Great Books Guide
The 100 Greatest Novels
THE ONE HUNDRED GREATEST NOVELS OF ALL TIME
We all love lists . . . well let's stir the waters with an ambitious one highlighting
the 100 best novels. Be warned: this ranking is based on cranky and
subjective standards. (But aren't they all?)
1. Marcel Proust Remembrance of Things Past
“The only paradise is a paradise lost.”
2. Fyodor Dostoevsky The Brothers Karamozov
“If God is dead, then all things are permitted.”
3. Thomas Mann, The Magic Mountain
“Time has no divisions to mark its passage, there is never a thunder-storm or
blare of trumpets to announce the beginning of a new month or year. Even
when a new century begins it is only we mortals who ring bells and fire off
4. Henry James The Ambassadors
"The right time is any time that one is still so lucky as to have."
5. Miguel de Cervantes Don Quixote
"For the love of God, sir knight errant, if you ever meet me again, please, even
if you see me being cut into little pieces, don't rush to my aid or try to help
me, but just let me be miserable, because no matter what they're doing to me
it couldn't be worse than what will happen if your grace helps, so may God
curse you and every knight errant who's ever been born in the world."
6. Herman Melville Moby Dick
"Towards thee I roll, thou all-destroying but unconquering whale; to the last I
grapple with thee; from hell’s heart I stab at thee; for hate’s sake I spit my
last breath at thee. Sink all coffins and all hearses to one common pool! and
since neither can be mine, let me then tow to pieces, while still chasing thee,
though tied to thee, thou damned whale! Thus, I give up the spear!"
7. William Faulkner Absalom, Absalom!
"I learned little save that most of the deeds, good and bad both, incurring
opprobrium or plaudits or reward either, within the scope of man's abilities,
had already been performed and were to be learned about only from books."
8. Leo Tolstoy War and Peace
“A thought that had long since and often occured to him during his military
activities -- the idea that there is not and cannot be any science of war, and
that therefore there can be no such thing as a military genius -- now appeared
to him an obvious truth.”
9. Henry Fielding Tom Jones
“Jenny replied to this with a bitterness which might have surprized a judicious
person, who had observed the tranquility with which she bore all the affronts
to her chastity; but her patience was perhaps tired out, for this is a virtue
which is very apt to be fatigued by exercise.”
10. Mark Twain The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
“But that's always the way; it don't make no difference whether you do right
or wrong, a person's conscience ain't got no sense, and just goes for him
anyway. . . . It takes up more room than all the rest of a person's insides, and
yet ain't no good, nohow. Tom Sawyer thinks the same.”
11. Gabriel García Márquez One Hundred Years of Solitude
“Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was
to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice."
12. Henry James The Wings of the Dove
“Never was a consciousness more rounded and fastened down over what filled
it; which is precisely what we have spoken of as, in its degree, the oppression
of success, the somewhat chilled state - tending to the solitary - of supreme
13. Fyodor Dostoevsky Crime and Punishment
"I like them to talk nonsense. That's man's one privilege over all creation.
Through error you come to the truth! I am a man because I err! You never
reach any truth without making fourteen mistakes and very likely a hundred
14. Charles Dickens Great Expectations
“It ain't that I am proud, but that I want to be right, as you shall never see me
no more in these clothes. I'm wrong in these clothes. I'm wrong out of the
forge, the kitchen, or off th' meshes. You won't find half so much fault in me if
you think of me in my forge dress, with my hammer in my hand, or even my
pipe. You won't find half so much fault in me if, supposing as you should ever
wish to see me, you come and put your head in at the forge window and see
Joe the blacksmith, there, at the old anvil, in the old burnt apron, sticking to
the old work. I'm awful dull, but I hope I've beat out something nigh the rights
of this at last. And so God bless you, dear old Pip, old chap, God bless you!"
15. Victor Hugo Les Misérables
“What can be done in hell? They sang. For where there is no more hope,
16. Jane Austen Pride and Prejudice
“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a
good fortune, must be in want of a wife"
17. Fyodor Dostoevsky The Idiot
"And where on earth did I get the idea that you were an idiot? You always
observe what other people pass by unnoticed."
18. Ernest Hemingway The Sun Also Rises
"In bull-fighting they speak of the terrain of the bull and the terrain of the bull-
fighter. As long as a bull-fighter stays in his own terrain he is comparatively
safe. Each time he enters into the terrain of the bull he is in great danger.”
19. Hermann Broch The Sleepwalkers
“There are evenings in spring when the twilight lasts far longer than the
astronomically prescribed period. Then a thin smoky mist sinks over the city
and gives it the subdued suspense of evenings preceding a holiday. And at the
same time it is as if this subdued, pale grey mist had netted so much light that
brighter strands remain in it even when it has become quite black and velvety.”
20. Franz Kafka The Trial
“It is not necessary to accept everything as true, one must only accept it as
21. James Joyce Ulysses
“History, said Stephen, is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake.”
22. Gustave Flaubert Madame Bovary
"She repeated to herself, "I have a lover! I have a lover!" and the thought gave
her a delicious thrill, as though she were beginning a second puberty. At last
she was going to possess the joys of love, that fever of happiness she had
despaired of ever knowing. She was entering a marvelous realm in which
everything would be passion, ecstasy and rapture; she was surrounded by
vast expanses of bluish space, summits of intense feeling sparkled before her
eyes, and everyday life appeared far below in the shadows between these
23. F. Scott Fitzgerald The Great Gatsby
“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the
24. William Faulkner The Sound and the Fury
"Did you ever have a sister? did you?"
25. George Eliot Middlemarch
“Signs are small measurable things, but interpretations are illimitable, and in
girls of sweet, ardent nature, every sign is apt to conjure up wonder, hope,
belief, vast as a sky, and colored by a diffused thimbleful of matter in the
shape of knowledge.”
26. Ralph Ellison Invisible Man
"I was looking for myself and asking everyone except myself questions which I,
and only I, could answer. It took me a long time and much painful
boomeranging of my expectations to achieve a realization everyone else
appears to have been born with: That I am nobody but myself. But first I had
to discover that I am an invisible man!"
27. Henry James The Golden Bowl
"She kept her eyes on him as if, though unsatisfied, mystified, she yet had a
fancy for the bowl. 'Not even if the thing should come to pieces?" And then as
he was silent: "Not even if he should have to say to me "The Golden Bowl is
"He was still silent; after which he had his strangest smile. 'Ah if any one
should WANT to smash it--!'
"She laughed; she almost admired the little man's expression. 'You mean one
could smash it with a hammer?'
"'Yes, if nothing else would do. Or perhaps even by dashing it with violence--
say upon a marble floor.'
28. Stendhal The Red and the Black
"A novel is a mirror that strolls along a highway. Now it reflects the blue of the
skies, now the mud puddles underfoot."
29. Henry James The Portrait of a Lady
"Money's a horrid thing to follow, but a charming thing to meet."
30. Leo Tolstoy Anna Karenina
"All happy families resemble one another, each unhappy family is unhappy in its
31. Joseph Conrad Heart of Darkness
"He cried in a whisper at some image, at some vision--he cried out twice, a cry
that was no more than a breath: 'The horror! The horror!'"
32. Virginia Woolf To the Lighthouse
"What people had shed and left - a pair of shoes, a shooting cap, some faded
skirts and coats in wardrobes - these alone kept the human shape and in the
emptiness indicated how once they were filled and animated; how once hands
were busy with hooks and buttons; how once the looking glass had held a
33. William Thackeray Vanity Fair
"A woman with fair opportunities, and without an absolute hump, may marry
whom she likes."
34. Ivan Turgenev Fathers and Sons
"Yes, there used to be Hegelists and now there are nihilists. We shall see how
you will manage to exist in the empty airless void; and now ring, please,
brother Nikolai, it's time for me to drink my cocoa."
35. Vladimir Nabokov Pale Fire
“I am the shadow of the waxwing slain by the false azure of the window pane”
36. Saul Bellow The Adventures of Augie March
"I am an American, Chicago born—Chicago, that somber city—and go at things
as I have taught myself, free style, and will make the record in my own way:
first to knock, first admitted; sometimes an innocent knock, sometimes a not
37. Charles Dickens Bleak House
"Jarndyce and Jarndyce drones on. This scarecrow of a suit has, in course of
time, become so complicated that no man alive knows what it means. The
parties to it understand it least, but it has been observed that no two
Chancery lawyers can talk about it for five minutes without coming to a total
disagreement as to all the premises. Innumerable children have been born into
the cause; innumerable young people have married into it; innumerable old
people have died out of it."
38. Ian McEwan Atonement
"It wasn’t only wickedness and scheming that made people unhappy, it was
confusion and misunderstanding; above all, it was the failure to grasp the
simple truth that other people are as real as you."
39. George Eliot Silas Marner
"The past becomes dreamy because its symbols have all vanished, and the
present too is dreamy because it is linked with no memories."
40. Fyodor Dostoevsky The Gambler
"Even as I approach the gambling hall, as soon as I hear, two rooms away, the
jingle of money poured out on the table, I almost go into convulsions."
41. Honore de Balzac Le Pére Goriot
"Our heart is a treasury; if you spend all its wealth at once you are ruined."
42. John Steinbeck The Grapes of Wrath
"It ain't that big. The whole United States ain't that big. It ain't that big. It
ain't big enough. There ain't room enough for you an' me, for your kind an' my
kind, for rich and poor together all in one country, for thieves and honest men.
For hunger and fat."
43. J.D. Salinger The Catcher in the Rye
"If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you'll probably want to know
is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my
parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David
Copperfield kind of crap, but I don't feel like going into it, if you want to know
44. Jane Austen Emma
"One half of the world cannot understand the pleasures of the other."
45. Charlotte Bronte Jane Eyre
"Women are supposed to be very calm generally: but women feel just as men
feel; they need exercise for their faculties, and a field for their efforts as much
as their brothers do; they suffer from too rigid a restraint, too absolute a
stagnation, precisely as men would suffer; and it is narrow-minded in their
more privileged fellow-creatures to say that they ought to confine themselves
to making puddings and knitting stockings, to playing on the piano and
46. Emily Bronte Wuthering Heights
"A person who has not done one half his day's work by ten o'clock, runs a
chance of leaving the other half undone."
47. Joseph Conrad Nostromo
"Action is consolatory. It is the enemy of thought and the friend of flattering
illusions. Only in the conduct of our action can we find the sense of mastery
over the Fates."
48. Ken Kesey One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
"You think I wuh-wuh-wuh-want to stay in here? You think I wouldn't like a
con-con-vertible and a guh-guh-girl friend? But did you ever have people l-l-
laughing at you? No, because you're so b-big and so tough! Well, I'm not big
49. Truman Capote In Cold Blood
"The village of Holcomb stands on the high wheat plains of western Kansas, a
lonesome area that other Kansans call 'out there.'"
50. Henry James The American
"On a brilliant day in May, in the year 1868, a gentleman was reclining at his
ease on the great circular divan which at that period occupied the centre of the
Salon Carre, in the Museum of the Louvre."
51. Charles Dickens Oliver Twist
"Oliver Twist has asked for more!"
52. Nathaniel West Miss Lonelyhearts
"What did I do to deserve such a terrible fate? Even if I did do some bad
things I didnt do any before I was a year old and I was born this way. I asked
Papa and he says he doesnt know, but that maybe I did something in the
other world before I was born or that maybe I was being punished for his sins.
I dont believe that because he is a very nice man. Ought I commit suicide?"
53. John Fowles The French Lieutenant's Woman
"We all write poems; it is simply that poets are the ones who write in words."
54. Jonathan Franzen The Corrections
"The correction, when it finally came, was not a overnight bursting of a bubble
but a much more gentle letdown, a year long leakage of value from key
financial markets, a contraction too gradual to generate headlines and too
predictable to seriously hurt anybody but fools and the working poor."
55. Laurence Sterne Tristram Shandy
"Our armies swore terribly in Flanders," cried my Uncle Toby, "but nothing to
56. Nathanael West The Day of the Locust
"Around quitting time, Tod Hackett heard a great din on the road outside his
office. The groan of leather mingled with the jangle of iron and over all beat the
tattoo of a thousand hooves. He hurried to the window."
57. John Steinbeck Of Mice and Men
"Well, I never seen one guy take so much trouble for another guy. I just like to
know what your interest is"
58. Joseph Conrad Lord Jim
"Thus in the course of years he was known successively in Bombay, in
Calcutta, in Rangoon, in Penang, in Batavia--and in each of these halting-
places was just Jim the water-clerk. Afterwards, when his keen perception of
the Intolerable drove him away for good from seaports and white men, even
into the virgin forest, the Malays of the jungle village, where he had elected to
conceal his deplorable faculty, added a word to the monosyllable of his
incognito. They called him Tuan Jim: as one might say--Lord Jim."
59. George Orwell 1984
"Big Brother is watching you."
60. E.A. Poe The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket
"It will be seen at once how much of what follows I claim to be my own writing;
and it will also be understood that no fact is misrepresented in the first few
pages which were written by Mr. Poe. Even to those readers who have not
seen the Messenger, it will be unnecessary to point out where his portion ends
and my own commences; the difference in point of style will be readily
61. Evelyn Waugh Brideshead Revisited
"I am not I; thou art not he or she; they are not they."
62. Stendhal The Charterhouse of Parma
"On the 15th of May, 1796, General Bonaparte made his entry into Milan at the
head of that young army which had shortly before crossed the Bridge of Lodi
and taught the world that after all these centuries Caesar and Alexander had a
63. Willa Cather Death Comes for the Archbishop
"Where there is great love there are always miracles."
64. George Orwell Animal Farm
"All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others."
65. James Fenimore Cooper The Last of the Mohicans
"Should we distrust the man because his manners are not our manners, and
that his skin is dark?"
66. Graham Greene The Power and the Glory
“There is always one moment in childhood when the door opens and lets the
67. Kingsley Amis Lucky Jim
"Consciousness was upon him before he could get out of the way."
68. Raymond Chandler The Big Sleep
"You were dead, you were sleeping the big sleep, you were not bothered by
things like that, oil and water were the same as wind and air to you. You just
slept the big sleep, not caring about the nastiness of how you died or where
69. J.K. Rowling Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
"It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live."
70. Arthur Conan Doyle The Hound of the Baskervilles
"The world is full of obvious things which nobody by any chance ever
71. Jack Kerouac On the Road
"So in America when the sun goes down and I sit on the old broken-down river
pier watching the long, long skies over New Jersey and sense all that raw land
that rolls in one unbelievable huge bulge over to the West Coast, and all that
road going, and all the people dreaming in the immensity of it... and tonight
the stars'll be out, and don't you know that God is Pooh Bear?"
72. Rudyard Kipling Kim
"I have seen something of this world," she said over the crowded trays, "and
there are but two sorts of women in it - those who take the strength out of a
man and those who put it back. Once I was that one, and now I am this."
73. Thomas Hardy Tess of the d'Urbervilles
"My life looks as if it had been wasted for want of chances! When I see what
you know, what you have read, and seen, and thought, I feel what a nothing I
74. Charles Dickens A Tale of Two Cities
"It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far
better rest that I go to than I have ever known."
75. Philip Roth American Pastoral
"The Swede. During the war years, when I was still a grade school boy, this
was a magical name in our Newark neighborhood . . . "
76. Robert Heinlein The Moon is a Harsh Mistress
" 'Tanstaafl.' Means 'There ain't no such thing as a free lunch.' "
77. Mary Shelley Frankenstein
"Life and death appeared to me ideal bounds, which I should first break
through, and pour a torrent of light into our dark world."
78. Jonathan Lethem The Fortress of Solitude
"Voices in memory you can't name, rich with unresolved yearning: a song you
once leaned toward for an instant on the radio before finding it mawkish,
embarrassing, overlush. Maybe the song knew something you didn't yet,
something you weren't necessarily ready to learn from the radio. So, for you
at least, the song is lost."
79. Zane Grey Riders of the Purple Sage
"Love of man for woman--love of woman for man. That's the nature, the
meaning, the best of life itself."
80. William Gibson Neuromancer
"The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel."
81. Martin Amis Money
"Awful things can happen anytime."
82. Nathaniel Hawthorne The Scarlet Letter
"A pure hand needs no glove to cover it."
83. Agatha Christie The Murder of Roger Ackroyd
"It is completely unimportant. That is why it is so interesting."
84. William Faulkner As I Lay Dying
"I could just remember how my father used to say that the reason for living
was to get ready to stay dead a long time."
85. Henry James Daisy Miller
"The young lady meanwhile had drawn near. She was dressed in white muslin,
with a hundred frills and flounces, and knots of pale-coloured ribbon. She was
bare-headed; but she balanced in her hand a large parasol with a deep border
of embroidery; and she was strikingly, admirably pretty. 'How pretty they are!'
thought Winterbourne, straightening himself in his seat, as if he were prepared
86. Thomas Hardy The Return of the Native
"The sea changed, the fields changed, the rivers, the villages, and the people
changed, yet Egdon remained."
87. David Foster Wallace Infinite Jest
"The difference between homicide and suicide is mostly a matter of where you
perceive the door top to the cage to be."
88. Ernest Hemingway For Whom the Bell Tolls
"If you have not seen the day of Revolution in a small town where all know all
in the town and always have known all, you have seen nothing."
89. Fyodor Dostoevsky The Possessed
"But do you understand, I cry to him, do you understand that along with
happiness, in the exact same way and in perfectly equal proportion, man also
90. Leo Tolstoy The Death of Ivan Ilych
"Ivan Ilych saw that he was dying, and he was in continual despair. In the
depth of his heart he knew he was dying, but not only was he not accustomed
to the thought, he simply did not and could not grasp it."
91. Thomas Mann Buddenbrooks
"Beauty can pierce one like pain."
92. Leo Tolstoy The Kreutzer Sonata
"It is amazing how complete is the delusion that beauty is goodness."
93. Virginia Woolf Mrs. Dalloway
"Outside the trees dragged their leaves like nets through the depths of the air;
the sound of water was in the room and through the waves came the voices of
94. Charles Dickens David Copperfield
"Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that
station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show."
95. Henry James The Spoils of Poynton
"Her relation with her wonderful friend had, however, in becoming a new one
begun to shape itself almost wholly on breaches and omissions."
96. V.S. Naipaul A Bend in the River
"It isn't that there's no right and wrong here. There's no right"
97. Frank Herbert Dune
"Arrakis teaches the attitude of the knife — chopping off what's incomplete
and saying: 'Now it's complete because it's ended here.'"
98. Thomas Hardy Jude the Obscure
"Do not do an immoral thing for moral reasons!"
99. Philip K. Dick Valis
“What he did not know then is that it is sometimes an appropriate response to
reality is to go insane.”
100. Thomas Pynchon Gravity's Rainbow
"A screaming comes across the sky. It has happened before, but there is
nothing to compare it to now."
And lurking under the top 100
Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa: The Leopard
"For things to stay the same, things have to change."
Robert Musil The Man Without Qualities
"He is a man without qualities . . . There are millions of them nowadays . . .
What he thinks of anything will always depend on some possible context --
nothing is, to him, what it is; everything is subject to change, in flux, part of
a whole, of an infinite number of wholes presumably adding up to a superwhole
that, however, he knows nothing about. So every answer he gives is only a
partial answer, every feeling only an opinion, and he never cares what
something is, only 'how' it is."
Thomas Mann The Black Swan
"One of the swans, however, pushing close against the bank, spread its dark
wings and beat the air with them, stretching out its neck and hissing angrily up
at her. They laughed at its jealousy, but at the same time felt a little afraid."
Cormac McCarthy Blood Meridian
They rode on and the sun in the east flushed pale streaks of light and then a
deeper run of color like blood seeping up in sudden reaches flaring planewise
and where the earth drained up into the sky at the edge of creation the top of
the sun rose out of nothing like the head of a great red phallus until it cleared
the unseen rim and sat squat and pulsing and malevolent behind them. The
shadows of the smallest stones lay like pencil lines across the sand and the
shapes of the men and their mounts advanced elongate before them like
strands of the night from which they'd ridden, like tentacles to bind them to
the darkness yet to come.