Updated: Aug 2, 2020
In this list we have compiled 25 great books that we think you should read at least once in your lifetime. Now, if you are ready, let's examine these books together.
25. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Since its immediate success in 1813, Pride and Prejudice has remained one of the most popular novels in the English language. Jane Austen called this brilliant work "her own darling child" and its vivacious heroine, Elizabeth Bennet, "as delightful a creature as ever appeared in print." The romantic clash between the opinionated Elizabeth and her proud beau, Mr. Darcy, is a splendid performance of civilized sparring. And Jane Austen's radiant wit sparkles as her characters dance a delicate quadrille of flirtation and intrigue, making this book the most superb comedy of manners of Regency England.
24. Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra
Don Quixote has become so entranced by reading chivalric romances that he determines to become a knight-errant himself. In the company of his faithful squire, Sancho Panza, his exploits blossom in all sorts of wonderful ways. While Quixote's fancy often leads him astray—he tilts at windmills, imagining them to be giants—Sancho acquires cunning and a certain sagacity. Sane madman and wise fool, they roam the world together, and together they have haunted readers' imaginations for nearly four hundred years.
With its experimental form and literary playfulness, Don Quixote has been generally recognized as the first modern novel. The book has been enormously influential on a host of writers, from Fielding and Sterne to Flaubert, Dickens, Melville, and Faulkner, who reread it once a year, "just as some people read the Bible."
23. 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.
22. Hamlet by William Shakespeare
Among Shakespeare's plays, "Hamlet" is considered by many his masterpiece. Among actors, the role of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, is considered the jewel in the crown of a triumphant theatrical career. Now Kenneth Branagh plays the leading role and co-directs a brillant ensemble performance.
Three generations of legendary leading actors, many of whom first assembled for the Oscar-winning film "Henry V", gather here to perform the rarely heard complete version of the play. This clear, subtly nuanced, stunning dramatization, presented by The Renaissance Theatre Company in association with "Bbc" Broadcasting, features such luminaries as Sir John Gielgud, Derek Jacobi, Emma Thompson and Christopher Ravenscroft. It combines a full cast with stirring music and sound effects to bring this magnificent Shakespearen classic vividly to life. Revealing new riches with each listening, this production of "Hamlet" is an invaluable aid for students, teachers and all true lovers of Shakespeare - a recording to be treasured for decades to come.
21. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
After eighteen years as a political prisoner in the Bastille, the ageing Doctor Manette is finally released and reunited with his daughter in England. There the lives of two very different men, Charles Darnay, an exiled French aristocrat, and Sydney Carton, a disreputable but brilliant English lawyer, become enmeshed through their love for Lucie Manette. From the tranquil roads of London, they are drawn against their will to the vengeful, bloodstained streets of Paris at the height of the Reign of Terror, and they soon fall under the lethal shadow of La Guillotine.
20. The Red and the Black by Stendhal
Handsome, ambitious Julien Sorel is determined to rise above his humble provincial origins. Soon realizing that success can only be achieved by adopting the subtle code of hypocrisy by which society operates, he begins to achieve advancement through deceit and self-interest. His triumphant career takes him into the heart of glamorous Parisian society, along the way conquering the gentle, married Madame de Rênal, and the haughty Mathilde.
But then Julien commits an unexpected, devastating crime - and brings about his own downfall. The Red and the Black is a lively, satirical portrayal of French society after Waterloo, riddled with corruption, greed, and ennui, and Julien - the cold exploiter whose Machiavellian campaign is undercut by his own emotions - is one of the most intriguing characters in European literature.
19. 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.
18. 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.
17. 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.
16. 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."
15. Blindness by José Saramago
A city is hit by an epidemic of "white blindness" that spares no one. Authorities confine the blind to an empty mental hospital, but there the criminal element holds everyone captive, stealing food rations, and assaulting women. There is one eyewitness to this nightmare who guides her charges—among them a boy with no mother, a girl with dark glasses, a dog of tears—through the barren streets, and their procession becomes as uncanny as the surroundings are harrowing. As Blindness reclaims the age-old story of a plague, it evokes the vivid and trembling horrors of the twentieth century, leaving readers with a powerful vision of the human spirit that's bound both by weakness and exhilarating strength.
14. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
In Anthony Burgess's influential nightmare vision of the future, criminals take over after dark. Teen gang leader Alex narrates in fantastically inventive slang that echoes the violent intensity of youth rebelling against society. Dazzling and transgressive, A Clockwork Orange is a frightening fable about good and evil and the meaning of human freedom. This edition includes the controversial last chapter not published in the first edition, and Burgess’s introduction, “A Clockwork Orange Resucked.”
13. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez
One Hundred Years of Solitude is perhaps the most important landmark of the so-called Boom in contemporary Latin American fiction. Published in 1967, the novel was an instant success, running to hundreds of editions, winning four international prizes and being translated into 27 languages. In 1982, its author received the Nobel Prize for Literature. Michael Wood places the novel in the context of modern Colombia's violent history, and helps the reader to explore the rich and complex vision of the world which Garcia Marquez presents in it. Close reference is made to the text itself (in English translation), and there is a guide to further reading.
12. The Complete Essays by Michel de Montaigne
Michel de Montaigne was one of the most influential figures of the Renaissance, singlehandedly responsible for popularising the essay as a literary form. This Penguin Classics edition of The Complete Essays is translated from the French and edited with an introduction and notes by M.A. Screech.
In 1572 Montaigne retired to his estates in order to devote himself to leisure, reading and reflection. There he wrote his constantly expanding 'assays', inspired by the ideas he found in books contained in his library and from his own experience. He discusses subjects as diverse as war-horses and cannibals, poetry and politics, sex and religion, love and friendship, ecstasy and experience. But, above all, Montaigne studied himself as a way of drawing out his own inner nature and that of men and women in general. The Essays are among the most idiosyncratic and personal works in all literature and provide an engaging insight into a wise Renaissance mind, continuing to give pleasure and enlightenment to modern readers.
11. The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
Journeys to the end of the world, fantastic creatures, and epic battles between good and evil—what more could any reader ask for in one book? The book that has it all is The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, written in 1949 by Clive Staples Lewis. But Lewis did not stop there. Six more books followed, and together they became known as The Chronicles of Narnia.
10. Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter's life is miserable. His parents are dead and he's stuck with his heartless relatives, who force him to live in a tiny closet under the stairs. But his fortune changes when he receives a letter that tells him the truth about himself: he's a wizard. A mysterious visitor rescues him from his relatives and takes him to his new home, Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
After a lifetime of bottling up his magical powers, Harry finally feels like a normal kid. But even within the Wizarding community, he is special. He is the boy who lived: the only person to have ever survived a killing curse inflicted by the evil Lord Voldemort, who launched a brutal takeover of the Wizarding world, only to vanish after failing to kill Harry.
Though Harry's first year at Hogwarts is the best of his life, not everything is perfect. There is a dangerous secret object hidden within the castle walls, and Harry believes it's his responsibility to prevent it from falling into evil hands. But doing so will bring him into contact with forces more terrifying than he ever could have imagined.
Full of sympathetic characters, wildly imaginative situations, and countless exciting details, the first installment in the series assembles an unforgettable magical world and sets the stage for many high-stakes adventures to come.
9. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them, One Ring to bring them all and in the darkeness bind them
In ancient times the Rings of Power were crafted by the Elven-smiths, and Sauron, The Dark Lord, forged the One Ring, filling it with his own power so that he could rule all others. But the One Ring was taken from him, and though he sought it throughout Middle-earth, it remained lost to him. After many ages it fell into the hands of Bilbo Baggins, as told in The Hobbit.
In a sleepy village in the Shire, young Frodo Baggins finds himself faced with an immense task, as his elderly cousin Bilbo entrusts the Ring to his care. Frodo must leave his home and make a perilous journey across Middle-earth to the Cracks of Doom, there to destroy the Ring and foil the Dark Lord in his evil purpose.
8. 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.
7. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
This is the story of a grown-up meeting his inner child, embodied by a Little Prince. Traveling from an asteroid, he left his rose there to discover the world. Before landing on Earth he visited many planets and their inhabitants where all grown-ups incarnates humankind’s most common vice. When a fox tell him that the eyes are blind and we are responsible forever for what you tame, the Little Prince go back home to meet again with his Rose.
The Little Prince is philosophical tale, with humanist values, shared from one generation to another for more than 75 years. Creating bonds between generations, men and continents, The Little Prince is a sustainable development icon, a World Peace actor, and a childhood Rights ambassador.
6. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald's third book, stands as the supreme achievement of his career. This exemplary novel of the Jazz Age has been acclaimed by generations of readers. The story is of the fabulously wealthy Jay Gatsby and his new love for the beautiful Daisy Buchanan, of lavish parties on Long Island at a time when The New York Times noted "gin was the national drink and sex the national obsession," it is an exquisitely crafted tale of America in the 1920s.
5. 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.
4. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
Orphaned as a child, Jane has felt an outcast her whole young life. Her courage is tested once again when she arrives at Thornfield Hall, where she has been hired by the brooding, proud Edward Rochester to care for his ward Adèle. Jane finds herself drawn to his troubled yet kind spirit. She falls in love. Hard.
But there is a terrifying secret inside the gloomy, forbidding Thornfield Hall. Is Rochester hiding from Jane? Will Jane be left heartbroken and exiled once again?
3. Les Misérables by Victor Hugo
Introducing one of the most famous characters in literature, Jean Valjean—the noble peasant imprisoned for stealing a loaf of bread—Les Misérables ranks among the greatest novels of all time. In it, Victor Hugo takes readers deep into the Parisian underworld, immerses them in a battle between good and evil, and carries them to the barricades during the uprising of 1832 with a breathtaking realism that is unsurpassed in modern prose.
Within his dramatic story are themes that capture the intellect and the emotions: crime and punishment, the relentless persecution of Valjean by Inspector Javert, the desperation of the prostitute Fantine, the amorality of the rogue Thénardier, and the universal desire to escape the prisons of our own minds. Les Misérables gave Victor Hugo a canvas upon which he portrayed his criticism of the French political and judicial systems, but the portrait that resulted is larger than life, epic in scope—an extravagant spectacle that dazzles the senses even as it touches the heart.
2. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
In Russia's struggle with Napoleon, Tolstoy saw a tragedy that involved all mankind. Greater than a historical chronicle, War and Peace is an affirmation of life itself, `a complete picture', as a contemporary reviewer put it, `of everything in which people find their happiness and greatness, their grief and humiliation'. Tolstoy gave his personal approval to this translation, published here in a new single volume edition, which includes an introduction by Henry Gifford, and Tolstoy's important essay `Some Words about War and Peace'.
1. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Raskolnikov, a destitute and desperate former student, wanders through the slums of St Petersburg and commits a random murder without remorse or regret. He imagines himself to be a great man, a Napoleon: acting for a higher purpose beyond conventional moral law. But as he embarks on a dangerous game of cat and mouse with a suspicious police investigator, Raskolnikov is pursued by the growing voice of his conscience and finds the noose of his own guilt tightening around his neck. Only Sonya, a downtrodden prostitute, can offer the chance of redemption.
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?