The 100 Greatest Books Ever Written

This is one of the 200 lists we use to generate our main The Greatest Books list.

  • Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne

    This classic science fiction novel follows the adventures of Professor Aronnax, his servant Conseil, and harpooner Ned Land as they are captured by the enigmatic Captain Nemo aboard the Nautilus, a technologically advanced submarine. As they journey 20,000 leagues under the sea, they encounter a variety of sea creatures and underwater phenomena. The narrative explores themes of exploration, scientific discovery, and man's relationship with nature.

  • The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

    Set in 17th-century Puritan Boston, this novel tells the story of a woman who conceives a daughter through an affair and struggles to create a new life of repentance and dignity. She is forced to wear a scarlet "A" on her dress as a sign of her adultery while her lover, a revered local minister, remains unnamed and unpunished. Throughout the book, themes of sin, legalism, and guilt are explored.

  • The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson

    This classic novel explores the duality of human nature through the story of a respected London doctor who creates a potion that transforms him into a sinister, violent alter ego. As the doctor increasingly loses control over when the transformations occur, his alter ego's evil deeds escalate, causing havoc in the community. The narrative is a chilling exploration of humanity's capacity for evil and the struggle for individuals to reconcile their public personas with their private desires.

  • Walden by Henry David Thoreau

    This work is a reflection upon simple living in natural surroundings, inspired by the author's two-year experience of living in a cabin near a woodland pond. Filled with philosophical insights, observations on nature, and declarations of independence from societal expectations, the book is a critique of the complexities of modern civilization and a call to appreciate the beauty and simplicity of the natural world. It explores themes such as self-reliance, solitude, and the individual's relationship with nature.

  • Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift

    This classic satire follows the travels of a surgeon and sea captain who embarks on a series of extraordinary voyages. The protagonist first finds himself shipwrecked on an island inhabited by tiny people, later discovers a land of giants, then encounters a society of intelligent horses, and finally lands on a floating island of scientists. Through these bizarre adventures, the novel explores themes of human nature, morality, and society, offering a scathing critique of European culture and the human condition.

  • Moby Dick by Herman Melville

    The novel is a detailed narrative of a vengeful sea captain's obsessive quest to hunt down a giant white sperm whale that bit off his leg. The captain's relentless pursuit, despite the warnings and concerns of his crew, leads them on a dangerous journey across the seas. The story is a complex exploration of good and evil, obsession, and the nature of reality, filled with rich descriptions of whaling and the sea.

  • A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway

    Set during World War I, the novel follows an American ambulance driver in the Italian army and his love affair with a British nurse. The story is a first-person account of the protagonist's experiences in war and his struggle to survive amidst chaos and destruction. The narrative explores themes of love, war, and the fragility of life, culminating in a tragic ending that underscores the futile nature of war and the inevitable suffering it brings.

  • The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane

    "The Red Badge of Courage" is a novel set during the American Civil War, focusing on a young private in the Union Army who flees from the field of battle. Overcome with shame, he longs for a wound, a "red badge of courage," to counteract his cowardice. When his regiment once again faces the enemy, he acts as the standard-bearer, proving his courage. The book explores the themes of heroism, manhood, and the illusion versus reality of war.

  • The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling

    This classic work is a collection of stories set in the Indian jungle, where a human child, Mowgli, is adopted and raised by a pack of wolves. The book follows Mowgli's adventures and lessons learned from his animal friends and foes, including the wise bear Baloo and the cunning panther Bagheera. The book also includes other tales of animals and humans coexisting in the wild, showcasing themes of survival, morality, and the law of the jungle.

  • The Odyssey by Homer

    This epic poem follows the Greek hero Odysseus on his journey home after the fall of Troy. It takes Odysseus ten years to reach Ithaca after the ten-year Trojan War. Along the way, he encounters many obstacles including mythical creatures, divine beings, and natural disasters. Meanwhile, back in Ithaca, his wife Penelope and son Telemachus fend off suitors vying for Penelope's hand in marriage, believing Odysseus to be dead. The story concludes with Odysseus's return, his slaughter of the suitors, and his reunion with his family.

  • Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan

    This Christian allegory follows a man named Christian on his journey from his hometown, the "City of Destruction," to the "Celestial City" on Mount Zion. Christian faces numerous obstacles and temptations along the way, including the Slough of Despond, Vanity Fair, and the Valley of the Shadow of Death. The narrative serves as a metaphor for the believer's journey from sin and despair to salvation and eternal life.

  • A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce

    This novel is a semi-autobiographical account of a young man's intellectual and artistic development in late 19th-century Ireland. The protagonist struggles with issues of identity, faith, and nationality, ultimately rejecting the traditional values of his Catholic upbringing to pursue his own path as an artist. The book is renowned for its innovative narrative style and its exploration of themes such as individuality, freedom, and the nature of art.

  • Paradise Lost by John Milton

    "Paradise Lost" is an epic poem that explores the biblical story of Adam and Eve's fall from grace in the Garden of Eden. It delves into their temptation by Satan, their subsequent expulsion, and the consequences of their disobedience. The narrative also provides a complex portrayal of Satan as a rebellious angel, who, after being cast out of Heaven, seeks revenge by causing mankind's downfall. The poem is a profound exploration of free will, divine justice, and the human struggle with good and evil.

  • One Thousand and One Nights by Unknown

    This is a collection of Middle Eastern folk tales compiled during the Islamic Golden Age. The stories are told by a young woman, who must weave a new tale each night for her husband, a king, to delay her execution. The tales are filled with magic, adventure, love, and betrayal, and include well-known stories such as "Aladdin's Wonderful Lamp", "Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves", and "The Seven Voyages of Sinbad the Sailor".

  • Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

    A young orphan boy, living with his cruel older sister and her kind blacksmith husband, has an encounter with an escaped convict that changes his life. Later, he becomes the protégé of a wealthy but reclusive woman and falls in love with her adopted daughter. He then learns that an anonymous benefactor has left him a fortune, leading him to believe that his benefactor is the reclusive woman and that she intends for him to marry her adopted daughter. He moves to London to become a gentleman, but his great expectations are ultimately shattered when he learns the true identity of his benefactor and the reality of his love interest.

  • Candide by Voltaire

    "Candide" is a satirical novel that follows the adventures of a young man, Candide, who is living a sheltered life in an Edenic paradise and being indoctrinated with Leibnizian optimism by his mentor. When he is expelled from the paradise for kissing a baron's daughter, he embarks on a journey around the world, witnessing the horrors of war, natural disasters, and human cruelty. Throughout his journey, Candide maintains his optimistic philosophy, despite the constant hardships he faces, ultimately concluding that one must cultivate their own garden, a metaphor for taking control of one's own destiny.

  • Oedipus the King by Sophocles

    "Oedipus the King" is a tragic play that revolves around the life of Oedipus, the king of Thebes, who is prophesied to kill his father and marry his mother. Despite his attempts to avoid this fate, Oedipus unknowingly fulfills the prophecy. When he discovers the truth about his actions, he blinds himself in despair. The play explores themes of fate, free will, and the quest for truth, highlighting the tragic consequences of human hubris and ignorance.

  • The Hunchback of Notre-Dame by Victor Hugo

    Set in 15th-century Paris, this novel follows the story of Quasimodo, a deformed and hunchbacked bell-ringer of Notre-Dame Cathedral, who is shunned due to his appearance. Despite his physical deformities, Quasimodo falls in love with the beautiful gypsy girl, Esmeralda. However, his love is unrequited as she is in love with a handsome soldier. The novel explores themes of love, rejection, and the human struggle against fate and societal norms.

  • The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper

    Set during the French and Indian War, this historical novel follows the journey of Hawkeye, a skilled frontiersman, and his two Mohican companions as they guide two daughters of a British colonel through the dangerous wilderness of the American frontier. The group faces numerous perils and conflicts, not only from the war-torn landscape and hostile tribes, but also from a treacherous Huron scout. The novel explores themes of racial conflict, survival, and the fading of indigenous cultures.

  • The Sea-Wolf by Jack London

    "The Sea-Wolf" is a gripping adventure novel that tells the story of a refined literary critic who is rescued from a shipwreck by a brutal sea captain. The protagonist is forced to adapt to the harsh life of a sailor while clashing with the captain, a cruel and amoral man who believes in the survival of the fittest. As the narrative progresses, the protagonist not only survives but thrives, proving that gentleness and civilization are not signs of weakness. Eventually, he manages to escape the ship with a woman who was also rescued, and they end up stranded on a deserted island where they fall in love and start a new life.

  • Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmond Rostand

    "Cyrano de Bergerac" is a classic French play that tells the story of a nobleman named Cyrano, who is a talented poet and swordsman but has a very large nose. Despite being deeply in love with his cousin Roxane, Cyrano doesn't believe she could ever love him because of his appearance, so he helps his friend Christian woo her instead. Cyrano writes love letters to Roxane on behalf of Christian, and Roxane falls in love with the man she believes Christian to be. The story is a tragic tale of unrequited love, selflessness, and the power of inner beauty.

  • The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer

    The Canterbury Tales is a collection of 24 stories that follows a group of pilgrims traveling from London to Canterbury to visit the shrine of Saint Thomas Becket. Told in Middle English, the tales are narrated by a diverse group of pilgrims, including a knight, a miller, a reeve, and a pardoner, who share their stories to pass the time during their journey. The tales, which range from chivalrous romances to bawdy fabliaux, provide a colorful, satirical, and critical portrayal of 14th century English society.

  • Robert Browning's Poetry by Robert Browning

    This book is a compilation of poems by a renowned 19th-century English poet, known for his mastery in dramatic monologue. The collection showcases his unique style and his exploration of themes such as love, death, and spirituality. The poems reveal his philosophical insights and his ability to create complex psychological portraits of characters, thereby offering readers a profound understanding of the human condition.

  • The Essential Writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson by Ralph Waldo Emerson

    This book is a comprehensive collection of works by a renowned American philosopher and poet. It includes his most influential essays, lectures, and poetry, providing readers with a deep insight into his thoughts on nature, self-reliance, love, friendship, freedom, and the importance of intellectual independence. The book serves as a guide to the author's transcendental philosophy and his belief in individualism, nonconformity, and the inherent goodness of man and nature.

  • The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James

    This classic novel explores the life of a young, independent American woman who inherits a large amount of money and moves to Europe, where she falls into a manipulative and oppressive marriage. The story delves into themes of personal freedom, responsibility, and betrayal, as the protagonist navigates the complexities of high society, love, and the consequences of her choices.

  • Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe

    This renowned novel provides a harsh critique of American slavery through the story of Uncle Tom, a long-suffering black slave. The narrative follows Tom as he is sold and transported to the harsh South, encountering a variety of characters, both kind and cruel. The novel powerfully explores themes of faith, the immorality of slavery, and the concept of humanity, ultimately contributing to the abolitionist cause and leaving a significant impact on the American perception of slavery.

  • Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson

    This classic adventure novel tells the story of young Jim Hawkins, who stumbles upon a treasure map and embarks on a perilous journey to find the buried treasure. Along the way, he encounters a host of memorable characters, including the cunning and treacherous Long John Silver. The narrative is filled with action, intrigue, and suspense, as Hawkins and his companions face pirates, mutiny, and other dangers in their quest for the hidden treasure.

  • The Complete Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle

    This book is a comprehensive collection of all 56 short stories and four novels centered around the brilliant detective, Sherlock Holmes, and his loyal friend, Dr. John Watson. Set in late 19th and early 20th century London, the stories follow Holmes as he uses his exceptional deductive reasoning and astute observation skills to solve a variety of complex and intriguing mysteries. From murder and theft to espionage and the supernatural, no case is too challenging for this iconic detective.

  • The Poems of John Keats by John Keats

    This book is a compilation of poems by a renowned Romantic poet, who is recognized for his eloquent and expressive use of language. It includes his most famous works, often exploring themes of love, beauty, mortality, and the human condition. The collection showcases the poet's unique ability to capture the intricacies of human emotions and the beauty of nature, making it a must-read for lovers of classic English literature and poetry.

  • On the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin

    This groundbreaking work presents the theory of evolution, asserting that species evolve over generations through a process of natural selection. The book provides a comprehensive explanation of how the diversity of life on Earth developed over millions of years from a common ancestry. It includes detailed observations and arguments to support the idea that species evolve by adapting to their environments, challenging the prevailing belief of the time that species were unchanging parts of a designed hierarchy.

  • Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes

    This classic novel follows the adventures of a man who, driven mad by reading too many chivalric romances, decides to become a knight-errant and roam the world righting wrongs under the name Don Quixote. Accompanied by his loyal squire, Sancho Panza, he battles windmills he believes to be giants and champions the virtuous lady Dulcinea, who is in reality a simple peasant girl. The book is a richly layered critique of the popular literature of Cervantes' time and a profound exploration of reality and illusion, madness and sanity.

  • The Poems of Robert Frost by Robert Frost

    This collection of poetry showcases the work of a renowned American poet, featuring his signature exploration of rural life, complex social and philosophical themes, and vividly depicted New England landscapes. The anthology includes some of his most famous poems, marked by a mastery of language, precise imagery, and a keen ear for the sound of spoken word. His poems often touch on the beauty of nature, the human condition, and the dichotomy between life and death, demonstrating his profound understanding of the human experience.

  • Stories of Washington Irving by Washington Irving

    The book is a collection of short stories penned by one of America's earliest celebrated authors. It includes a variety of tales ranging from the supernatural to historical fiction, all characterized by the author's distinctive narrative style. Some of the most notable stories include a schoolmaster's encounter with a headless horseman, a man who sleeps for twenty years, and a tale of a man who sells his soul to the devil. The stories are set in various locations, from the Hudson Valley to Europe, and they often reflect the author's satirical and humorous view of society.

  • Animal Farm by George Orwell

    "Animal Farm" is a satirical fable set on a farm where the animals revolt, overthrow their human farmer, and take over the running of the farm for themselves. The story is an allegory of the Russian Revolution and the rise of Stalin, and the tale is told by the animals that inhabit the farm, primarily pigs who become the ruling class. Despite their initial attempts at creating an equal society, corruption and power ultimately lead to a regime as oppressive as the one they overthrew.

  • Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

    This classic novel is a tale of love, revenge and social class set in the Yorkshire moors. It revolves around the intense, complex relationship between Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff, an orphan adopted by Catherine's father. Despite their deep affection for each other, Catherine marries Edgar Linton, a wealthy neighbor, leading Heathcliff to seek revenge on the two families. The story unfolds over two generations, reflecting the consequences of their choices and the destructive power of obsessive love.

  • She Stoops to Conquer by Oliver Goldsmith

    "She Stoops to Conquer" is a comedic play that revolves around the story of a wealthy countryman, Mr. Hardcastle, who arranges for his daughter, Kate, to meet Charles Marlow, the son of a wealthy Londoner, hoping the pair will marry. However, Marlow is nervous around upper-class women, yet gets along fine with lower-class women. Kate learns of this and pretends to be 'common' to get to know him. The play concludes with Kate revealing her true identity, and Marlow, who is in love by this point, is relieved she's actually of the upper class. The play explores themes of class, courtship, and the deceptive nature of appearances.

  • Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

    The book is a tragic tale of two displaced ranch workers during the Great Depression in California. The two main characters, an intelligent but uneducated man and his mentally disabled companion, dream of owning their own piece of land. However, their dreams are thwarted by circumstances beyond their control, leading to a heart-wrenching conclusion. The book explores themes of friendship, dreams, loneliness, and the harsh realities of the American Dream.

  • Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

    Set in early 19th-century England, this classic novel revolves around the lives of the Bennet family, particularly the five unmarried daughters. The narrative explores themes of manners, upbringing, morality, education, and marriage within the society of the landed gentry. It follows the romantic entanglements of Elizabeth Bennet, the second eldest daughter, who is intelligent, lively, and quick-witted, and her tumultuous relationship with the proud, wealthy, and seemingly aloof Mr. Darcy. Their story unfolds as they navigate societal expectations, personal misunderstandings, and their own pride and prejudice.

  • The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky

    This classic novel explores the complex, passionate, and troubled relationship between four brothers and their father in 19th century Russia. The narrative delves into the themes of faith, doubt, morality, and redemption, as each brother grapples with personal dilemmas and family conflicts. The story culminates in a dramatic trial following a murder, which serves as a microcosm of the moral and philosophical struggles faced by each character, and by extension, humanity itself.

  • Les Misérables by Victor Hugo

    Set in early 19th-century France, the narrative follows the lives and interactions of several characters, particularly the struggles of ex-convict Jean Valjean and his journey towards redemption. The story touches upon the nature of law and grace, and elaborates upon the history of France, architecture of Paris, politics, moral philosophy, antimonarchism, justice, religion, and the types and nature of romantic and familial love. It is known for its vivid and relatable characters, and its exploration of societal and moral issues.

  • The Iliad by Homer

    This epic poem focuses on the final weeks of the Trojan War, a conflict between the city of Troy and the Greek city-states. The story explores themes of war, honor, wrath, and divine intervention, with a particular focus on the Greek hero Achilles, whose anger and refusal to fight have devastating consequences. The narrative also delves into the lives of the gods, their relationships with humans, and their influence on the course of events.

  • Lady Chatterley's Lover by D. H. Lawrence

    "Lady Chatterley's Lover" is a controversial novel that explores themes of class, sexuality, and the human condition. The story revolves around a young, upper-class woman married to a paralyzed war veteran who, feeling emotionally and physically neglected, embarks on a passionate affair with the estate's gamekeeper. The narrative delves into the protagonist's sexual awakening and her struggle against societal norms, ultimately advocating for emotional honesty and physical intimacy as essential components of a fulfilling life.

  • The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

    A young sailor, unjustly accused of treason, is imprisoned without trial in a grim fortress. After a daring escape, he uncovers a hidden treasure and transforms himself into the mysterious and wealthy Count of Monte Cristo. He then sets out to exact revenge on those who wronged him, using his newfound power and influence. Throughout his journey, he grapples with questions about justice, vengeance, and whether ultimate power can ultimately corrupt.

  • Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

    Set in a dystopian future, the novel explores a society where human beings are genetically bred and pharmaceutically conditioned to serve in a ruling order. The society is divided into five castes, each with its specific roles. The narrative follows a savage who rejects the norms of this new world order and struggles to navigate the clash between the values of his upbringing and the reality of this technologically advanced, emotionless society. His resistance prompts a deep examination of the nature of freedom, individuality, and happiness.

  • Aesop's Fables by Aesop

    This book is a collection of short tales, often featuring animals as characters, which convey moral lessons. The fables, attributed to a storyteller from ancient Greece, are known for their brevity and poignant messages. The stories cover a wide range of themes such as honesty, wisdom, greed, vanity, and humility, and are often concluded with a simple, yet profound, moral lesson. The narratives have been passed down through generations and continue to be relevant in modern times.

  • Lord Jim by Joseph Conrad

    The novel revolves around a young, idealistic British seaman, who commits a crime of cowardice at sea. He abandons his ship, leaving hundreds of passengers to their fate. He is publicly censured for this act and spends the rest of his life in shameful obscurity in the South Seas, trying to repress the guilt of his past and regain his lost honor. His quest for redemption leads him to a remote island where he gets a chance to prove his courage, but his tragic flaw ultimately leads to his downfall.

  • The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin by Benjamin Franklin

    This book is an autobiography of one of America's founding fathers, detailing his life from childhood to adulthood. The author shares his journey from humble beginnings as a printer's apprentice to becoming a successful inventor, writer, businessman, and statesman. The book provides an insight into his thoughts and philosophies on various subjects such as education, self-improvement, and public service, offering a unique look at the early American history through his eyes.

  • The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas

    Set in 17th century France, the novel follows the adventures of a young man who leaves home to join the Musketeers of the Guard. He befriends three of the most daring musketeers, Athos, Porthos, and Aramis, and together, they navigate political intrigue, love affairs, and duels. Their main enemies are the powerful Cardinal Richelieu and the beautiful but treacherous Milady, who will stop at nothing to bring them down.

  • Poetics by Aristotle

    This book is a seminal work of literary criticism that has profoundly influenced western thought. The book discusses the nature of poetry, tragedy, and comedy, as well as the components that make up a good story such as plot, character, thought, diction, melody, and spectacle. The author also introduces the concept of catharsis, the purging of emotions through the experience of art, and discusses the role of the tragic hero. The book is a must-read for anyone interested in literature, drama, or philosophy.

  • The Aeneid by Virgil

    This epic poem tells the story of Aeneas, a Trojan who travels to Italy, where he becomes the ancestor of the Romans. It includes a series of prophecies about Rome's future and the deeds of heroic individuals, and is divided into two sections, the first illustrating the hero's journey and the second detailing the wars and battles that ensue as Aeneas attempts to establish a new home in Italy. The narrative is deeply imbued with themes of duty, fate, and divine intervention.

  • Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert

    Madame Bovary is a tragic novel about a young woman, Emma Bovary, who is married to a dull, but kind-hearted doctor. Dissatisfied with her life, she embarks on a series of extramarital affairs and indulges in a luxurious lifestyle in an attempt to escape the banalities and emptiness of provincial life. Her desire for passion and excitement leads her down a path of financial ruin and despair, ultimately resulting in a tragic end.

  • The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli

    This classic work of political philosophy provides a pragmatic guide on political leadership and power, arguing that leaders must do whatever necessary to maintain authority and protect their states, even if it means compromising morality and ethics. The book explores various types of principalities, military affairs, the conduct of great leaders, and the virtues a prince should possess. It is known for its controversial thesis, which suggests that the ends justify the means in politics.

  • Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

    The novel follows the life of Jane Eyre, an orphan who is mistreated by her relatives and sent to a charity school. As she grows up, Jane becomes a governess at Thornfield Hall, where she falls in love with the brooding and mysterious Mr. Rochester. However, she soon learns of a dark secret in his past that threatens their future together. The story is a profound exploration of a woman's self-discovery and her struggle for independence and love in a rigid Victorian society.

  • Hamlet by William Shakespeare

    This classic play revolves around the young Prince of Denmark who is thrown into a state of emotional turmoil after his father's sudden death and his mother's quick remarriage to his uncle. The prince is visited by the ghost of his father who reveals that he was murdered by the uncle, prompting the prince to seek revenge. The narrative explores themes of madness, revenge, and moral corruption as the prince navigates the complex political and emotional landscape of the Danish court.

  • Pygmalion by Bernard Shaw

    "Pygmalion" is a play that explores the transformative power of education and the nature of language and communication. It follows the story of a cockney flower girl named Eliza Doolittle who is taught to speak and behave like a duchess by a pompous phonetics professor, Henry Higgins. Throughout the process, Eliza develops self-respect and personal dignity, challenging the Victorian society's rigid class system. The play also questions the idea of 'making' someone and the moral responsibility that comes with it.

  • Candida: a Pleasant Play by George Bernard Shaw

    This play revolves around the love triangle between a clergyman, his wife, and a young poet who idolizes her. The clergyman, who is a popular Christian Socialist, is oblivious to the poet's infatuation with his wife. The poet eventually confesses his love and proposes a "bidding" for Candida's affection, where both men will state their cases as to why she should choose them. In the end, Candida chooses her husband, stating that he is the one who truly needs her.

  • Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe

    The book is a classic adventure novel about a man who spends 28 years on a remote tropical island near Trinidad, encountering cannibals, captives, and mutineers before being rescued. The story is noted for its realistic portrayal of the protagonist's physical and psychological development and for its detailed depiction of his attempts to create a life for himself in the wilderness. The novel has been interpreted as an allegory for the development of civilization, as well as a critique of European colonialism.

  • Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare

    This classic play tells the tragic love story of two young individuals from feuding families in Verona, Italy. Despite their families' ongoing conflict, the pair secretly marry and vow to be together, no matter the cost. Their commitment leads to a series of unfortunate events, including misunderstandings, banishments, and ultimately, their untimely deaths. Their demise, however, reconciles their feuding families, leaving a poignant message about the destructive power of hate and the redemptive power of love.

  • A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare

    In this classic play, the Duke of Athens is preparing for his marriage when the lives of two young couples become complicated by the meddling of fairies. The fairy king and queen, Oberon and Titania, are quarreling, causing chaos in both the fairy world and the world of mortals. Puck, a mischievous sprite and servant of Oberon, causes further confusion and comic misadventures by casting spells that lead to mistaken identities and misplaced affections. Eventually, all is resolved, and the play ends with three happily married couples.

  • The Cherry Orchard by Anton Chekhov

    "The Cherry Orchard" is a classic play about an aristocratic Russian woman and her family as they return to their family estate, which includes a large and well-known cherry orchard. The family is on the brink of financial ruin and the estate is slated to be auctioned off. Despite various attempts to save their beloved home and orchard, they are ultimately unable to prevent the sale. The play is a poignant reflection on the changing social order and the decline of the aristocracy in Russia at the turn of the 20th century.

  • Three Sisters by Anton Chekhov

    "Three Sisters" is a play that revolves around the lives of three sisters, Olga, Masha, and Irina, who live in a provincial Russian town and yearn for their former life in Moscow. The story explores their relationships, dreams, and disappointments, as well as their interactions with the military officers stationed nearby. The narrative is a poignant exploration of love, loss, and the relentless passage of time, highlighting the human struggle for meaning and happiness.

  • The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri

    In this epic poem, the protagonist embarks on an extraordinary journey through Hell (Inferno), Purgatory (Purgatorio), and Paradise (Paradiso). Guided by the ancient Roman poet Virgil and his beloved Beatrice, he encounters various historical and mythological figures in each realm, witnessing the eternal consequences of earthly sins and virtues. The journey serves as an allegory for the soul's progression towards God, offering profound insights into the nature of good and evil, free will, and divine justice.

  • Analects by Confucius

    The Analects is a collection of sayings and teachings attributed to the Chinese philosopher Confucius and his disciples. The book emphasizes the importance of personal and societal morality, filial piety, and the cultivation of knowledge and virtue. Confucius stresses the importance of leading by example and treating others with respect and kindness. The Analects has had a profound impact on Chinese culture and philosophy, and its teachings continue to be studied and applied today.

  • Collected Poems of W. B. Yeats by W. B. Yeats

    This book is a comprehensive collection of poems by a renowned Irish poet. The collection spans his entire career, showcasing his evolution as a poet, from romantic and aesthetic works to more complex, mature pieces reflecting his interest in spirituality and Irish mythology. The book includes his most famous works, as well as lesser-known pieces, providing a thorough overview of his contribution to 20th century literature.

  • The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

    The novel follows the life of a handsome young man who, after having his portrait painted, is upset to realize that the painting will remain beautiful while he ages. After expressing a wish that the painting would age instead of him, he is shocked to find that his wish comes true. As he indulges in a life of hedonism and immoral acts, his portrait becomes increasingly grotesque, reflecting the damage his actions have on his soul. The story serves as a cautionary tale about the dangers of vanity, selfishness, and the pursuit of pleasure without regard for consequences.

  • Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray

    This classic novel follows the lives of two contrasting women, the cunning and ruthless Becky Sharp and the sweet and naive Amelia Sedley, against the backdrop of English society during the Napoleonic Wars. The book is a satirical exploration of the obsession with wealth, status, and social climbing, and the moral bankruptcy that can result from such pursuits. The narrative weaves an intricate tale of love, betrayal, and redemption, exposing the vanity and hypocrisy of high society.

  • Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio

    "Decameron" is a collection of 100 stories told by a group of seven young women and three young men sheltering in a secluded villa just outside Florence to escape the Black Death, which was afflicting the city. The tales, which range from the erotic to the tragic, the hilarious to the instructional, are embedded in a rich framework narrative that provides a detailed portrait of the society of the Italian Renaissance.

  • Beowulf by Unknown

    "Beowulf" is an Old English epic poem that tells the story of the eponymous hero, a Geatish warrior who comes to the aid of Hrothgar, the king of the Danes, whose mead hall is under attack by a monster known as Grendel. Beowulf fights and defeats Grendel and his mother, earning the gratitude and friendship of Hrothgar. Later in his life, Beowulf becomes king of the Geats and faces his final battle with a deadly dragon. The poem explores themes of heroism, fate, and mortality, and is considered one of the most important works of Old English literature.

  • Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

    Set in 19th-century Russia, this novel revolves around the life of Anna Karenina, a high-society woman who, dissatisfied with her loveless marriage, embarks on a passionate affair with a charming officer named Count Vronsky. This scandalous affair leads to her social downfall, while parallel to this, the novel also explores the rural life and struggles of Levin, a landowner who seeks the meaning of life and true happiness. The book explores themes such as love, marriage, fidelity, societal norms, and the human quest for happiness.

  • Stories of Guy de Maupassant by Guy de Maupassant

    This book is a collection of short stories from a renowned French author, known for his masterful storytelling and keen observations of human nature. The narratives delve into various aspects of life, from love and loss to morality and deception, showcasing the author's ability to capture the complexity of human emotions and experiences. His stories often carry a cynical tone, reflecting the harsh realities of life, and are noted for their surprise endings.

  • The Time Machine by H. G. Wells

    A Victorian-era scientist invents a machine that allows him to travel through time. He first journeys to the year 802,701 A.D., where he encounters the Eloi, a society of small, elegant, childlike adults who live in harmony but lack curiosity and drive. He later discovers the Morlocks, a nocturnal, subterranean species who prey on the Eloi. After rescuing an Eloi named Weena, the protagonist loses his time machine and must devise a plan to recover it and return to his own time, all while exploring the social and evolutionary implications of the two distinct societies.

  • Fathers and Sons by Ivan Turgenev

    This classic novel explores the generational divide and ideological clash in 19th century Russia. The story focuses on the relationship between a liberal father and his nihilistic son, who challenges the traditional values and beliefs of his elders. As they navigate their personal differences, the novel delves into broader themes of progress, love, and societal change, offering a poignant commentary on the tension between old and new ideas in a rapidly changing world.

  • Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

    This classic novel follows the journey of a seaman who travels up the Congo River into the African interior to meet a mysterious ivory trader. Throughout his journey, he encounters the harsh realities of imperialism, the brutal treatment of native Africans, and the depths of human cruelty and madness. The protagonist's journey into the 'heart of darkness' serves as both a physical exploration of the African continent and a metaphorical exploration into the depths of human nature.

  • War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

    Set in the backdrop of the Napoleonic era, the novel presents a panorama of Russian society and its descent into the chaos of war. It follows the interconnected lives of five aristocratic families, their struggles, romances, and personal journeys through the tumultuous period of history. The narrative explores themes of love, war, and the meaning of life, as it weaves together historical events with the personal stories of its characters.

  • Titi Livi Ab urbe condita libri by Livy

    This historical work offers a comprehensive narrative of the history of Rome, from its mythical origins to the reign of the Roman Emperor Augustus. The author chronicles the major political, military, and social events of the Roman Republic, including the founding of the city, the establishment of the Republic, the Punic Wars, and the rise of Julius Caesar. The book is a significant source of information about the early history of Rome and is often considered one of the most important works of Roman history.

  • Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

    This classic novel follows the lives of the four March sisters - Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy - as they navigate the challenges and joys of adolescence and adulthood in 19th century New England. As they grow, they grapple with issues of poverty, gender roles, love, and personal identity, each in her own unique way. The story is a testament to the power of family, sisterhood, and female resilience in a time of societal constraints.

  • The Talisman by Sir Walter Scott

    "The Talisman" is a historical novel set during the Third Crusade, focusing on the conflict between Richard the Lionheart, King of England, and Saladin, Sultan of Egypt and Syria. The story explores themes of chivalry, honor, and the cultural clash between the Christian West and the Islamic East. The plot revolves around a talisman, which is believed to have healing powers, and the knight who is tasked with delivering it to Richard. The novel presents a nuanced view of both sides of the Crusade, highlighting the virtues and flaws of each.

  • Tess of the d'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy

    This is a tragic tale of a young woman named Tess who comes from a poor family in rural England. Tess is sent to work for a wealthy family, where she is seduced by a man who abandons her after she becomes pregnant. The baby dies, and Tess is ostracized by her community. She falls in love with a kind man, but when she confesses her past, he rejects her. Desperate and heartbroken, Tess murders her former seducer and is eventually captured and executed. The novel explores themes of fate, injustice, and the oppressive sexual morals of its time.

  • Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

    This novel follows the story of a young girl named Alice who falls down a rabbit hole into a fantastical world full of peculiar creatures and bizarre experiences. As she navigates through this strange land, she encounters a series of nonsensical events, including a tea party with a Mad Hatter, a pool of tears, and a trial over stolen tarts. The book is renowned for its playful use of language, logic, and its exploration of the boundaries of reality.

  • Dracula by Bram Stoker

    This classic horror novel tells the story of Count Dracula's attempt to move from Transylvania to England so that he may find new blood and spread the undead curse, and of the battle between Dracula and a small group of people led by Professor Abraham Van Helsing. The narrative is composed of journal entries, letters, and telegrams written by the novel's protagonists, providing different perspectives on the gruesome events unfolding. The book touches on themes of sexuality, gender roles, and the clash of modern science with traditional superstition.

  • Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam by Edward FitzGerald

    "Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam" is a collection of four-line stanzas, or quatrains, translated from Persian poetry. The poems, filled with contemplations on mortality and the transient nature of life, advocate for living in the moment and enjoying life's simple pleasures. The work is revered for its beautiful and evocative imagery, philosophical musings, and its exploration of themes such as love, faith, doubt, and the fleeting nature of time.

  • The Red and the Black by Stendhal

    The novel is a detailed psychological portrait of Julien Sorel, a young man from a provincial background who aspires to rise above his humble beginnings. He uses his intelligence and hypocrisy to advance in the post-Napoleonic French society, which is deeply divided by class and political loyalties. The story is a critique of the society's materialism and hypocrisy as Julien's ambitions lead him to a tragic end. The title refers to the contrasting uniforms of the army and the church, the two routes available to him for upward mobility.

  • A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

    Set against the backdrop of the French Revolution, this classic novel explores themes of class struggle, sacrifice, and resurrection. The narrative follows the lives of several characters, including a dissipated English lawyer, a man who is a long-term prisoner in the Bastille, and a woman who becomes embroiled in the political turmoil of the time. The story is a riveting tale of love and sacrifice, with the infamous guillotine looming in the background, symbolizing the violence and unrest of the era.

  • The Republic by Plato

    "The Republic" is a philosophical text that explores the concepts of justice, order, and character within the context of a just city-state and a just individual. It presents the idea of a utopian society ruled by philosopher-kings, who are the most wise and just. The dialogue also delves into theories of education, the nature of reality, and the role of the philosopher in society. It is a fundamental work in Western philosophy and political theory.

  • Poems of Emily Dickinson by Emily Dickinson

    This collection of poetry encapsulates the works of a renowned 19th-century American poet, known for her unique style and themes. The poems, often characterized by their unconventional punctuation and capitalization, explore a wide range of topics including death, immortality, love, and nature. The poet's introspective and often cryptic style has made her one of the most studied and celebrated figures in American literature.

  • Faust by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

    The book is a tragic play in two parts that tells the story of a scholarly man named Faust, who becomes dissatisfied with his life and makes a pact with the devil, Mephistopheles. In exchange for unlimited knowledge and worldly pleasures, Faust agrees to give his soul to Mephistopheles after death. The narrative explores themes of ambition, despair, love, and redemption, ultimately leading to Faust's salvation.

  • Tom Jones by Henry Fielding

    This classic novel tells the story of Tom Jones, a charming and good-hearted but impulsive young man, who is expelled from his adoptive family home due to his wild behavior and love for the beautiful Sophia Western. His journey through 18th-century England is filled with adventures, misadventures, and a colorful cast of characters, as he struggles with his identity and seeks redemption. The narrative explores themes of class, virtue, and morality, and is known for its humor, social satire, and vivid characterization.

  • The Federalist Papers by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, John Jay

    "The Federalist Papers" is a collection of 85 articles and essays written to promote the ratification of the United States Constitution. These works discuss the benefits of a stronger national government, the proposed structure of the government, and the division of powers among its various branches. They also address criticisms of the Constitution and detail the failures of the Articles of Confederation. The papers remain a primary source for interpretation of the U.S. Constitution and the intentions of its framers.

  • Silas Marner by George Eliot

    Silas Marner, a weaver, is wrongfully accused of theft and excommunicated from his community in Lantern Yard. He moves to the village of Raveloe, where he lives as a recluse, hoarding his money. After his money is stolen, he adopts a young girl named Eppie, who was abandoned near his home. Eppie's presence transforms Silas's life, and he becomes a cherished member of the community. The novel explores themes of betrayal, redemption, and the transformative power of love.

  • Rights of Man by Thomas Paine

    This influential work is a passionate defense of the French Revolution and a detailed examination of the concept of human rights. The author argues against the idea of monarchy and hereditary succession, contending that government should be a reflection of the people's will and that it should promote equality and social welfare. The book also explores the role of government in society, the nature of civil liberties, and the importance of a written constitution.

  • Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman

    "Leaves of Grass" is a collection of poetry that celebrates the human form and condition, while also exploring themes of democracy, nature, love, and friendship. The book, known for its departure from traditional poetic form, features a free verse style and the use of everyday language. The poet presents himself as both an individual and a universal figure, representing the collective American experience and identity. The collection is also notable for its controversial content at the time of its publication, including candid depictions of sexuality.

  • Billy Budd by Herman Melville

    Set in the late 18th century, this novel tells the story of Billy Budd, a handsome, charismatic, but uneducated sailor who is forced to leave his merchant ship and join the crew of a British warship. Despite his popularity among the crew, he inadvertently makes an enemy of the master-at-arms, who falsely accuses him of mutiny. In a moment of panic, Budd accidentally kills his accuser, leading to his own court-martial and execution, despite the captain's reluctance and the crew's support. The novel explores themes of innocence, corruption, and the complexities of moral judgment.

  • Confessions by Augustine

    "Confessions" is an autobiographical work by a renowned theologian, in which he outlines his sinful youth and his conversion to Christianity. It is written in the form of a long, introspective prayer directed to God, exploring the author's spiritual journey and deep philosophical ponderings. The book is renowned for its eloquent and deeply personal exploration of faith, making it a cornerstone of Christian theology and Western literature.

  • The Complete Tales and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe by Edgar Allan Poe

    This collection brings together all of the author's most famous works, including poems, short stories, and novellas. Known for his macabre and gothic storytelling, the author's works are filled with themes of death, love lost, and human frailty. Notable inclusions are the haunting poem "The Raven," the chilling stories "The Tell-Tale Heart" and "The Fall of the House of Usher," and his only complete novel, "The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym."

  • Ivanhoe by Walter Scott

    Set in 12th-century England, the novel follows the story of Wilfred of Ivanhoe, a young Saxon knight, returning from the Crusades. He is disowned by his father for his allegiance to the Norman king Richard the Lionheart. The narrative encompasses themes of chivalry, rivalry, and the struggle between Saxons and Normans, while also highlighting the tension between Jews and Christians. The tale is known for its action-filled tournaments, sieges, and the character of Rebecca, a virtuous and strong Jewish woman.

  • Way of All Flesh by Samuel Butler

    The novel follows the life of Ernest Pontifex, from his birth in the early 19th century until his middle age, and his struggle against the restrictive morality of Victorian England. Raised in a stiflingly oppressive household by his hypocritical clergyman father and submissive mother, Ernest eventually rebels against his upbringing, leading to his imprisonment for a minor crime. Upon his release, he rejects his past life and religious beliefs, eventually finding happiness and success as a writer. The novel provides a scathing satire of Victorian-era attitudes towards religion and family life.

  • The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner

    The novel is a complex exploration of the tragic Compson family from the American South. Told from four distinct perspectives, the story unfolds through stream of consciousness narratives, each revealing their own understanding of the family's decline. The characters grapple with post-Civil War societal changes, personal loss, and their own mental instability. The narrative is marked by themes of time, innocence, and the burdens of the past.

  • Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky

    A young, impoverished former student in Saint Petersburg, Russia, formulates a plan to kill an unscrupulous pawnbroker to redistribute her wealth among the needy. However, after carrying out the act, he is consumed by guilt and paranoia, leading to a psychological battle within himself. As he grapples with his actions, he also navigates complex relationships with a variety of characters, including a virtuous prostitute, his sister, and a relentless detective. The narrative explores themes of morality, redemption, and the psychological impacts of crime.

  • Household Tales by Brothers Grimm

    "Household Tales" is a collection of German fairy tales that includes popular stories such as "Cinderella", "Little Red Riding Hood", "Hansel and Gretel", and "Snow White". These narratives, often featuring magical elements and moral lessons, have been influential in shaping Western popular culture. The tales range from the whimsical and humorous to the dark and cautionary, reflecting a wide array of human experiences and emotions.

  • The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

    The novel follows the journey of a young boy named Huckleberry Finn and a runaway slave named Jim as they travel down the Mississippi River on a raft. Set in the American South before the Civil War, the story explores themes of friendship, freedom, and the hypocrisy of society. Through various adventures and encounters with a host of colorful characters, Huck grapples with his personal values, often clashing with the societal norms of the time.

About this list

Easton Press, 102 Books

Easton Press's selection of the greatest books of the Western Canon.

Added about 9 years ago.

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