Everyone that considers themselves a well-read person is at least somewhat familiar with some of the books we’ve included on this list. A versatile reader delves into many different genres before sticking to a favorite, and even then will occasionally step out of their comfort zone.
But what makes a great book a timeless classic, one that generations to come will appreciate?
First of all, the way the story is narrated is key, but the story itself is important as well. It has to catch the attention of different types of readers from all over the globe in order to be considered an amazing book.
We tried to include books from a wide spectrum of genres in this list, some written as recently as a few years ago, to some dating from a few centuries ago.
A true reader is probably familiar with the titles of all these books, even if they didn’t get around to read them all. But you can rest assured they have the intention of reading them at some point in the near future.
Let’s see which are the 30 best books of all time, in our humble opinion. We feel all of them are great books for mind, and they are all equally important and definitely worth reading. You can form your own opinions on them and read them in any particular order you choose to.
30. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Published in 1866, this tale of cat and mouse transpires following a murder. The game between the murderer and the detective is quite entertaining, but written in classic prose that was typical of the 19th century. An acute description of an investigation that will leave you intrigued.
29. The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri
A truly poetic masterpiece, this book is one of the greatest works in literature ever. This moving human drama touches on the spheres of Paradise, Hell, and Purgatory. This visionary journey will transport you to a different era that we cannot imagine belonging in our contemporary world.
28. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
One of the greatest British novels ever, Wuthering Heights was written in 1847. A brave and ahead of its time piece of literature that is still assigned in schools today. Bronte was a genius in her time, even though women writers in those days were extremely rare. It observes a non-linear narrative that is beautifully written.
27. Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
A throughout examination of a woman’s life from 1910 until her death. Although a work of fiction, you might wonder if it’s a true story while reading it. Atkinson writes with amazing emotional intelligence, and scrutinizes her heroine’s family history with acute fictional construction.
26. In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust
An incomparable work in literature, Proust manages to create a seven part cycle that introduces themes that are present throughout the series. A narration of his childhood, it is describes in a unique way that no other author before and after him succeeded in doing.
25. The Stranger by Albert Camus
French author Camus is another literary genius of teh previous century. Published in 1946, the Stranger is a story of a man that gets drawn into a senseless murder on an Algerian beach. The absurdity of the whole story is what makes this novel one of the most popular works of literature ever.
24. The Iliad by Homer
Part one of this literary masterpiece, Homer wrote this epic poem in the eighth century BC, but it was first published in English in 1581. The story is set in the Trojan War, and Homer covers the last two weeks of the war. It alludes to the many Greek legends that captivated us. The Odyssey, by the same author, is the other ancient Greek poem that is a sequel to the Iliad.
23. Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes
Considered one of the greatest works of fiction of all time, this tale was written in the early 1600s. The novel transports you into the life of Alonso Quixano, a retired man that became obsessed with books of chivalry. Those closest to him are worried he’s lost his mind from getting caught up in the imaginary world from the books he’s reading.
22. Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
Speculating about the havoc science can create in your world, this first dystopian MaddAddam trilogy became an instant classic. Atwood is a contemporary genius that shows us with literature that big corporations cannot be trusted. A speculative work that will surely make you think about the state of the world.
21. Why Be Happy When You Can Be Normal? By Jeanette Winterson
An urgent memoir that will surely move the reader. Based on experiences from her own life, Winterson unleashes the sorrow she’s felt when her step-mother kicked her out of her home when she was sixteen because she prefers girls over boys. A harrowing tale of sexuality and prejudice, one that will make you rethink any hangups you might have.
20. The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
Didion, recently deceased, is a must-read contemporary author. She has a unique style that can be perceived as precise yet cold. This book is an account of bereavement following the author’s husband’s collapse in their home from a fatal heart attack. She wrote many novels that are notable, such as Play it as it Lays.
19. The Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein
An urgent examination of the integral functioning of the free market. She bluntly tries to make the reader aware of the human suffering and disasters that are necessary in order for the system to work. An eye-opening into the capitalist world we are living in. A non-fiction book that is a necessary read.
18. Autumn by Ali Smith
This seasonal quartet by Smith was prompted by the EU referendum. Written in 2016, this is considered the “first Brexit novel”. It is more than just a snapshot of the divided Britain, but also an exploration of life and death, dreams and art, and love. She follows it with Winter, Spring, and Summer.
17. One Thousand and One Nights by Arabian Nights Authors
A compilation of Middle Eastern folktales that took place during the Islamic Golden Age. The first English translation dates back to the early 1700s. The literary work of art was collected through centuries, and it is an inspiration for several Disney cartoon movies children love.
16. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
Ishiguro is a Nobel Laureate that writes profound novels worthy of all the literary awards. The way he dissects nationalism, history, and individual’s place in the world is different to say the least. He has a way of looking at things that is not obvious at first read. This novel explores loss and mortality through an exquisite lens.
15. A Death in the Family by Karl Ove Knausgaard
Translate by Don Bartlett in 2012, this Norwegian author has been compared to the Proust of memoirs. This is a first installment of a self-examining series titled My Struggle which contains six volumes. The story revolves around the authors struggle with his fathers alcoholism and death, and it is written with compulsive honesty.
14. Hamlet by William Shakespeare
Written between 1599 and 1601, this tragic tale is set in Denmark. Prince Hamlet sets to get revenge against his uncle Claudius with the intention of avenging his father’s death. One of the most influential works in literature ever written, Hamlet is also one of the longest plays ever. There have been many adaptations of this work throughout the years.
13. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
Infamous for its controversial subject matter, it is one of the most popular books to be ever written. Russian-American Nabokov wrote this piece of literature in 1955. Humbert Humbert, a middle-aged literature professor, becomes obsessed with his 12 year-old step-daughter. After he starts molesting her she becomes his Lolita. This tale of inappropriate sexual obsession still makes many must read lists today.
12. Atonement by Ian McEwan
A historical fiction book that takes place during WW2, the novel develops on a misunderstanding that affects the lives of two lovers in catastrophic ways. The author makes readers question the way we construct our narratives and leaves us wondering about it for a long time afterwards.
11. Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari
An engaging work that documents numerous revolutions the human species underwent through the centuries. An inspirational book that will let you think differently about science and industry, cognitive reasoning, and other leaps humans have made in the area of biotechnology and information.
10. A Brief History Of Time by Stephen Hawking
World-renowned physicist Stephen Hawking brings us this internationally acclaimed masterpiece. Exploring some of the most important questions about how the universe works, it is an enlightened read that is quite easy to follow. It explains theories of space and time, the cosmos, and his views on those topics.
9. Beloved by Toni Morrison
Set after the American Civil War, the novel is a legacy of slavery and the impact it had on Sethe, who had to make the biggest sacrifice in order to save her child from slavery. Heartbreaking and haunting, Morisson enthralls you into a different world that we cannot imagine living in. The book was actually inspired by a true story.
8. Ulysses by James Joyce
Irish writer James Joyce created this masterpiece in 1922, after a few years of working on it. Considered one of the most important modernist works of literature, Ulysses documents a day in the life of itinerant Leopold Bloom.
The story may seem banal, but the way the author makes allusions to different writing styles pertaining to different periods of English literature is brilliant. Not an easy read, but definitely worth considering.
7. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
Even though the author was the subject of some controversy for the last couple of years, this is an important book that deserves its praise. Protagonist Harry Potter is an unwanted child that was sent to live with his aunt and uncle once he became an orphan. His adventures begin once he is sent to Hogwarts, the boarding school for wizards. It is an especially popular book with children and young adults.
6. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
Once you read this story, we guarantee it will stay with you for a long time. It tells the story of a young Amir boy as he grows up in revolutionary times. The events that unfolded in the winter of 1975 shaped him forever, and themes of regret, redemption, and friendship are prevalent throughout the novel. A culturally rich story that is full of important lessons to be learned. If you haven’t heard of Hosseini, he’s a must go-to contemporary author.
5. A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
Written in 2015, this gay melodrama became one of the best American novels of the year. Heart wrenching and deeply sad, it follows the lives of four close friends starting in college and way into adulthood. The aftermath of the abuse that one of the characters endured will not leave you unmoved in any way. Prepare yourself to be deeply affected by this novel.
4. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
The book that brought Scandinavian Nordic Noir to the scene. Before Larsson, this genre of thriller was unknown, so you can say he was a pioneer by writing this series. He managed to write the first three books before he passed away in 2005.
Young hacker Lisbeth Salander and journalist Mikael Blomkvist form an unlikely alliance that leads them to discover some very disturbing crimes connected to one of the most powerful Swedish families.
3. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
One of the most popular English novels ever written, it is quite possible you had it as assigned reading in school. Austen wrote this timeless piece of literature in 1813, it is an iconic love story between Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy. The wit and avant-garde thinking that Austen was brave to touch upon at the time inspired many movie and TV adaptations.
2. Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Beautifully written, this book features a main protagonist that has dubious motives by today’s standards. A classic that gives us hope about long lasting love that could find us at any moment in our lives. A powerful love story that was first published in English in 1988. There is also a movie adaptation that is a pretty accurate account of the book.
1. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
A love story that withstands the test of time, the book runs two parallel stories. That of Anna, an irresistible young lady, who is married to cold Karenina, and Levin, who shows a shy-type of love for Kitty. Written in the nineteenth century, it remains a beloved classic even today. If you consider yourself a well-read person, this book is an absolute must read.
There are so many more amazing books that we can consider must-reads, but we made this list of the 30 best books of all time in hopes to get you in the mood to read again. Are you familiar with any of these novels? If you’ve read any of them, do you agree that they are truly inspirational literary works?
- 30. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
- 29. The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri
- 28. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
- 27. Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
- 26. In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust
- 25. The Stranger by Albert Camus
- 24. The Iliad by Homer
- 23. Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes
- 22. Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
- 21. Why Be Happy When You Can Be Normal? By Jeanette Winterson
- 20. The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
- 19. The Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein
- 18. Autumn by Ali Smith
- 17. One Thousand and One Nights by Arabian Nights Authors
- 16. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
- 15. A Death in the Family by Karl Ove Knausgaard
- 14. Hamlet by William Shakespeare
- 13. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
- 12. Atonement by Ian McEwan
- 11. Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari
- 10. A Brief History Of Time by Stephen Hawking
- 9. Beloved by Toni Morrison
- 8. Ulysses by James Joyce
- 7. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
- 6. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
- 5. A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
- 4. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
- 3. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
- 2. Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
- 1. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy