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The Greatest Literature Ranked

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 there, more to discover, more to enjoy.

But we get it. The nine hundred and ninety-nine entries on that list can be daunting. So here's a stripped down and ranked version that's easier to handle.

These ninety-nine "top" works are all taken from that larger list—itself selected from thousands of titles and hundreds of sources consulted around the world. A complicated algorithm has been used to determine the rankings. (Read all about the process in "Creating the Greatest Literature of All Time list".)

So, are these really the very best, greatest or most acclaimed works of all time? Possibly. The list purports to show you only a consensus of readers, writers, critics and scholars, which can change over time.

You'll see this list adjusting over time as well. If you're quoting from it in your own work, please cite the revision date. 

Latest update: April 2, 2024

The top 99 works of literature

1. War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy, novel, 1865–1869
3. Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy, novel, 1874
4. Madame Bovary, Gustave Flaubert, novel, 1857
5. The Odyssey, Homer, poem, c. 750 BCE
6. Iliad, Homer, poem, c. 750 BCE
7. One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel García Márquez, novel, 1967
8. Ulysses, James Joyce, novel, 1922
9. Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov, novel, 1955
10. In Search of Lost Time, Marcel Proust, novel, 1913–1927
11. The Divine Comedy, Alighieri Dante, poem, 1307
14. Crime and Punishment, Fyodor Dostoevsky, novel, 1866
15. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain, novel, 1884
16. Moby Dick, Herman Melville, novel, 1851
17. The Brothers Karamazov, Fyodor Dostoevsky, novel, 1880
19. Beloved, Toni Morrison, novel, 1987
20. Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe, novel, 1958
22. Midnight's Children, Salman Rushdie, novel, 1981
23. Frankenstein, Mary Shelley, novel, 1818
25. Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien, novel, 1954–1955
26. Oedipus Rex, Sophocles, play, 430 BCE
28. Middlemarch, George Eliot, novel, 1872
29. Aeneid, Virgil, poem, c.29–19 BCE
30. Hamlet, William Shakespeare, play, 1601
31. Gulliver's Travels, Jonathan Swift, novel, 1726
32. The Name of the Rose, Umberto Eco, novel, 1980
33. Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison, novel, 1952
35. The Tale of Genji, Murasaki Shikibu, novel, c.1020
36. Tristram Shandy, Laurence Sterne, novel, 1759–1767
37. The Oresteia, Aeschylus, play series, 458 BCE
39. Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë, novel, 1847
40. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll, novel, 1865
41. Antigone, Sophocles, play, 442–441 BCE
42. The Trial, Franz Kafka, novel, 1925
43. The Sound and the Fury, William Faulkner, novel, 1929
44. The Portrait of a Lady, Henry James, novel, 1881
45. Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad, novella, 1902
46. The Canterbury Tales, Geoffrey Chaucer, prose and poetry collection, 1387–1400
47. Life of Pi, Yann Martel, novel, 2002
48. Mrs Dalloway, Virginia Woolf, novel, 1925
49. The Outsider, Albert Camus, novella, 1942
50. The Life of Gargantua and Pantagruel, Francois Rabelais, novel series, 1532–1564
51. Brave New World, Aldous Huxley, novel, 1932
52. The Magic Mountain, Thomas Mann, novel, 1924
53. The Metamorphosis, Franz Kafka, novella, 1916
54. The Epic of Gilgamesh, Anonymous, poem, c.2100–1200 BCE
55. Animal Farm, George Orwell, novella, 1945
56. Fictions, Jorge Luis Borges, story collection, 1941–1956
57. The Decameron, Giovanni Boccaccio, story collection, 1348
58. The War of the Worlds, H.G. Wells, novel, 1898
59. Wide Sargasso Sea, Jean Rhys, novel, 1966
61. Les Misérables, Victor-Marie Hugo, novel, 1862
62. Harry Potter, R.K. Rowling, novel series, 1997–2007
64. Gone With the Wind, Margaret Mitchell, novel, 1936
65. Absalom! Absalom!, William Faulkner, novel, 1936
66. The Master and Margarita, Mikhail Bulgakov, novel, 1967
67. Under the Volcano, Malcolm Lowry, novel, 1947
68. A Clockwork Orange, Anthony Burgess, novel, 1962
69. Dracula, Bram Stoker, novel, 1897
71. Medea, Euripides, play, 431 BCE
72. The Golden Notebook, Doris Lessing, novel, 1959
72. One Thousand and One Nights, Anonymous, story collection, c.800–1400
74. Independent People, Halldór Laxness, novel, 1934–1935
75. Candide, Voltaire, novella, 1759
76. Emma, Jane Austen, novel, 1815
77. The Red and the Black, Stendhal, novel, 1831
78. The Sorrows of Young Werther, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, novel, 1774
79. A Sentimental Education, Gustave Flaubert, novel, 1869
80. Paradise Lost, John Milton, poem, 1667
81. King Lear, William Shakespeare, play, c.1606
83. Love in the Time of Cholera, Gabriel García Márquez, novel, 1985
85. The Little Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, novella, 1943
86. Waiting for Godot, Samuel Beckett, play, 1952
87. Slaughterhouse-Five, Kurt Vonnegut, novel, 1969
88. Perfume, Patrick Suskind, novel, 1985
89. The Chronicles of Narnia, C.S. Lewis, novel series, 1950–1956
91. Blindness, José Saramago, novel, 1995
92. The Stories of Anton Chekhov, Anton Chekhov, story collection
93. On the Road, Jack Keroac, novel, 1957
94. The Count of Monte-Cristo, Alexandre Dumas, novel, 1844–1846
95. The Death of Ivan Ilyich, Leo Tolstoy, novella, 1886
96. The Picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde, novel, 1891
97. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Haruki Murakami, novel, 1994–1995
98. Dream of the Red Chamber, Cao Xueqin, novel, 1791–1792
99. Metamorphoses, Ovid, poem, c.8 BCE


Close behind

For your additional reading pleasure, here are a few additional choices that ranked just below the Top 99:

Atonement, Ian McEwan

Les Misérables, Victor-Marie Hugo, novel

A Doll's House, Henrik Ibsen, play

The Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Luo Guanzhong, novel

Faust, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, play

Dead Souls, Nikolai Gogol, novel

Robinson Crusoe, Daniel Defoe, novel

King Lear, William Shakespeare, play

Water Margin, Shi Nai'an, Luo Guanzhong, novel

Doctor Zhivago, Boris Pasternak, novel

Vanity Fair, William Makepeace Thackeray, novel

Journey to the West, Wu Cheng'en, novel

The Hound of the Baskervilles, Arthur Conan Doyle, novel

Tom Jones, Henry Fielding, novel

All Quiet on the Western Front, Erich Maria Remarque, novel

David Copperfield, Charles Dickens, novel

The Hobbitt, J.R.R. Tolkien, novel

Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier, novel

The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, Victor Hugo, novel

Memoirs of Hadrian, Marguerite Yourcenar, novel