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
1Don Quixote1605, 1630Miguel de CervantesCatholic
2War and Peace1869Leo TolstoyRussian Orthodox
3Ulysses1922James JoyceCatholic (lapsed)
4In Search of Lost Time1913-27Marcel ProustJewish Catholic
5The Brothers Karamazov1880Feodor DostoevskyRussian Orthodox
6Moby-Dick1851Herman MelvilleTranscendentalist
7Madame Bovary1857Gustave FlaubertCatholic
8Middlemarch1871-72George EliotAnglican; agnostic
9The Magic Mountain1924Thomas MannLutheran
10The Tale of Genji11th CenturyMurasaki ShikibuBuddhist/Shinto culture
11Emma1816Jane AustenAnglican
12Bleak House1852-53Charles DickensAnglican
13Anna Karenina1877Leo TolstoyRussian Orthodox
14Adventures of Huckleberry Finn1884Mark TwainPresbyterian
15Tom Jones1749Henry Fielding 
16Great Expectations1860-61Charles DickensAnglican
17Absalom, Absalom!1936William FaulknerPresbyterian
18The Ambassadors1903Henry JamesAnglican
19One Hundred Years of Solitude1967Gabriel Garcia MarquezCatholic
20The Great Gatsby1925F. Scott FitzgeraldCatholic
21To The Lighthouse1927Virginia WoolfNeo-pagan
22Crime and Punishment1866Feodor DostoevskyRussian Orthodox
23The Sound and the Fury1929William FaulknerPresbyterian
24Vanity Fair1847-48William Makepeace Thackeray 
25Invisible Man1952Ralph Ellison 
26Finnegans Wake1939James JoyceCatholic (lapsed)
27The Man Without Qualities1930-43Robert MusilCatholic
28Gravity's Rainbow1973Thomas PynchonCatholic; agnostic
29The Portrait of a Lady1881Henry JamesAnglican
30Women in Love1920D. H. Lawrence 
31The Red and the Black1830StendhalCatholic
32Tristram Shandy1760-67Laurence SterneAnglican (Church of Ireland clergyman)
33Dead Souls1842Nikolai GogolRussian Orthodox
34Tess of the D'Urbervilles1891Thomas Hardy 
35Buddenbrooks1901Thomas MannLutheran
36Le Pere Goriot1835Honore de BalzacCatholic
37A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man1916James JoyceCatholic (lapsed)
38Wuthering Heights1847Emily BronteAnglican
39The Tin Drum1959Gunter GrassCatholic
40Molloy; Malone Dies; The Unnamable1951-53Samuel BeckettChurch of Ireland (Anglican)
41Pride and Prejudice1813Jane AustenAnglican
42The Scarlet Letter1850Nathaniel HawthorneTranscendentalist
43Fathers and Sons1862Ivan TurgenevRussian Orthodox; agnostic
44Nostromo1904Joseph ConradCatholic; atheist
45Beloved1987Toni Morrison 
46An American Tragedy1925Theodore DreiserCatholic; Congregationalist; Chrisitan Science
47Lolita1955Vladimir NabokovRussian Orthodox
48The Golden Notebook1962Doris Lessing 
49Clarissa1747-48Samuel Richardson 
50Dream of the Red Chamber1791Cao Xueqin 
51The Trial1925Franz KafkaJewish
52Jane Eyre1847Charlotte BronteAnglican
53The Red Badge of Courage1895Stephen CraneMethodist
54The Grapes of Wrath1939John SteinbeckEpiscopalian
55Petersburg1916/1922Andrey BelyRussian Orthodox; Theosophy; Spiritualism
56Things Fall Apart1958Chinue Achebe 
57The Princess of Cleves1678Madame de Lafayette 
58The Stranger1942Albert CamusCatholic; Existentialism
59My Antonia1918Willa CatherEpiscopalian
60The Counterfeiters1926Andre Gide 
61The Age of Innocence1920Edith Wharton 
62The Good Soldier1915Ford Madox FordCatholic; agnostic
63The Awakening1899Kate ChopinCatholic
64A Passage to India1924E. M. Forster 
65Herzog1964Saul BellowOrthodox Jew (lapsed); Anthroposophist
66Germinal1855Emile ZolaCatholic
67Call It Sleep1934Henry RothJewish
68U.S.A. Trilogy1930-38John Dos PassosCatholic
69Hunger1890Knut Hamsun 
70Berlin Alexanderplatz1929Alfred DoblinCatholic
71Cities of Salt1984-89'Abd al-Rahman Munif 
72The Death of Artemio Cruz1962Carlos FuentesCatholic
73A Farewell to Arms1929Ernest HemingwayCatholic
74Brideshead Revisited1945Evelyn WaughCatholic
75The Last Chronicle of Barset1866-67Anthony TrollopeAnglican
76The Pickwick Papers1836-67Charles DickensAnglican
77Robinson Crusoe1719Daniel DefoeProtestant Dissenter (Presbyterian)
78The Sorrows of Young Werther1774Johann Wolfgang von GoetheDeist
79Candide1759Voltaireraised in Jansenism; later Deist
80Native Son1940Richard WrightSeventh-day Adventist; Communist
81Under the Volcano1947Malcolm LowryMethodist; Anglican; agnostic
82Oblomov1859Ivan Goncharov 
83Their Eyes Were Watching God1937Zora Neale Hurston 
84Waverley1814Sir Walter ScottAnglican
85Snow Country1937, 1948Kawabata Yasunari 
86Nineteen Eighty-Four1949George OrwellAnglican
87The Betrothed1827, 1840Alessandro ManzoniCatholic
88The Last of the Mohicans1826James Fenimore CooperEpiscopalian
89Uncle Tom's Cabin1852Harriet Beecher StoweEpiscopalian; Congregationalist
90Les Miserables1862Victor HugoCatholic
91On the Road1957Jack KerouacCatholic; Buddhism
92Frankenstein1818Mary Shelley 
93The Leopard1958Giuseppe Tomasi di LampedusaCatholic
94The Catcher in the Rye1951J.D. SalingerJewish Catholic; Scientologist
95The Woman in White1860Wilkie Collins 
96The Good Soldier Svejk1921-23Jaroslav HasekCatholic
97Dracula1897Bram StokerChurch of Ireland (Anglican)
98The Three Musketeers1844Alexandre Dumasagnostic; Catholic
99The Hound of Baskervilles1902Arthur Conan DoyleCatholic; Spiritualist
100Gone with the Wind1936Margaret MitchellCatholic

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.

TitleAuthorReligious Affiliation
The Adventures of Augie MarchSaul BellowOrthodox Jew (lapsed); Anthroposophist
All the King's MenRobert Penn Warren 
American PastoralPhilip RothJewish
An American TragedyTheodore DreiserCatholic; Congregationalist; Chrisitan Science
Animal FarmGeorge OrwellAnglican
Appointment in SamarraJohn O'Hara 
Are You There God? It's Me, MargaretJudy BlumeJewish
The AssistantBernard MalamudJewish
At Swim-Two-BirdsFlann O'Brien 
AtonementIan McEwanatheist
BelovedToni Morrison 
The Berlin StoriesChristopher IsherwoodHindu (Vedanta Society)
The Big SleepRaymond Chandler 
The Blind AssassinMargaret AtwoodHumanist
Blood MeridianCormac McCarthyCatholic
Brideshead RevisitedEvelyn WaughCatholic
The Bridge of San Luis ReyThornton WilderCongregationalist
Call It SleepHenry RothJewish
Catch-22Joseph HellerJewish
The Catcher in the RyeJ.D. SalingerJewish Catholic
A Clockwork OrangeAnthony BurgessCatholic
The Confessions of Nat TurnerWilliam Styron 
The CorrectionsJonathan Franzen 
The Crying of Lot 49Thomas PynchonCatholic; agnostic
A Dance to the Music of TimeAnthony Powell 
The Day of the LocustNathanael WestJewish
Death Comes for the ArchbishopWilla CatherEpiscopalian
A Death in the FamilyJames AgeeEpiscopalian
The Death of the HeartElizabeth BowenChurch of Ireland (Anglican)
DeliveranceJames Dickey 
Dog SoldiersRobert Stone 
FalconerJohn Cheever 
The French Lieutenant's WomanJohn FowlesAtheist
The Golden NotebookDoris Lessing 
Go Tell it on the MountainJames Baldwin 
Gone With the WindMargaret MitchellCatholic
The Grapes of WrathJohn SteinbeckEpiscopalian
Gravity's RainbowThomas PynchonCatholic; agnostic
The Great GatsbyF. Scott FitzgeraldCatholic
A Handful of DustEvelyn WaughCatholic
The Heart Is A Lonely HunterCarson McCullers 
The Heart of the MatterGraham GreeneCatholic
HerzogSaul BellowOrthodox Jew (lapsed); Anthroposophist
HousekeepingMarilynne Robinson 
A House for Mr. BiswasV.S. NaipaulHindu
I, ClaudiusRobert Gravesoccult
Infinite JestDavid Foster Wallace 
Invisible ManRalph Ellison 
Light in AugustWilliam FaulknerPresbyterian
The Lion, The Witch and the WardrobeC.S. LewisAnglican
LolitaVladimir NabokovRussian Orthodox
Lord of the FliesWilliam Golding 
The Lord of the RingsJ.R.R. TolkienCatholic
LovingHenry Green 
Lucky JimKingsley Amis 
The Man Who Loved ChildrenChristina Stead 
Midnight's ChildrenSalman RushdieIslam (lapsed); atheist)
MoneyMartin Amisagnostic
The MoviegoerWalker Percyraised agnostic Presbyterian; Catholic convert
Mrs. DallowayVirginia WoolfNeo-pagan
Naked LunchWilliam Burroughs 
Native SonRichard WrightSeventh-day Adventist; Communist
NeuromancerWilliam Gibson 
Never Let Me GoKazuo Ishiguro 
1984George OrwellAnglican
On the RoadJack KerouacCatholic; Buddhism
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's NestKen Kesey 
The Painted BirdJerzy KosinskiJewish
Pale FireVladimir NabokovRussian Orthodox
A Passage to IndiaE.M. Forster 
Play It As It LaysJoan Didion 
Portnoy's ComplaintPhilip RothJewish
PossessionA.S. ByattQuaker (lapsed)
The Power and the GloryGraham GreeneCatholic
The Prime of Miss Jean BrodieMuriel SparkCatholic
Rabbit, RunJohn UpdikeLutheran
RagtimeE.L. DoctorowJewish
The RecognitionsWilliam Gaddis 
Red HarvestDashiell Hammett 
Revolutionary RoadRichard Yates 
The Sheltering SkyPaul Bowles 
Slaughterhouse-FiveKurt VonnegutHumanist
Snow CrashNeal Stephenson?
The Sot-Weed FactorJohn Barth 
The Sound and the FuryWilliam FaulknerPresbyterian
The SportswriterRichard Ford 
The Spy Who Came in From the ColdJohn le Carre 
The Sun Also RisesErnest HemingwayCatholic
Their Eyes Were Watching GodZora Neale Hurston
Things Fall ApartChinua Achebe 
To Kill a MockingbirdHarper Lee 
To the LighthouseVirginia WoolfNeo-pagan
Tropic of CancerHenry Miller 
UbikPhilip K. DickEpiscopalian
Under the NetIris Murdoch 
Under the VolcanoMalcolm LowryMethodist; Anglican; agnostic
WatchmenAlan Moore and Dave Gibbons?
White NoiseDon DeLilloCatholic
White TeethZadie Smith 
Wide Sargasso SeaJean 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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