
    This classic of Victorian suburbia will always be renowned for the character of Mr Pooter.
  36. Jude the Obscure Thomas Hardy
    Its savage bleakness makes it one of the first twentieth-century novels.
  37. The Riddle of the Sands Erskine Childers
    A prewar invasion-scare spy thriller by a writer later shot for his part in the Irish republican rising.
  38. The Call of the Wild Jack London
    The story of a dog who joins a pack of wolves after his master’s death.
  39. Nostromo Joseph Conrad
    Conrad’s masterpiece: a tale of money, love and revolutionary politics.
  40. The Wind in the Willows Kenneth Grahame
    This children’s classic was inspired by bedtime stories for Grahame’s son.
  41. In Search of Lost Time Marcel Proust
    An unforgettable portrait of Paris in the belle époque. Probably the longest novel on this list.
  42. The Rainbow D. H. Lawrence
    Novels seized by the police, like this one, have a special afterlife.
  43. The Good Soldier Ford Madox Ford
    This account of the adulterous lives of two Edwardian couples is a classic of unreliable narration.
  44. The Thirty-Nine Steps John Buchan
    A classic adventure story for boys, jammed with action, violence and suspense.
  45. Ulysses James Joyce
    Also pursued by the British police, this is a novel more discussed than read.
  46. Mrs Dalloway Virginia Woolf
    Secures Woolf’s position as one of the great twentieth-century English novelists.
  47. A Passage to India EM Forster
    Forster’s great love song to India.
  48. The Great Gatsby F. Scott Fitzgerald
    The quintessential Jazz Age novel.
  49. The Trial Franz Kafka
    The enigmatic story of Joseph K.
  50. Men Without Women Ernest Hemingway
    He is remembered for his novels, but it was the short stories that first attracted notice.
  51. Journey to the End of the Night Louis-Ferdinand Celine
    The experiences of an unattractive slum doctor during the Great War: a masterpiece of linguistic innovation.
  52. As I Lay Dying William Faulkner
    A strange black comedy by an American master.
  53. Brave New World Aldous Huxley
    Dystopian fantasy about the world of the seventh century AF (after Ford).
  54. Scoop Evelyn Waugh
    The supreme Fleet Street novel.
  55. USA John Dos Passos
    An extraordinary trilogy that uses a variety of narrative devices to express the story of America.
  56. The Big Sleep Raymond Chandler
    Introducing Philip Marlowe: cool, sharp, handsome – and bitterly alone.
  57. The Pursuit Of Love Nancy Mitford
    An exquisite comedy of manners with countless fans.
  58. The Plague Albert Camus
    A mysterious plague sweeps through the Algerian town of Oran.
  59. Nineteen Eighty-Four George Orwell
    This tale of one man’s struggle against totalitarianism has been appropriated the world over.
  60. Malone Dies Samuel Beckett
    Part of a trilogy of astonishing monologues in the black comic voice of the author of Waiting for Godot.
  61. Catcher in the Rye J.D. Salinger
    A week in the life of Holden Caulfield. A cult novel that still mesmerises.
  62. Wise Blood Flannery O’Connor
    A disturbing novel of religious extremism set in the Deep South.
  63. Charlotte’s Web EB White
    How Wilbur the pig was saved by the literary genius of a friendly spider.
  64. The Lord Of The Rings J. R. R. Tolkien
    Enough said!
  65. Lucky Jim Kingsley Amis
    An astonishing debut: the painfully funny English novel of the Fifties.
  66. Lord of the Flies William Golding
    Schoolboys become savages: a bleak vision of human nature.
  67. The Quiet American Graham Greene
    Prophetic novel set in 1950s Vietnam.
  68. On the Road Jack Kerouac
    The Beat Generation bible.
  69. Lolita Vladimir Nabokov
    Humbert Humbert’s obsession with Lolita is a tour de force of style and narrative.
  70. The Tin Drum Günter Grass
    Hugely influential, Rabelaisian novel of Hitler’s Germany.
  71. Things Fall Apart Chinua Achebe
    Nigeria at the beginning of colonialism. A classic of African literature.
  72. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie Muriel Spark
    A writer who made her debut in The Observer – and her prose is like cut glass.
  73. To Kill A Mockingbird Harper Lee
    Scout, a six-year-old girl, narrates an enthralling story of racial prejudice in the Deep South.
  74. Catch-22 Joseph Heller
    ‘He would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn’t, but if he was sane he had to fly them. If he flew them he was crazy and didn’t have to; if he didn’t want to he was sane and had to.’
  75. Herzog Saul Bellow
    Adultery and nervous breakdown in Chicago.
  76. One Hundred Years of Solitude Gabriel García Márquez
    A postmodern masterpiece.
  77. Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont Elizabeth Taylor
    A haunting, understated study of old age.
  78. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy John Le Carré
    A thrilling elegy for post-imperial Britain.
  79. Song of Solomon Toni Morrison
    The definitive novelist of the African-American experience.
  80. The Bottle Factory Outing Beryl Bainbridge
    Macabre comedy of provincial life.
  81. The Executioner’s Song Norman Mailer
    This quasi-documentary account of the life and death of Gary Gilmore is possibly his masterpiece.
  82. If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller Italo Calvino
    A strange, compelling story about the pleasures of reading.
  83. A Bend in the River VS Naipaul
    The finest living writer of English prose. This is his masterpiece: edgily reminiscent of Heart of Darkness.
  84. Waiting for the Barbarians JM Coetzee
    Bleak but haunting allegory of apartheid by the Nobel prizewinner.
  85. Housekeeping Marilynne Robinson
    Haunting, poetic story, drowned in water and light, about three generations of women.
  86. Lanark Alasdair Gray
    Seething vision of Glasgow. A Scottish classic.
  87. The New York Trilogy Paul Auster
    Dazzling metaphysical thriller set in the Manhattan of the 1970s.
  88. The BFG Roald Dahl
    A bestseller by the most popular postwar writer for children of all ages.
  89. The Periodic Table Primo Levi
    A prose poem about the delights of chemistry.
  90. Money Martin Amis
    The novel that bags Amis’s place on any list.
  91. An Artist of the Floating World Kazuo Ishiguro
    A collaborator from prewar Japan reluctantly discloses his betrayal of friends and family.
  92. Oscar And Lucinda Peter Carey
    A great contemporary love story set in nineteenth-century Australia by double Booker prizewinner.
  93. The Book of Laughter and Forgetting Milan Kundera
    Inspired by the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968, this is a magical fusion of history, autobiography and ideas.
  94. Haroun and the Sea of Stories Salman Rushdie
    In this entrancing story Rushdie plays with the idea of narrative itself.
  95. LA Confidential James Ellroy
    Three LAPD detectives are brought face to face with the secrets of their corrupt and violent careers.
  96. Wise Children Angela Carter
    A theatrical extravaganza by a brilliant exponent of magic realism.
  97. Atonement Ian McEwan
    Acclaimed short-story writer achieves a contemporary classic of mesmerising narrative conviction.
  98. Northern Lights Philip Pullman
    Lyra’s quest weaves fantasy, horror and the play of ideas into a truly great contemporary children’s book.
  99. American Pastoral Philip Roth
    For years, Roth was famous for Portnoy’s Complaint . Recently, he has enjoyed an extraordinary revival.
  100. Austerlitz W. G. Sebald
    Posthumously published volume in a sequence of dream-like fictions spun from memory, photographs and the German past.


17 thoughts on “The 100 Greatest Novels of All Time: A List by The Guardian

  1. It’s always fun to read these lists. I love that The BFG is on the list. Even if it wouldn’t be on mine, it’s good to put children’s literature there too. Someone that stands out in his absence for me is Julio Cortazar but you can’t have everyone. Anyone you were surprised wasn’t on the list or was on the list?

    • I like Roald Dahl too; happy to see BFG included in the list. Thanks for mentioning Cortazar. I am yet to read any of his work; will check him out. I think they might have included Sartre’s The Age of Reason and Turgenev’s Fathers and Sons (considering he is widely regarded as one of the best novelists of all time). Also, Arthur Koestler’s Darkness at Noon should have been certainly included in the list.

  2. I’ve only read 26, although in my defence I do won another 17 as well, which is still not as impressive as I feel my own high standards are. It does give me an excuse to binge on books though so that makes me happy, as if I needed a reason.

    • I haven’t read too many of them either and I won’t even try a few like Vanity Fair. This makes two of us (if that is any consolation). For good or for worse, this has added to my hopeless and never ending list of books to buy (which, i guess, again makes two of us). We have some more similar lists coming up so let’s keep our fingers crossed.

  3. Seeing the BFG on this list made me smile; but it also pointed out the glaringly obvious. 99% of the books on this list were written for an adult audience, but the title of this list is “100 books to read in a lifetime”… I think that broadening the ‘age range’ of this list would have led to some more exciting and novel choices appearing on it. As it stands, this list is rather predictable and ‘safe’.

    • Agreed. It is a quite safe list but then for the same reason you cannot argue too much with their choices because most of them are classics 🙂 I believe it is quite impossible to create a single comprehensive list like “100 books to read in a lifetime” and include all the books that deserve to be there. It might be an idea to classify them based on genres or age groups as you pointed out.

      • I don’t want an all encompassing list of classics to read… I want a list that excites and informs. I want a list that makes me want to tick it off, one item after another. Sadly, this isn’t that list. But when I find one, I’ll come back and share it. If I ever do find it…

        • You’ve got a point. I like classics in general but I do want to skip Jane Austen novels and dated philosophical stuff like Tolstoy’s Resurrection. New works are more experimental and fresh. May be someday they will redefine classics and the contemporary pulp fiction will be categorized as cult books.

          Somebody somewhere must have made an atypical list. Do share if you find one 🙂

  4. And thanks, Book Haven, for sharing. I still have some classics to go. Some, like Daniel Daronda I only know from bad made for TV movies and I never heard of Clarissa or Tristam Shandy so there are holes in my education.

    • None of us have read them all. I have not read (and I guess will never read in the future) Pilgrim’s Progress and Vanity Fair.

      I guess it would be really difficult to demarcate children’s literature from adult literature. I am still very much into Grimm Brothers and Lewis Carroll, not to mention Roald Dahl.

      Sorry for the late reply, couldn’t blog a long time thanks to some very very tiresome work 🙂

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