Here’s my list of the 21 best classical literature books of all time, in no particular order.

  • War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy – Often called the best novel ever written. Dozens of characters, stretching from Muscovite peasants all the way to Napoleon himself. The modern epic.
  • Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy – A hundred years ahead of its time, Tolstoy’s investigation of the silent, stifling life of women is an all-time great.
  • Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert – A classic of 19th century realism. A cautionary tale about romanticism.
  • The Iliad by Homer – The classic Greek epic and possibly the oldest story of western civilization.
  • The Odyssey by Homer – Samesies.
  • Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky – A character study of a man driven to murder for no rational reason and the aftermath. Russian novelists tend to be psychological and this may be the most psychological of all the Russian classics.
  • The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky – A grand and beautiful portrait of a frayed family–three brothers struggling to understand and accept each other.
  • Don Quixote by Miguel Cervantes – Considered the first novel ever written. Cervantes’ classic story tells of a man who imagines himself a night, heroically defending the land.
  • Great Expectations by Charles Dickens – One of the most universally loved novels in the English language, it’s still revered today.
  • A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens – The best-selling English language novel of all time and a historical fiction about an English doctor who finds himself caught up in the French Revolution and Reign of Terror.
  • Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte – The coming of age of a young woman, this is considered the first book to ever follow a single person’s psychological and spiritual growth throughout their lives from the first person.
  • Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen – The timeless classic about love, romance, money, class, and family. Still as relevant as ever.
  • Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte – A shockingly dark and twisted book critical of the stifling morals of 19th century England. Published posthumously, the book came under heavy attack at the time, but is considered prescient now.
  • In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust – The longest novel ever written, clocking in at an astounding 4,200 pages. You really will search for your lost time if you make it through this whole thing.
  • Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain – Another candidate for the “Great American Novel,” Huck Finn is about an homeless boy who befriends an escaped slave. An odd yet powerful friendship emerges.
  • To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf – A novel that challenged and broke all traditional forms and expectations for what a novel should be. Part philosophical musings, part emotional meanderings, part story, the book defined a style of its own.
  • The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka – An investigation into the absurd. A man wakes up one morning to find himself transformed into a giant beetle. His family is… not supportive.
  • Candide by Voltaire – A satirical classic of a wealthy young man, brought up to be naive and optimistic about the world, is repeatedly confronted with harsh truth after harsh truth.
  • Les Miserables by Victor Hugo – Before Hugh Jackman danced around singing it, Hugo’s classic was a brooding investigation into the nature of law, society, love and family.
  • The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas – A modern adventure epic written on the scale of one of the ancient Greek or Roman poems. Not only is it readable but it’s impossible to put down at times.
  • Oedipus the King by Sophocles – The most famous Greek tragedy. Even today, reading it is unforgettable.

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