Books can transport us to various places. From intricate storylines, to entirely new worlds, lands, and planets, books can offer us escapism like nothing else.
Some of the best books of all time have shaped and defined generations, with political, historical, and social commentaries that can give us insight into our own lives and societies.
So, take a look at some of the greatest novels ever written, to find some inspiration for your next great read!
100 Greatest Novels
If you want to find some great novels to add to your reading list, then we have gathered all of the best and most highly recommended novels for you to peruse here.
Harper Lee’s iconic novel has been voted as America’s Best-Loved novel in The Great American Read, and is a Pulitzer Prize-winning work of art.
This novel focuses on the theme of honor and injustice, set in the deep South, and the heroism of one man in the face of discrimination and hatred.
The Catcher In The Rye is a cult novel that entrances all who read it. It follows the hero-narrator, Holden Caulfield, in a coming-of-age story after he is expelled from prep school. Disillusioned and dazed, Holden looks for the truth and rallies against the phoniness of the adult ‘real’ world.
The Great Gatsby is another classic novel. This is a timeless 1925 novel set in the heart of the Jazz Age on Long Island.
This book follows the narrator, Nick Carraway as he becomes entangled in millionaire Jay Gatsby’s obsession to reunite with his former love, Daisy Buchanan. But, Gatsby’s obsession with the past is sure to impact his future.
1984 is still prevalent today, despite being written over 70 years ago. This book acts as a terrifying prophecy about what the future holds, in a dystopian vision of how the government will control every narrative and aspect of its people’s lives.
A bestseller in teen and young adult classic literature, The Lord Of The Flies is an iconic 1954 novel that is still critically acclaimed today.
The book begins at the start of the next world war, when a plane crashes on an uncharted island, leaving a group of schoolboys stranded. At first, freedom is exciting, but soon enough, civilization and order begins to descend into chaos.
Catch 22 is one of the most celebrated and funniest books of all time. Set in Italy during World War II, the hero, Yossarian, is an American bombardier, stationed on a Mediterranean island, desperately trying to stay alive.
In the second installment of the Chronicles of Narnia, the Pevensie children step through the wardrobe door, to go on an unforgettable adventure.
Journey into Middle-Earth with this spectacular collection of novels by one of the best authors of all time. With incredible world-building and descriptive writing that takes you on a journey with the characters, these novels are exceptional.
A farm is taken over by its overworked and mistreated animals in this timely allegorical novel.
A Pulitzer Prize winning novel, and one of the most bestselling novels of all time, Gone With The Wind is one of the best American novels. This book follows the tale of Scarlett O’Hara, the spoiled daughter of a wealthy plantation owner, as she goes through life during the Civil War era.
This book encompasses Burgess’ nightmare vision of what the future holds, where criminals take over after dark. It is transgressive, frightening and controversial.
Another classic, One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest follows Randle Patrick McMurphy, a brawling, fun-loving rebellious type that finds his way into a mental hospital and manages to take over and rally the patients.
This book tells the story of one Oklahoma farm family that is driven from their homestead towards the promised land of California during the horrors of the Great Depression.
This haunting story of love, class, war, guilt, and forgiveness provides a brilliant narrative that will stay with you long after reading.
A controversial novel of one man’s obsession with a 12-year old girl.
Things Fall Apart is a classic novel about Africa’s encounter with Europe and colonialism. Told through the eyes of a fearless warrior in the 1800s, this story revolves around the loss and devaluation of his traditions and beliefs due to British forces.
Don becomes obsessed with reading tales of chivalry and decides to embark on a knight-adventure himself.
The sole survivor of a shipwreck, Robinson Crusoe endures years of solitude on a Caribbean island.
A great example of satire that portrays mankind as foolish, is still enjoyable today, and suitable for all ages.
A French epistolary novel about two amoral lovers-turned-rivals who amuse themselves by ruining others’ lives.
Emma is a novel about youth, hubris, and romance. It follows the relationships between the people of a small number of families in a fictional country village.
A young scientist creates a sapient, horrifying creature in this Gothic novel.
One of the greatest classic horror novels of all time, Dracula introduces us to vampires, (see also: How Many Twilight Books Are There?)love, and Otherness, as the fearsome Count tries to spread his disease across the globe.
The perfect revenge thriller set in France just after the Bonaparte invasion.
The story of a young man’s adventures from an unhappy childhood to a successful novelist.
A small, plain-faced intelligent and honest orphan, Jane Eyre does not possess the charm needed to make her way in the world. Instead, she uses her dignity, perception, and passion.
A poignant novel and historical fiction about Hester Prynne , who struggles through a life filled with sin, repentance and punishment (If you like historical fiction themes, also check out Malibu Rising).
This epic masterpiece follows a sea captain and his battle against the great whale that crippled him.
A fantastical story of an incredible world filled with anthropomorphic creatures.
The story of a doomed love affair between the rebellious Anna, and the dashing Count Vronsky.
This novel follows the lives of the four March sisters from childhood to womanhood.
This book opens with Walter Hartright’s encounter with the sinister Sir Percival Glyde and his friend, Count Fosco, in this psychological and Gothic horror.
Set by the Mississippi River in the 1940s, Huckleberry takes off on a raft down the river with Jim, a slave seeking freedom.
A chilling tale of mystery and horror, that encompasses the duality and dark depths of human nature.
A portrait that can demonstrate the devastating effects of debauchery and evil on a young man.
A St. Bernard-Shepherd mix named Buck is turned upside down when he is stolen from his doting master and used as a sled dog in Alaska.
An exciting adventure following the endearing Mr. Toad, Badger, Mole, and Ratty.
‘The saddest story I have ever heard’.
A modernist novel following the life of Clarissa Dalloway, a high society woman, as she prepares to host a party.
The harrowing account of one family’s odyssey across the countryside to bury Addie, the wife and mother.
A masterpiece of dystopian fiction set in a technologically advanced future (If you like dystopian themes, check out the Maze Runner series).
A novel from a crime fiction master, The Big Sleep follows a dying millionaire who hires a private eye to deal with a blackmailer.
An enchanting tale of friendship between a pig and a spider.
A legendary tale of freedom and the search for hope, meaning and authenticity.
Saul Bellow gives us a portrait of a modern-day hero, struggling with the longing for redemption and the difficulty of existence.
A thrilling spy novel about trapping a traitor.
Another childhood classic from Roald Dahl. The BFG is no ordinary giant, in this heartwarming tale of friendship and kindness.
A story about a controversial teacher who forever marks the lives of a group of students in the years prior to the second World War.
A bright, talented and beautiful couple in the 1950s, who live a perfect suburban life are about to watch it crumble.
Born at the strike of midnight at the moment of India’s independence, Saleem grows up to learn of the ominous consequences of this coincidence.
A moralist thriller that traces the influence of Dostoyevsky to Cormac McCarthy. An exceptional portrait of physical and spiritual survival.
Wide Sargasso Sea brings to life the iconic madwoman in the attic from Jane Eyre.
Set in the Georgia wilderness, four men on a canoe trip discover exhilaration and freedom like never before, until the excitement turns into horror.
A story about the struggle towards adulthood through loss and survival.
An autobiographical novel that is one of the most emotional and evocative depictions of grief and loss ever written.
Clyde Griffiths is a social climber, aspiring for greatness. His aspirations and love for a rich debutante are threatened when his lower-class, pregnant girlfriend offers him an ultimatum.
The story of an orphaned foundling raised by a farmer, and the adventures and misfortunes that befall his life.
After being pressured by her family to marry a wealthy man, Clarissa is tricked into fleeing with the debonair Robert Lovelace. Soon enough, he is not all he claims to be.
Set in the early 19th century, Nightmare Abbey follows a whimsical and eccentric man as he navigates his way through life in the presence of the supernatural.
Emily Bronte’s enduring work is still of influence today. This timeless tale of the intense love between Heathcliff and Catherine stands the test of time.
An upper class Regency world is driven by greed and materialism, while Vanity Fair follows the fortunes of two inter-linked lives.
A beautiful, spirited American is brought to Europe by her wealthy Aunt in the hope that she will marry. But she wants to enjoy her own freedom and determine her own fate.
While controversial due to its morally ambiguous characters, this novel is still one of the best social satires of the Victorian era.
Nostromo is the only man capable of the action needed to save the San Tome mine and secure independence for Sulaco. Is his integrity as unassailable as everyone thinks?
Richard Hannah leads a mundane life until a mysterious visitor flips it upside down. Soon, he is being pursued by both the police and the enemy in a plot that threatens national security.
A haunting novel about India at the peak of the British Colonial Era, and how the racial tension impacts every aspect of daily life.
An exceptional translation of an important novel, giving us a tale full of terror. When Josef K is suddenly arrested and must defend himself against a charge of which he has no information, a nightmare becomes a reality.
This book of classic short stories from the master of American fiction explores the notion of relationships, war, sports, and so much more. As one of Hemingway’s first works, these fourteen stories are unmissable.
Scoop is one of the best novels of the century, according to Modern Library. It is a satirical example of the journalism business that is outrageously funny and thoroughly enjoyable. This brilliant book is comedic gold, showcasing the hectic pursuit of hot off the press news.
A classic comedy about coming of age, falling in love, and the lives of the privileged and eccentric (If you liked this story, also check out Inherent Vice). We are introduced to an unconventional family through the eyes of their cousin, who is staying at their estate. It is enchanting, fun, and romantic.
The townspeople of Oran are in the midst of a deadly plague, which sends all of its victims to a horrifying death. Fear, claustrophobia, and isolation take hold as the people are forced into quarantine. Everyone deals with it differently, and chaos ensues.
In this inventive and incredible novel, One Hundred Years Of Solitude tells the story of the rise and fall, birth and death of the mythical town of Macondo, through the eyes and history of the Buendia family.
A classic and exciting rendition of an epic ‘noir’ crime novel, L.A. Confidential is written by the bestselling author of The Black Dahlia.
After a horrifying mass murder takes place, entangling the lives of the victims and victimizers on both sides of the law, three lawmen are caught in the spiral.
This novel focuses on Dora and her twin sister, Nora, the unknown daughters of the greatest Shakespearean actor of his day.
They had their heyday on the stages of the early 20th century, but now live private lives. Dora begins to tell their story at age 75, in a tale that provides the magic and glamor of show business.
Philip Pullman’s world renowned series revolves around Lyra, a girl, and her animal daemon, living in Jordan College, Oxford.
Lyra has a secret, and a destiny that will take her to the Arctic, to the frozen lands where witches reign and ice-bears reside. But, her journey could have immeasurable consequences.
This book is a story of a man’s search for his life’s riddle. He was brought to England as a child, and told nothing of his real family by those who raised him.
When he gets older, memories begin to come back to him, and he embarks on a journey to find the world that he left behind and uncover his heritage.
The Rainbow is set in the rural midlands of England, revolving around three generations of the Brangwen family over a span of 60 years. This book deals with human issues, conflict, passion, and love in a spectacular way.
In another family saga, The Sound And The Fury focuses on the tragedies of the Compson family, a group of Southern aristocrats on the brink of financial and personal ruin.
In this mesmerizing tale, we see the horror and impact of slavery. Sethe was born a slave, but escaped to Ohio. Around 18 years later, she still is not free.
In this novel, the story is set in upper-class New York City society in the 1870s. The novel revolves around an upper-class couple’s impending marriage, and the introduction of the bride’s cousin, who brings scandal and ruin that could threaten the happiness of the protagonists.
As one of the most influential and scandalous books of the 20th century, this work by Henry Miller was banned in many places. It revolves around a starving writer who lives a bohemian lifestyle among prostitutes, pimps, and artists.
The Sun Also Rises offers a look at the anger and disillusionment of the generation left behind after the First World War. With a heartbreaking narrative, gripping plot, and unforgettable characters, this one should be on your list.
A funny and exciting satire about high class expectations, manners, and college life.
This novel encompasses the story of the antagonistic relationship between the people of a small town and a man who has found out how to make himself invisible.
In a small town, in Kansas, in 1959- four members of the Clutter family were brutally murdered by blasts fired from a shotgun. With no motive, and no clues, the author reconstructs the murder, the capture, and trial of the killers, in this haunting and suspenseful novel.
This book tells the story of 17 year old Cassandra and her family, who reside in an old English castle. She spends her time trying to improve her writing skills, filling her notebooks with stories of what happens within the castle walls, and her first venture towards love.
When an impoverished student in St. Petersburg commits an act of murder and theft, he accidentally sets in motion a tale of suspense, guilt, redemption, and sin.
This psychological thriller follows a group of clever misfits at a New England college, who discover a new way of life and thinking that strays away from the norm. However, their search for transcendence leads them to stray from the path of morality.
This futuristic novel is set after a global nuclear war, where the protagonist lives in a religious community, who are in a constant state of fear and alert for any deviation from the ‘norm’.
These deviations are considered ‘blasphemies’ and ‘offenses’, where anything considered ‘abnormal’ is exiled and banished from society.
Austen’s last novel, Persuasion has been made into many adaptations over the years. This novel concerns Anne, a young Englishwoman whose family tries to lower their expenses and rent their home to an Admiral and his wife.
The wife’s brother was engaged to Anne many years ago, but this was broken when Anne was persuaded to end their relationship. Now, when both are single again, they meet after seven years apart.
Woolf creates a moving novel of the tensions and relationships of family life, and the conflict between men and women in To The Lighthouse.
This classic tale is about a young woman, who comes from a poor family. She is pursued, objectified and harassed by a wealthy older man, and seduced by him. Throughout her life, she is ‘ruined’ by men in this poignant commentary on patriarchal society and sexism.
Great Expectations is one of the best bildungsroman novels of all time, and is a classic example of Victorian literature. It follows the story of an orphan named Pip, throughout his growth and development.
One of the greatest war epics of Western literature.
A novel that comments on racial, sexual, political, and many other passions and ideals of the twentieth century.
This epic and world renowned masterpiece of love, loss, honor, redemption, passion and valor is timeless, and should be read by all.
This book tells of the events which happened to Leopold Bloom and Stephen Dadalus in Dublin in 1904, during which Bloom’s wife, Molly commits adultery. This obscene and revolutionary work is frank, witty, and humane.
This masterpiece features the story of an athlete at his high school, who is sure to marry a former Miss New Jersey, inherit his father’s business and live a blessed life. When events take place that shakes his reality, he is taken from the American Pastoral and thrown into another world.
A beloved tale of a famous chocolate factory, which invites 5 lucky winners inside. Charlie, the hero, is the only one who is honest, true, good and truly worthy of the prize.
This novel explores the fictional 19th-century Midlands town in the middle of modern change. With the physical and cultural landscape in question, the town’s sense of equilibrium is threatened.
There are so many fantastic and gripping novels out there. Some of the ones on this list, we’re sure you have heard of, but perhaps were unaware of their content and plot lines.
Others, you may be interested in experiencing and reading for yourself. No matter which you choose, any of these books will take you on an unforgettable journey.