Here’s my list of the 21 best classical literature books of all time, in no particular order.
- War and Peace – 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 – A hundred years ahead of its time, Tolstoy’s investigation of the silent, stifling life of women is an all-time great.
- Madame Bovary – A classic of 19th century realism. A cautionary tale about romanticism.
- The Iliad – The classic Greek epic and possibly the oldest story of western civilization.
- The Odyssey – Samesies.
- Crime and Punishment – 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 – A grand and beautiful portrait of a frayed family–three brothers struggling to understand and accept each other.
- Don Quixote – Considered the first novel ever written. Cervantes’ classic story tells of a man who imagines himself a night, heroically defending the land.
- Great Expectations – One of the most universally loved novels in the English language, it’s still revered today.
- A Tale of Two Cities – 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 – 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 – The timeless classic about love, romance, money, class, and family. Still as relevant as ever.
- Wuthering Heights – 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 – 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 – 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 – 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 – 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 – 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 – 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 – 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 – The most famous Greek tragedy. Even today, reading it is unforgettable.
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