The Top 99 Works of Literature

Frankly, if you're looking for guidance to the books to read to become well read, you're better off dipping into the 999-item, chronological list of The Greatest Works of Literature. More diversity, more to discover, more to enjoy.

But I get it. The nearly thousand entries on that list is daunting.

The ninety-nine works below are all taken from the larger list—selected from hundreds of sources for works from around the world, in all literary forms and from all genres. A point system was used to determine the ninety-nine most honoured titles and their rankings. The points for each item (starting with "497" for the top one) are indicated, in case you're curious.

No claim is made that these really are the ninety-nine best, greatest or most famous works of all time, nor that this is how they really rank in quality. It's a popularity contest really, albeit a high-brow one. It shows you the current consensus on the works most acclaimed by readers, writers, critics and scholars.

As evaluations change over the years—which is inevitable—you'll see this list adjusting as well. Will Madame Bovary remain the world's favourite novel of all time? Will more diverse and modern writers break into the ranks of the western canon? Will Nineteen Eighty-Four still be high on the list as we approach 2084?

In the meantime here are the most noted literary works to help get you started on your project of reading the greatest books ever. Or just to give you something to argue about.   

Click on links in the list for commentaries and other information on selected works and writers.

1. Madame Bovary, Gustave Flaubert, France, novel 497
2. Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy, Russia, novel 445
4. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain, United States, novel 423
5. Hamlet, William Shakespeare, England, play 418
6. War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy, Russia, novel 411
7. Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov, Russia, novel 394
8. The Divine Comedy, Alighieri Dante, Italy, poem 380
9. The Odyssey, Homer, Greece, poem 377
10. Middlemarch, George Eliot, England, novel 366
11. The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald, United States, novel 360
12. Crime and Punishment, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Russia, novel 348
13. Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell, England, novel 337
14. Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen, England, novel 336
      Moby Dick, Herman Melville, United States, novel 336
16. Iliad, Homer, Greece, poem 335
      Oedipus Rex, Sophocles, Greece, play 335
18. Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad, England, novella 325
19. Ulysses, James Joyce, Ireland, novel 320
20. In Search of Lost Time, Marcel Proust, France, novels 314
21. Gulliver's Travels, Jonathan Swift, England, novel 295
22. Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe, Nigeria, novel 288
23. The Brothers Karamazov, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Russia, novel 281
24. Frankenstein, Mary Shelley, England, novel 277
25. Beloved, Toni Morrison, United States, novel 276
26. One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel García Márquez, Colombia, novel 275
27. Antigone, Sophocles, Greece, play 272
28. Candide, François-Marie Arouet de Voltaire, France, novella 269
29. A Doll's House, Henrik Ibsen, Norway, play 267
30. Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë, England, novel 262
31. The Canterbury Tales, Geoffrey Chaucer, England, poems and prose 246
32. The Outsider, Albert Camus, Algeria, novella 245
      The Portrait of a Lady, Henry James, United States, novel 245
34. King Lear, William Shakespeare, England, play 242
35. Les Misérables, Victor-Marie Hugo France, novel 241
36. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll, England, novel 235
      Midnight's Children, Salman Rushdie, India, novel 235
38. The Handmaid's Tale, Margaret Atwood, Canada, novel 231
39. The Tale of Genji, Murasaki Shikibu, Japan, prose narrative 229
      Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison, United States, novel 229
41. Animal Farm, George Orwell, England, novella 227
      Tristram Shandy, Laurence Sterne, England, novel 227
43. Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë, England, novel 222
44. The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck, United States, novel 218
45. Mrs Dalloway, Virginia Woolf, England, novel 216
46. The Time Machine, H.G. Wells, England, novella 211
47. Aeneid, Virgil, Rome, poem 210
48. Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien, England, novel 209
49. The Big Sleep, Raymond Chandler, United States, novel 208
50. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee, United States, novel 205
51. Faust / First Part, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Germany, play 204
52. The Epic of Gilgamesh, Anonymous, Babylon, poem 202
53. Paradise Lost, John Milton, England, poem 201
54. Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque, Edgar Allan Poe, United States, stories 199
55. Medea, Euripides, Greece, play 196
56. David Copperfield Charles Dickens England, novel 193
57. Waiting for Godot Samuel Beckett Ireland, play 192
58. Dracula, Bram Stoker, Ireland, novel 187
59. The Old Man and the Sea, Ernest Hemingway, United States, novella 186
      Othello, William Shakespeare, England, play 186
61. The Metamorphosis, Franz Kafka, Czech, novella 185
      For Whom the Bell Tolls, Ernest Hemingway, United States, novel 183
64. Robinson Crusoe, Daniel Defoe, England, novel 180
65. Great Expectations, Charles Dickens, England, novel 177
66. The War of the Worlds, H.G. Wells, England, novel 176
      The Red and the Black, Stendhal, France, novel 176
68. Wide Sargasso Sea, Jean Rhys, England, novel 175
      The Sorrows of Young Werther, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Germany, novel 175
70. The Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger, United States, novel 174
      Vanity Fair, William Makepeace Thackeray, England, novel 174
72. Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, James Joyce, Ireland, novel 173
73. The Name of the Rose, Umberto Eco, Italy, novel 168
74. Tom Jones, Henry Fielding, England, novel 168
75. The Trial, Franz Kafka, Czech, novel 1678
      The Sound and the Fury, William Faulkner, United States, novel 167
77. The Maltese Falcon, Dashiell Hammett, United States, novel 166
78. One Thousand and One Nights, Anonymous, Persia, stories 162
79. Tess of the D'Urbervilles, Thomas Hardy, England, novel 161
80. The Life of Gargantua and Pantagruel, Francois Rabelais, France, novels 160
81. The Death of Ivan Ilyich, Leo Tolstoy, Russia, novella 158
      Brave New World, Aldous Huxley, England, novel 158
83. The Republic, Plato, Greece, dialogue 156
84. The Golden Notebook, Doris Lessing, England, novel 155
      A Passage to India, E.M. Forster, England, novel 155
86. The Moonstone, Wilkie Collins, England, novel 153
87. Romeo and Juliet, William Shakespeare, England, play 152
88. Macbeth, William Shakespeare, England, play 152
89. The Woman in White, Wilkie Collins, England, novel 151
90. To the Lighthouse, Virginia Woolf, England, novel 150
      Little Women Louisa May Alcott, United States, novel 150
92. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, J.K. Rowling, England, novel 149
93. Dream of the Red Chamber, Cao Xueqin, China, novel 148
94. Emma, Jane Austen, England, novel 147
      Eugene Onegin, Alexander Pushkin, Russia, poem 146
97. The Call of the Wild, Jack London, United States, novella 145
      A Clockwork Orange, Anthony Burgess, England, novel 145
      Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Robert Louis Stevenson, Scotland, novella 145