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Literature's Top 99

Frankly, if you're looking for the books to help you become well read, you're better off dipping into our chronological list of the Greatest Literature of All Time. More diversity, more to discover, more to enjoy.

But we get it. The nearly thousand entries on that list can be daunting. Here's a stripped down version that's easier to handle.

The ninety-nine works below are all taken from that larger list—itself selected from hundreds of sources from around the world. The points system used in "Creating the Greatest Literature of All Time list" is adopted here to rank them. The points for each of the top titles below are indicated, to give you an idea of their relative ratings.

Are these really the ninety-nine best, greatest or most honoured works of all time? Maybe. But the list purports to shows you only the consensus on the works most acclaimed by readers, writers, critics and scholars as of this moment.

As evaluations change over time, you'll see this list adjusting as well. Will the works of Cervantes, Flaubert and Tolstoy continue to joust for the top spot as the world's favourite novel? (They've traded positions a couple of times already.) Will more diverse and modern writers break into the top ranks? Will the controversial Lolita drop in appreciation as we progress into this century. Will Nineteen Eighty-Four still rank high as we approach 2084? 

In the meantime here are ninety-nine of the currently most noted literary works to help you along in your project of reading the greatest books ever. Or just to give you something to argue about.

Latest update: October 6, 2022

The Top 99 greatest works of literature of all time

Click linked titles and authors for details, critiques and other comments.

2. War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy, novel 401
5. Madame Bovary, Gustave Flaubert, novel 389
3. Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy, novel 374
4. Crime and Punishment, Fyodor Dostoevsky, novel 370
6. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain, novel 325
7. Oedipus Rex, Sophocles, play 311
    The Odyssey, Homer, poem 311
10. Moby Dick, Herman Melville, novel 303
11. Iliad, Homer, poem 298
13. Middlemarch, George Eliot, novel 291
      The Brothers Karamazov, Fyodor Dostoevsky, novel 291
15. The Divine Comedy, Alighieri Dante, poem 281
16. The Tale of Genji, Murasaki Shikibu, prose narrative 276
17. Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov, novel 272
19. Gulliver's Travels, Jonathan Swift, novel 264
21. Candide, Voltaire, novella 254
22. In Search of Lost Time, Marcel Proust, novels 251
23. Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe, novel 245
25. Frankenstein, Mary Shelley, novel 243
28. Ulysses, James Joyce, novel 228
      One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel García Márquez, novel 228
30. Beloved, Toni Morrison, novel 224
31. The Canterbury Tales, Geoffrey Chaucer, poems and prose 223
32. Antigone, Sophocles, play 222
33. A Doll's House, Henrik Ibsen, play 221
35. Faust, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, play 212
36. Midnight's Children, Salman Rushdie, novel 211
      Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison, novel 207
39. The Outsider, Albert Camus, novella 205
40. Animal Farm, George Orwell, novella 204
41. Les Misérables, Victor-Marie Hugo, novel 202
42. The Portrait of a Lady, Henry James, novel 198
43. Aeneid, Virgil, poem 196
44. Medea, Euripides, play 192
48. Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë, novel 180
49. The Red and the Black, Stendhal, novel 179
50. The Life of Gargantua and Pantagruel, Francois Rabelais, novel series 177
      Mrs Dalloway, Virginia Woolf, novel 177
52. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll, novel 176
      One Thousand and One Nights, Anonymous, stories 175
55. Wide Sargasso Sea, Jean Rhys, novel 172
      Tom Jones, Henry Fielding, novel 172
57. Dracula, Bram Stoker, novel 171
58. Dead Souls, Nikolai Gogol, novel 170
      Emma, Jane Austen, novel 170
60. Journey to the West, Wu Cheng'en, novel 168
62. The Death of Ivan Ilyich, Leo Tolstoy, novella 166
63. Vanity Fair, William Makepeace Thackeray, novel 165
      A Sentimental Education, Gustav Flaubert, novel 165
65. The Idiot, Fyodor Dostoevsky, novel 163
      The Sorrows of Young Werther, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, novel 163
67. Robinson Crusoe, Daniel Defoe, novel 160
68. The Metamorphosis, Franz Kafka, novella 159
69. The Golden Notebook, Doris Lessing, novel 158
70. The Trial, Franz Kafka, novel 155
72. The Decameron, Giovanni Boccaccio, story cycle 152
73. Jacques the Fatalist and His Master, Denis Diderot, novel 148
74. The Time Machine, H.G. Wells, novella 147
      The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne, poem 147
      Fathers and Sons, Ivan Turgenev, novel 146
78. Eugene Onegin, Alexander Pushkin, poem 144
      One Day in the life of Ivan Denisovich, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, novella 144
80. Waiting for Godot, Samuel Beckett, play 143
82. Paradise Lost, John Milton, poem 141
      Dream of the Red Chamber, Cao Xueqin, novel 141
84. The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, Victor Hugo, novel 138
      Macbeth, William Shakespeare, play 138
      The War of the Worlds, H.G. Wells, novel 137
88. The Sound and the Fury, William Faulkner, novel 136
89. A Hero of Our Time, Mikhail Lermontov, novel 135
      The Big Sleep, Raymond Chandler, novel 135
91. The Name of the Rose, Umberto Eco, novel 134
93. The Last of the Mohicans, James Fenimore Cooper, novel 132
      The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck, novel 132
95. The Last of the Mohicans, Alessandro Manzoni, novel 131
      Memoirs of Hadrian, Marguerite Yourcenar, novel 131
      Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Italo Svevo, novel 128
99. The Confessions of Zeno, Italo Svevo, novel 128

 
Contenders

That's the current top 99 but, for your reading pleasure, here are a couple dozen more titles that either just missed the cut or slipped off earlier versions of this list and—who knows?—may reappear on future editions of this list:

Old Goriot, Honoré de Balzac, novel
The Count of Monte-Cristo, Alexandre Dumas, novel
Pedro Páramo, Juan Rulfo, novel
Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien, novel
A Passage to India, E.M. Forster, novel
Life of Pi, Yann Martel, novel
A Clockwork Orange, Anthony Burgess, novel
The Cherry Orchard, Anton Chekhov, play
Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier, novel
The Importance of Being Earnest, Oscar Wilde, play
Mahābhārata, Vyasa, epic poem
Atonement, Ian McEwan, novel