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The Most Influential Novels and Books

Related pages:
- The Literary 100: A Ranking of the Most Influential Novelists, Playwrights, and Poets of All Time
- The Fictional 100 and 100 Best Characters in Fiction Since 1900 (including info about authors who created the characters)

Related websites:
- The Modern Library Board's 100 Best Novels
- The Modern Library Board's 100 Best Non-Fiction Books
Lists on this Page:
The Novel 100: A Ranking of the Greatest Novels of All Time
Time Magazine's "All-Time 100 Best Novels" - greatest English-language novels from 1923 to 2005
100 Books That Shaped World History

The Novel 100:
A Ranking of the
Greatest Novels of All Time

The list below is from the book The Novel 100: A Ranking of Greatest Novels All Time (Checkmark Books/Facts On File, Inc.: New York, 2004), written by Daniel S. Burt.

Burt holds a Ph.D from New York University with a specialty in Victorian fiction and was for nine years a dean at Wesleyan University, where he has also taught literature courses since 1989. He is also the author of The Novel 100: A Ranking of the Greatest Novels of All Time.

Note that in compiling the list of novels that was the basis for this book, Burt had to impose a number of constraints about what should be considered a novel. Although some works recognized as classics of science fiction (or, more broadly, speculative fiction) are on the list (e.g., Frankenstein; Dracula; Nineteen Eighty-Four), Burt specifically excluded works that seemed to veer too much from primarily naturalistic and contemporary-oriented narratives, thus excluding from consideration most science fiction and fantasy. Books such as Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, Card's Ender's Game, Miller's A Canticle for Leibowitz and Frank Herbert's Dune were excluded from consideration as "novels." Burt's functional definition of "novel" used here (i.e., books belonging to the "novel genre" or, in most cases, the "literary novel genre") is thus narrower than how the word is used by the general public. From the book's introduction, pages ix-x:

What makes a listing of the greatest novels even more problematic is the lack of any consensus about which works rightfully constitute the genre... the novel is such a hybrid and adaptive genre, assimilating other prose and verse forms... A standard definition of the novel--an extended prose narrative--is so broad that it fails to limit the field usefully... I have been influenced in this regard, like many, by literary critic Ian Watt's groundbreaking 1957 study, The Rise of the Novel, which contends that the novel as a distinctive genre emerged in 18th-century England through the shifting of the emphasis of previous prose romances and their generalized and idealized characters, settings, and situations to a particularity of individual experience. In other words, the novel replaced the romance's interest in the general and the ideal with a concern for the particular. The here and now substituted for the romance's interest in the long ago and far away. As 18th-century novelist Clara Reece observed, "The Novel is a picture of real life and manners, and of the times in which it was written. The Romance, in lofty and elevated language, describes what has never happened nor is likely to." Novelists began to represent the actual world accurately, governed by the laws of probability.

...It would be far too reductive and misleading, however, to define the novel only by its realism or accurate representation of ordinary life... It would be far more accurate to say that the novel as a distinct genre attempts a synthesis between romance and realism, between a poetic, imaginative alternative to actuality and a more authentic representation. For purposes of my listing, I have narrowed the field by categorizing as novels works that engage in that synthesis. Some narrative works judged too far in the direction of fantasy--Rabelais's Gargantua and Pantagruel, Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress, Swift's Gulliver's Travels, Carroll's Alice in Wonderland--have been excluded. I have also made judgment calls on the question of the required length of a novel and have ruled out of contention such important fictional works as Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness and Franz Kafka's The Metamorphosis as falling short of the amplitude expected when confronting a novel.
Rank Title of Great Novel Year Author Religious Affiliation of Author
1 Don Quixote 1605, 1630 Miguel de Cervantes Catholic
2 War and Peace 1869 Leo Tolstoy Russian Orthodox
3 Ulysses 1922 James Joyce Catholic (lapsed)
4 In Search of Lost Time 1913-27 Marcel Proust Jewish Catholic
5 The Brothers Karamazov 1880 Feodor Dostoevsky Russian Orthodox
6 Moby-Dick 1851 Herman Melville Transcendentalist
7 Madame Bovary 1857 Gustave Flaubert Catholic
8 Middlemarch 1871-72 George Eliot Anglican; agnostic
9 The Magic Mountain 1924 Thomas Mann Lutheran
10 The Tale of Genji 11th Century Murasaki Shikibu Buddhist/Shinto culture
11 Emma 1816 Jane Austen Anglican
12 Bleak House 1852-53 Charles Dickens Anglican
13 Anna Karenina 1877 Leo Tolstoy Russian Orthodox
14 Adventures of Huckleberry Finn 1884 Mark Twain Presbyterian
15 Tom Jones 1749 Henry Fielding  
16 Great Expectations 1860-61 Charles Dickens Anglican
17 Absalom, Absalom! 1936 William Faulkner Presbyterian
18 The Ambassadors 1903 Henry James Anglican
19 One Hundred Years of Solitude 1967 Gabriel Garcia Marquez Catholic
20 The Great Gatsby 1925 F. Scott Fitzgerald Catholic
21 To The Lighthouse 1927 Virginia Woolf Neo-pagan
22 Crime and Punishment 1866 Feodor Dostoevsky Russian Orthodox
23 The Sound and the Fury 1929 William Faulkner Presbyterian
24 Vanity Fair 1847-48 William Makepeace Thackeray  
25 Invisible Man 1952 Ralph Ellison  
26 Finnegans Wake 1939 James Joyce Catholic (lapsed)
27 The Man Without Qualities 1930-43 Robert Musil Catholic
28 Gravity's Rainbow 1973 Thomas Pynchon Catholic; agnostic
29 The Portrait of a Lady 1881 Henry James Anglican
30 Women in Love 1920 D. H. Lawrence  
31 The Red and the Black 1830 Stendhal Catholic
32 Tristram Shandy 1760-67 Laurence Sterne Anglican (Church of Ireland clergyman)
33 Dead Souls 1842 Nikolai Gogol Russian Orthodox
34 Tess of the D'Urbervilles 1891 Thomas Hardy  
35 Buddenbrooks 1901 Thomas Mann Lutheran
36 Le Pere Goriot 1835 Honore de Balzac Catholic
37 A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man 1916 James Joyce Catholic (lapsed)
38 Wuthering Heights 1847 Emily Bronte Anglican
39 The Tin Drum 1959 Gunter Grass Catholic
40 Molloy; Malone Dies; The Unnamable 1951-53 Samuel Beckett Church of Ireland (Anglican)
41 Pride and Prejudice 1813 Jane Austen Anglican
42 The Scarlet Letter 1850 Nathaniel Hawthorne Transcendentalist
43 Fathers and Sons 1862 Ivan Turgenev Russian Orthodox; agnostic
44 Nostromo 1904 Joseph Conrad Catholic; atheist
45 Beloved 1987 Toni Morrison  
46 An American Tragedy 1925 Theodore Dreiser Catholic; Congregationalist; Chrisitan Science
47 Lolita 1955 Vladimir Nabokov Russian Orthodox
48 The Golden Notebook 1962 Doris Lessing  
49 Clarissa 1747-48 Samuel Richardson  
50 Dream of the Red Chamber 1791 Cao Xueqin  
51 The Trial 1925 Franz Kafka Jewish
52 Jane Eyre 1847 Charlotte Bronte Anglican
53 The Red Badge of Courage 1895 Stephen Crane Methodist
54 The Grapes of Wrath 1939 John Steinbeck Episcopalian
55 Petersburg 1916/1922 Andrey Bely Russian Orthodox; Theosophy; Spiritualism
56 Things Fall Apart 1958 Chinue Achebe  
57 The Princess of Cleves 1678 Madame de Lafayette  
58 The Stranger 1942 Albert Camus Catholic; Existentialism
59 My Antonia 1918 Willa Cather Episcopalian
60 The Counterfeiters 1926 Andre Gide  
61 The Age of Innocence 1920 Edith Wharton  
62 The Good Soldier 1915 Ford Madox Ford Catholic; agnostic
63 The Awakening 1899 Kate Chopin Catholic
64 A Passage to India 1924 E. M. Forster  
65 Herzog 1964 Saul Bellow Orthodox Jew (lapsed); Anthroposophist
66 Germinal 1855 Emile Zola Catholic
67 Call It Sleep 1934 Henry Roth Jewish
68 U.S.A. Trilogy 1930-38 John Dos Passos Catholic
69 Hunger 1890 Knut Hamsun  
70 Berlin Alexanderplatz 1929 Alfred Doblin Catholic
71 Cities of Salt 1984-89 'Abd al-Rahman Munif  
72 The Death of Artemio Cruz 1962 Carlos Fuentes Catholic
73 A Farewell to Arms 1929 Ernest Hemingway Catholic
74 Brideshead Revisited 1945 Evelyn Waugh Catholic
75 The Last Chronicle of Barset 1866-67 Anthony Trollope Anglican
76 The Pickwick Papers 1836-67 Charles Dickens Anglican
77 Robinson Crusoe 1719 Daniel Defoe Protestant Dissenter (Presbyterian)
78 The Sorrows of Young Werther 1774 Johann Wolfgang von Goethe Deist
79 Candide 1759 Voltaire raised in Jansenism; later Deist
80 Native Son 1940 Richard Wright Seventh-day Adventist; Communist
81 Under the Volcano 1947 Malcolm Lowry Methodist; Anglican; agnostic
82 Oblomov 1859 Ivan Goncharov  
83 Their Eyes Were Watching God 1937 Zora Neale Hurston  
84 Waverley 1814 Sir Walter Scott Anglican
85 Snow Country 1937, 1948 Kawabata Yasunari  
86 Nineteen Eighty-Four 1949 George Orwell Anglican
87 The Betrothed 1827, 1840 Alessandro Manzoni Catholic
88 The Last of the Mohicans 1826 James Fenimore Cooper Episcopalian
89 Uncle Tom's Cabin 1852 Harriet Beecher Stowe Episcopalian; Congregationalist
90 Les Miserables 1862 Victor Hugo Catholic
91 On the Road 1957 Jack Kerouac Catholic; Buddhism
92 Frankenstein 1818 Mary Shelley  
93 The Leopard 1958 Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa Catholic
94 The Catcher in the Rye 1951 J.D. Salinger Jewish Catholic; Scientologist
95 The Woman in White 1860 Wilkie Collins  
96 The Good Soldier Svejk 1921-23 Jaroslav Hasek Catholic
97 Dracula 1897 Bram Stoker Church of Ireland (Anglican)
98 The Three Musketeers 1844 Alexandre Dumas agnostic; Catholic
99 The Hound of Baskervilles 1902 Arthur Conan Doyle Catholic; Spiritualist
100 Gone with the Wind 1936 Margaret Mitchell Catholic

All-Time 100 Best Novels List
100 Best Novels, 1923 to present

Source: Lev Grossman and Richard Lacayo, "TIME's Critics pick the 100 Best Novels, 1923 to present", published in Time Magazine, 2005 (; viewed 31 October 2005):

TIME Critics Lev Grossman and Richard Lacayo pick the 100 best English-language novels from 1923 to the present.

Listed alphabetically by title.

Title Author Religious Affiliation
The Adventures of Augie March Saul Bellow Orthodox Jew (lapsed); Anthroposophist
All the King's Men Robert Penn Warren  
American Pastoral Philip Roth Jewish
An American Tragedy Theodore Dreiser Catholic; Congregationalist; Chrisitan Science
Animal Farm George Orwell Anglican
Appointment in Samarra John O'Hara  
Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret Judy Blume Jewish
The Assistant Bernard Malamud Jewish
At Swim-Two-Birds Flann O'Brien  
Atonement Ian McEwan atheist
Beloved Toni Morrison  
The Berlin Stories Christopher Isherwood Hindu (Vedanta Society)
The Big Sleep Raymond Chandler  
The Blind Assassin Margaret Atwood Humanist
Blood Meridian Cormac McCarthy Catholic
Brideshead Revisited Evelyn Waugh Catholic
The Bridge of San Luis Rey Thornton Wilder Congregationalist
Call It Sleep Henry Roth Jewish
Catch-22 Joseph Heller Jewish
The Catcher in the Rye J.D. Salinger Jewish Catholic
A Clockwork Orange Anthony Burgess Catholic
The Confessions of Nat Turner William Styron  
The Corrections Jonathan Franzen  
The Crying of Lot 49 Thomas Pynchon Catholic; agnostic
A Dance to the Music of Time Anthony Powell  
The Day of the Locust Nathanael West Jewish
Death Comes for the Archbishop Willa Cather Episcopalian
A Death in the Family James Agee Episcopalian
The Death of the Heart Elizabeth Bowen Church of Ireland (Anglican)
Deliverance James Dickey  
Dog Soldiers Robert Stone  
Falconer John Cheever  
The French Lieutenant's Woman John Fowles Atheist
The Golden Notebook Doris Lessing  
Go Tell it on the Mountain James Baldwin  
Gone With the Wind Margaret Mitchell Catholic
The Grapes of Wrath John Steinbeck Episcopalian
Gravity's Rainbow Thomas Pynchon Catholic; agnostic
The Great Gatsby F. Scott Fitzgerald Catholic
A Handful of Dust Evelyn Waugh Catholic
The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter Carson McCullers  
The Heart of the Matter Graham Greene Catholic
Herzog Saul Bellow Orthodox Jew (lapsed); Anthroposophist
Housekeeping Marilynne Robinson  
A House for Mr. Biswas V.S. Naipaul Hindu
I, Claudius Robert Graves occult
Infinite Jest David Foster Wallace  
Invisible Man Ralph Ellison  
Light in August William Faulkner Presbyterian
The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe C.S. Lewis Anglican
Lolita Vladimir Nabokov Russian Orthodox
Lord of the Flies William Golding  
The Lord of the Rings J.R.R. Tolkien Catholic
Loving Henry Green  
Lucky Jim Kingsley Amis  
The Man Who Loved Children Christina Stead  
Midnight's Children Salman Rushdie Islam (lapsed); atheist)
Money Martin Amis agnostic
The Moviegoer Walker Percy raised agnostic Presbyterian; Catholic convert
Mrs. Dalloway Virginia Woolf Neo-pagan
Naked Lunch William Burroughs  
Native Son Richard Wright Seventh-day Adventist; Communist
Neuromancer William Gibson  
Never Let Me Go Kazuo Ishiguro  
1984 George Orwell Anglican
On the Road Jack Kerouac Catholic; Buddhism
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest Ken Kesey  
The Painted Bird Jerzy Kosinski Jewish
Pale Fire Vladimir Nabokov Russian Orthodox
A Passage to India E.M. Forster  
Play It As It Lays Joan Didion  
Portnoy's Complaint Philip Roth Jewish
Possession A.S. Byatt Quaker (lapsed)
The Power and the Glory Graham Greene Catholic
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie Muriel Spark Catholic
Rabbit, Run John Updike Lutheran
Ragtime E.L. Doctorow Jewish
The Recognitions William Gaddis  
Red Harvest Dashiell Hammett  
Revolutionary Road Richard Yates  
The Sheltering Sky Paul Bowles  
Slaughterhouse-Five Kurt Vonnegut Humanist
Snow Crash Neal Stephenson ?
The Sot-Weed Factor John Barth  
The Sound and the Fury William Faulkner Presbyterian
The Sportswriter Richard Ford  
The Spy Who Came in From the Cold John le Carre  
The Sun Also Rises Ernest Hemingway Catholic
Their Eyes Were Watching God Zora Neale Hurston
Things Fall Apart Chinua Achebe  
To Kill a Mockingbird Harper Lee  
To the Lighthouse Virginia Woolf Neo-pagan
Tropic of Cancer Henry Miller  
Ubik Philip K. Dick Episcopalian
Under the Net Iris Murdoch  
Under the Volcano Malcolm Lowry Methodist; Anglican; agnostic
Watchmen Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons ?
White Noise Don DeLillo Catholic
White Teeth Zadie Smith  
Wide Sargasso Sea Jean Rhys  

Multiple Listings:
9 authors wrote
two of the books listed on TIME Magazine's list of the best English-language novels published since 1923:
  • Evelyn Waugh (Brideshead Revisited; A Handful of Dust)
  • George Orwell (1984; Animal Farm)
  • Graham Greene (The Heart of the Matter; The Power and the Glory)
  • Philip Roth (American Pastoral; Portnoy's Complaint)
  • Saul Bellow (The Adventures of Augie March; Herzog)
  • Thomas Pynchon (The Crying of Lot 49; Gravity's Rainbow)
  • Virginia Woolf (Mrs. Dalloway; To the Lighthouse)
  • Vladimir Nabokov (Lolita; Pale Fire)
  • William Faulkner (Light in August; The Sound and the Fury)
Authors on Two Separate Lists
TIME Magazine's list of "100 Best Movies" released since 1923 is a companion to TIME Magazine's list of "100 Best Novels" (written in English) published since 1923. A total of 92 authors are represented on the "Best Novels" list. About 500 directors, writers and starring actors are noted in the "100 Best Movies" list. The names of 3 authors appear on both lists (the 100 Best Novels and 100 Best Movies):
  • J.R.R. Tolkien: author of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, which was adapted to film)
  • Philip K. Dick: author of Ubik on the "100 Best Novels" list; author of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, adapted as Blade Runner on "100 Best Movies" list
  • Raymond Chandler: author of Raymond Chandler on "100 Best Novels" list; screenwriter of Double Indemnity (adapted from James M. Cain's novel) on the "100 Best Movies" list

Notes about how the list was created

Excerpts from: Richard Lacayo, "How We Picked the List" (,24459,our_choices,00.html; viewed 31 October 2005):

...The parameters: English language novels published anywhere in the world since 1923, the year that TIME Magazine began, which, before you ask, means that Ulysses (1922) doesn't make the cut... This [list] is chosen by me, Richard Lacayo, and my colleague Lev Grossman... Grossman and I each began by drawing up inventories of our nominees. Once we traded notes, it turned out that more than 80 of our separately chosen titles matched. (Even some of the less well-known ones, like At-Swim Two Birds.) We decided then that we would more or less divide the remaining slots between us. That would allow each of us to include books that the other might not have chosen. Or might not even have read... And that would extend the list into places where mere agreement wouldn't take it.

...There were writers we had to admit we love more for their short stories than their novels -- Donald Barthelme, Annie Proulx, Flannery O'Connor, Eudora Welty. We could agree that some of Gore Vidal's novels are an essential pleasure, but it's his non-fiction that's essential period. Then there was the intellectual massif of Norman Mailer, indisputably one of the great writers of our time, but his supreme achievements are his headlong reconfigurations of the whole idea of non-fiction, books like Armies of the Night; The Executioner's Song...

This project, which got underway in January, was not just a reading effort. It was a re-reading effort. It meant revisiting a lot of novels both of us had not looked into for some time. A few titles that seemed indispensable some years ago turned out on a second tasting to be, well, dispensable... Lists like this one have two purposes. One is to instruct. The other of course is to enrage. We're bracing ourselves for the e-mails that start out: "You moron! You pathetic bourgeoise insect! How could you have left off...(insert title here)."

100 Books That Shaped World History

The list below comes from the book 100 Books That Shaped World History, Bluewood Books (2002), written by Miriam Raftery.

The books in the list below are NOT ranked by their relative influence. They are listed chronologically.

Epic of Gilgamesh (C. 2700-1500 B.C.)
The Egyptian Book of the Dead (C. 2400-1420 B.C.)
Iliad (C. 800 B.C.)
Aesop's Fables (C. 600-560 B.C.)
Hippocratic Corpus (C. 5th Century B.C.)
The History of Herodotus (C. 440 B.C.)
The Analects of Confucius (429 B.C.)
Republic (C. 378 B.C.)
Nicomachean Ethics (C. 330 B.C.)
On the Republic (51 B.C.)
Koran (C. A.D. 652)
The Tale of Genji (C. 1010)
The Travels of Marco Polo (C. 1300)
The Divine Comedy (C. 1320)
Gutenberg Bible (1455)
The Prince (1513)
Utopia (1516)
Ninety-Five Theses (1517)
The Fabric of the Human Body (1543)
On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres (1543)
Romeo and Juliet (1594)
Don Quixote De La Mancha (1605)
Treatise on Painting (1651)
The Pilgrim's Progress (1678; 1684)
Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy (1689)
Two Treatises of Government (1690)
Robinson Crusoe (1719)
Poor Richard's Almanack (1732-1757)
The Social Contract (1762)
Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (1776)
Common Sense (1776)
The Federalist Papers (1787-1788)
A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792)
Cartagena Manifesto (1812)
Pride and Prejudice (1813)
The Last of the Mohicans (1826)
Nature (1836)
A Christmas Carol (1843)
Tales (1845)
Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass (1845)
Wuthering Heights (1847)
Civil Disobedience (1849)
David Copperfield (1849-1850)
The Scarlet Letter (1850)
Uncle Tom's Cabin (1851-1852)
Moby Dick (1851)
On the Origin of Species (1859)
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865)
Das Kapital (1867)
Little Women (1868)
Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (1870)
The Brothers Karamazov (1879-1880)
Treasure Island (1883)
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884)
War and Peace (1886)
A Study in Scarlet (1887)
The Jewish State (1896)
The War of the Worlds (1898)
The Interpretation of Dreams (1900)
Up From Slavery (1901)
The Story of my Life (1902)
The Call of the Wild (1903)
The Jungle (1906)
Riders of the Purple Sage (1912)
O Pioneers! (1913)
Sons and Lovers (1913)
Relativity: The Special and General Theory (1916)
Siddhartha (1922)
Ulysses (1922)
The Great Gatsby (1925)
Mein Kampf (1925; 1927)
The Sun also Rises (1926)
The Oxford English Dictionary (1928)
All Quiet on the Western Front (1929)
The Sound and the Fury (1929)
The Maltese Falcon (1930)
The Good Earth (1931)
Brave New World (1932)
Story of Civilization (1935-1975)
Gone with the Wind (1936)
The Grapes of Wrath (1939)
Native Son (1940)
The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care (1946)
Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl (1947)
Cry, The Beloved Country (1948)
The Second World War (1948-1954)
The Catcher in the Rye (1951)
Lord of the Flies (1954)
To Kill a Mockingbird (1960)
Catch-22 (1961)
Silent Spring (1962)
The Feminine Mystique (1963)
Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man (1964)
Unsafe at any Speed (1965)
Quotations of Chairman Mao (1966)
One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967)
Bury my Heart at Wounded Knee (1971)
The Gulag Archipelago (1973-1975)
Beloved (1987)
A Brief History of Time, Updated and Expanded (1998)


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