27 Great Classic Books you should experience the pleasure of reading.

What makes a great novel?

Classic Books

There are many great books that have been written throughout history, but it is up to the individual reader to decide what is the greatest book ever written. We know when we read a great novel because it inspires us, and changes the way we think.

We all have our own tastes in music, art, and literature. Some writers have the uncanny ability to grab their reader’s attention, and pull them into the reality they have created with their words.

We the readers will get lost and immersed in the story as we resonate with the characters and their environment. We will imagine ourselves there with them sharing their experiences in the environment they live in.

We will laugh at their antics, and cry at their misfortunes. Some of our emotional embrace will be due to the author’s direction through their flow of words, while we will also embellish the story to create our own narrative by injecting ourselves into it.

That is the sign of a great author. If they can captivate your imagination so immensely that you believe you are in the story with their characters, or they create such an enormous empathy within you for the plight of their characters that you form an emotional attachment to them, than they have done their job well.

Be mindful of your thoughts, or the following authors just may encompass your awareness, remove you from your own reality, and invite you unwittingly into theirs.

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1: The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

First published in 1925, this great novel has been acclaimed by generations of readers. The story of the mysteriously wealthy Jay Gatsby and his love for the beautiful Daisy Buchanan. It takes place on the prosperous Long Island of 1922, a time known for Jazz music,and economic prosperity.

Many literary critics consider The Great Gatsby to be one of the greatest novels ever written.


2: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

First published in 1960, the story, told by the six-year-old Jean Louise Finch, takes place during three years (1933–35) of the Great Depression.

To Kill a Mockingbird is a tale of coming-of-age in a South poisoned by virulent prejudice, it views a world of great beauty and savage inequities through the eyes of a young girl, as her father—a crusading local lawyer—risks everything to defend a black man unjustly accused of a terrible crime.


3:The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

First published in 1939, The Grapes of Wrath takes place during the Great Depression, and tells the story of one Oklahoma farm family, the Joads driven from their homestead by drought and economic hardship, were forced to travel west to California along with thousands of others who were seeking jobs, and a future.

Steinbeck’s powerful landmark novel is perhaps the most American of American Classics.


4: 1984 by George Orwell

First published in 1949. 1984 creates an imaginary world in which, civilisation has been damaged by war, civil conflict, and revolution. Airstrip One (formerly known as Great Britain) is a province of Oceania, one of the three super-states that rule the world. Big Brother will purge anyone who does not fully conform to their regime...

1984 has come and gone, but George Orwell's dystopian vision of a government that will do anything to control the narrative is timelier than ever.


5: The Color Purple: A Novel by Alice Walker

The Color Purple is a 1982 novel that takes place mostly in rural Georgia, the story focuses on the life of African-American women in the Southern United States in the 1930's. The Color Purple broke the silence around domestic and sexual abuse, narrating the lives of women.

The novel has been the frequent target of censors, because of the sometimes explicit content, particularly in terms of violence.


6: Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

First published in 1953. Fahrenheit 451 takes place in the year 1999. Guy Montag is a fireman employed to burn houses containing outlawed books. He is married but has no children. One fall night while returning from work, he meets his new neighbour, a teenage girl named Clarisse McClellan, whose free-thinking ideals and liberating spirit cause him to question his life and his own perceived happiness.

The book's tagline explains the title: Fahrenheit 451 as the temperature at which book paper burns.


7: A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

First published in 1859. The story takes place in London and Paris before and during the French Revolution. The novel depicts the plight of the French peasantry demoralised by the French aristocracy in the years leading up to the revolution. It follows the lives of several characters through these events.

The 45-chapter novel was published in 31 weekly instalments in Dickens's new literary periodical titled All the Year Round. From April 1859 to November 1859.


8: Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

Published in 1937, it tells the story of George Milton and Lennie Small, two farm workers who move from place to place in California looking for work durning the Great Depression. They are an unlikely pair. George is "small, quick and dark of face"; Lennie, a man of tremendous size, has the mind of a young child. Yet they have formed a "family," clinging together in the face of loneliness and alienation.

Of Mice and Men has been a frequent target of censors for vulgarity, and what some consider offensive and racist language.


9: Charlotte's Web by Harper Collins

Published on October 15, 1952, Charlotte's Web is the story of a little girl named Fern who loved a little pig named Wilbur, and of Wilbur's dear friend Charlotte A. Cavatica, a beautiful large grey spider who lived with Wilbur in the barn. When Wilbur is in danger of being slaughtered by the farmer, Charlotte writes messages praising Wilbur (such as "Some Pig") in her web in order to persuade the farmer to let him live.

In 2000, Publishers Weekly listed the book as the best-selling children's paperback of all time.


10: The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

The Catcher in the Rye was partially published in serial form in 1945–1946 and as a novel in 1951. The hero-narrator of The Catcher in the Rye is a child of sixteen, a native New Yorker named Holden Caulfield. Holden lives in an unspecified institution in California after the end of World War II. After his discharge he intends to go live with his brother D.B., an author and war veteran with whom Holden is angry for becoming a Hollywood screenwriter.

The novel was included on Time Magazine's 2005 list of the 100 best English-language novels written since 1923


11: The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

Published in 1979, The broad narrative of Hitchhiker follows the misadventures of the last surviving man, Arthur Dent, following the demolition of the Earth by a Vogon constructor fleet to make way for a hyperspace bypass. Dent is rescued from Earth's destruction by Ford Prefect—a human-like alien writer for the eccentric, electronic travel guide The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

Nominated as one of America’s best-loved novels by PBS’s The Great American Read


12: Moby-Dick (Macmillan Collector's Library) by Herman Melville

Published in 1979, The book is the sailor Ishmael's narrative of the obsessive quest of Ahab, captain of the whaling ship Pequod, for revenge on Moby Dick, the giant white sperm whale that on the ship's previous voyage bit off Ahab's leg at the knee.

D. H. Lawrence called it "one of the strangest and most wonderful books in the world" and "the greatest book of the sea ever written"


13: The Old Man and the Sea: The Hemingway Library Edition by Earnest Hemingway

Written in 1952. The story opens with Santiago having gone 84 days without catching a fish, and now being seen as "salao", the worst form of unluckiness. He is so unlucky that his young apprentice, Manolin, has been forbidden by his parents to sail with him. The old Cuban fisherman, down on his luck, has his supreme ordeal, a relentless, agonizing battle with a giant marlin far out in the Gulf Stream.

This hugely successful novel confirmed Hemingway's power and presence in the literary world and played a large part in his winning the 1954 Nobel Prize for Literature.


14: Alice's Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass (Bantam Classics) by Lewis Carroll

Written in 1865, It tells of a young girl named Alice, who falls through a rabbit hole into a subterranean fantasy world populated by peculiar, anthropomorphic creatures. The tale plays with logic, giving the story lasting popularity with adults as well as with children. It is considered to be one of the best examples of the literary nonsense genre.

Alice through the looking glass is part 2 of the story, and a must read.


15: Animal Farm by George Orwell

First published in England on 17 August 1945, The poorly-run Manor Farm near Willingdon, England, is ripened for rebellion from its animal populace by neglect at the hands of the irresponsible and alcoholic farmer. The farm is taken over by its overworked, mistreated animals. With flaming idealism and stirring slogans, they set out to create a paradise of progress, justice, and equality.

Time magazine chose the book as one of the 100 best English-language novels (1923 to 2005).


16: Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

First published in 1884, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is among the first novels in American literature to be written throughout in vernacular English. The story is set along the Mississippi River in Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky and Arkansas around 1840. It is told in the first person by Huckleberry "Huck" Finn.

The book was widely criticized upon release because of its extensive use of coarse language.


17: David Copperfield: Unabridged edition (Immortal Classics) by Charles Dickens

First published as a serial in 1849–50, and as a book in 1850. The novel features the character David Copperfield, and is written in the first person, as a description of his life until middle age, with his own adventures and the numerous friends and enemies he meets along his way.

Charles Dickens presents a world of colorful characters to amuse us, astonish us, disgust us and move us to tears.


18: A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

Published in 1962. It is set in a near-future society that has a youth subculture of extreme violence. The story is told by the central character, Alex, a teen who talks in a fantastically inventive slang that renders his and his friends’ intense reaction against their society.

The novella begins with the droogs sitting in their favourite hangout, the Korova Milk Bar, and drinking "milk-plus" – a beverage consisting of milk laced with the customer's drug of choice – to prepare for a night of mayhem.


19: Don Quixote by Miguel De Cervantes Saavedra

Don Quixote was published in two parts, in 1605 and 1615. The plot revolves around the adventures of a noble (hidalgo) from La Mancha named Alonso Quixano, who reads so many chivalric romances that he loses his mind and decides to become a knight-errant (caballero andante) to revive chivalry and serve his nation, under the name Don Quixote de la Mancha.

The author is often credited with inventing the concept of the novel, addressing himself to the readers rather than the characters or the action.


20: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

Published under the pen name "Currer Bell", on 16 October 1847, the novel is a first-person narrative from the perspective of the title character. The novel's setting is somewhere in the north of England

The novel revolutionised prose fiction by being the first to focus on its protagonist's moral and spiritual development through an intimate first-person narrative, where actions and events are coloured by a psychological intensity.


21: Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

Published in 1847 under her pseudonym "Ellis Bell". Lockwood, the new tenant of Thrushcross Grange, situated on the bleak Yorkshire moors, is forced to seek shelter one night at Wuthering Heights, the home of his landlord. There he meets a reserved young woman Cathy Linton, Joseph, a cantankerous servant; and Hareton, an uneducated young man who speaks like a servant.

Although Wuthering Heights is now a classic of English literature, contemporaneous reviews were deeply polarised; it was controversial because of its unusually stark depiction of mental and physical cruelty, and it challenged Victorian ideas about religion.


22: Ulysses by James Joyce

James Joyce’s “Ulysses” was originally published serially in the American journal “The Little Review” from March 1918 to December 1920. Subsequently published as a book in 1922. Joyce divides Ulysses into 18 episodes that "roughly correspond to the episodes in Homer's Odyssey".

Joyce himself hoped would “keep the professors busy for centuries arguing over what I meant,” this expansive work is considered one of the great works of English literature and a must read for fans of the Modernist genre.


23: The Iliad by Homer

Traditionally attributed to Homer. Set during the Trojan War, the ten-year siege of the city of Troy (Ilium) by a coalition of Greek states, it tells of the battles and events during the weeks of a quarrel between King Agamemnon and the warrior Achilles.

Due to a lack of biographical evidence regarding the identity of Homer it has been suggested that the two great works attributed to him, the “Iliad” and the “Odyssey” may, in fact, be the work of multiple authors passed down through a long oral tradition.


24: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Pride and Prejudice was first published in 1813. The novel is set in rural England in the early 19th century. Mrs. Bennet attempts to persuade Mr. Bennet to visit Mr. Bingley, a rich bachelor recently arrived in the neighbourhood. Mr. Bennet of the Longbourn estate has five daughters, but his property is entailed, meaning that none of the girls can inherit it. His wife has no fortune, so it is imperative that at least one of the girls marry well in order to support the others upon his death.

"It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife"


25: Catch-22: 50th Anniversary Edition by Joseph Heller

First published in 1961. Set in Italy during World War II, this is the story of the bombardier, Yossarian, a hero who is furious because thousands of people he has never met are trying to kill him. But his real problem is not the enemy, it is his own army, which keeps increasing the number of missions the men must fly to complete their service.

A man is considered insane if he willingly continues to fly dangerous combat missions, but if he makes a formal request to be removed from duty, he is proven sane and therefore ineligible to be relieved.


26: Lord of the Flies by William Golding

Published in 1954, At the dawn of the next world war, a plane crashes on an uncharted island, stranding a group of schoolboys. At first, with no adult supervision, their freedom is something to celebrate. Some of the marooned characters are ordinary students, while others arrive as a musical choir under an established leader. With the exception of Sam and Eric and the choirboys, they appear never to have encountered each other before.

The book portrays their descent into savagery; left to themselves on a paradisiacal island, far from modern civilization, the well-educated boys regress to a primitive state.


27: Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

Heart of Darkness published in 1899 is a novella by Anglo-Polish novelist Joseph Conrad, about a voyage up the Congo River into the Congo Free State, in the heart of Africa, by the story's narrator Marlow. Marlow tells his story to friends aboard a boat anchored on the River Thames, London, England.

Heart of Darkness has been widely re-published and translated into many languages. It provided the inspiration for Francis Ford Coppola's 1979 film Apocalypse Now.


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