The 21 Best Classical Literature Books of All Time

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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert – A classic of 19th century realism. A cautionary tale about romanticism.
  4. The Iliad by Homer – The classic Greek epic and possibly the oldest story of western civilization.
  5. The Odyssey by Homer – Samesies.
  6. 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.
  7. The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky – A grand and beautiful portrait of a frayed family–three brothers struggling to understand and accept each other.
  8. 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.
  9. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens – One of the most universally loved novels in the English language, it’s still revered today.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen – The timeless classic about love, romance, money, class, and family. Still as relevant as ever.
  13. 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.
  14. 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.
  15. 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.
  16. 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.
  17. 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.
  18. 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.
  19. 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.
  20. 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.
  21. Oedipus the King by Sophocles – The most famous Greek tragedy. Even today, reading it is unforgettable.

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