The 100 Best Books in the World

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

  • Metamorphoses by Ovid

    "Metamorphoses" is a classical epic poem that narrates the history of the world from its creation to the deification of Julius Caesar within a loose mythico-historical framework. The narrative is filled with stories of transformation, focusing on myths and legends of the Greek and Roman world. The tales, which include the stories of Daedalus and Icarus, King Midas, and Pyramus and Thisbe, among others, are all linked by the common theme of transformation, often as a punishment or reward from the gods.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • The Adventures of Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens

    This classic novel follows the life of a young orphan named Oliver Twist, who endures a miserable existence in a workhouse and then is placed with an undertaker. He escapes and travels to London where he meets the Artful Dodger, a member of a gang of juvenile pickpockets led by the elderly criminal, Fagin. Despite numerous adversities, Oliver remains pure at heart and is eventually saved from a life of crime, revealing his true identity and claiming his rightful inheritance.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain

    The book chronicles the mischievous adventures of a young boy living on the Mississippi River in the mid-19th century. The protagonist, a clever and imaginative boy, often finds himself in trouble for his pranks and daydreams. His escapades range from his romance with a young girl, his search for buried treasure, his attendance at his own funeral, and his witnessing of a murder. The narrative captures the essence of childhood and the societal rules of the time.

  • 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.

  • Germany, a Winter Tale by Heinrich Heine

    "Germany, a Winter Tale" is a satirical epic poem that criticizes the political and social state of Germany in the 19th century. The narrative follows the author's journey through his homeland, where he encounters various figures and situations that embody the cultural and political issues of the time. The author uses humor and irony to expose the hypocrisy, corruption, and stagnation in German society, while also expressing his longing for a more progressive and enlightened future.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Thus Spake Zarathustra by Friedrich Nietzsche

    This philosophical novel explores the idea of the Übermensch, or "Overman," a superior human being who has achieved self-mastery and created personal meaning in life. The protagonist, Zarathustra, descends from his solitary life in the mountains to share his wisdom with humanity. Through a series of speeches and encounters, he challenges traditional beliefs about good, evil, truth, and religion, and advocates for the transcendence of man into a higher form of existence. The book is noted for its critique of morality, its poetic and often cryptic language, and its exploration of complex philosophical concepts.

  • 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.

  • Steppenwolf by Hermann Hesse

    The novel presents a poignant exploration of a man's struggle with his dual nature. The protagonist, a middle-aged man, finds himself torn between his humanistic, intellectual tendencies and his more primitive, wolf-like instincts. As he navigates his way through the surreal and sometimes hallucinatory world, he encounters various characters who challenge his views and push him towards self-discovery and transformation. The narrative delves into themes of alienation, the subconscious mind, and the search for meaning in life.

  • The Man Without Qualities by Robert Musil

    "The Man Without Qualities" is a satirical novel set in Vienna during the last days of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. It follows the life of Ulrich, a thirty-two-year-old mathematician, who is in search of a sense of life and reality but is caught up in the societal changes and political chaos of his time. The book explores themes of existentialism, morality, and the search for meaning in a rapidly changing world.

  • Berlin Alexanderplatz by Alfred Döblin

    Set in 1920s Berlin, the book follows the life of Franz Biberkopf, a man recently released from prison who is trying to make an honest life for himself. However, he is drawn back into the criminal underworld due to circumstances and the influence of his acquaintance, Reinhold. The book is a vivid portrayal of city life in Weimar-era Germany, exploring themes of poverty, crime, redemption and the struggle to maintain one's morality amidst chaos and corruption.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

    The book is a satirical critique of military bureaucracy and the illogical nature of war, set during World War II. The story follows a U.S. Army Air Forces B-25 bombardier stationed in Italy, who is trying to maintain his sanity while fulfilling his service requirements so that he can go home. The novel explores the absurdity of war and military life through the experiences of the protagonist, who discovers that a bureaucratic rule, the "Catch-22", makes it impossible for him to escape his dangerous situation. The more he tries to avoid his military assignments, the deeper he gets sucked into the irrational world of military rule.

  • The Trial by Franz Kafka

    The book revolves around a bank clerk who wakes one morning to find himself under arrest for an unspecified crime. Despite not being detained, he is subjected to the psychological torment of a bizarre and nightmarish judicial process. The story is a critique of bureaucracy, exploring themes of guilt, alienation and the inefficiency of the justice system.

  • Ulysses by James Joyce

    Set in Dublin, the novel follows a day in the life of Leopold Bloom, an advertising salesman, as he navigates the city. The narrative, heavily influenced by Homer's Odyssey, explores themes of identity, heroism, and the complexities of everyday life. It is renowned for its stream-of-consciousness style and complex structure, making it a challenging but rewarding read.

  • Buddenbrooks by Thomas Mann

    "Buddenbrooks" is a novel that chronicles the decline of a wealthy north German merchant family over the course of four generations. The narrative focuses on the fluctuating fortunes and internal struggles of the family, reflecting the societal changes and economic decline of the period. The family's personal and business relationships, their moral values, and their struggle to maintain social status are all explored against the backdrop of the changing political and social landscape.

  • The Counterfeiters by André Gide

    "The Counterfeiters" is a complex novel that explores themes of authenticity, morality, and identity, primarily through the lens of a group of friends in Paris. The story revolves around a series of counterfeit coins, which serve as a metaphor for the characters' struggles with their own authenticity and self-perception. The narrative also delves into the lives of the characters, their relationships, personal struggles, and their journey towards self-discovery. The book is noted for its non-linear structure and metafictional elements, with the author himself being a character in the story.

  • For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway

    Set in the backdrop of the Spanish Civil War, the novel follows the story of an American dynamiter, who is assigned the task of blowing up a bridge during a crucial attack on the city of Segovia. Alongside the war narrative, the story also explores his relationships with various characters, including his love affair with a young Spanish woman. The narrative beautifully encapsulates themes of love, war, death, and the transient nature of life.

  • The Tin Drum by Günter Grass

    The novel tells the story of Oskar Matzerath, a boy who decides on his third birthday that he will stop growing and remain a three-year-old forever. Oskar is gifted with a tin drum by his mother, which he uses to express his emotions and thoughts. Living in Danzig during the rise of Nazi Germany, Oskar's refusal to grow is a form of protest against the adult world. The book is a blend of magical realism and historical fiction, providing a unique perspective on the horrors of World War II and the post-war era in Germany.

  • Lord of the Flies by William Golding

    A group of British boys are stranded on an uninhabited island after their plane crashes during wartime. Initially, they attempt to establish order, creating rules and electing a leader. However, as time passes, their civility erodes, and they descend into savagery and chaos. The struggle for power intensifies, leading to violence and death. The novel explores themes of innocence, the inherent evil in mankind, and the thin veneer of civilization.

  • I'm Not Stiller by Max Frisch

    The book is a profound exploration of identity and the human condition, revolving around a man who is arrested upon his return to his home country, Switzerland, after spending time in America. Although he insists he is not the man, Stiller, that everyone believes him to be, his protests are ignored. The story unfolds as he writes in his prison cell, reflecting on his past life and relationships, and grappling with the question of who he truly is. It's a thought-provoking narrative that challenges conventional notions of selfhood and personal identity.

  • In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

    This true crime novel tells the story of the brutal 1959 murder of a wealthy farmer, his wife and two of their children in Holcomb, Kansas. The narrative follows the investigation led by the Kansas Bureau of Investigation that ultimately leads to the capture, trial, and execution of the killers. The book explores the circumstances surrounding this horrific crime and the effects it had on the community and the people involved.

  • Nausea by Jean Paul Sartre

    The novel follows a historian living in a small French town, struggling with a strange and unsettling feeling of disgust and revulsion he calls 'nausea'. He grapples with the existential dread of his own existence and the meaningless of life, continually questioning his own perceptions and the nature of reality. As he navigates through his everyday life, he is plagued by his philosophical thoughts and the overwhelming sensation of nausea, leading him to a profound existential crisis.

  • The Stranger by Albert Camus

    The narrative follows a man who, after the death of his mother, falls into a routine of indifference and emotional detachment, leading him to commit an act of violence on a sun-drenched beach. His subsequent trial becomes less about the act itself and more about his inability to conform to societal norms and expectations, ultimately exploring themes of existentialism, absurdism, and the human condition.

  • The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera

    Set against the backdrop of the Prague Spring period of Czechoslovak history, the novel explores the philosophical concept of Nietzsche's eternal return through the intertwined lives of four characters: a womanizing surgeon, his intellectual wife, his naïve mistress, and her stoic lover. The narrative delves into their personal struggles with lightness and heaviness, freedom and fate, love and betrayal, and the complexities of human relationships, all while offering a profound meditation on the nature of existence and the paradoxes of life.

  • A Bend in the River by V. S. Naipaul

    "A Bend in the River" is a novel that follows an Indian man, Salim, who moves from the East Coast of Africa to the heart of the continent to open a store in a small, remote town at a bend in the river. The book explores the changes that occur in the town as it evolves from a sleepy outpost to a bustling city. It also delves into Salim's personal struggles and the challenges he faces in adapting to a rapidly changing society, all set against the backdrop of post-colonial Africa.

  • Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie

    The novel follows two Indian actors who miraculously survive a plane explosion, and as a result, find themselves embodying good and evil. As they navigate their new identities, the story also delves into the life of a prophet and his creation of a new religion in a city of sand. The narrative is a blend of fantasy and reality, exploring themes of identity, religion, and the immigrant experience, while also providing a controversial interpretation of Islamic faith and the life of Prophet Muhammad.

  • The Lover by Marguerite Duras

    "The Lover" is a poignant exploration of forbidden love, power dynamics, and colonialism. Set in 1930s French Indochina, it tells the story of a tumultuous and passionate affair between a 15-year-old French girl and her wealthy, older Chinese lover. The narrative delves into the complexities of their relationship, the societal norms they defy, and the inevitable heartbreak that follows. The protagonist's struggle with her family's poverty and her mother's mental instability further complicates the story, making it a compelling exploration of love, desire, and societal constraints.

  • One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

    This novel is a multi-generational saga that focuses on the Buendía family, who founded the fictional town of Macondo. It explores themes of love, loss, family, and the cyclical nature of history. The story is filled with magical realism, blending the supernatural with the ordinary, as it chronicles the family's experiences, including civil war, marriages, births, and deaths. The book is renowned for its narrative style and its exploration of solitude, fate, and the inevitability of repetition in history.

  • The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje

    "The English Patient" is a story of four diverse individuals brought together at an Italian villa during the final days of World War II. The narrative revolves around a severely burned man who can't remember his name or past, a young Canadian nurse who tends to him, a Sikh British Army sapper, and a Canadian thief. As they navigate their own traumas and losses, the past of the mysterious patient slowly unravels, revealing a tale of love, identity, and betrayal.

  • The New York Trilogy by Paul Auster

    "The New York Trilogy" is a collection of three detective stories that explore the nature of identity and the search for meaning. The stories are set in New York City and feature various characters, including a detective, a writer, and a professor, who are all engaged in their own personal quests. These quests often involve elements of mystery, existentialism, and introspection, and the stories are interconnected in various ways, creating a complex and thought-provoking narrative.

  • The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro

    The novel is a poignant tale of an English butler, Stevens, who reflects on his life and career during a road trip through the English countryside. As he delves into his past, he reveals his unquestioning loyalty to his former employer, Lord Darlington, and his unexpressed love for the housekeeper, Miss Kenton. The narrative explores themes of dignity, duty, and regret, as Stevens comes to terms with his unquestioning devotion to his employer and the missed opportunities in his personal life.

  • Waiting for the Barbarians by J M Coetzee

    The novel is set in a small frontier town of an unnamed empire, where the magistrate lives a life of civil service and relative peace. His world is disrupted when the Empire declares a state of emergency due to rumors of barbarian uprising. The magistrate becomes a critic of the Empire's brutal and inhumane methods of dealing with the perceived threat, which leads to his arrest and torture. As he tries to understand his role in the vast political machinery, he also grapples with questions of power, justice, and humanity.

  • American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis

    The novel is a disturbing and graphic exploration of the mind of a wealthy, young and handsome Wall Street investment banker who is also a psychopathic serial killer. He leads a double life, appearing to be a charming and sophisticated businessman by day, while indulging in horrific acts of violence and murder by night. The narrative provides a satirical critique of 1980s American consumer culture, vanity, and excess, while also delving into the dark underbelly of human nature.

  • Waiting by Ha Jin

    "Waiting" is a story set in China during the Cultural Revolution and its aftermath, revolving around the life of Lin Kong, a military doctor who is torn between his love for two women. He is stuck in an arranged marriage with his traditional wife in the countryside, while he falls in love with a modern, city nurse. The novel explores his 18-year struggle to divorce his wife and marry his lover, depicting the clash between traditional and modern Chinese culture, personal desires, and societal expectations.

  • The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley

    This novel reimagines the Arthurian legends from the perspectives of the women involved. It centers around Morgaine, Arthur's half-sister, who is a priestess of Avalon, and Gwenhwyfar, Arthur's queen. The story explores their roles in the political and spiritual conflicts that arise as Christianity begins to replace the old pagan ways. It delves into themes of love, loyalty, and power, while offering a fresh take on a classic tale.

  • Baudolino by Umberto Eco

    Set in the 12th century, the novel follows Baudolino, a self-proclaimed liar and adventurer, as he travels from his home in Italy to the mythical kingdom of Prester John. Along the way, he becomes embroiled in a series of political and religious intrigues, meets a variety of fantastical creatures, and tells a series of increasingly elaborate lies. The narrative is framed as a story Baudolino is telling to a Byzantine historian, adding another layer of unreliability to his already questionable narrative.

  • A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking

    A Brief History of Time is a popular science book that explores a broad range of topics in cosmology, including the Big Bang, black holes, light cones and superstring theory. The author does not shy away from complex theories and concepts, but explains them in a way that is accessible to non-scientific readers. The book also discusses the possibility of time travel and the boundaries of scientific knowledge. Throughout, the author emphasizes the ongoing quest for a unifying theory that can combine quantum mechanics and general relativity into one all-encompassing, coherent theoretical framework.

  • 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.

  • The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith

    This influential economic book presents a groundbreaking theory that argues for free market economies. The author posits that individuals acting in their own self-interest within a system of natural liberty will result in societal benefit, a concept often referred to as the "invisible hand" theory. The book also critiques mercantilism and explores concepts such as the division of labor, productivity, and free markets. It is widely considered one of the foundational texts in the field of economics.

  • Das Kapital by Karl Marx

    This influential work is a comprehensive critique of political economy, exploring the complex nature of capitalism, its production processes, and its societal impact. The book delves into the intricacies of commodities, labor theory of value, surplus value, and exploitation, arguing that capitalism is inherently unstable and prone to periodic crises. It also posits that the capitalist system ultimately leads to the concentration of wealth in fewer hands, causing social inequality and paving the way for its own demise. The book is widely regarded as a foundational text in the development of socialist and communist ideologies.

  • The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money by John Maynard Keynes

    This influential economic treatise presents a groundbreaking theory that challenges classical economics, asserting that aggregate demand, driven by public and private sector spending, is the primary factor influencing economic activity and employment levels. The book also introduces the concept of fiscal and monetary policies as tools to manage economic downturns, thus shaping the foundation of modern macroeconomics. It further critiques the idea that market economies would automatically provide full employment and argues for active government intervention to prevent economic recessions and depressions.

  • Sophie's World: A Novel About the History of Philosophy by Jostein Gaarder

    "Sophie's World" is a unique and intriguing novel that intertwines the narrative of a young girl named Sophie with a comprehensive history of Western philosophy. Sophie begins receiving mysterious letters from an unknown philosopher and gradually becomes engrossed in the world of philosophy. The book uses Sophie's journey to explore philosophical concepts and theories, from ancient to modern times, in an accessible and engaging way, making it an excellent introduction to the subject for readers of all ages.

  • 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 Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon

    This historical work provides a comprehensive perspective on the fall of the Roman Empire, examining its decline from the height of its power in the second century A.D. through the fall of Constantinople in 1453. The author meticulously chronicles the empire's deterioration due to a variety of factors, including moral decay, economic crisis, military incompetence, barbarian invasions, and internal power struggles, while also offering insightful commentary on the broader implications for Western civilization.

  • The World as Will and Idea by Arthur Schopenhauer

    This philosophical work posits that the world is driven by a continually dissatisfied will, continually seeking satisfaction. The book is divided into four parts, with the first addressing the world as representation, the second detailing the world as will, the third discussing art and beauty as the only way to transcend the painful human condition, and the fourth discussing ethics and the ascetic ideal. The author argues that the will is the underlying reality of the world, beyond mere appearances, and that it is characterized by ceaseless striving and suffering.

  • Principia Mathematica by Issac Newton

    This seminal work is a comprehensive exploration of classical physics, laying the groundwork for much of modern science. The author presents his three laws of motion and law of universal gravitation, effectively bridging the gap between the abstract world of mathematics and real-world phenomena. The book also delves into the principles of calculus, a mathematical discipline the author significantly developed. This work has had a profound influence on the scientific understanding of the physical universe.

  • 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.

  • The Story of Art by E. H. Gombrich

    "The Story of Art" is a comprehensive guide to the history of art, covering a vast span of time from prehistoric art to contemporary movements. The book provides insights into the cultural, historical, and social contexts that have influenced the creation of art throughout various periods. It offers detailed analysis of major works and styles, and discusses the techniques used by artists from different eras. It is not only an exploration of the evolution of art but also an attempt to understand the motivations and inspirations of the artists behind the works.

  • Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

    "Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship" is a classic coming-of-age story that follows the protagonist, Wilhelm, through his journey of self-discovery. Caught between his bourgeois background and his aspirations to become an actor, Wilhelm embarks on an odyssey that introduces him to a variety of characters and experiences. The novel explores themes of love, loss, and the pursuit of artistic excellence, while also critiquing the social norms and expectations of the time.

  • Nathan the Wise by Gotthold Ephraim Lessing

    "Nathan the Wise" is a 18th-century play that explores religious tolerance and interfaith understanding. The story is set in Jerusalem during the Third Crusade and revolves around Nathan, a wealthy Jewish merchant, who is renowned for his wisdom and generosity. The narrative explores themes of religious tolerance as Nathan interacts with a Templar knight, a Christian patriarch, and the Muslim sultan Saladin. The story culminates with the revelation that the main characters, despite their different faiths, are all part of the same family, thus promoting a message of shared humanity and religious coexistence.

  • Don Carlos: Infante of Spain, a Drama in Five Acts by Friedrich Schiller

    "Don Carlos: Infante of Spain, a Drama in Five Acts" is a historical play that portrays the intense political and personal conflicts within the Spanish royal court. The story revolves around Don Carlos, the son of King Philip II of Spain, who is in love with his stepmother, Queen Elisabeth of Valois. The narrative also introduces Marquis Posa, a nobleman who advocates for freedom, and becomes a confidant to both Don Carlos and the King. The play explores themes of love, power, freedom, and betrayal, culminating in a tragic ending.

  • Michael Kohlhaas by Heinrich von Kleist

    "Michael Kohlhaas" is a narrative about a 16th-century horse trader who, after being wronged by a nobleman, embarks on a path of revenge that leads to disastrous consequences. The protagonist's relentless pursuit of justice, despite the cost to himself and society, raises profound questions about law, morality, and the limits of individual rights. The story is a gripping exploration of the destructive power of obsession and the tragic consequences of uncompromising adherence to a personal sense of justice.

  • A Harlot High And Low by Honoré de Balzac

    The novel delves into the underbelly of Parisian society, following the life of a cunning and ambitious protagonist who navigates the treacherous waters of crime and power. As a sequel to a previous work, it continues to explore themes of social climbing and moral ambiguity, presenting a complex web of characters from different social strata, including a high-class courtesan whose fortunes rise and fall dramatically. The narrative weaves a tale of deception, love, and betrayal, offering a critical look at the corruption and hypocrisy of 19th-century France, while also examining the intricate relationships between money, politics, and social status.

  • Effi Briest by Theodor Fontane

    This novel explores the life of a 17-year-old girl who is married off to a much older man, a high-ranking official, for the sake of social and financial stability. Despite her husband's devotion, she embarks on a passionate, but doomed affair with a charming, yet manipulative, major. The affair ends disastrously, leading to her social ostracization and eventual descent into loneliness and despair. The book serves as a critique of the rigid Prussian society of the late 19th century.

  • The Last Days of Mankind by Karl Kraus

    "The Last Days of Mankind" is a satirical play that provides a critical commentary on the socio-political climate during World War I. The narrative presents a stark portrayal of the absurdity of war and the destructive forces of propaganda, bureaucracy, and nationalism. The author uses a variety of literary techniques, including parody, satire, and direct quotes from contemporary sources, to highlight the folly and tragedy of war. The play is known for its unique style, rich language, and its profound critique of society and culture during a time of great upheaval and conflict.

  • Der Fall Mauritius by Jakob Wassermann

    "Der Fall Mauritius" is a historical novel that revolves around the life of a young Jewish lawyer named Mauritius in Germany during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The narrative explores the societal and personal challenges he faces due to his religious identity and the prevalent anti-Semitism of the time. The protagonist's struggle for justice and acceptance forms the crux of the story, while also providing a critique of the German judicial system and society's moral values.

  • Professor Unrat by Heinrich Mann

    The novel is a social critique of bourgeois society in Germany during the Wilhelmine period, as seen through the life of an authoritarian and morally rigid school teacher. The protagonist becomes infatuated with a cabaret dancer, leading him to abandon his duties and societal norms, and eventually descend into madness. The book explores themes of obsession, social class, and the destructive power of repressed desire.

  • Farewell, My Lovely: A Novel by Raymond Chandler

    In this noir detective novel, a private investigator is hired to find a former lover of a recently released convict. His investigation leads him into a web of corruption and crime in Los Angeles, involving a missing nightclub owner, a wealthy widow, and a stolen jade necklace. As he delves deeper into the case, he must navigate through a world of deceit, violence, and betrayal, while trying to stay alive.

  • The Royal Game by Stefan Zweig

    "The Royal Game" is a gripping novella about a man who, while in solitary confinement by the Nazis, steals a book of past chess games and plays them all in his mind to keep his sanity. Once freed, he becomes a chess master but his mental state is fragile. On a cruise ship, he is challenged to a game by the reigning world champion, leading to a psychological battle that pushes him to the brink of madness.

  • The German Lesson by Siegfried Lenz

    "The German Lesson" is a vivid exploration of the moral and cultural conflicts of World War II, set in a small German village. The story is narrated by a young boy who is tasked by his school teacher with an assignment to write an essay on "The Joys of Duty." As his father, a local police officer, is assigned the duty of preventing a popular local artist from painting, the boy finds himself torn between his father's rigid adherence to duty and his own growing appreciation for art and individual expression. The narrative grapples with themes of duty, obedience, and the power of art, providing a thoughtful examination of life under the Nazi regime.

  • The Clown by Heinrich Böll

    Set in post-World War II Germany, the novel follows the life of a professional clown who is in a personal crisis after being left by his long-term girlfriend. The protagonist, who is unable to find work due to his political views, spends a day reflecting on his life, his broken relationship, and the harsh realities of the society around him. The narrative offers a stark critique of Catholicism and the economic miracle in post-war Germany.

  • The Good Person of Szechwan by Bertolt Brecht

    "The Good Person of Szechwan" is a parable play that explores the difficulty of maintaining one's morals and goodness in a corrupt and exploitative world. The story revolves around a kind-hearted prostitute who struggles to be a good person under the harsh realities of life in Szechwan. When three gods visit the city in search of a good person, they find only her willing to help them. However, to survive, she must adopt a ruthless alter ego, leading to a complex exploration of morality, identity, and societal pressures.

  • The Physicists by Friedrich Dürrenmatt

    "The Physicists" is a satirical play that delves into the ethical dilemmas faced by scientists in the nuclear age. The story is set in a mental asylum where three patients believe they are Albert Einstein, Isaac Newton, and Johann Wilhelm Möbius. However, it is later revealed that two of them are spies, attempting to get a hold of Möbius's scientific discoveries, while Möbius himself pretends to be insane to prevent his dangerous knowledge from falling into the wrong hands. The play explores themes of responsibility, morality, and the potential misuse of scientific advancements.

  • Eye Of The Needle by Ken Follett

    Set during World War II, the novel revolves around a ruthless German spy known as 'The Needle' due to his preference for a stiletto as his killing tool. His mission is to uncover the Allies' invasion plans and relay them to Hitler, potentially changing the course of the war. However, his plans are threatened when he becomes stranded on an isolated island with a young, lonely woman and her disabled husband, leading to a tense game of cat and mouse.

  • The Day of the Jackal by Frederick Forsyth

    "The Day of the Jackal" is a suspenseful thriller that revolves around an unnamed and highly skilled professional assassin who is hired by a French dissident paramilitary organization to kill Charles de Gaulle, the President of France. The novel intricately details the meticulous preparations of the assassin, his many disguises, and his method of operation, while also depicting the desperate efforts of the French police to uncover his identity and prevent the assassination, leading to a tense cat-and-mouse chase across Europe.

  • Die neuen Leiden des jungen W. by Ulrich Plenzdorf

    This novel tells the story of a young man from East Germany who rebels against the societal norms and expectations of his time. The protagonist, a skilled worker, flees from his apprenticeship and his home to Berlin, where he isolates himself in a summer house, devoting his time to his passions of reading and listening to Western music. Using the narrative style of a psychological confession, the book explores themes of youthful rebellion, the search for identity, and the conflict between individual desires and societal pressures. The protagonist's tragic end underlines the oppressive nature of the East German regime.

  • A Tale of Love and Darkness by Amos Oz

    This book is a poignant memoir that explores the complexities of love, darkness, loss, and the endurance of the human spirit. Set against the backdrop of the end of the British Mandate for Palestine and the early years of the State of Israel, the author recounts his childhood in Jerusalem, the suicide of his mother, and his path to becoming a writer. The narrative is both a personal account and a portrait of a society in turmoil, providing a profound exploration of the individual and collective psyche.

  • The Songlines by Bruce Chatwin

    The book is a semi-fictional account of the author's journey through the Australian Outback, where he explores the culture of the Aboriginal people, particularly their concept of 'Songlines' - invisible pathways that crisscross Australia, ancient tracks connecting communities and following the journeys of ancestral spirits. As he travels, he delves into the nomadic way of life, the idea of walking as a spiritual practice, and the deep connection between the Aboriginal people and the land. The narrative is interspersed with philosophical discussions on topics like nomadism, anthropology, history, travel, and the nature of human restlessness.

  • The Discovery of Heaven by Harry Mulisch

    "The Discovery of Heaven" is a philosophical novel that explores the relationship between mankind and the divine. The story revolves around two friends, an astronomer and a philologist, who are manipulated by heavenly forces to father a child who is destined to return the Ten Commandments to God. As the narrative unfolds, it delves into complex themes such as friendship, love, art, science, and the existence of God, presenting a thought-provoking analysis of the human condition.

  • Cat's Eye by Margaret Atwood

    This novel revolves around the life of a controversial painter, Elaine Risley, who returns to her hometown, Toronto, for a retrospective of her art. Haunted by her past, she reminisces about her childhood and the complex relationships she had, especially with her best friend Cordelia. The story delves into themes of memory, identity, and the often painful experiences of childhood and adolescence. The protagonist's journey is one of self-discovery, as she navigates through the complexities of female friendship, bullying, and the struggle to fit in.

  • The Hunting Gun by Yasushi Inoue

    "The Hunting Gun" is a poignant tale set in post-war Japan, revolving around the lives of three women who unknowingly share a common bond, a man with whom they are all involved. The man's secret love affairs and the emotional turmoil they cause are revealed through letters from each of the women. The narrative explores themes of love, betrayal, and the complexities of human emotions, painting a vivid picture of the human condition and the consequences of hidden passions.

  • Shadows on the Hudson: A Novel by Isaac Bashevis Singer

    Set in New York City after World War II, this novel follows a group of Jewish refugees from Poland as they navigate life in their new country. The narrative focuses on their struggle with faith, morality, and the haunting memories of the Holocaust. The protagonist, a successful businessman, is caught in a tumultuous love triangle, which serves as a metaphor for the characters' internal conflicts between their past and present, and their religious and secular identities.

  • Betty Blue: The Story of a Passion by Philippe Djian

    Betty Blue: The Story of a Passion is a tragic love story set in rural France. The novel follows the passionate and tumultuous relationship between a handyman and a free-spirited, mentally unstable woman named Betty. As their relationship deepens, Betty's mental health deteriorates, leading to a series of dramatic and heartbreaking events. The story is a raw and poignant exploration of love, mental illness, and the devastating consequences of passion.

  • South of the Border, West of the Sun: A Novel by Haruki Murakami

    The novel tells the story of a man named Hajime, who grew up as an only child in post-war Japan. He forms a deep bond with a girl named Shimamoto during his childhood, but they lose touch as they grow older. Hajime builds a successful life with a wife and two daughters, but he is haunted by his past. When Shimamoto unexpectedly re-enters his life, he is torn between his commitment to his family and his lingering feelings for his childhood love. The novel explores themes of nostalgia, regret, and the complexities of human relationships.

  • The Feast of the Goat: A Novel by Mario Vargas Llosa

    "The Feast of the Goat" is a historical novel set in the Dominican Republic during the rule of dictator Rafael Trujillo. It follows the story of Urania Cabral, a successful lawyer returning to her homeland after 30 years of self-imposed exile, and her struggle to confront the traumatic past that led to her departure. The narrative alternates between Urania's personal story and the brutal regime of Trujillo, providing a stark depiction of political tyranny and its effects on individual lives.

  • Desert Flower by Waris Dirie, Cathleen Miller

    "Desert Flower" is a powerful autobiography that tells the story of a girl born into a nomadic tribe in the Somali desert. The girl, subjected to the brutal tradition of female genital mutilation at a young age, escapes an arranged marriage at 13 and ends up in London, where she works various jobs before being discovered as a model. Her rise to fame in the fashion industry is juxtaposed with her personal journey to raise awareness about the harmful cultural practice she endured and advocate for its eradication.

  • The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

    The novel follows the story of a young boy in post-war Barcelona, who discovers a mysterious book in a hidden library that his father takes him to, which houses forgotten books. The boy becomes captivated by the book and its author, but as he grows older, he realizes that someone is destroying all books written by this author. As he delves deeper into the mystery, the boy's life becomes intertwined with the author's, revealing a dark and tragic past that someone wants to be kept hidden. The story is a mix of romance, mystery, and a historical narrative set against the turbulent backdrop of a city recovering from war.

  • The Meaning of Hitler by Sebastian Haffner

    This book provides an insightful analysis of Adolf Hitler's life, his rise to power, and the devastating impact of his rule. It delves into Hitler's ideology, his strategies, and the psychological factors that contributed to his becoming one of history's most infamous dictators. The book also critically examines the factors that allowed Hitler's rise and the world's response, offering a comprehensive understanding of this dark chapter in human history.

  • The Clash of Civilizations by Samuel P. Huntington

    The book presents a theory that people's cultural and religious identities will be the primary source of conflict in the post-Cold War world. The author argues that future wars will be fought not between countries, but between cultures, and that Islamic extremism will become the biggest threat to world peace. The book also explores the shifting balance of power at the global level and predicts a clash between the West and the Confucian-Islamic states.

  • An Inconvenient Truth: The Planetary Emergency of Global Warming and What We Can Do About It by Al Gore

    This book is a comprehensive guide to understanding the global climate crisis and the steps that can be taken to combat it. The author, a former Vice President and environmental activist, presents scientific evidence of global warming, its causes, and its potential effects, including rising temperatures, melting ice caps, and extreme weather events. The book also provides practical solutions to the problem, such as reducing carbon emissions, increasing renewable energy use, and promoting sustainable practices. The author's aim is to educate readers about the urgency of the issue and inspire them to take action.

  • The Theory of Economic Development: An Inquiry into Profits, Capital, Credit, Interest, and the Business Cycle by Joseph A. Schumpeter

    This book presents a detailed analysis of the mechanisms of economic development, focusing on aspects such as profits, capital, credit, interest, and the business cycle. The author argues that economic development is driven by innovative entrepreneurs who disrupt the status quo, creating new goods and methods of production. He highlights the role of credit in facilitating these innovations, and examines the cyclical nature of economic development. The book also explores the societal and political implications of this process of 'creative destruction'.

  • Auto Da Fé by Elias Canetti

    "Auto Da Fé" is a story about Peter Kien, a renowned sinologist who is obsessed with his library of books. His life takes a turn when he marries his illiterate housekeeper, Therese, who is only interested in his wealth. After a series of mishaps, Kien is tricked out of his home and ends up living on the streets. The novel explores themes of obsession, intellectualism, and the destructive power of the mind.

  • Success: Three Years in the Life of a Province by Lion Feuchtwanger

    "Success: Three Years in the Life of a Province" is a historical novel that provides a vivid account of life in Bavaria during the Weimar Republic, from 1926 to 1929. The narrative portrays the political, social, and economic struggles of the time, weaving together the lives of three main characters: an art dealer, a poet, and a conservative veteran. The book is a critical exploration of the rise of Nazism, the decadence of the bourgeoisie, and the power of art and culture.

  • The Other Education: What you should know about the natural sciences by Ernst Peter Fischer

    "The Other Education: What You Should Know About the Natural Sciences" is a comprehensive guide that seeks to make the complex world of natural sciences more accessible and understandable to the layperson. It delves into various scientific disciplines, including physics, chemistry, and biology, providing insights into their fundamental principles, historical development, and their impact on society. The book also discusses the importance of scientific literacy, the role of science in shaping our worldview, and the need for a well-rounded education that includes a solid understanding of the natural sciences.

  • The Animals' Conference by Erich Kästner

    In this children's story, animals from all over the world gather for a conference in Africa to discuss how to deal with the destructive behavior of humans. They decide to send a delegation to speak with human leaders, but their efforts to communicate their concerns are met with disbelief and ridicule. Despite the challenges, the animals remain determined to save the planet and work together to find a solution.

  • The Statement by Brian Moore

    "The Statement" is a gripping novel that follows the life of a former Vichy government official who, while responsible for the deportation of Jews to Nazi death camps during World War II, is now on the run from both the law and assassins. The protagonist is protected by right-wing elements within the Catholic Church, creating a narrative that explores themes of guilt, repentance, and the struggle for justice in the face of political and religious power.

  • German History 1800–1918 by Thomas Nipperdey

    This book offers an in-depth and comprehensive examination of German history from 1800 to 1918. It delves into the political, social, and cultural transformations that occurred during this period, exploring the rise of nationalism, the impact of industrialization, the evolution of the German states, and the lead-up to the First World War. The author provides detailed analysis of key events, figures, and movements, weaving a rich tapestry of the forces that shaped modern Germany.

  • Crusade and Jihad: Islam and the Christian World by Bassam Tibi

    This book explores the historical, ideological, and political aspects of the Crusades and Jihad, comparing and contrasting the two. It delves into the origins and evolution of the Crusades and Jihad, their impact on Christian and Islamic societies, and their relevance in today's world. The author also examines the role of religion in conflicts and the use of religious ideologies for political purposes, providing a comprehensive understanding of these complex issues.

  • Castle Gripsholm by Kurt Tucholsky

    "Castle Gripsholm" is a satirical novel that tells the story of a couple's holiday in Sweden. The narrator and his girlfriend Lydia, also known as the Princess, decide to spend their summer vacation at a castle named Gripsholm. Their idyllic vacation is interrupted when they discover a child being mistreated at a nearby sanatorium, leading to a critique of authoritarianism. The book is filled with humor, wit and a deep love for humanity, while also offering a scathing critique of society's ills.

  • Alberta empfängt einen Liebhaber by Birgit Vanderbeke

    "Alberta empfängt einen Liebhaber" is a German novel that explores the life of Alberta, a woman in her forties who lives a routine life with her husband and children. Her world is turned upside down when she begins an affair with a much younger man. The novel delves into her internal struggle as she tries to reconcile her traditional values with her newfound passion and freedom. The story is a profound exploration of middle age, femininity, and the complexities of desire.

About this list

AbeBooks.de (in German), 101 Books

German bookseller website AbeBooks.de makes their selection for the "100 greatest books ever written".

Added about 9 years ago.

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