The 100 greatest novels of all time:
The case for the defence
Don't like the list? Put your thoughts direct to Robert McCrum
Sunday October 12, 2003
1. Don Quixote Miguel De Cervantes
The story of the gentle knight and his servant Sancho Panza has entranced
readers for centuries.
Buy Don Quixote at Amazon.co.uk
2. Pilgrim's Progress John Bunyan
The one with the Slough of Despond and Vanity Fair.
Buy Pilgrim's Progress at Amazon.co.uk
3. Robinson Crusoe Daniel Defoe
The first English novel.
Buy Robinson Crusoe at Amazon.co.uk
4. Gulliver's Travels Jonathan Swift
A wonderful satire that still works for all ages, despite the savagery
of Swift's vision.
Buy Gulliver's Travels at Amazon.co.uk
5. Tom Jones Henry Fielding
The adventures of a high-spirited orphan boy: an unbeatable plot and
a lot of sex ending in a blissful marriage.
Buy Tom Jones at Amazon.co.uk
6. Clarissa Samuel Richardson
One of the longest novels in the English language, but unputdownable.
Buy Clarissa at Amazon.co.uk
7. Tristram Shandy Laurence Sterne
One of the first bestsellers, dismissed by Dr Johnson as too fashionable
for its own good.
Buy Tristram Shandy at Amazon.co.uk
8. Dangerous Liaisons Pierre Choderlos De Laclos
An epistolary novel and a handbook for seducers: foppish, French,
Buy Les Liaisons Dangereuses at Amazon.co.uk
9. Emma Jane Austen
Near impossible choice between this and Pride and Prejudice. But Emma
never fails to fascinate and annoy.
Buy Emma at Amazon.co.uk
10. Frankenstein Mary Shelley
Inspired by spending too much time with Shelley and Byron.
Buy Frankenstein at Amazon.co.uk
11. Nightmare Abbey Thomas Love Peacock
A classic miniature: a brilliant satire on the Romantic novel.
Buy Nightmare Abbey at Amazon.co.uk
12. The Black Sheep Honore De Balzac
Two rivals fight for the love of a femme fatale. Wrongly overlooked.
Buy The Black Sheep at Amazon.co.uk
13. The Charterhouse of Parma Stendhal
Penetrating and compelling chronicle of life in an Italian court in
Buy The Charterhouse of Parma at Amazon.co.uk
14. The Count of Monte Cristo Alexandre Dumas
A revenge thriller also set in France after Bonaparte: a masterpiece
of adventure writing.
Buy The Count of Monte Cristo at Amazon.co.uk
15. Sybil Benjamin Disraeli
Apart from Churchill, no other British political figure shows literary
Buy Sybil at Amazon.co.uk
16. David Copperfield Charles Dickens
This highly autobiographical novel is the one its author liked best.
Buy David Copperfield at Amazon.co.uk
17. Wuthering Heights Emily Bronte
Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff have passed into the language. Impossible
Buy Wuthering Heights at Amazon.co.uk
18. Jane Eyre Charlotte Bronte
Obsessive emotional grip and haunting narrative.
Buy Jane Eyre at Amazon.co.uk
19. Vanity Fair William Makepeace Thackeray
The improving tale of Becky Sharp.
Buy Vanity Fair at Amazon.co.uk
20. The Scarlet Letter Nathaniel Hawthorne
A classic investigation of the American mind.
Buy The Scarlet Letter at Amazon.co.uk
21. Moby-Dick Herman Melville
'Call me Ishmael' is one of the most famous opening sentences of any
Buy Moby-Dick at Amazon.co.uk
22. Madame Bovary Gustave Flaubert
You could summarise this as a story of adultery in provincial France,
and miss the point entirely.
Buy Madame Bovary at Amazon.co.uk
23. The Woman in White Wilkie Collins
Gripping mystery novel of concealed identity, abduction, fraud and
Buy The Woman in White at Amazon.co.uk
24. Alice's Adventures In Wonderland Lewis Carroll
A story written for the nine-year-old daughter of an Oxford don that
still baffles most kids.
Buy Alice's Adventures in Wonderland at Amazon.co.uk
25. Little Women Louisa M. Alcott
Victorian bestseller about a New England family of girls.
Buy Little Women at Amazon.co.uk
26. The Way We Live Now Anthony Trollope
A majestic assault on the corruption of late Victorian England.
Buy The Way We Live Now at Amazon.co.uk
27. Anna Karenina Leo Tolstoy
The supreme novel of the married woman's passion for a younger man.
Buy Anna Karenina at Amazon.co.uk
28. Daniel Deronda George Eliot
A passion and an exotic grandeur that is strange and unsettling.
Buy Daniel Deronda at Amazon.co.uk
29. The Brothers Karamazov Fyodor Dostoevsky
Mystical tragedy by the author of Crime and Punishment.
Buy The Brothers Karamazov at Amazon.co.uk
30. The Portrait of a Lady Henry James
The story of Isabel Archer shows James at his witty and polished best.
Buy The Portrait of a Lady at Amazon.co.uk
31. Huckleberry Finn Mark Twain
Twain was a humorist, but this picture of Mississippi life is profoundly
moral and still incredibly influential.
Buy Huckleberry Finn at Amazon.co.uk
32. Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde Robert Louis Stevenson
A brilliantly suggestive, resonant study of human duality by a natural
Buy Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde at Amazon.co.uk
33. Three Men in a Boat Jerome K. Jerome
One of the funniest English books ever written.
Buy Three Men in a Boat at Amazon.co.uk
34. The Picture of Dorian Gray Oscar Wilde
A coded and epigrammatic melodrama inspired by his own tortured homosexuality.
Buy The Picture of Dorian Gray at Amazon.co.uk
35. The Diary of a Nobody George Grossmith
This classic of Victorian suburbia will always be renowned for the
character of Mr Pooter.
Buy The Diary of a Nobody at Amazon.co.uk
36. Jude the Obscure Thomas Hardy
Its savage bleakness makes it one of the first twentieth-century novels.
Buy Jude the Obscure at Amazon.co.uk
37. The Riddle of the Sands Erskine Childers
A prewar invasion-scare spy thriller by a writer later shot for his
part in the Irish republican rising.
Buy The Riddle of the Sands at Amazon.co.uk
38. The Call of the Wild Jack London
The story of a dog who joins a pack of wolves after his master's death.
Buy The Call of the Wild at Amazon.co.uk
39. Nostromo Joseph Conrad
Conrad's masterpiece: a tale of money, love and revolutionary politics.
Buy Nostromo at Amazon.co.uk
40. The Wind in the Willows Kenneth Grahame
This children's classic was inspired by bedtime stories for Grahame's
Buy The Wind in the Willows at Amazon.co.uk
41. In Search of Lost Time Marcel Proust
An unforgettable portrait of Paris in the belle epoque. Probably the
longest novel on this list.
Buy In Search of Lost Time at Amazon.co.uk
42. The Rainbow D. H. Lawrence
Novels seized by the police, like this one, have a special afterlife.
Buy The Rainbow at Amazon.co.uk
43. The Good Soldier Ford Madox Ford
This account of the adulterous lives of two Edwardian couples is a
classic of unreliable narration.
Buy The Good Soldier at Amazon.co.uk
44. The Thirty-Nine Steps John Buchan
A classic adventure story for boys, jammed with action, violence and
Buy The Thirty-Nine Steps at Amazon.co.uk
45. Ulysses James Joyce
Also pursued by the British police, this is a novel more discussed
Buy Ulysses at Amazon.co.uk
46. Mrs Dalloway Virginia Woolf
Secures Woolf's position as one of the great twentieth-century English
Buy Mrs Dalloway at Amazon.co.uk
47. A Passage to India E. M. Forster
The great novel of the British Raj, it remains a brilliant study of
Buy A Passage to India at Amazon.co.uk
48. The Great Gatsby F. Scott Fitzgerald
The quintessential Jazz Age novel.
Buy The Great Gatsby at Amazon.co.uk
49. The Trial Franz Kafka
The enigmatic story of Joseph K.
Buy The Trial at Amazon.co.uk
50. Men Without Women Ernest Hemingway
He is remembered for his novels, but it was the short stories that
first attracted notice.
Buy Men Without Women at Amazon.co.uk
51. Journey to the End of the Night Louis-Ferdinand Celine
The experiences of an unattractive slum doctor during the Great War:
a masterpiece of linguistic innovation.
Buy Journey to the End of the Night at Amazon.co.uk
52. As I Lay Dying William Faulkner
A strange black comedy by an American master.
Buy As I Lay Dying at Amazon.co.uk
53. Brave New World Aldous Huxley
Dystopian fantasy about the world of the seventh century AF (after
Buy Brave New World at Amazon.co.uk
54. Scoop Evelyn Waugh
The supreme Fleet Street novel.
Buy Scoop at Amazon.co.uk
55. USA John Dos Passos
An extraordinary trilogy that uses a variety of narrative devices
to express the story of America.
Buy USA at Amazon.co.uk
56. The Big Sleep Raymond Chandler
Introducing Philip Marlowe: cool, sharp, handsome - and bitterly alone.
Buy The Big Sleep at Amazon.co.uk
57. The Pursuit Of Love Nancy Mitford
An exquisite comedy of manners with countless fans.
Buy The Pursuit of Love at Amazon.co.uk
58. The Plague Albert Camus
A mysterious plague sweeps through the Algerian town of Oran.
Buy The Plague at Amazon.co.uk
59. Nineteen Eighty-Four George Orwell
This tale of one man's struggle against totalitarianism has been appropriated
the world over.
Buy Nineteen Eighty-Four at Amazon.co.uk
60. Malone Dies Samuel Beckett
Part of a trilogy of astonishing monologues in the black comic voice
of the author of Waiting for Godot.
Buy Malone Dies at Amazon.co.uk
61. Catcher in the Rye J.D. Salinger
A week in the life of Holden Caulfield. A cult novel that still mesmerises.
Buy Catcher in the Rye at Amazon.co.uk
62. Wise Blood Flannery O'Connor
A disturbing novel of religious extremism set in the Deep South.
Buy Wise Blood at Amazon.co.uk
63. Charlotte's Web E. B. White
How Wilbur the pig was saved by the literary genius of a friendly
Buy Charlotte's Web at Amazon.co.uk
64. The Lord Of The Rings J. R. R. Tolkien
Buy The Lord of the Rings at Amazon.co.uk
65. Lucky Jim Kingsley Amis
An astonishing debut: the painfully funny English novel of the Fifties.
Buy Lucky Jim at Amazon.co.uk
66. Lord of the Flies William Golding
Schoolboys become savages: a bleak vision of human nature.
Buy Lord of the Flies at Amazon.co.uk
67. The Quiet American Graham Greene
Prophetic novel set in 1950s Vietnam.
Buy The Quiet American at Amazon.co.uk
68 On the Road Jack Kerouac
The Beat Generation bible.
Buy On the Road at Amazon.co.uk
69. Lolita Vladimir Nabokov
Humbert Humbert's obsession with Lolita is a tour de force of style
Buy Lolita at Amazon.co.uk
70. The Tin Drum Gunter Grass
Hugely influential, Rabelaisian novel of Hitler's Germany.
Buy The Tin Drum at Amazon.co.uk
71. Things Fall Apart Chinua Achebe
Nigeria at the beginning of colonialism. A classic of African literature.
Buy Things Fall Apart at Amazon.co.uk
72. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie Muriel Spark
A writer who made her debut in The Observer - and her prose is like
Buy The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie at Amazon.co.uk
73. To Kill A Mockingbird Harper Lee
Scout, a six-year-old girl, narrates an enthralling story of racial
prejudice in the Deep South.
Buy To Kill A Mockingbird at Amazon.co.uk
74. Catch-22 Joseph Heller
'[He] would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn't, but
if he was sane he had to fly them. If he flew them he was crazy and
didn't have to; if he didn't want to he was sane and had to.'
Buy Catch-22 at Amazon.co.uk
75. Herzog Saul Bellow
Adultery and nervous breakdown in Chicago.
Buy Herzog at Amazon.co.uk
76. One Hundred Years of Solitude Gabriel Garcia Marquez
A postmodern masterpiece.
Buy One Hundred Years of Solitude at Amazon.co.uk
77. Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont Elizabeth Taylor
A haunting, understated study of old age.
Buy Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont at Amazon.co.uk
78. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy John Le Carre
A thrilling elegy for post-imperial Britain.
Buy Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy at Amazon.co.uk
79. Song of Solomon Toni Morrison
The definitive novelist of the African-American experience.
Buy Song of Solomon at Amazon.co.uk
80. The Bottle Factory Outing Beryl Bainbridge
Macabre comedy of provincial life.
Buy The Bottle Factory Outing at Amazon.co.uk
81. The Executioner's Song Norman Mailer
This quasi-documentary account of the life and death of Gary Gilmore
is possibly his masterpiece.
Buy The Executioner's Song at Amazon.co.uk
82. If on a Winter's Night a Traveller Italo Calvino
A strange, compelling story about the pleasures of reading.
Buy If on a Winter's Night a Traveller at Amazon.co.uk
83. A Bend in the River V. S. Naipaul
The finest living writer of English prose. This is his masterpiece:
edgily reminiscent of Heart of Darkness.
Buy A Bend in the River at Amazon.co.uk
84. Waiting for the Barbarians J.M. Coetzee
Bleak but haunting allegory of apartheid by the Nobel prizewinner.
Buy Waiting for the Barbarians at Amazon.co.uk
85. Housekeeping Marilynne Robinson
Haunting, poetic story, drowned in water and light, about three generations
Buy Housekeeping at Amazon.co.uk
86. Lanark Alasdair Gray
Seething vision of Glasgow. A Scottish classic.
Buy Lanark at Amazon.co.uk
87. The New York Trilogy Paul Auster
Dazzling metaphysical thriller set in the Manhattan of the 1970s.
Buy The New York Trilogy at Amazon.co.uk
88. The BFG Roald Dahl
A bestseller by the most popular postwar writer for children of all
Buy The BFG at Amazon.co.uk
89. The Periodic Table Primo Levi
A prose poem about the delights of chemistry.
Buy The Periodic Table at Amazon.co.uk
90. Money Martin Amis
The novel that bags Amis's place on any list.
Buy Money at Amazon.co.uk
91. An Artist of the Floating World Kazuo Ishiguro
A collaborator from prewar Japan reluctantly discloses his betrayal
of friends and family.
Buy An Artist of the Floating World at Amazon.co.uk
92. Oscar And Lucinda Peter Carey
A great contemporary love story set in nineteenth-century Australia
by double Booker prizewinner.
Buy Oscar and Lucinda at Amazon.co.uk
93. The Book of Laughter and Forgetting Milan Kundera
Inspired by the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968, this is
a magical fusion of history, autobiography and ideas.
Buy The Book of Laughter and Forgetting at Amazon.co.uk
94. Haroun and the Sea af Stories Salman Rushdie
In this entrancing story Rushdie plays with the idea of narrative
Buy Haroun and the Sea of Stories at Amazon.co.uk
95. La Confidential James Ellroy
Three LAPD detectives are brought face to face with the secrets of
their corrupt and violent careers.
Buy LA Confidential at Amazon.co.uk
96. Wise Children Angela Carter
A theatrical extravaganza by a brilliant exponent of magic realism.
Buy Wise Children at Amazon.co.uk
97. Atonement Ian McEwan
Acclaimed short-story writer achieves a contemporary classic of mesmerising
Buy Atonement at Amazon.co.uk
98. Northern Lights Philip Pullman
Lyra's quest weaves fantasy, horror and the play of ideas into a truly
great contemporary children's book.
Buy Northern Lights at Amazon.co.uk
99. American Pastoral Philip Roth
For years, Roth was famous for Portnoy's Complaint . Recently, he
has enjoyed an extraordinary revival.
Buy American Pastoral at Amazon.co.uk
100. Austerlitz W. G. Sebald
Posthumously published volume in a sequence of dream-like fictions
spun from memory, photographs and the German past.
Buy Austerlitz at Amazon.co.uk
Who did we miss?
So, are you congratulating yourself on having read everything on
our list or screwing the newspaper up into a ball and aiming it at
the nearest bin?
Are you wondering what happened to all those American writers from
Bret Easton Ellis to Jeffrey Eugenides, from Jonathan Franzen to Cormac
Have women been short-changed? Should we have included Pat Barker,
Elizabeth Bowen, A.S. Byatt, Penelope Fitzgerald, Doris Lessing and
What's happened to novels in translation such as Bulgakov's The Master
and Margarita, Hesse's Siddhartha, Mishima's The Sea of Fertility,
Süskind's Perfume and Zola's Germinal?
Writers such as J.G. Ballard, Julian Barnes, Anthony Burgess, Bruce
Chatwin, Robertson Davies, John Fowles, Nick Hornby, Russell Hoban,
Somerset Maugham and V.S. Pritchett narrowly missed the final hundred.
Were we wrong to lose them?
Let us know what you think. Send your own suggestions for the 100
best books ever to: