24 Classic Books You Can Read in 24 Hours

For those who don't have time to read, we've compiled 24 brilliant classics you can read in a day. Now, if you are ready, let's examine these books together.



24. Notes from Underground by Dostoevsky


Dostoevsky’s most revolutionary novel, Notes from Underground marks the dividing line between nineteenth- and twentieth-century fiction, and between the visions of self each century embodied. One of the most remarkable characters in literature, the unnamed narrator is a former official who has defiantly withdrawn into an underground existence. In complete retreat from society, he scrawls a passionate, obsessive, self-contradictory narrative that serves as a devastating attack on social utopianism and an assertion of man’s essentially irrational nature.


Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky, whose Dostoevsky translations have become the standard, give us a brilliantly faithful edition of this classic novel, conveying all the tragedy and tormented comedy of the original.


23. Chronicle of a Death Foretold by Gabriel Garcia Marquez


A man returns to the town where a baffling murder took place twenty-seven years earlier, determined to get to the bottom of the story. Just hours after marrying the beautiful Angela Vicario, everyone agrees, Bayardo San Roman returned his bride in disgrace to her parents. Her distraught family forced her to name her first lover; and her twin brothers announced their intention to murder Santiago Nasar for dishonoring their sister.


Yet if everyone knew the murder was going to happen, why did no one intervene to try and stop it? The more that is learned, the less is understood, and as the story races to its inexplicable conclusion, an entire society--not just a pair of murderers—is put on trial.


22. The Stranger by Albert Camus


Through the story of an ordinary man unwittingly drawn into a senseless murder on an Algerian beach, Camus explored what he termed "the nakedness of man faced with the absurd." First published in English in 1946; now in a new translation by Matthew Ward.


21. The Gentle Spirit by Dostoevsky


"The Gentle Spirit" (Russian: Кроткая, Krotkaya), sometimes also translated as "The Meek One", is a short story by Fyodor Dostoyevsky in 1876. The piece comes with the subtitle of "A Fantastic Story", and it chronicles the relationship between a pawnbroker and a girl that frequents his shop.


20. Chess Story by Stefan Zweig


Chess Story, also known as The Royal Game, is the Austrian master Stefan Zweig's final achievement, which was completed in Brazilian exile and sent off to his American publisher only a matter of days before his suicide in 1942. It is the only story in which Zweig looks at Nazism, and he does so with characteristic emphasis on the psychological.


Travelers by ship from New York to Buenos Aires find that on board with them is the world champion of chess, an arrogant and unfriendly man. They come together to try their skills against him and are soundly defeated. Then a mysterious passenger steps forward to advise them and their fortunes change. How he came to possess his extraordinary grasp of the game of chess and at what cost lie at the heart of Zweig's story.


This new translation of Chess Story brings out the work's unusual mixture of high suspense and poignant reflection.


19. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck


Drifters in search of work, George and his simple-minded friend Lennie have nothing in the world except each other and a dream -- a dream that one day they will have some land of their own. Eventually they find work on a ranch in California’s Salinas Valley, but their hopes are doomed as Lennie, struggling against extreme cruelty, misunderstanding and feelings of jealousy, becomes a victim of his own strength.

Tackling universal themes such as the friendship of a shared vision, and giving voice to America’s lonely and dispossessed, Of Mice and Men has proved one of Steinbeck’s most popular works, achieving success as a novel, a Broadway play and three acclaimed films.


18. Wondrak and Other Stories by Stefan Zweig


Compulsion, In the Snow and Wondrak all concern Zweig's strong anti-war feelings following the First World War. The artist Ferdinand, central figure of Compulsion, partly reflects Zweig's own experience. In The Snow tells of the plight of a group of Jews who freeze to death while trying to escape a medieval pogrom. In Wondrak, a woman, disfigured since birth, attempts to save her only child from being drafted into the military. In this newly available English translation the reader discovers the essential humanist preoccupations of the author of Amok and Twenty-four Hours in the Life of a Woman: his compassion towards human suffering, his horror of war and his faith in idealism, generosity, love values that can, in an instant, illuminate an entire existence.


Pushkin Collection editions feature a spare, elegant series style and superior, durable components. The Collection is typeset in Monotype Baskerville, litho-printed on Munken Premium White Paper and notch-bound by the independently owned printer TJ International in Padstow. The covers, with French flaps, are printed on Colorplan Pristine White Paper. Both paper and cover board are acid-free and Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified.


17. Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse


Herman Hesse's classic novel has delighted, inspired, and influenced generations of readers, writers, and thinkers. In this story of a wealthy Indian Brahmin who casts off a life of privilege to seek spiritual fulfillment. Hesse synthesizes disparate philosophies--Eastern religions, Jungian archetypes, Western individualism--into a unique vision of life as expressed through one man's search for true meaning.


16. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho


Paulo Coelho's enchanting novel has inspired a devoted following around the world. This story, dazzling in its powerful simplicity and soul-stirring wisdom, is about an Andalusian shepherd boy named Santiago who travels from his homeland in Spain to the Egyptian desert in search of a treasure buried near the Pyramids.

Along the way he meets a Gypsy woman, a man who calls himself king, and an alchemist, all of whom point Santiago in the direction of his quest. No one knows what the treasure is, or if Santiago will be able to surmount the obstacles in his path. But what starts out as a journey to find worldly goods turns into a discovery of the treasure found within. Lush, evocative, and deeply humane, the story of Santiago is an eternal testament to the transforming power of our dreams and the importance of listening to our hearts.


15. Twenty Four Hours in the Life of a Woman by Stefan Zweig


The less I felt in myself, the more strongly I was drawn to those places where the whirligig of life spins most rapidly.


So begins an extraordinary day in the life of Mrs C - recently bereaved and searching for excitement and meaning. Drawn to the bright lights of a casino, and the passion of a desperate stranger, she discovers a purpose once again but at what cost?


In this vivid and moving tale of a compassionate woman, and her defining experience, Zweig explores the power of intense love, overwhelming loneliness and regret that can last for a lifetime.


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


The hero-narrator of The Catcher in the Rye is an ancient child of sixteen, a native New Yorker named Holden Caulfield. Through circumstances that tend to preclude adult, secondhand description, he leaves his prep school in Pennsylvania and goes underground in New York City for three days. The boy himself is at once too simple and too complex for us to make any final comment about him or his story. Perhaps the safest thing we can say about Holden is that he was born in the world not just strongly attracted to beauty but, almost, hopelessly impaled on it. There are many voices in this novel: children's voices, adult voices, underground voices-but Holden's voice is the most eloquent of all. Transcending his own vernacular, yet remaining marvelously faithful to it, he issues a perfectly articulated cry of mixed pain and pleasure. However, like most lovers and clowns and poets of the higher orders, he keeps most of the pain to, and for, himself. The pleasure he gives away, or sets aside, with all his heart. It is there for the reader who can handle it to keep.


J.D. Salinger's classic novel of teenage angst and rebellion was first published in 1951. The novel was included on Time's 2005 list of the 100 best English-language novels written since 1923. It was named by Modern Library and its readers as one of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century. It has been frequently challenged in the court for its liberal use of profanity and portrayal of sexuality and in the 1950's and 60's it was the novel that every teenage boy wants to read.


13. The Overcoat by Nikolai Gogol


The Overcoat which is generally acknowledged as the finest of Gogol's memorable Saint Petersburg stories, is a tale of the absurd and misplaced obsessions.


12. Walking by Henry David Thoreau


"For I believe that climate does thus react on man — as there is something in the mountain air that feeds the spirit and inspires."


Henry David Thoreau's Walking began as a lecture in 1851 and ultimately appeared in The Atlantic Monthly in 1862, shortly after the author's death. The impassioned essay, which praises the merits of time spent in nature, has become one of the most influential works of the modern environmentalist movement. Thoreau's view of walking in nature as a self-reflective activity invites readers to embark on their own ramble in order to gain a "wild and dusky" self-knowledge unattainable elsewhere.


Americans felt the pressures of a changing world even in the relatively slow-paced 1800s, and Thoreau proposed balancing social stress with unhurried wanderings in fields and woods. His writings, from Civil Disobedience to Walden, remain popular because of their enduring relevance, and Walking bears a special resonance for modern readers who may have become disconnected from the natural world.



11. The Murders in the Rue Morgue by Edgar Allan Poe


The Murders in the Rue Morgue is a short story by Edgar Allan Poe published in Graham's Magazine in 1841. It has been recognized as the first modern detective story; Poe referred to it as one of his "tales of ratiocination".


10. The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka


"As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect. He was laying on his hard, as it were armor-plated, back and when he lifted his head a little he could see his domelike brown belly divided into stiff arched segments on top of which the bed quilt could hardly keep in position and was about to slide off completely. His numerous legs, which were pitifully thin compared to the rest of his bulk, waved helplessly before his eyes."

With it's startling, bizarre, yet surprisingly funny first opening, Kafka begins his masterpiece, The Metamorphosis. It is the story of a young man who, transformed overnight into a giant beetle-like insect, becomes an object of disgrace to his family, an outsider in his own home, a quintessentially alienated man. A harrowing—though absurdly comic—meditation on human feelings of inadequacy, guilt, and isolation, The Metamorphosis has taken its place as one of the most widely read and influential works of twentieth-century fiction. As W.H. Auden wrote, "Kafka is important to us because his predicament is the predicament of modern man."



9. A Simple Heart by Gustave Flaubert


In A Simple Heart, the poignant story that inspired Julian Barnes's Flaubert's Parrot, Felicite, a French housemaid, approaches a lifetime of servitude with human-scaled but angelic aplomb. No other author has imparted so much beauty and integrity to so modest an existence. Flaubert's "great saint" endures loss after loss by embracing the rich, true rhythms of life: the comfort of domesticity, the solace of the Church, and the depth of memory. This novella showcases Flaubert's perfectly honed realism: a delicate counterpoint of daily events with their psychological repercussions.


8. Polikushka by Leo Tolstoy


This scarce antiquarian book is a facsimile reprint of the original. Due to its age, it may contain imperfections such as marks, notations, marginalia and flawed pages. Because we believe this work is culturally important, we have made it available as part of our commitment for protecting, preserving, and promoting the world's literature in affordable, high quality, modern editions that are true to the original work.



7. Only Dull People Are Brilliant at Breakfast by Oscar Wilde


'It would be unfair to expect other people to be as remarkable as oneself'.


Wilde's celebrated witticisms on the dangers of sincerity, duplicitous biographers, the stupidity of the English - and his own genius.


One of 46 new books in the bestselling Little Black Classics series, to celebrate the first ever Penguin Classic in 1946. Each book gives readers a taste of the Classics' huge range and diversity, with works from around the world and across the centuries - including fables, decadence, heartbreak, tall tales, satire, ghosts, battles and elephants.


6. What Men Live By by Leo Tolstoy


A shoemaker named Simon, who had neither house nor land of his own, lived with his wife and children in a peasant’s hut, and earned his living by his work. Work was cheap, but bread was dear, and what he earned he spent for food. The man and his wife had but one sheepskin coat between them for winter wear, and even that was torn to tatters, and this was the second year he had been wanting to buy sheep-skins for a new coat. Before winter Simon saved up a little money: a three-rouble note lay hidden in his wife’s box, and five roubles and twenty kopeks were owed him by customers in the village.



5. The Double by Dostoevsky


While his literary reputation rests mainly on such celebrated novels as Crime and Punishment, The Brothers Karamazov, and The Idiot, Dostoyevsky also wrote much superb short fiction. The Double is one of the finest of his shorter works. It appeared in 1846 (his second published work) and is by far the most significant of his early stories, not least for its successful, straight-faced treatment of a hallucinatory theme.


In The Double, the protagonist, Golyadkin senior, is persecuted by his double, Golyadkin junior, who resembles him closely in almost every detail. The latter abuses the former with mounting scorn and brutality as the tale proceeds toward its frightening denouement. Characteristic Dostoyevskyan themes of helplessness, victimization, and scandal are beautifully handled here with an artistry that qualifies the story as a small masterpiece.

Students of literature, admirers of Dostoyevsky, and general readers will all be delighted to have this classic work available in this inexpensive but high-quality edition.


4. The Art of War by Sun Tzu


Twenty-Five Hundred years ago, Sun Tzu wrote this classic book of military strategy based on Chinese warfare and military thought. Since that time, all levels of military have used the teaching on Sun Tzu to warfare and civilization have adapted these teachings for use in politics, business and everyday life. The Art of War is a book which should be used to gain advantage of opponents in the boardroom and battlefield alike.



3. The Cherry Orchard by Anton Chekhov


Chekov's great tragicomic eulogy for a passing way of life is superbly adapted to make a powerful and beautifully playable drama. Plays for Performance Series.



2. Ward No. 6 by Anton Chekhov


The story is set in a provincial mental asylum and explores the philosophical conflict between Ivan Gromov, a patient, and Andrey Ragin, the director of the asylum. Gromov denounces the injustice he sees everywhere, while Dr. Ragin insists on ignoring injustice and other evils; partially as a result of this way of thinking, he neglects to remedy the shoddy conditions of the mental ward. When Dr. Ragin is himself committed, he realizes the fallacy of his philosophy and, too late, understands that evil must be confronted.


The story made an enormous impression when it was first published. The mental ward was taken as a symbol for Russia itself and the madness of the elite, who, instead of dealing with Russia’s problems, chose to view them from a distance.



1. Letter from an Unknown Woman by Stefan Zweig


Stefan's Zweig's Letter from an Unknown Woman and other stories contains a new translation by the award-winning Anthea Bell of one of his most celebrated novellas, Letter from an Unknown Woman , the inspiration for a classic 1948 Hollywood film by Max Ophüls, as well as three new stories, appearing in English for the first time.


A famous author receives a letter on his forty-first birthday. He doesn't know the sender, but still the letter concerns him intimately. Its story is earnest, even piteous: the story of a life lived in service to an unannounced, unnoticed love.


In the other stories in this collection, a young man mistakes the girl he loves for her sister; two erstwhile lovers meet after an age spent apart; and a married woman repays a debt of gratitude. All four tales, newly translated by the award-winning Anthea Bell, are among Zweig's most celebrated and compelling work-expertly paced, laced with empathy and an unwaveringly acute sense of psychological detail.


This is our list. Of course, this list can be expanded and other masterpieces can be added. So what are the books you read and liked the most in this list? What are the books that should be on this list too?


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