100 Books to Read in a Lifetime

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

  • The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter

    This children's classic tells the story of a mischievous young rabbit who disobeys his mother's warning and ventures into Mr. McGregor's garden. After indulging in the garden's bountiful offerings, the young rabbit finds himself chased by Mr. McGregor, narrowly escaping capture. He eventually makes his way back home to his mother, who scolds him for his disobedience and sends him to bed without supper.

  • Winnie the Pooh by A. A Milne

    This classic children's tale follows the charming adventures of a lovable, honey-loving bear named Winnie the Pooh and his friends in the Hundred Acre Wood. With his companions, including the timid Piglet, the gloomy Eeyore, the energetic Tigger, and the wise Owl, Pooh navigates through various situations and dilemmas, often with humorous and heartwarming results. The book is a celebration of friendship, imagination, and the simple joys of life.

  • Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, by Roald Dahl

    A young boy named Charlie lives in poverty and dreams of visiting the nearby chocolate factory owned by the eccentric and mysterious Willy Wonka. When Charlie finds one of the five golden tickets hidden in chocolate bars worldwide, he earns the chance to tour the factory. Accompanied by his Grandpa Joe and four other children, Charlie embarks on a magical and surreal adventure inside the factory, where he learns valuable lessons about greed, arrogance, and honesty.

  • Watership Down by Richard Adams

    This novel follows a group of rabbits as they flee their warren due to a foreseen catastrophe. The rabbits, led by Hazel and his psychic brother Fiver, face numerous challenges and adventures as they search for a new home. They encounter predators, hostile rabbit communities, and human threats. The book explores themes of leadership, survival, and freedom, all set within the natural world and its inherent dangers.

  • Harry Potter And The Philosopher's Stone by J. K Rowling

    The story follows a young boy, Harry Potter, who learns on his 11th birthday that he is the orphaned son of two powerful wizards and possesses unique magical powers of his own. He is summoned from his life as an unwanted child to become a student at Hogwarts, an English boarding school for wizards. There, he meets several friends who become his closest allies and help him discover the truth about his parents' mysterious deaths, the dark wizard who wants to kill him, and the magical stone that holds immense power.

  • 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.

  • The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

    This book is a real-life account of a young Jewish girl hiding from the Nazis during World War II, written in diary format. The girl and her family are forced to live in a secret annex in Amsterdam for two years, during which she writes about her experiences, fears, dreams, and the onset of adolescence. The diary provides a poignant and deeply personal insight into the horrors of the Holocaust, making it a powerful testament to the human spirit.

  • 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.

  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

    Set in the racially charged South during the Depression, the novel follows a young girl and her older brother as they navigate their small town's societal norms and prejudices. Their father, a lawyer, is appointed to defend a black man falsely accused of raping a white woman, forcing the children to confront the harsh realities of racism and injustice. The story explores themes of morality, innocence, and the loss of innocence through the eyes of the young protagonists.

  • 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 Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

    The book follows the Joad family, Oklahoma farmers displaced from their land during the Great Depression. The family, alongside thousands of other "Okies," travel to California in search of work and a better life. Throughout their journey, they face numerous hardships and injustices, yet maintain their humanity through unity and shared sacrifice. The narrative explores themes of man's inhumanity to man, the dignity of wrath, and the power of family and friendship, offering a stark and moving portrayal of the harsh realities of American migrant laborers during the 1930s.

  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

    Set in the summer of 1922, the novel follows the life of a young and mysterious millionaire, his extravagant lifestyle in Long Island, and his obsessive love for a beautiful former debutante. As the story unfolds, the millionaire's dark secrets and the corrupt reality of the American dream during the Jazz Age are revealed. The narrative is a critique of the hedonistic excess and moral decay of the era, ultimately leading to tragic consequences.

  • The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle

    This classic mystery novel follows a detective and his partner as they investigate a supernatural hound that has been haunting the Baskerville family for generations, supposedly causing the death of the recent family head. As the pair navigate the eerie moors surrounding the Baskerville estate, they unravel a plot of deception and murder, all while trying to protect the new heir from the same grisly fate. The story is a thrilling blend of mystery, suspense, and horror.

  • 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.

  • Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

    This classic novel tells the story of a young scientist who creates a grotesque but sentient creature in an unorthodox scientific experiment. The scientist, horrified by his creation, abandons it, leading the creature to seek revenge. The novel explores themes of ambition, responsibility, guilt, and the potential consequences of playing God.

  • 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 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 Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat by Oliver Sacks

    The book is a collection of clinical tales about patients suffering from a variety of neurological disorders. The author, a neurologist, shares his experiences with these patients, whose conditions range from common ailments like amnesia and aphasia, to rare disorders like visual agnosia and Tourette's Syndrome. The stories are both compassionate and insightful, revealing the complexities of the human brain and the resilience of the human spirit, even in the face of debilitating illness.

  • Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami

    Set in Tokyo during the late 1960s, the novel follows a college student as he navigates a complex love triangle while grappling with his own mental health and the societal pressures of the time. He's torn between his love for a beautiful but emotionally troubled woman and his growing feelings for a lively, outgoing classmate. As he confronts his past, present, and future, the narrative explores themes of love, loss, and personal growth.

  • Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John le Carré

    In this espionage thriller, a semi-retired British intelligence officer is tasked with uncovering a Soviet mole within the highest ranks of the British Secret Service. As he delves deeper into the investigation, he uncovers a web of betrayal and deceit that reaches far beyond the mole, threatening the very fabric of the British intelligence community. The novel is a masterful blend of suspense, intrigue, and complex characterization that explores themes of loyalty, identity, and the murky world of international espionage.

  • Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie

    The novel tells the story of Saleem Sinai, who was born at the exact moment when India gained its independence. As a result, he shares a mystical connection with other children born at the same time, all of whom possess unique, magical abilities. As Saleem grows up, his life mirrors the political and cultural changes happening in his country, from the partition of India and Pakistan, to the Bangladesh War of Independence. The story is a blend of historical fiction and magical realism, exploring themes of identity, fate, and the power of storytelling.

  • Oranges are not the only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson

    This novel follows the coming-of-age story of a young girl adopted by a religious fanatic, who believes her daughter is destined to become a missionary. As the protagonist grows up, she begins to question her mother's strict religious beliefs and discovers her own sexuality. The book explores themes of identity, love, and religion, as the protagonist grapples with her place in the world and her evolving understanding of herself.

  • Schindler's List by Thomas Keneally

    The book tells the true story of a German businessman who saves more than a thousand Polish Jews during the Holocaust by employing them in his factories. The protagonist's transformation from a greedy high living war profiteer to a savior of lives forms the crux of the narrative. It offers a chilling yet inspiring account of the horrors of the Holocaust, human resilience, and the power of one individual to make a significant difference.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot

    "The Mill on the Floss" is a novel that explores the lives of siblings Tom and Maggie Tulliver, who grow up at Dorlcote Mill on the River Floss. The book delves into their experiences in the rural society of the time, their complex relationship, and the choices they make in adulthood. The story is marked by themes of love, betrayal, societal expectations, and the struggle between individual desires and family obligations. The tragic ending underscores the consequences of societal norms and the struggle against them.

  • 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.

  • The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien

    This epic high-fantasy novel centers around a modest hobbit who is entrusted with the task of destroying a powerful ring that could enable the dark lord to conquer the world. Accompanied by a diverse group of companions, the hobbit embarks on a perilous journey across Middle-earth, battling evil forces and facing numerous challenges. The narrative, rich in mythology and complex themes of good versus evil, friendship, and heroism, has had a profound influence on the fantasy genre.

  • The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

    Set in a dystopian future, this novel presents a society where women are stripped of their rights and are classified into various roles based on their fertility and societal status. The protagonist is a handmaid, a class of women used solely for their reproductive capabilities by the ruling class. The story is a chilling exploration of the extreme end of misogyny, where women are reduced to their biological functions, and a critique of religious fundamentalism.

  • The Stand by Stephen King

    This post-apocalyptic horror/fantasy novel presents a world devastated by a deadly plague, killing 99% of the population. The survivors, drawn together by dreams of a charismatic and benevolent figure, gather in Boulder, Colorado to form a new society. However, a malevolent figure also emerges, attracting a following of his own and setting the stage for a classic battle between good and evil. The story delves into themes of community, morality, and the capacity for both destruction and regeneration within humanity.

  • 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.

  • Watchmen by Alan Moore

    Set in an alternate history where superheroes emerged in the 1940s and 1980s, the story follows a group of retired superheroes who are brought out of retirement after the murder of one of their own. As they investigate, they uncover a plot that could change the course of history and the balance of world power. The book explores complex themes such as the morality of power, the definition of heroism, and the value of human life.

  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

    This comedic science fiction novel follows the intergalactic adventures of an unwitting human, Arthur Dent, who is rescued just before Earth's destruction by his friend Ford Prefect, a researcher for a galactic travel guide. Together, they hitch a ride on a stolen spaceship, encountering a range of bizarre characters, including a depressed robot and a two-headed ex-president of the galaxy. Through a series of satirical and absurd escapades, the book explores themes of existentialism, bureaucracy, and the absurdity of life, all while poking fun at the science fiction genre and offering witty commentary on the human condition.

  • Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick

    Set in a post-apocalyptic world, the novel presents a future where Earth's life has been greatly damaged by a nuclear global war, leaving most species extinct. The remaining human population has been encouraged to emigrate to off-world colonies to preserve the human race. Those who remain on Earth are tasked with maintaining the ecological balance by owning and caring for animals, replacing extinct species with mechanical replicas when necessary. The story revolves around a bounty hunter, who is tasked with "retiring" rogue androids that pose a threat to humans, and his emotional and moral struggles as he goes about his work.

  • A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin

    This epic fantasy novel is set in the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros, where 'summers span decades and winters can last a lifetime'. The story follows three main plot lines: the Stark family's struggle to control the North; the exiled Targaryen siblings' attempt to regain the throne; and the Night's Watch's fight against the supernatural beings beyond the Wall. As these stories intertwine, a game of power, politics, and survival unfolds, where you either win or you die.

  • The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

    This novel is a powerful story set against the backdrop of tumultuous events in Afghanistan, from the fall of the monarchy through the Soviet invasion and the rise of the Taliban regime. It follows the life of a wealthy boy and his best friend, a servant's son, their shared love for kite flying, and a terrible incident that tears their lives apart. The narrative explores themes of guilt, betrayal and redemption as the protagonist, now an adult living in America, is called back to his war-torn homeland to right the wrongs of his past.

  • High Fidelity by Nick Hornby

    This novel revolves around the life of a record store owner in his mid-thirties who is obsessed with pop culture, particularly music. He has just been dumped by his long-term girlfriend and begins to question his life choices. As he revisits his top five breakups, he decides to get in touch with the exes to find out what went wrong in each relationship. Throughout this process, he learns a lot about himself, his fears, and his shortcomings while trying to make sense of his life.

  • Bridget Jones's Diary by Helen Fielding

    The book is a humorous and honest portrayal of a single woman's life in London. The protagonist, a 30-something year old woman, struggles with her weight, smoking, and alcohol consumption, all while trying to navigate her love life and career. The story is told through her personal diary entries, which include her daily calorie counts, number of cigarettes smoked, and other personal anecdotes. It's a modern take on romantic relationships and self-improvement, with a healthy dose of comedy.

  • The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

    Set in Nazi Germany during World War II, the novel follows the story of a young girl who finds solace in stealing books and sharing them with others. In the midst of the horrors of war, she forms a bond with a Jewish man her foster parents are hiding in their basement. The story is narrated by Death, offering a unique perspective on the atrocities and small acts of kindness during this period. The girl's love for books becomes a metaphor for resistance against the oppressive regime.

  • White Teeth by Zadie Smith

    This novel follows the lives of two friends, a working-class Englishman and a Bangladeshi Muslim, living in London. The story explores the complex relationships between people of different races, cultures, and generations in modern Britain, with themes of identity, immigration, and the cultural and social changes that have shaped the country. The narrative is enriched by the characters' personal histories and the historical events that have shaped their lives.

  • The Road by Cormac McCarthy

    In a post-apocalyptic world, a father and his young son journey through a desolate landscape, struggling to survive. They face numerous threats including starvation, extreme weather, and dangerous encounters with other survivors. The father, who is terminally ill, is driven by his love and concern for his son, and is determined to protect him at all costs. The story is a haunting exploration of the depths of human resilience, the power of love, and the instinct to survive against all odds.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Atonement by Ian McEwan

    Atonement is a powerful novel that explores the consequences of a young girl's false accusation. The narrative follows the lives of three characters, the accuser, her older sister, and the sister's lover, who is wrongly accused. This false accusation irrevocably alters their lives, leading to the accused's imprisonment and eventual enlistment in World War II, while the sisters grapple with guilt, estrangement, and their own personal growth. The novel is a profound exploration of guilt, forgiveness, and the destructive power of misinterpretation.

  • A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry

    "A Fine Balance" is a poignant narrative set in India during the 1970s, a time of political turmoil and upheaval. The plot revolves around four diverse characters - a widow, a young student, and two tailors - who are brought together by fate. Through their interconnected lives, the book explores themes of caste, poverty, political corruption, and the human spirit's resilience. It offers a profound exploration of the delicate balance that sustains life amidst adversity.

  • The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

    The Poisonwood Bible is a novel that follows the experiences of a missionary family in the Belgian Congo during the 1960s. The story is told from the perspective of the wife and four daughters of the Baptist minister who drags his family into the politically volatile Congo on a mission to save souls. The novel explores themes of cultural arrogance, religious zeal, and the clash of Western and African values, as well as the personal growth and self-discovery of the women in the family as they grapple with the harsh realities of their new life and the fallout from their father's single-minded vision.

  • The Secret History by Donna Tartt

    A group of six classics students at a small, elite Vermont college, led by a charismatic professor, become entranced by the study of Greek culture and decide to recreate a Dionysian ritual, which ends in a tragic accident. The group, bound by their shared secret, begins to unravel as paranoia and guilt take hold. The novel explores themes of beauty and terror, the allure of the esoteric, and the destructive consequences of obsession.

  • Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

    The novel is a haunting tale of three friends, who grow up together at a seemingly idyllic English boarding school. As they mature, they discover a dark secret about their school and the purpose of their existence, which is to become organ donors for the rest of society. The story is a profound exploration of what it means to be human, the morality of scientific innovation, and the heartbreaking reality of love and loss.

  • Last Orders by Graham Swift

    "Last Orders" tells the story of four friends who gather to fulfill the final wish of their recently deceased friend: to have his ashes scattered in the sea. As they journey from London to Margate, each man reflects on their shared past, revealing secrets, regrets, and the complex dynamics of their long-standing friendship. The narrative explores themes of loyalty, mortality, and the enduring bonds of friendship.

  • The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes

    This novel revolves around a middle-aged man, Tony Webster, who is forced to reevaluate his understanding of his past when he unexpectedly receives a lawyer's letter that drags him back into his complex history with his university friends, Adrian and Veronica. The book explores themes of memory, history, and time, showing how our understanding of the past can be distorted by our own perceptions and emotions. As Tony delves into his past, he realizes that his memories may not be as accurate as he once believed, leading to a surprising revelation.

  • London Fields by Martin Amis

    The novel is a darkly comic, murder mystery set in London at the end of the 20th century. The story follows three main characters: a terminally ill American writer, a petty criminal, and a beautiful but doomed woman who predicts her own murder but not the murderer. The narrative is filled with satirical social commentary, exploring themes of love, lust, greed, and deception.

  • Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream by Hunter S. Thompson

    This book is a semi-autobiographical novel that chronicles the adventures of a journalist and his attorney as they embark on a drug-fueled trip to Las Vegas. The narrative is a wild and hallucinatory exploration of the American Dream, filled with biting social commentary and outrageous antics. The protagonist's quest for the American Dream quickly devolves into an exploration of the darker side of human nature, highlighting the excesses and depravities of 1960s American society.

  • Nineteen Eighty Four by George Orwell

    Set in a dystopian future, the novel presents a society under the total control of a totalitarian regime, led by the omnipresent Big Brother. The protagonist, a low-ranking member of 'the Party', begins to question the regime and falls in love with a woman, an act of rebellion in a world where independent thought, dissent, and love are prohibited. The novel explores themes of surveillance, censorship, and the manipulation of truth.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Cider with Rosie by Laurie Lee

    "Cider with Rosie" is a memoir that captures the experiences of a young boy growing up in a small Cotswold village in England during the early 20th century. The narrative vividly portrays the simplicity and beauty of rural life, while also exploring the complexities of adolescence and first love. It is a nostalgic and evocative account of a bygone era, filled with memorable characters and richly detailed descriptions of the natural world.

  • Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

    The novel tells the story of Humbert Humbert, a man with a disturbing obsession for young girls, or "nymphets" as he calls them. His obsession leads him to engage in a manipulative and destructive relationship with his 12-year-old stepdaughter, Lolita. The narrative is a controversial exploration of manipulation, obsession, and unreliable narration, as Humbert attempts to justify his actions and feelings throughout the story.

  • Casino Royale by Ian Fleming

    A British secret agent is tasked with bankrupting a French communist and paymaster of a Russian secret agency at a high-stakes card game in a casino. As he navigates the dangerous world of espionage, he encounters a beautiful woman who is being blackmailed by the enemy. The agent must outwit his opponents and survive numerous attempts on his life, all while grappling with his growing feelings for the woman.

  • The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

    An aging Cuban fisherman struggles with a giant marlin far out in the Gulf Stream, isolated from the world and from human help. For days, he fights the marlin alone, admiring its strength, dignity, and faithfulness to its identity—its destiny is as true as his as a fisherman. He finally kills the marlin, but sharks attack and devour it before he can return to the shore. The fisherman returns home empty-handed but remains undefeated, having proven his abilities to himself.

  • Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh

    The novel is a nostalgic story about the narrator's involvement with the Flyte family, British aristocrats living in a grand mansion called Brideshead. The story explores themes of faith, love, and the decline of the British aristocracy, primarily through the narrator's relationships with the family's Catholic faith and his complicated friendship with the family's son and his love for the daughter. The novel is set in the backdrop of the time period between the two World Wars.

  • Brighton Rock by Graham Greene

    "Brighton Rock" is a thrilling crime novel set in 1930s Brighton, revolving around the life of a young gangster, who is involved in a series of violent acts and murders. The narrative also explores the themes of Catholicism, morality, and the nature of sin, as the protagonist struggles with his religious beliefs and the guilt of his actions. The story is further complicated by the involvement of a naive young woman who falls in love with the gangster, unaware of his dark side.

  • Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

    A young woman marries a wealthy widower and moves into his large English country house. She quickly realizes that the memory of her husband's first wife, Rebecca, haunts every corner of the estate. The housekeeper's obsessive devotion to Rebecca and the mysterious circumstances of her death continue to overshadow the second wife's attempts to make a happy life with her husband. As secrets about Rebecca's life and death are revealed, the new wife must grapple with her own identity and place within the household.

  • Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

    A renowned Belgian detective finds himself embroiled in a complex murder case aboard the luxurious Orient Express train. The victim is a wealthy American businessman with numerous enemies, and the train's diverse passenger list includes individuals of varying nationalities and backgrounds, each with their own secrets. As the train is halted due to a snowdrift, the detective must race against time to solve the murder before the train reaches its destination and the murderer has a chance to escape.

  • All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque

    The novel tells the story of a young German soldier, Paul Bäumer, and his experiences during World War I. The narrative explores the physical and emotional toll of war, the camaraderie between soldiers, and the disillusionment of a generation thrown into a brutal conflict. The protagonist and his friends grapple with survival, fear, and the loss of innocence, providing a stark and poignant critique of the futility and destructiveness of war.

  • To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf

    This novel is a pioneering work of modernist literature that explores the Ramsay family's experiences at their summer home on the Isle of Skye in Scotland. The narrative is divided into three sections, focusing on a day in the family's life, a description of the house during their absence, and their return after ten years. The book is known for its stream of consciousness narrative technique and its exploration of topics such as the passage of time, the nature of art, and the female experience.

  • Carry On, Jeeves by P. G. Wodehouse

    "Carry On, Jeeves" is a humorous collection of short stories that revolve around the antics of a young, wealthy, and somewhat clueless bachelor and his ingenious valet. The valet often assists his employer in navigating through various social dilemmas, romantic entanglements, and personal gaffes, providing solutions that are both clever and entertaining. The book is a comedic exploration of British high society in the early 20th century, filled with witty dialogue and engaging characters.

  • Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt, Stephen J. Dubner

    This book explores the hidden side of everything, debunking conventional wisdom and revealing surprising connections between seemingly unrelated things. It uses economic theories to explain social phenomena such as the decrease in crime rates in the 1990s, the impact of a person's name on their life outcomes, and the inner workings of drug gangs. By using data and statistics, it challenges the way people think about the world and encourages them to question the accepted truths in society.

  • 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.

  • London: The Biography by Peter Ackroyd

    This book is a comprehensive exploration of the city of London, from its ancient origins to the modern era. The author delves into the city's rich history, culture, and unique character, examining its evolution through various lenses such as crime, religion, commerce, education, and entertainment. The narrative is brought to life with fascinating anecdotes, vivid descriptions, and a wealth of historical detail, providing an immersive and engaging portrait of one of the world's most iconic cities.

  • Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson

    This humorous travel memoir features an American author's journey across the United Kingdom, where he had lived for two decades. Before returning to the United States, he decides to tour the country, using public transportation and staying in small-town accommodations. The book provides an amusing, and at times sarcastic, outsider's perspective on British life, culture, and idiosyncrasies, while also expressing a deep affection for the nation and its people.

  • Bad Science by Ben Goldacre

    This book exposes the ways in which the media and advertisers manipulate and misrepresent science, leading to public misconceptions and confusion. The author, a doctor and science journalist, provides a critical examination of the pseudoscience behind popular health fads, cosmetics, and alternative medicine, while also critiquing the misuse of statistics and flawed studies. The book serves as a guide to understanding the scientific method and how to discern good science from bad, aiming to promote scientific literacy among the general public.

  • The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson

    This children's book tells the story of a clever mouse who uses his wits to avoid being eaten by various predators in the woods. The mouse invents a monster, the Gruffalo, to scare away a fox, an owl, and a snake, only to discover that the creature actually exists. Using his quick thinking, the mouse manages to convince the Gruffalo that he is the most feared creature in the forest, thus avoiding becoming the Gruffalo's meal.

  • We're Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen

    This children's book is a captivating adventure story about a family that embarks on a playful and imaginative bear hunt. They overcome a series of obstacles along the way, such as long, wavy grass, a deep, cold river, and a swirling, whirling snowstorm. The family's hunt ends when they come face to face with an actual bear and have to rush back home. The narrative is filled with fun repetitive phrases and sound effects, making it an engaging read for young children.

  • The Tiger Who Came to Tea by Judith Kerr

    A little girl named Sophie and her mother are surprised when a tiger shows up at their door asking for tea. The tiger proceeds to eat all the food in the house and drink all the water in the tap, leaving nothing for Sophie's father when he comes home. The family then goes out for dinner and buys more food, including a big tin of tiger food, in case the tiger should come to tea again. However, the tiger never returns.

  • The Enchanted Wood by Enid Blyton

    Three siblings move to the country and discover a magical forest near their new home. The forest is filled with fantastical creatures and at the top of the tallest tree in the forest, they find a series of ever-changing magical lands. The children have numerous adventures in these lands, often having to outwit the mischievous inhabitants to return home safely.

  • The Worst Witch by Jill Murphy

    The book tells the story of a young girl attending a witch academy who is always getting into trouble due to her clumsiness and inability to get her spells right. Despite her constant mishaps, she manages to save the school from a dangerous plot by a wicked witch, proving that she may not be the worst witch after all.

  • The Story of Tracy Beaker by Jacqueline Wilson

    The book revolves around a feisty 10-year-old girl named Tracy Beaker, who is living in a children's residential care home (nicknamed "The Dumping Ground") as she is in foster care. Tracy has a wild imagination and often tells stories about her life, which is filled with dreams of her mother coming back to take her away. The book is written in Tracy's voice, with her drawings scattered throughout, giving readers a glimpse into her mind and emotions. Despite the harsh reality of her situation, Tracy remains hopeful and defiant, making her a relatable and inspiring character.

  • Goodnight Mister Tom by Michelle Magorian

    Set during World War II, the story follows a young evacuee from London named William Beech who is sent to live in the English countryside with a gruff but kind elderly man named Tom Oakley. As William adjusts to rural life and overcomes his abusive past, he forms a deep bond with Tom. The novel explores themes of friendship, the impact of war, and the power of love and kindness to heal emotional wounds.

  • Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer

    A 12-year-old genius and criminal mastermind, Artemis Fowl, kidnaps a fairy, Captain Holly Short, for a large ransom of gold with the help of his bodyguard, Butler, to restore his family's fortune. In the process, he discovers an underground world of armed and dangerous fairies. The fairies fight back with magic, cunning, and technological weapons leading to a high-stakes battle of wits.

  • Stormbreaker by Anthony Horowitz

    A 14-year-old boy named Alex Rider is suddenly thrust into the world of espionage after his uncle's mysterious death. Trained by MI6, he is sent on a dangerous mission to investigate a billionaire businessman who plans to distribute lethal viruses through computers. Using his wits and skills, Alex must stop this nefarious plan and save the world.

  • Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman

    "Noughts and Crosses" is a thought-provoking novel set in a dystopian society where racial segregation is reversed. It follows the lives of two main characters: a girl from the ruling class (Crosses) and a boy from the underclass (Noughts). Despite their different backgrounds, they form a deep bond that eventually turns into a romantic relationship, challenging the societal norms and prejudices. The novel explores themes of love, racism, and power, offering a poignant commentary on the repercussions of societal divisions.

  • I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith

    "I Capture the Castle" is a coming-of-age novel that tells the story of 17-year-old Cassandra Mortmain and her eccentric family living in a dilapidated English castle during the 1930s. Cassandra's father is a reclusive writer suffering from writer's block and her stepmother is a bohemian artist. The family's life changes dramatically when two American brothers inherit the estate. The novel, written in diary format, explores themes of love, poverty, and the transition from adolescence to adulthood.

  • The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne

    This novel follows the story of a young boy who moves from Berlin to a house near a concentration camp during World War II. Unaware of the grim reality of his surroundings, he befriends another boy on the other side of the camp fence. The two develop a deep friendship despite the horrific circumstances, leading to a devastating and unforgettable ending.

  • The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 3/4 by Sue Townsend

    The book is a humorous and touching glimpse into the life and mind of a British adolescent boy, navigating the challenges of teenage life. Written in diary format, the protagonist grapples with everything from acne, unrequited love, school bullies, family issues, and his aspirations of becoming an intellectual. His misinterpretations of the adult world around him, coupled with his overly serious and introspective nature, provide plenty of comedy and make for an endearing and relatable coming-of-age story.

  • The Hare with Amber Eyes: A Family's Century of Art and Loss by Edmund de Waal

    This book is a family memoir that traces the journey of a collection of miniature Japanese sculptures, called netsuke, through generations of a wealthy Jewish family. The narrative delves into the family's rise to prominence in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, their survival during the Nazi regime, their post-war struggles, and their eventual decline. The author uses the netsuke as a lens to explore the themes of art, loss, and family legacy.

  • The Wasp Factory: A Novel by Iain Banks

    The novel is a dark and disturbing tale of a 16-year-old boy named Frank who lives on a secluded island with his eccentric father. Frank, who has killed three children in his past, spends his time engaging in violent rituals and maintaining his "Wasp Factory," a barbaric contraption he uses for divination. The narrative takes a turn when his older brother, who is institutionalized, escapes and heads home, leading to shocking revelations about their family's past and Frank's identity.

  • The Commitments by Roddy Doyle

    "The Commitments" is a humorous and uplifting tale set in the working-class Northside of Dublin, Ireland. The story follows a group of young, passionate individuals who form a soul band, despite their limited musical experience. The band, managed by two ambitious music enthusiasts, navigates the highs and lows of the music industry, dealing with personal conflicts, romantic entanglements, and the challenges of finding their sound. The book offers a raw and honest perspective on music, friendship, and the pursuit of dreams.

  • Knots and Crosses: An Inspector Rebus Novel by Ian Rankin

    In this crime novel, a seasoned detective in Scotland is tasked with solving a series of gruesome murders of young girls. As he delves deeper into the investigation, he realizes that the killings are linked to his own past and his time as a soldier. With a blend of personal demons, cryptic clues, and a ruthless killer on the loose, the detective must unravel the truth before more lives are lost.

  • American Gods by Neil Gaiman

    A recently released convict discovers that his wife and best friend died in a car accident. He then meets a mysterious stranger who hires him as a bodyguard. As they journey across America, it is revealed that the stranger is an old god, traveling to rally his fellow forgotten deities to wage a war against the new American gods born from society's modern obsessions with media, technology, drugs, celebrity, and more. The story blends elements of fantasy, mythology, and Americana to explore themes of faith, belief, and the nature of American identity.

  • The Colour of Magic by Terry Pratchett

    This book introduces readers to a flat, disc-shaped world balanced on the back of four elephants who stand on a giant turtle. The story follows an inept and cowardly wizard named Rincewind who is tasked with guiding a naive tourist through this chaotic and fantastical world filled with dragons, trolls, and magic. The narrative is a satirical take on fantasy genre clichés, with humorous and witty commentary throughout.

  • Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh

    This novel is a gritty, raw portrayal of a group of heroin addicts living in Edinburgh, Scotland. The narrative is non-linear and told from multiple perspectives, providing a deep dive into the minds and lives of these characters. The story explores themes of poverty, addiction, friendship, and the struggle to escape one's circumstances, all set against the backdrop of a bleak urban landscape. It is known for its strong Scottish dialect, graphic content, and dark humor.

  • Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks

    "Birdsong" is a historical novel that explores the horrors of World War I through the eyes of Stephen Wraysford, a young Englishman. The narrative alternates between Stephen's passionate love affair with a married woman in pre-war France and his experiences in the trenches of the Western Front. The novel also includes a subplot set in the 1970s, where Stephen's granddaughter tries to unravel the mystery of her grandfather's past. The book is a poignant exploration of love, war, and the endurance of the human spirit.

  • The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

    A disgraced journalist is hired by a wealthy industrialist to solve a forty-year-old mystery involving the disappearance of his niece. He is assisted in his investigation by a brilliant but deeply troubled hacker. As they delve deeper into the mystery, they uncover a twisted web of family secrets, corruption, and murder. The story is a dark and gripping exploration of Swedish society, as well as a thrilling mystery.

  • Dissolution: A Shardlake Novel by C. J. Sansom

    Set in the 16th century during the reign of King Henry VIII, the novel follows the story of Matthew Shardlake, a hunchbacked lawyer, who is sent by Thomas Cromwell to investigate the murder of a royal commissioner at a monastery. As Shardlake delves deeper into the case, he uncovers a series of secrets, lies, and corruption within the monastery. The story is a blend of historical fiction and crime thriller, offering a vivid portrayal of the political and religious turmoil of the Tudor period.

  • Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela by Nelson Mandela

    "Long Walk to Freedom" is an autobiographical work chronicling the life of an iconic South African anti-apartheid revolutionary, from his early life, his 27 years in prison, to his eventual presidency and role in rebuilding the country's once-segregated society. The book provides a detailed account of the author's political awakening, his belief in equality and justice, and his unyielding spirit in the face of immense adversity, offering an inspiring testament to the power of hope and resilience.

  • Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China by Jung Chang

    This book is a biographical account of three generations of women in China, spanning the years 1909 to 1991. The narrative follows the lives of the author's grandmother, a warlord's concubine; her mother, a high-ranking official in the Communist Party; and the author herself, who grew up during the Cultural Revolution before moving to the West. The book presents a vivid portrayal of the political and social changes in China during the 20th century, as seen through the eyes of these three women.

  • Venice by Jan Morris

    This book provides an in-depth exploration of the city of Venice, delving into its history, culture, architecture, and its unique geographical attributes. It paints a vivid picture of the city in its glory days, as well as its present state, with all its beauty and decay. The author's personal experiences and observations are woven into the narrative, offering readers an intimate and engaging tour of the city. The book also discusses the city's influence on art, literature, and music, and its enduring allure for travelers from around the world.

  • The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins

    This groundbreaking book presents a revolutionary perspective on the theory of natural selection. The author argues that genes, rather than individuals or species, are the true units of evolution. He suggests that these 'selfish' genes are driven by their own survival, leading to complex behaviors and characteristics in the organisms they inhabit. This work reframes our understanding of evolution, emphasizing the gene's role in shaping biological life and behavior.

  • A History of the World in 100 Objects by Neil MacGregor

    This book offers a unique perspective on world history, telling the story of humanity through the examination of 100 man-made objects. The author, a museum director, uses items from the British Museum, ranging from a 2 million-year-old Olduvai stone cutting tool to a contemporary credit card, to explore various themes such as trade, religion, art, science, and politics. The book provides a fascinating lens through which to view the evolution of human civilization.

About this list

Amazon.com (UK), 100 Books

Amazon UK editors select 100 books that they deem "essential".

Added about 9 years ago.

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