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

ak cover 2

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 (and traditional published editions). There’s one notable exception, Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita. We couldn’t provide that electronic 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

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

Related Content:

1,700 Free Online Courses from Top Universities.

The Ten Greatest Films of All Time According to 358 Filmmakers

1,000 Free Audio Books: Download Great Books for Free.

Nabokov Reads Lolita, Names the Great Books of the 20th Century

18 (Free) Books Ernest Hemingway Wished He Could Read Again for the First Time

Neil deGrasse Tyson Lists 8 (Free) Books Every Intelligent Person Should Read

F. Scott Fitzgerald Creates a List of 22 Essential Books, 1936

Download 55 Free Online Literature Courses: From Dante and Milton to Kerouac and Tolkien

by | Permalink | Comments (220) |

Support Open Culture

We’re hoping to rely on our loyal readers rather than erratic ads. To support Open Culture’s educational mission, please consider making a donation. We accept PayPal, Venmo (@openculture), Patreon and Crypto! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Comments (220)
You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.
  • fishnloaves says:

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

  • MB says:

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

  • finnyfall says:

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

  • Manuel Camblor says:

    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.

    • Dana Whaley says:

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

  • Mehmet Arat says:

    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.

    • Louis Goldworm says:

      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…

      • Mehmet Arat says:

        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.

  • Bonnie says:

    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.

  • StepTb says:

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

    • mariam says:

      I’m confused too

    • Bruce Alan Wilson says:

      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.

    • Bruce Alan Wilson says:

      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.

  • peter says:

    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

    • Anna Hovey says:

      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.

  • wellread says:

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

  • u0392u03b1u03c3u03b9u03bbu03b9u03bau03ae u039cu03bfu03c5u03c3u03c4u03b1u03c6u03adu03c1u03b7 says:

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

  • IR Vijayan says:

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

  • Ricardo Bechelli Barreto says:

    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…

  • Ricardo Bechelli Barreto says:

    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…

  • Primetime50 says:

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

  • Primetime50 says:

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

  • Bitte says:

    Only men, but I suppose only men were asked

    • Bitte says:

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

      • Mark Sullivan says:

        What female work would you nominate?

        • maxhawthorne says:

          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.

    • peter says:

      george eliot is a woman, but yeah

  • Bitte says:

    Only men, but I suppose only men were asked

  • Mark Sullivan says:

    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.

  • rupertmundy says:

    Hamlet is a play.

  • KS says:

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

  • Adam says:

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

  • badbit says:

    No Don Quijote? The greatest novel ever written?

  • David V. Johnson says:

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

  • David V. Johnson says:

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

  • maxhawthorne says:

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

  • maxhawthorne says:

    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.

  • Pigeon Lady says:

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

  • enzofloc says:

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

  • enzofloc says:

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

  • mpjr says:

    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.

  • Mason Kelsey says:

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

  • Tamaresque says:

    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.

  • poser, the says:


  • TByers says:

    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.

  • David Allen says:

    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.

  • Marcelo Estrada says:

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

  • Patricia says:

    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.

  • dailyllama says:

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

  • curtains4u says:

    shite…. read that.

  • Cardinal Charles Ng says:

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

  • Cronopio says:

    No Cortu00e1zar, Borges ….. really funny

  • Maggie Dodson says:

    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?

  • oktayne says:

    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?

  • Igor says:

    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.

  • SocraticGadfly says:

    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.

  • zevgoldman says:

    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?

  • Ramasamy Balakrishnan says:

    wonderful list …most of them are tragedies!

  • disqus_KxAHnCo4Tu says:

    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…

    • androphiles says:

      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.

    • foreignerph says:

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

      • docbets says:

        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.

    • Hugh Little says:

      “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.

  • Dana Whaley says:

    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.

  • Rhet says:


  • CSZ says:

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

  • Ingrid says:

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

  • Ingrid says:

    I would choose Dostoievski as well.nNow thats a good ranking:n

  • foreignerph says:

    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

  • Ames361 says:

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

  • derekwashington says:

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

  • Tolga Otabatmaz says:

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

  • Dani-madrid says:

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

  • Suki says:

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

  • Catcher says:

    Catcher in the Rye

  • Zo Newell says:

    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?

  • Peter B. Gillis says:

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

  • Meg says:

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

  • Jimmy Drozdenko zerdian. says:

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

  • BOW says:

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

  • Txea says:

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

  • NIHILISZT says:

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

    • Augustine says:

      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!

  • Cu00e6sar_Had_Epilepsy says:


  • Anne Dyer Walker says:

    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.

  • lissener says:

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

  • Rex J Ablett says:

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

  • They should have read Borges before giving their opinion.

    • M H says:

      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.

  • They should have read Borges before giving their opinion.

  • Very Lou says:

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

  • komal says:

    I am shocked to see no Jane Austen listed here

    • Kay Foley says:

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

      • Hardscrabblehammer says:

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

        • djrjr says:

          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.

  • Tyrell_Corp says:

    “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.

  • carbonmind says:

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

  • rhin0 says:

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

  • Julie says:

    FYI George Eliot was the pen name of Mary Ann Evans

  • Rafael Franco says:

    really? no Don Quijote?

  • william flores says:

    What parameters those “125 top authors” used?

  • Terry Ruddy says:

    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.

  • M H says:

    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.

  • M H says:

    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.

  • Open Culture says:

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

  • orion says:

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

  • Ricco Suave says:

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

  • djrjr says:

    George Eliot was white but she lacked that certain something.

  • djrjr says:

    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.

  • Ciprianoff Ciprianoff says:

    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.

  • Patrick J. says:

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

  • Chuck Howell says:

    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!

  • Christian Khalil Ziadeh says:

    What about “The Prophet”?

  • tyrope says:

    Great Gatsby is the most overrated novel of all times

  • Mary Gayoso says:

    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.

  • Mary Gayoso says:

    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.

  • thatwave says:

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

  • doop says:

    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?

  • cortomaltese says:

    Don Quijote by Cervantes???????

  • Abhishek says:

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

  • David Levine says:

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

  • Orestes says:

    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).

  • Michael G says:

    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.

  • Praneet Thakur says:

    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.

  • Ana says:

    No Dostoyevski? Hahah, shame on you ignorant bastard!

  • Pierre Bastien says:

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

  • lalit sharma says:

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

  • Grace Jung says:

    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.

  • clem richalds says:

    Where the red fern grows beeeeatch

  • saman from iran says:

    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

  • nbrk says:

    The insecure list.

  • Gilbert Gélinas says:

    My favorite author is Émile Zola. I also love Dostoievski

  • Josh says:

    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.

  • Mustafa Kaya says:

    “Les Misrables” is the best of all …

  • Thomas Renhult says:

    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.

  • jean-jacques zuber says:

    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.

  • waliyi says:

    thank you for having this opportunity

  • 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…..

  • Mcbert says:

    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

  • John Butler says:

    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.

  • Grubbanax says:

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

  • benvolio says:

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

  • Colin Davey says:

    Charles Dickens.

  • Doug says:

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

  • Doug says:

    Books dam auto correct

  • me says:

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

  • tesio says:

    greatest novel ever written this is Anna Karenina

  • Akam says:

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

  • ferrox says:

    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!

  • Guus Mulders says:

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

  • Stefania says:

    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.

  • Wayne Prophet says:

    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.

  • Gordana Kisic says:

    Such a poor list, with very low criteria.

  • Sam says:

    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.

  • Ankita says:

    I want to see the list of India’s top author book. Your website is very informative I just search about latest jobs in I found your website is very useful for latest updates about education and students. Who want to know about education I bookmark your site and also recruitment to all of my friends.

  • yep says:

    Cormac McCarthy belongs here

  • Barbara Lang says:

    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.

  • Hektor Atredes says:

    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.

  • Gary DeWitt says:

    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.

  • Tom Hamilton says:

    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.

  • John says:

    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.

  • Maria S Kottmeier says:

    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.


  • Andrei says:

    125 of the most prominent living writers submitted their individual Top Tens from which this cumulative list was compiled, using the standard points formula. did you not read the methodology of this list? take up your grievances with the likes of Norman Mailer, Annie Proulx, Stephen King, Jonathan Franzen, Claire Messud, and Michael Chabon since they are the compilers.

  • Uberman777 says:

    Stfu sjw faggot

  • Susan Turi says:

    It is impossible to pick 10 and even if you listed 100 you would still leave out someone’s favorite.

    But, nice try.

  • Flavia says:

    No James Baldwin? No Thoreau?

  • Flavia says:

    Catcher in the Rye, yes. Thank you.

  • Chris says:

    Boring? Are you kidding me? It is the most vivid and tumultuous romp imaginable – from beginning to end. Try again

  • Elizabeth Scarratt says:

    Dickens is hardly lowbrow!

  • GJ says:

    Russian Far East is very sparsely inhabited; populated Russia is part of Europe and the Russian language is indoeuropean. It’s a lot of shared culture with Western Europe and America. I live in Japan and have read many novels from India, China Korea, Japan that moved millions and would move you too. This list needs to open up!!

  • Sonavats says:

    Astounding! I must say that it is a very comprehensive information! I like everything! Thankful for sharing. If you want to get more about this topic then visit here:

  • Denia says:

    As a literature major in college, I would LOVE to know what you would include on the list! I know it would necessarily be subjective; but at least I’d have the opinion of at least ONE avid reader not living in the west.
    Since García-Marquez’s death, my favorite living author is Murakami BUT I discovered him by accident!

    I am a child of the American/European educational system. Some of my favorites are Voltaire, Kafka, Twain, Camus, Huxley, Austen, Borges, etc. I’d really like to expand that. Would you mind recommending?

    And thank you in advance!

  • Pangolin says:

    Oh, FFS – George Eliot was a woman – Mary Anne Evans. Not that I’m defending this idiotic list in the least. Problem #1 – two by Tolstoi? #2 Hamlet is a play, not a book. #3 As pointed out above, the thematic duplication of Anna Karenina and Madame Bovary. #4 Much as I like Chekhov, an anthology doesn’t count. #5 The Great Gatsby?!? Really? #6 Lolita? Meh.
    #7 No Ulysses? #8 No Iliad? #9 No Quixote? #10 I could go on, but I’ve made my point

    It’s a ridiculous list.

  • Chris Basten says:

    Hamlet is not a book.

  • vinay khatwani says:

    Why no Crime and Punishment by Dostovesky???

  • Kat Granz says:

    agreed – came here to state that. While I’m super sad to see only one woman (who had to write under a male name, surely to even be published), it did ask women writers to submit lists.

    Too many here are not taking into consideration how the list was curated/formulated.

    What I would love to see is writers of all time who have made comments about who their favorite writers were. Surely there are plenty of media archives giving information from interviews and such. To know who Tolstoy enjoyed reading, that would be something.

  • Art Kinch says:

    As a Chemical Engineering major in college, I would go with either:
    1. Momentum, Heat and Mass Transfer, McCabe & Smith, or
    2. Bossypants, Tina Fey

  • Bryan Johnston says:

    The Great Gatsby is unreadable. One of the most overrated novels in the English language. And Hamlet? Don’t get me wrong, it’s a classic. But it’s a play meant to be seen and heard, not read.

  • James says:

    1984 and Dracula should be in any top ten. 1984 as a warning and Dracula because it brought horror into the modern(ish) era and spawned a massive genre.

  • Laurent Utang says:

    Only old white men writing about their desire to get laid and what distractions they turn to when they realize getting laid isn’t as easy as they hoped, but with elaborate words… of course…

  • Laurent Utang says:

    African literature is a fascinating untapped resource. I have only recently started exploring it and already added Ahmadou Kourouma, Pie Tshibanda and Mariama Bâ to my personal pantheon.

  • CS Reddy says:

    Do you realize how like a lot of ‘best of…’ lists how Western-centric and therefore how skewed and possibly irrelevant the list feels in today’s times.
    I would really like to see such efforts be more inclusive of the corpus of world literature – not in a patronizing way – but for the greater benefit and exposure to all concerned.
    This of course in no way takes away from the merit of the works in the list. It is only to bring attention to the utterly pompous title – 10 Greatest Books Ever!

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.