The 10 Greatest Books Ever, According to 125 Top Authors (Download Them for Free)

in Books | September 25th, 2013

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Earlier this month, we highlighted The 10 Greatest Films of All Time According to 846 Film Critics. Featuring films by Hitchcock, Kubrick, Welles and Fellini, this master list came together in 2012 when Sight & Sound (the cinema journal of the British Film Institute) asked contemporary critics and directors to name their 12 favorite movies. Nearly 900 cinephiles responded, and, from those submissions, a meta list of 10 was culled.

So how about something similar for books, you ask? For that, we can look back to 2007, when J. Peder Zane, the book editor of the Raleigh News & Observer, asked 125 top writers to name their favorite books — writers like Norman Mailer, Annie Proulx, Stephen King, Jonathan Franzen, Claire Messud, and Michael Chabon. The lists were all compiled in an edited collection, The Top Ten: Writers Pick Their Favorite Books, and then prefaced by one uber list, “The Top Top Ten.”



Zane explained the methodology behind the uber list as follows: “The participants could pick any work, by any writer, by any time period…. After awarding ten points to each first-place pick, nine to second-place picks, and so on, the results were tabulated to create the Top Top Ten List – the very best of the best.”

The short list appears below, along with links to electronic versions of the works. There’s one notable exception, Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita. We couldn’t provide that text, but we do have something special — an audio recording of Nabokov reading a chapter from his controversial 1955 novel.

The texts listed below are permanently housed in our collection of Free eBooks, along with many other classics. In many cases, you’ll find audio versions of the same works in our ever-growing collection of Free Audio Books. If you have questions about how to load files onto your Kindle, please see this related instructional video.

Got an issue with any of the selections? Tell us all about it in the comments section below.

1. Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy

iPad/iPhone – Kindle + Other Formats – Read Online

2. Madame Bovary, by Gustave Flaubert

3. War and Peace, by Leo Tolstoy

4. Lolita, by Vladimir Nabokov

5. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain

6. Hamlet, by William Shakespeare

7. The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald

8. In Search of Lost Time, by Marcel Proust

9. The Stories of Anton Chekhov

10. Middlemarch, by George Eliot

Looking for free, professionally-read audio books from Audible.com? Here’s a great, no-strings-attached deal. If you start a 30 day free trial with Audible.com, you can download two free audio books of your choice. Get more details on the offer here.

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Comments (205)

  1. fishnloaves says . . .
    September 25, 2013 / 5:51 am

    Why is Gatsby on this list? Why is there nothing by Faulkner?

  2. MB says . . .
    September 25, 2013 / 8:48 am

    No Dostoyevsky?!? Are you KIDDING me?! He’s the inventor of the modern novel!!!

  3. finnyfall says . . .
    September 25, 2013 / 8:54 am

    So many of those are boring. Where’s Ulysses?!

  4. Bruce Alan Wilson says . . .
    October 6, 2013 / 1:38 pm

    You wanted something that wasn’t boring, and then you ask for ULYSSES?

  5. Bruce Alan Wilson says . . .
    October 6, 2013 / 1:38 pm

    You wanted something that wasn’t boring, and then you ask for ULYSSES?

  6. Manuel Camblor says . . .
    September 25, 2013 / 8:59 am

    No “Moby-Dick”? Really? And two by Tolstoy on the list is a bit much, I think. Also, no “Don Quijote de la Mancha”? Seriously? And I echo the sentiment of MB. The absence of Dostoyevsky is mind-boggling. Also, “The 10 Greatest Books” list your authors compiled invoves eight novels, one collection of short fiction, and one play. So, there is nothing else to great literature? No non-fiction? No poetry? Hmmmm… Oh, and while we’re bringing up complaints and grievances, the compilers of this list were a bit short on comedy (“Huckleberry Finn” and “Lolita” provide some comedy, but in a sideways sort of fashion).nnnSeriously, guys, a very strange list.

  7. Dana Whaley says . . .
    October 7, 2013 / 11:04 am

    Moby Dick? Never. Bartleby the Scrivener should be here, but not Moby Dick–one of the most boring books I ever read.

  8. Mehmet Arat says . . .
    September 25, 2013 / 9:17 am

    Lists always come with questions and discussions. Who are the “125 Top Authors”? How were they selected? Was a comparison made with a list determined by an alternative “125 Top Authors”?nBut anyway, I believe lists are useful as guides helping readers to notice important works.

  9. Louis Goldworm says . . .
    September 25, 2013 / 12:47 pm

    Agreed ! “Top Ten” In relations to what ? “greatest” Because why ? i.e best read, most sold, best story, I am opposed to list, and number’s to prove a point…

  10. Mehmet Arat says . . .
    September 26, 2013 / 8:46 am

    I think when readers are conscious enough, the lists can be more helpful and meaningful. A list can be like the central meeting place in a city.

  11. Bonnie says . . .
    September 25, 2013 / 9:18 am

    Recently reread Lolita; it doesn’t belong on this list. Wanders widely off base at the end and simply isn’t one of Nabokov’s best. Gatsby’s great but in the top ten? The whole list rates an eh? It’s as if the names were pulled out of a hat.

  12. StepTb says . . .
    September 25, 2013 / 9:18 am

    No Odyssey, no Don Quijote, no Kafka, no Dostoyevsky… not a very solid list.

  13. mariam says . . .
    September 26, 2013 / 12:40 am

    I’m confused too

  14. Bruce Alan Wilson says . . .
    October 6, 2013 / 1:36 pm

    Agreed. And both Anna Karinina and Madame Bovary are about women who committed adultery and couldn’t live with the consequences–one by taking arsenic and the other by throwing herself under a train. One or the other might be on the list, but not both.

  15. Bruce Alan Wilson says . . .
    October 6, 2013 / 1:36 pm

    Agreed. And both Anna Karinina and Madame Bovary are about women who committed adultery and couldn’t live with the consequences–one by taking arsenic and the other by throwing herself under a train. One or the other might be on the list, but not both.

  16. peter says . . .
    September 25, 2013 / 9:28 am

    i guess i’ll be the one to say it? 9 out of 10 by white males and the 10th by a white women writing under the name of a white male? weird/not weird

  17. Anna Hovey says . . .
    September 30, 2013 / 7:59 am

    What does it have to do with being white or any other color????? The masterpiece must be evaluated by it’s depth and beauty, not by the race of the writer. However, this list is highly subjective.

  18. peter says . . .
    October 1, 2013 / 12:41 am

    can i just ask: why does it bother you that i mentioned the race of the writers but not that i mentioned their gender?

  19. racistjew says . . .
    October 11, 2013 / 10:42 am

    STFU Peter. Always someone wanting to bring up race. Get over it.

  20. wellread says . . .
    September 25, 2013 / 9:30 am

    Hmm, no books were ever written in the eastern hemisphere? Either that or this list maker has never read any of them.

  21. N says . . .
    September 25, 2013 / 9:47 am

    There are a ton of russian authors. Eastern hemisphere.

  22. u0392u03b1u03c3u03b9u03bbu03b9u03bau03ae u039cu03bfu03c5u03c3u03c4u03b1u03c6u03adu03c1u03b7 says . . .
    September 25, 2013 / 9:36 am

    no Franz Kafka???no Dostoyevsky???? no James Joyce????no Albert Camus???NO Fernando Pessoa????

  23. IR Vijayan says . . .
    September 25, 2013 / 9:43 am

    Rubbish! 10 greatest books ,without a single title outside Europe-and America

  24. Ricardo Bechelli Barreto says . . .
    September 25, 2013 / 10:10 am

    C’mon. Two Tolstoy books and no Dostoyevsky? Chekhov, Flaubert, Nabokov are excellent writers but they are petty bourgeois compared to authors such as Dostoyevsky, Homer, Balzac, Machado de Assis, Borges, Faulkner, Mishima, Goethe, Joyce…

  25. Ricardo Bechelli Barreto says . . .
    September 25, 2013 / 10:10 am

    C’mon. Two Tolstoy books and no Dostoyevsky? Chekhov, Flaubert, Nabokov are excellent writers but they are petty bourgeois compared to authors such as Dostoyevsky, Homer, Balzac, Machado de Assis, Borges, Faulkner, Mishima, Goethe, Joyce…

  26. Primetime50 says . . .
    September 25, 2013 / 10:14 am

    All big, expansive reads. Shouldn’t Pride & Prejudice be on this list?

  27. Primetime50 says . . .
    September 25, 2013 / 10:14 am

    All big, expansive reads. Shouldn’t Pride & Prejudice be on this list?

  28. Bitte says . . .
    September 25, 2013 / 10:17 am

    Only men, but I suppose only men were asked

  29. Bitte says . . .
    September 25, 2013 / 10:21 am

    And I can see that not only men were asked, but still, only men at the top ten list.

  30. Mark Sullivan says . . .
    September 25, 2013 / 1:14 pm

    What female work would you nominate?

  31. maxhawthorne says . . .
    September 25, 2013 / 3:43 pm

    to the lighthousenle pianiste nto kill a mocking birdnmrs dalloway nbelovednI know why the caged bird singsnthe awakening nnnThose are just off the top of my head and all are better than Gatsby!nnnAlso, to be fair, let’s not forget about the tremendous oppression of female anythings prior to this century, and for that matter, in the present.

  32. peter says . . .
    September 25, 2013 / 10:57 am

    george eliot is a woman, but yeah

  33. Bitte says . . .
    September 25, 2013 / 10:17 am

    Only men, but I suppose only men were asked

  34. Mark Sullivan says . . .
    September 25, 2013 / 11:31 am

    I’m not a big fan, but what about The Bible…? Hamlet isn’t a book, is it? And, at the risk of seeming unduly lowbrow, Dickens deserves a mention.

  35. Zita Helou says . . .
    September 25, 2013 / 11:59 am

    The bible can make it easily to the nntop ten most ridiculous books .

  36. Mark Sullivan says . . .
    September 25, 2013 / 1:11 pm

    Is ridiculousness a disqualifier? I mean, have you read Proust?

  37. rupertmundy says . . .
    September 25, 2013 / 1:08 pm

    Hamlet is a play.

  38. oktayne says . . .
    September 27, 2013 / 9:31 pm

    And not even his best work, imho.nI would easily put Lear or Rick 3 ahead of it.

  39. docbets says . . .
    September 21, 2014 / 2:34 pm

    If it’s between two covers, it’s also a book.

  40. KS says . . .
    September 25, 2013 / 1:48 pm

    Clearly their most favorite favorites but leaving the question of top ten best wide open…

  41. Adam says . . .
    September 25, 2013 / 1:57 pm

    I agree, no Dostoevsky? Then no Faulkner? Almost each book by Dostoevsky is a real masterpiece: Demons, Idiot, Brothers Karamasov!…

  42. badbit says . . .
    September 25, 2013 / 2:06 pm

    No Don Quijote? The greatest novel ever written?

  43. David V. Johnson says . . .
    September 25, 2013 / 3:03 pm

    Don Quixote is #1 on many lists, including mine. And Hamlet isn’t a “book.”

  44. David V. Johnson says . . .
    September 25, 2013 / 3:07 pm

    Also…what about Plato’s Republic? Why restrict “books” to fiction? And if you’re going to add a play, Sophocles Oedipus … hello?

  45. maxhawthorne says . . .
    September 25, 2013 / 3:13 pm

    sad there are ZERO women. The heritage of world culture leaves a feminist wanting…

  46. xhaloidol says . . .
    September 25, 2013 / 3:44 pm

    George Eliot was the pen name of Mary Anne Evans.

  47. maxhawthorne says . . .
    September 25, 2013 / 3:30 pm

    Also, I find these lists petty, if slightly useful for adding classics I’ve missed to my to-read list. How can you compare great works of art and attempt to rank them like a sports team? it’s asinine.

  48. Pigeon Lady says . . .
    September 25, 2013 / 4:01 pm

    The comments have more of interest than the top ten list. There are some good reads posted.

  49. foreignerph says . . .
    November 15, 2013 / 5:31 am

    The comments are always my favorite reads ;-)

  50. enzofloc says . . .
    September 25, 2013 / 5:32 pm

    It seems Kafka and Dostoevsky are too dark and complex for this bunch. Maybe we should select the top ten critics first.

  51. enzofloc says . . .
    September 25, 2013 / 5:44 pm

    “The Top Ten: Writers Pick Their Favorite Books.”nnnnNot necessarily the “greatest” books.

  52. mpjr says . . .
    September 25, 2013 / 6:16 pm

    A list that excludes King Lear, Don Quixote, The Divine Comedy, and The Brothers Karamazov is a list begging to be mocked. nLolita? Really? nFeh.

  53. Mason Kelsey says . . .
    September 25, 2013 / 7:18 pm

    Like any list, it is only a list and can be ignored quite easily.

  54. Tamaresque says . . .
    September 25, 2013 / 7:57 pm

    You people who are bitching about what’s been left off, it’s not the website’s fault. Did you read what the criteria is? “…asked 125 top writers to name their favorite books…” nBlame the writers!nPersonally I don’t agree with a couple of selections, Madame Bovary heads my list. I found it difficult to read because the main character is just so unlikable. Same with Lolita, I hated the lecherous main character and the way he excuses his actions.

  55. poser, the says . . .
    September 25, 2013 / 8:17 pm

    I’M ANGRY AT THIS ARBITRARY LIST OF PERSONAL BIAS TOO!!!! RAHHHH!!!!!! RABBLE RABBLE!

  56. countrydoc1 says . . .
    September 27, 2013 / 2:31 pm

    Best comment on the board. :)

  57. countrydoc1 says . . .
    September 27, 2013 / 2:31 pm

    Best comment on the board. :)

  58. foreignerph says . . .
    November 15, 2013 / 5:30 am

    I particularly liked part of the comment in lower case.

  59. TByers says . . .
    September 25, 2013 / 8:47 pm

    Well, they’re all good books, but of course one could argue endlessly about what is and isn;t here. I’d pick Moby Dick and Absalom, Absalom myself. But my greater concern is that there’s a radical flaw in this. The authors were asked what are their FAVORITE books, and this was translated into what are the GREATEST books. These are probably overlapping lists, but I seriously doubt that for most serious readers they are identical.

  60. David Allen says . . .
    September 25, 2013 / 10:27 pm

    How is everyone missing the point that this isn’t a list of the ten greatest books? Read the article, not just the (misleading) title. This is a list of ten books that were most frequently nominated as favourites by 125 top writers. I’m not sure who everyone is arguing with in their outraged comments.

  61. Marcelo Estrada says . . .
    September 26, 2013 / 12:31 am

    no Joyce, Beckett, Dostoyevsky, Kafka, Marquez, Borges?!!!

  62. Patricia says . . .
    September 26, 2013 / 2:19 am

    This person obviously has a softness for realism/naturalism or tragic pointless deaths (sometimes all combined) nnHamlet, Gatsby and Middlemarch are amongst my favourites, for the rest… not really.

  63. dailyllama says . . .
    September 26, 2013 / 3:07 am

    Stunned. Where is Crime & Punishment ? Ulysses and/or Dubliners ? And what is Gatsby doing in there ?

  64. curtains4u says . . .
    September 26, 2013 / 3:21 am

    shite…. read that.

  65. Cardinal Charles Ng says . . .
    September 26, 2013 / 4:18 am

    It shows that even great writers do not read widely enough.

  66. Cronopio says . . .
    September 26, 2013 / 6:22 am

    No Cortu00e1zar, Borges ….. really funny

  67. Imelda Murphy says . . .
    September 26, 2013 / 6:53 am

    No James Joyce?

  68. Maggie Dodson says . . .
    September 26, 2013 / 5:59 pm

    Only ONE woman writing under a male pseudonym! And what is the balance of male/female amongst the ‘125 Top Authors’ Who decreed these 125 ‘Top’ authors? Who are they?

  69. androphiles says . . .
    October 9, 2013 / 11:26 am

    People who read.

  70. oktayne says . . .
    September 27, 2013 / 9:21 pm

    What bugs me is that there is nothing on this list written after the mid-fifties! Are you seriously telling us that nothing good has been written in the last 50+ years?

  71. AJJ says . . .
    September 28, 2013 / 12:58 pm

    Are you a time traveller?

  72. AJJ says . . .
    September 28, 2013 / 12:58 pm

    Are you a time traveller?

  73. oktayne says . . .
    September 29, 2013 / 3:55 am

    No, but I play one on TV. lol

  74. Igor says . . .
    September 29, 2013 / 8:13 am

    Bulgakov? I would pick “Master and Margarita”, “White Guard”, “Beg” and bump Tolstoy, Chekhov and Nabokov off the top 10 list.nnnBrodsky? Even though he is mostly known for poetry, his prose is great.

  75. SocraticGadfly says . . .
    October 4, 2013 / 6:46 pm

    Wow. Right. No Dostoyevsky? Although relatively “light,” I would have put one of Hesse’s works there somewhere, too. Gatsby? No way. And, if you’re going to include one of Shakespeare’s plays, why not other theater? Lysistrata? Yes, also on Camus.

  76. zevgoldman says . . .
    October 5, 2013 / 7:46 am

    I think this list should have been presented as works of fiction. How was Hamlet listed as a book when it is a stage play?

  77. Ramasamy Balakrishnan says . . .
    October 6, 2013 / 2:40 am

    wonderful list …most of them are tragedies!

  78. disqus_KxAHnCo4Tu says . . .
    October 6, 2013 / 8:05 pm

    This list is by the Gay and Lesbian leage. It is the forerunner to the decadent state of affairs we have today where trash like “Gerry Springer” and ” Real Housewives of …” are more widely viewed than the classics as aired on Masterpiece Theater. It s no wonder that the society is about to disintegrate with critics who view the above list as worthwhile. 80% of the above belongs in the shredder. I am glad I am an old man and my time will end soon…

  79. androphiles says . . .
    October 9, 2013 / 11:25 am

    Where in the world did you come up with a nonsensical idea like that? What is “the Gay and Lesbian leage”? Google it. There’s no such thing.

  80. foreignerph says . . .
    November 15, 2013 / 5:27 am

    He is just an old and grumpy closet queen that thinks it is too late now to come out of the closet.

  81. Terry Ruddy says . . .
    September 24, 2014 / 7:30 pm

    But truly it’s never too late?

  82. djrjr says . . .
    September 24, 2014 / 10:13 pm

    He should also get off my lawn. I have reserved it for the League of Extraordinarily Gay and Lesbian Folk.

  83. foreignerph says . . .
    November 15, 2013 / 5:26 am

    It all started with the railways when the cows stopped giving milk. Civilization is going down the drains since Socrates and Nero.

  84. docbets says . . .
    September 21, 2014 / 2:40 pm

    Well of course that’s true but cows and trains have little to do with it. That most people have never heard of any of these books or authors is more likely the problem.

  85. Hugh Little says . . .
    September 24, 2014 / 6:55 pm

    “80% of the above belongs in the shredder” Seriously? Give your head a shake. Btw, what exactly is the “Gay and Lesbian leage” I’m neither….but just to piss you off I think I’ll sign up….if they’ll have me.

  86. Dana Whaley says . . .
    October 7, 2013 / 11:09 am

    Go Down Moses, Light in August, the Snopes Trilogy by Faulkner. East of Eden by John Steinbeck. Sophie’s Choice by William Stryon. The Color Purple. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Never read anything by Nathaniel Hawthorne or Edgar Allen Poe. Only read short stories by Heminway–a master of them. And always, always read Huckleberry Finn–it is the first excellent American novel and always on point.

  87. Rhet says . . .
    October 10, 2013 / 9:36 pm

    WTF THIS LAST DOESN’T HAVE “SEE SPOT RUN”. IT BELONGS UP THERE IN THE TOP THREE RIGHT BEHIND “SEE SPOT POOP”.

  88. Rhet says . . .
    October 10, 2013 / 9:37 pm

    HERP DERP DUR DE DOO

  89. CSZ says . . .
    October 16, 2013 / 1:12 am

    So arbitrary. No Harper Lee? No Art Of War? Margaret Mitchell?The Brontes? Austen? Come on….WHO are these “writers” anyway?

  90. Ingrid says . . .
    November 14, 2013 / 7:31 am

    Well, all I can say is:nThe russian writers are the best!nAccept that.n

  91. foreignerph says . . .
    November 15, 2013 / 5:23 am

    Russians books are as good as their Tupolevs and their driving skills.

  92. Ingrid says . . .
    November 14, 2013 / 7:47 am

    I would choose Dostoievski as well.nNow thats a good ranking:nhttp://g1.globo.com/platb/files/2286/2013/04/Vencedores.jpg

  93. foreignerph says . . .
    November 15, 2013 / 5:35 am

    I didn’t read any of them. Writers about other writers? That sounds like the madame of a brothel commenting on the performance of the employees of the brothel nextdoor. :-p

  94. Ames361 says . . .
    November 15, 2013 / 7:42 am

    Nice incomplete list. Dante, Jean Gionno, Henry Miller, Alice Walker, Tom Wolfe, Don Delillo, Margaret Atwood,Goldsmith,Dickens,Porter,Roth,Wharton.

  95. derekwashington says . . .
    November 15, 2013 / 1:12 pm

    Nothing by Jackie Collins? I’d much rather read her than some of this drudgery.

  96. Tolga Otabatmaz says . . .
    November 23, 2013 / 8:06 am

    Where is Dostoyevski?? “Crime and Punishment”ndeserves to be in this list.

  97. Dani-madrid says . . .
    December 16, 2013 / 7:16 am

    Unreliable. The lack of Don Quijote is a joke I guess…

  98. Suki says . . .
    January 5, 2014 / 6:06 am

    Are you kidding me!!!! Where is the hunger games or divergent

  99. Catcher says . . .
    January 21, 2014 / 8:28 pm

    Catcher in the Rye

  100. Zo Newell says . . .
    January 24, 2014 / 12:33 pm

    Totally Eurocentric list of 10 greatest books by Western European male writers (except for George Elliott, who was only pretending to be a man) – chosen by whom?

  101. Peter B. Gillis says . . .
    January 24, 2014 / 3:00 pm

    If you can put up ‘The Short Stories of Chekhov,’ you can put up ‘The Plays of Shakespeare.’

  102. Meg says . . .
    January 24, 2014 / 9:49 pm

    So, 125 (male?) authors relish suffering women stories.

  103. Jimmy Drozdenko zerdian. says . . .
    January 25, 2014 / 7:51 am

    Nabakov Lolita seems like a father daughter trickle down Oedipus reversed love affair. Psycholithistory vs Scicolitfuture

  104. abba says . . .
    January 25, 2014 / 8:17 am

    What about Game of Thrones? Or Lord of the Rings? Silmarillion? The Godfather, 100 years of loneliness, the Little prince? The list goes on, come on

  105. BOW says . . .
    January 25, 2014 / 8:46 am

    Opinions are like…, everybody has one. At least no one is suggesting they burn all those not on the “list”.

  106. Txea says . . .
    January 26, 2014 / 6:20 pm

    Why not Joseph Heller’s Catch-22?
    Honestly, the obsession with Russian novelists is hard to understand. And, Madame Bovary? Please.

  107. Dan Colman says . . .
    March 3, 2014 / 5:32 pm

    Hi there,

    Just curious, does anyone know what Facebook page just mentioned our post?

    Thanks,
    Dan (editor)

  108. NIHILISZT says . . .
    September 12, 2014 / 11:05 am

    #1 Divina Commedia n#2 Bhagavad Gitan#3 Don Quixote

  109. Augustine says . . .
    September 29, 2014 / 3:38 am

    Well, considering the deep Christian beliefs of Dante and Cervantes, I feel the Bhagavad Gita should be replaced with the Bible. But, thanks for listing some greats that are overlooked by this trashy list!

  110. Cu00e6sar_Had_Epilepsy says . . .
    September 21, 2014 / 10:41 am

    Ugh!

  111. Anne Dyer Walker says . . .
    September 21, 2014 / 12:00 pm

    i don’t see moby-dick in this list. odd, because the older i get, the more i appreciate its brilliance, both in content and style. it set a high bar for everything that followed. yes, it makes certain demands of the reader, but then, great art should provoke thought and curiosity.

  112. KL InIdaho says . . .
    September 24, 2014 / 5:07 pm

    best comment!

  113. lissener says . . .
    September 21, 2014 / 1:08 pm

    Such a list sans Dickens is not worth its weight in pixels.

  114. Rex J Ablett says . . .
    September 21, 2014 / 3:48 pm

    The Very Hungry Caterpillar didn’t make the list? WTF?!

  115. djrjr says . . .
    September 24, 2014 / 10:10 pm

    Also no “Go The Fuck To Bed”

  116. The Public Sphere says . . .
    September 21, 2014 / 4:43 pm

    They should have read Borges before giving their opinion.

  117. M H says . . .
    September 24, 2014 / 8:26 pm

    Agree. No Mention of Gabriel Garcia Marquez? Simone de Beauvoir?Jorge Luis Borges? Goethe? Nietzche? It seems the list is for highschool level readers within the USA: really really weak literature.

  118. djrjr says . . .
    September 24, 2014 / 10:09 pm

    I think Neitzche didn’t make the cut because it had to be fiction.

  119. The Public Sphere says . . .
    September 21, 2014 / 4:43 pm

    They should have read Borges before giving their opinion.

  120. Very Lou says . . .
    September 21, 2014 / 4:49 pm

    Stendhal: Le rouge et le noir, La chartreuse de Parme…

  121. komal says . . .
    September 22, 2014 / 7:33 am

    I am shocked to see no Jane Austen listed here

  122. Kay Foley says . . .
    September 24, 2014 / 6:16 pm

    She seems to be omitted frequently in these “polls”, which make them completely bogus, in my opinion. She was the predominant European writer, ever.

  123. Hardscrabblehammer says . . .
    September 24, 2014 / 6:44 pm

    She was the predominant European writer, ever? You’re out of your mind.

  124. djrjr says . . .
    September 24, 2014 / 10:36 pm

    If by “the” you mean “a”, and if by “predominant” you mean “pretty good”, and if by If by “European” you mean “British,” and if by “ever” you mean…something else, then…yeah, absolutely.

  125. Tyrell_Corp says . . .
    September 22, 2014 / 8:49 am

    “Middlemarch” is soooo great. Every page contains a perfect, original metaphor, expressed as effortlessly as if gifted from the gods. Fantastically realized characters. And long, a long book, the reader lives in the eponymous town for a surrogate lifetime. Wonderful.

  126. carbonmind says . . .
    September 22, 2014 / 1:32 pm

    What you really mean is “10 good books whose copyright has expired” ! – another article engineered specifically for SEO.

  127. rhin0 says . . .
    September 22, 2014 / 2:23 pm

    All good books, the idea of picking the best 10 is not so great.

  128. John says . . .
    September 23, 2014 / 8:08 am

    All white, all men. Hmmm.

  129. Julie says . . .
    September 24, 2014 / 3:12 am

    FYI George Eliot was the pen name of Mary Ann Evans

  130. Terry Ruddy says . . .
    September 24, 2014 / 7:28 pm

    Why not pretend you can’t see their names, read them and see what you think regardless of gender or race? Of course you can always like what you feel is better – it’s art.

  131. M H says . . .
    September 24, 2014 / 8:23 pm

    Hmmm, some of these are not close to being in my top 50… No Mention of Gabriel Garcia Marquez? Simone de Beauvoir?Jorge Luis Borges? Goethe? Nietzche? It seems the list is for highschool level readers within the USA: really really weak literature.

  132. Ricco Suave says . . .
    September 24, 2014 / 9:29 pm

    Criticize instead of saying something useful. Must be a Democrat huh?

  133. djrjr says . . .
    September 24, 2014 / 9:48 pm

    George Eliot was white but she lacked that certain something.

  134. Rafael Franco says . . .
    September 24, 2014 / 5:11 pm

    really? no Don Quijote?

  135. william flores says . . .
    September 24, 2014 / 5:12 pm

    What parameters those “125 top authors” used?

  136. M H says . . .
    September 24, 2014 / 8:21 pm

    Besides Proust, Tolstoy, and Shakespeare, those are WEAK. Hmmm, some of these are not close to being in my top 50… No Mention of Gabriel Garcia Marquez? Simone de Beauvoir?Jorge Luis Borges? Goethe? Nietzche? It seems the list is for highschool level readers within the USA: really really weak literature.

  137. Leo Theo says . . .
    September 24, 2014 / 9:12 pm

    Yep. Books we read in HS. :)

  138. Open Culture says . . .
    September 24, 2014 / 9:15 pm

    Hi there,nnnWas just curious, could anyone tell us who gave our post a mention on Facebook?nnnThanks nDan (editor)

  139. djrjr says . . .
    September 24, 2014 / 10:07 pm

    Think it was the folks at “Dangerous Minds,” a quite fun place to spend a few idle moments, btw.

  140. Mitchell Harris says . . .
    September 24, 2014 / 11:42 pm

    Yep…I came over after seeing the “Dangerous Minds” Facebook share…so if page hits went up this evening..that is probably why…:)

  141. Christine says . . .
    September 24, 2014 / 11:59 pm

    I came from a link from a “Dangerous Minds” post too…

  142. orion says . . .
    September 24, 2014 / 9:28 pm

    El Felibusterismo by Jose Rizal made waves in the early 20th Century. And is still being read in Europe and the Americas.

  143. djrjr says . . .
    September 24, 2014 / 10:07 pm

    So, Proust, Gatsby and Lolita are the only 20th Century choices to make the Top Ten — and only one of those from the latter half? Interesting. No Ulysses. No Dickens or Bronte sister or Austen or Wharton or Henry James, but Eliot (I actually love “Middlemarch” but…). Heavy on the Russkies. Chekhov and doubling down on Tolstoy, but why no Dostoevsky (I woulda taken “Brothers Karamozov” over “War and Peace”). No Latin or African writers — agree with those who think Marquez or Borges or Vargas Llosa or Achebe could/should have snuck in there. Also, isn’t there ANY late 20th Century, early 21st Century work that measures up? Pynchon? Wallace? Heller? Hell, Vonnegut. And, I know this sounds shitty, and I’m not one of the great 125 writers polled, but gimme Steinbeck’s “Grapes of Wrath” or “East of Eden” over anything Fitzgerald ever wrote any day of the week. In fact, I’ll take Dreiser or even Sinclair Lewis over Fitzgerald. Finally, am I the only one who thinks “Lolita” is just kinda creepy. I will say this. Totally not shocked to see a dearth of Ayn Rand. Let’s all say a prayer for that one.

  144. kate walsh says . . .
    September 25, 2014 / 10:49 am

    Please tell me, who is Achebe?

  145. Ciprianoff Ciprianoff says . . .
    September 24, 2014 / 11:20 pm

    A list without Dostoievsky, Borges, Bulgakov and Sartre it’s not a real list to me! You do your lists and charts and i’ll read what is a real work of art.

  146. Osmos says . . .
    September 25, 2014 / 12:13 am

    respect…

  147. Teresa says . . .
    September 28, 2014 / 8:07 am

    I do respect your opinion but I have to say that these lists and charts are great for me just so I can choose which book to read next since I consider myself pretty young and ignorant when it comes to books

  148. Patrick J. says . . .
    September 25, 2014 / 5:54 am

    Whitman’s Moby dick, Thoreau’s Walden?nnEven on an subjective list, omitting Walt Whitman ..odd

  149. Chuck Howell says . . .
    September 25, 2014 / 8:33 am

    That’s Melville’s MOBY DICK, which would have been on my list for sure…

  150. Chuck Howell says . . .
    September 25, 2014 / 8:46 am

    I’d prefer a list that doesn’t compare apples and oranges – Proust’s entry is actually 7 books (!), and short story collections and dramatic works are not novels (obviously). If the rules are this ill-defined, I would put the complete “Peanuts” by Charles Schultz as issued by Fantagraphics Books on the list!

  151. Christian Khalil Ziadeh says . . .
    September 25, 2014 / 9:27 am

    What about “The Prophet”?

  152. tyrope says . . .
    September 25, 2014 / 10:03 am

    Great Gatsby is the most overrated novel of all times

  153. Mary Gayoso says . . .
    September 25, 2014 / 12:00 pm

    I’ve read all of them and many, many, many more. It’s impossible to put the best in such a small list, there should be at least 100. And it is always a subjective list, so better not do it. The lacking writers are so important! Culture would not be the same without them.

  154. Mary Gayoso says . . .
    September 25, 2014 / 12:00 pm

    I’ve read all of them and many, many, many more. It’s impossible to put the best in such a small list, there should be at least 100. And it is always a subjective list, so better not do it. The lacking writers are so important! Culture would not be the same without them.

  155. thatwave says . . .
    September 25, 2014 / 11:03 pm

    I didn’t find any of these especially great. Lolita in particular was a huge let down. Maybe I will re-read them.

  156. doop says . . .
    September 26, 2014 / 12:34 am

    1. These are all novels. Not all books are novels.nnn2. Two books by Tolstoy, but no Dostoevsky?nnn3. They are all relatively recent books. There is nothing from the ancient authors or anything before the 1800s. Pretty glaring omission, if you ask me.nnn4. Great Gatsby? Really?

  157. doop says . . .
    September 26, 2014 / 12:35 am

    Ok didn’t see Shakespeare on the list….

  158. cortomaltese says . . .
    September 26, 2014 / 4:21 am

    Don Quijote by Cervantes???????

  159. Abhishek says . . .
    September 26, 2014 / 9:29 am

    What about The Hobbit by J.R.R Tolkien….??

  160. David Levine says . . .
    September 26, 2014 / 10:55 am

    I would add certain non fiction such as Darwin’s Origin of the Species.

  161. Orestes says . . .
    September 29, 2014 / 3:35 am

    Sorry Homer, Aeschylus, Virgil, Ovid, Dante, Chaucer, Cervantes, Milton, and Goethe, you didn’t make the cut. This just shows why modern literature is frivolous. “What are the classics but the noblest thoughts recorded by man?” (Thoreau, Walden “Reading).

  162. Michael G says . . .
    October 3, 2014 / 5:35 pm

    Gatsby is a good book, but Emily Bronte did the whole love triangle/boy amasses wealth and prestige to win over girl who rejected him so much better, with more complexity, depth and experimentation in Wuthering Heights. As for 20th Century literature? The Leopard by Guiseppe Lampedusa really is deserving of a place in more of these polls, certainly one of the greatest novels written in my mind.

  163. Praneet Thakur says . . .
    October 5, 2014 / 8:40 am

    A very special editions of Geronimo Stilton is – The hunt for the golden book,The kingdom of fantasy,The amazing voyage, dragon prophecy and the Journey through the time are the very special editions of Geronimo Stilton.I love these kind of books very much.

  164. Dan Colman says . . .
    October 29, 2014 / 4:38 pm

    Just curious, does anyone know what Facebook page just gave our post a mention?

    Thanks in advance,
    Dan (editor)

  165. Joana says . . .
    October 29, 2014 / 5:28 pm
  166. Dan Colman says . . .
    October 29, 2014 / 5:59 pm

    Very cool.

    Thanks for letting me know.
    Dan

  167. Ana says . . .
    November 10, 2014 / 11:21 pm

    No Dostoyevski? Hahah, shame on you ignorant bastard!

  168. Pierre Bastien says . . .
    November 18, 2014 / 11:30 am

    125 top authors and they haven’t heard of Dostoyevski ? Or Austen? Or Homer? This is silly.

  169. lalit sharma says . . .
    December 6, 2014 / 8:43 pm

    just wanted to know some works to read but people’s comments say otherwise… now totally confused

  170. Grace Jung says . . .
    December 11, 2014 / 1:23 pm

    This list is too lily white and full of men. Ms. Eliot is the sole exception as a female, but there are no people of color on this list.

    Why lists like these continue to perpetuate that books written by old white men are to be heralded as the default “great” and the rest are either too “niche” for women and/or PoC or simply not good enough continues to frustrate and even baffle me.

    The more people are exposed to these “top ten” lists that supposedly have great book suggestions which include women and people of color, the more people’s minds can shift. Isn’t that obvious?

    I think curators of such lists need to understand that. I think that the journalists or writers who ASK the question, “What are you favorite books?” or “favorite authors?” need to ask questions that would inspire answers that include contemporary writers who ARE women AND PoC.

    No one’s arguing that those writers up there are good writers. We’ve been TOLD that they are since middle school all the way through college. But we’re not told ENOUGH about writers who happen to be women and PoC.

    That needs to change.

  171. clem richalds says . . .
    December 13, 2014 / 9:37 pm

    Where the red fern grows beeeeatch

  172. saman from iran says . . .
    December 27, 2014 / 1:59 pm

    les misrables of victor hugo is really best best best best novel of all time.victor hugo is my god.go and read les misrables

  173. nbrk says . . .
    January 17, 2015 / 2:13 pm

    The insecure list.

  174. Gilbert Gélinas says . . .
    January 17, 2015 / 2:39 pm

    My favorite author is Émile Zola. I also love Dostoievski

  175. Josh says . . .
    January 17, 2015 / 2:39 pm

    The methodology is faulty. That’s why this list is so bad. This is more like a list of what 125 writers consider the best single book. If you went back to the original authors and asked them what important books are missing, then you’d get a better list.

  176. Mustafa Kaya says . . .
    January 18, 2015 / 2:02 am

    “Les Misrables” is the best of all …

  177. Thomas Renhult says . . .
    January 18, 2015 / 5:41 am

    Only one female author. I’ve read most of the books on that list and not many are as great as Donna Tartt’s The Secret History or Atwood’s Oryx & Crake.

  178. jean-jacques zuber says . . .
    January 18, 2015 / 8:30 am

    C’est une plaisanterie! Vos 125 experts n’ont jamais lu de littérature allemande, italienne, espagnole, entre beaucoup d’autres? Ils n’ont pas entendu parler de Rabelais, de Rousseau ou de Balzac? Ils n’ont pas lu Lawrence, Faulkner, Joyce, Dostoyevski? et tant d’autres.
    Je ne vois que quatre géants dans la liste proposée: Shakespeare, Tolstoï, Proust, Tchékov.

  179. waliyi says . . .
    January 20, 2015 / 3:19 am

    thank you for having this opportunity

  180. Abhishek Pant says . . .
    January 31, 2015 / 3:58 am

    Instead of making a point of a novel den why cant you come and write one novel….Den we all will gonna make comment on dat…..

  181. Mcbert says . . .
    February 20, 2015 / 4:20 pm

    If Don Quixote is not on the list, this is rubbish. The jury should be ashamed of the result. Like the Times list and others, too much fashion, snobism and anglosaxon chauvinism. Also they forgot Dostoievski, Homer and others…
    This is a list made by writers from ALL the world, not your sad “conciliabulo” of suposed top authors
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bokklubben_World_Library

  182. John Butler says . . .
    June 2, 2015 / 9:58 am

    Such lists are quite meaningless: they could have picked another group of distinguished literati who would have come up with something different. However, in the present list I would not include Mark Twain and Fitzgerald. If there are any American writers who have achieved some sort of universality, they would be Melville and Faulkner. I suspect the others were there because it was mostly an American panel and they all read them in school or college. Homer and Sophocles should have been there, as well as Dickens, Dostoevsky, Kafka, Leopoldo Alas and Cervantes (DQ is the greatest novel no-one has actually read today). I would also have added Virginia Woolf. These lists are fun, but reducing them to ten people is arbitrary.

  183. Grubbanax says . . .
    June 21, 2015 / 10:59 am

    No Alain Robbe-Grillet, WIlliam H. Gass or Zamyetin???

  184. benvolio says . . .
    August 9, 2015 / 7:36 am

    I completely agree. Wurthering Heights is one of the greatest novels of all time !

  185. Colin Davey says . . .
    August 12, 2015 / 1:09 am

    Charles Dickens.

  186. Doug says . . .
    October 5, 2015 / 11:03 am

    Where’s Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
    Seriouslys one of the greatest boots ever penned

  187. Doug says . . .
    October 5, 2015 / 11:04 am

    Books dam auto correct

  188. me says . . .
    October 25, 2015 / 3:55 pm

    Hamlet was a book? and Lolita should be no.1

  189. tesio says . . .
    February 2, 2016 / 10:19 am

    greatest novel ever written this is Anna Karenina

  190. Akam says . . .
    February 12, 2016 / 3:44 pm

    Where is Dostoievski!!! Crime and punishment,demons,Idiot… Or you still dont know him!!!

  191. ferrox says . . .
    April 1, 2016 / 9:28 am

    My favorite ten Books, in no particular order:

    -Illuminations by Arthur Rimbaud
    -The Cat Inside by William Burroughs
    -Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov
    -For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway
    -The Twelve Caesars by Suetonius
    -Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable
    -A Lover’s Discourse by Roland Barthes
    -Labyrinths by Jorge Luis Borges
    -Dune by Frank Herbert
    -The Psychoanalysis of Fire by Gaston Bachelard

    I have found that all of these titles rewarded multiple readings. Cheers!

  192. Guus Mulders says . . .
    April 3, 2016 / 5:47 am

    William Faulkner – As I lay dying
    Franz Kafka – The proces
    Thomas Mann – The magic Mountain
    James Joyce – Ulysses
    Dostoyevski – The brothers Karazov

  193. Stefania says . . .
    April 3, 2016 / 1:06 pm

    Certainly, lists are always questionable for their arbitrariness, but the two books you mentioned are indisputable two great masterpieces.

    The literature means metaphors; it means exploration of human beings and it is motivated by the writers’ urgency to investigate the complexity and contradictory human souls’ depth and/or the social relations.

    While Tolstoy’s inspiration is the empathy with the others to understand himself better, and so his novels are always moral, philosophical, sociological exploration, Flaubert’s intent is a social criticism.

    Emma Bovary is a critic of the bourgeoisie whose behavior is determined by appearance and alienation from oneself. Emma married a physician to upgrade her social status. Conversely, she discovers that the “right groom” is only a coarse peasant without either vocation or intellect. He became physician only for the same desire of social climbing that pushed her to marry him. Thus, disappointed not to have found the glittering life that she wanted first she pushes her husband to try a risky surgery hoping to let him get fame so she could enjoy reflex of his glory, successively, this attempt failed, she vents her discontent by looking for love. Unfortunately, selfish, superficial people cannot love, and so she falls in an equivocal and expensive love affair that makes her in debts. Therefore, she swallows rat poison to escape the usurer’s blackmail. Is it a real suicide, or an attempt went over due? The author describes an equivocal situation. Maybe she simulated to get the erase of her debt promissory, or she wanted to overturn her unpleasant situation, or she did not exactly know what she wanted because she cannot introspect. During the trial for obscenity, the writer said “Emma Bovary, c’est moi!” a claim that the obscenity is the appearance’s emptiness and alienation that concern all of us.

    On the contrary Tolstoy’s emotional masterpiece is a complex plot of many stories, e.g. Levin’s Bildungsroman (by the way, Levin=diminutive of Lev, the name of the author), the Oblovsky’s adultery, Nikolai’s illness, etc.

    There is the contraposition of the purity of the idealized countryside life and the corrupt and the hypocrite life of aristocracy, and a deep analysis of social and matrimonial usages, the asymmetry of the husbands that can grant the divorce or deny it, and the wives that are at the mercy of their “owners”. The writer criticizes the pernicious influence of religious fanaticism that forgives lust, but punishes love, and so on.

    At the end, the Anna‘s suicide is the consequence of her and Vroskij’s exile in his estate because of the ostracism for their “Wertherian passion” (Vronskij’s mother’s quote). Her isolation pushes her to doubt of her lover’s feelings and suspect that it was only an infatuation. She asks herself if she sacrificed all of her life, her son, her honored position, her social relations for an illusion. As in the predestination figured in the scenario of her meeting with Vronskij, she throws herself on the tracks, but she does not die immediately. Vronskij gets to the station and founds her on the table of ticket office. She is agonizing, deformed by the broken spine, gibbering in a painful mask. He is upset, and he declares he is going to leave for Crimea’s war, and his mother agrees because she thought he lost his honor. His train trip towards the front is one of the most powerful antimilitarist manifesto indeed the description of players who flee gambling debts, peasants who wish to offer a chance to their families, and so on, shows war as an escape for losers.

    It is impossible to summarize the richness and the beauty of these works and explore all their multifaceted, deep metaphors. Anyway, I had to testify their value.

  194. Roisín Duhb says . . .
    April 5, 2016 / 8:45 pm

    Where. Is. Ulysses????

  195. Wayne Prophet says . . .
    April 10, 2016 / 3:18 pm

    Someone wrote What no Faulkner! Indeed!! Absalom Absalom belongs on this list. I won’t quibble over where on this list it belongs. Replace Huckleberry Finn if you have to.

  196. Gordana Kisic says . . .
    April 11, 2016 / 10:38 am

    Such a poor list, with very low criteria.

  197. Sam says . . .
    April 11, 2016 / 6:12 pm

    This is not the 10 greatest books ever. It’s the 10 greatest books in Europe and US! There are many great books, much greater than many books in this list, in other parts of the world.

  198. Ankita says . . .
    April 21, 2016 / 4:37 am

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  199. yep says . . .
    April 24, 2016 / 3:51 am

    Cormac McCarthy belongs here

  200. Barbara Lang says . . .
    June 28, 2016 / 11:06 am

    Had a ball reading all the comments. Just like comparisons, lists are odious. I’m suggesting a much more recent book, Freedom by Jonathon Franzen. Don’t anyone throw stones. I absolutely loved it. Walter Bergland is my fave. Oh and I agree about Cormac McCarthy. He should be on the odious list as well.

  201. Hektor Atredes says . . .
    July 24, 2016 / 7:18 pm

    A list is a list is a list. Sure, none of the books on this list are bad, most of them are better than bad, they’re good. Are they great? Sure. Personally, I’m glad to see “In Search of Lost Time” but confused by the absence of “Ulysses.” I enjoyed “Wuthering Heights” more than “Pride and Prejudice,” but the latter might be a better choice for such a enumeration. Kafka’s “The Trial” would make my list, but not every reader can relate to it’s sentiment. Then again, I certainly cannot relate to Gatsby. “War and Peace” is massive, but isn’t “Les Miserable” a better story? “Moby Dick,” “Iliad,” and “Odyssey” are all on my list, but that reflects the kinds of books I like to read. My point? My point is that these types of lists serve us best as catalysts for discussion, with civility I would hope, and that such a conversation might lead us to consider a few well aged titles we’d not previously considered.

  202. Gary DeWitt says . . .
    July 25, 2016 / 3:31 pm

    Lolita belongs on most anyone’s top ten list. The Grapes of Wrath should be too. I’ve read many books in my life and several on this list. Here’s a book that few have heard of but should read. The Stones of Summer. It reaches inside of you with the best of them. And I might add Hektor Atredes sentiments about lists was right on the money.

  203. Tom Hamilton says . . .
    August 3, 2016 / 8:06 pm

    The only list that Moby Dick belongs on is the list of most boring novels. God, what drudgery. Rather listen to Ted Cruz all damn night.

  204. John says . . .
    September 7, 2016 / 7:34 pm

    1. Catcher in the Rye
    2. Crime and Punishment
    3. Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
    4. Black Boy
    5. War and Peace
    6. A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court
    7. Palace Walk
    8. The Stranger
    9. The Black Prince
    10. Tie – Rabbit Run and All the Pretty Horses

    Just my take.

  205. Maria S Kottmeier says . . .
    October 19, 2016 / 12:57 pm

    Anglo-centric and biased. Subjective and ultimately pointless.

    I grew up in the company of great writers from Brasil, Spain, Italy and France …and I’m sure many here of Asian descent will also resent no representation of their authors on the list.

    I expected better from this page.

    M.S.Kottmeier

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