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The Top 99 Greatest Works of Literature

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 a better 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 recent years.

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 the current ninety-nine 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: December 31, 2022

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

1. War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy, novel 467
2. Madame Bovary, Gustave Flaubert, novel 465
    Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy, novel 457
5. Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov, novel 439
6. Crime and Punishment, Fyodor Dostoevsky, novel 417
7. The Odyssey, Homer, poem 369
8. One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel García Márquez, novel 365
9. In Search of Lost Time, Marcel Proust, novels 359
11. The Brothers Karamazov, Fyodor Dostoevsky, novel 355
12. Iliad, Homer, poem 351
13. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain, novel 348
14. Ulysses, James Joyce, novel 330
15. Oedipus Rex, Sophocles, play 314
17. Moby Dick, Herman Melville, novel 306
19. Middlemarch, George Eliot, novel 299
21. Frankenstein, Mary Shelley, novel 284
23. Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe, novel 279
      Beloved, Toni Morrison, novel 279
25. Midnight's Children, Salman Rushdie, novel 276
26. Antigone, Sophocles, play 273
27. The Divine Comedy, Alighieri Dante, poem 268
28. The Tale of Genji, Murasaki Shikibu, prose narrative 266
29. The Portrait of a Lady, Henry James, novel 262
30. Gulliver's Travels, Jonathan Swift, novel 261
31. The Outsider, Albert Camus, novella 256
33. Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien, novel 247
35. Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison, novel 243
36. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll, novel 234
37. Les Misérables, Victor-Marie Hugo, novel 232
40. Candide, Voltaire, novella 223
41. The Life of Gargantua and Pantagruel, Francois Rabelais, novel series 221
43. Life of Pi, Yann Martel, novel 214
44. The Name of the Rose, Umberto Eco, novel 212
45. Doctor Zhivago, Boris Pasternak, novel 208
46. A Doll's House, Henrik Ibsen, play 204
47. Animal Farm, George Orwell, novella 203
48. Faust, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, play 202
49. The Oresteia, Aeschylus, play series 198
52. Waiting for Godot, Samuel Beckett, play 193
      Medea, Euripides, play 193
      The Count of Monte-Cristo, Alexandre Dumas, novel 193
      The Red and the Black, Stendhal, novel 193
56. A Clockwork Orange, Anthony Burgess, novel 192
57. Dead Souls, Nikolai Gogol, novel 191
      The Death of Ivan Ilyich, Leo Tolstoy, novella 191
      The Metamorphosis, Franz Kafka, novella 191
60. The War of the Worlds, H.G. Wells, novel 190
61. The Stories of Anton Chekhov, Anton Chekhov, story collection 189
62. The Trial, Franz Kafka, novel 188
64. The Sorrows of Young Werther, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, novel 184
65. Eugene Onegin, Alexander Pushkin, poem 181
66. The Sound and the Fury, William Faulkner, novel 180
      Paradise Lost, John Milton, poem 178
69. Robinson Crusoe, Daniel Defoe, novel 177
      A Passage to India, E.M. Forster, novel 177
71. Vanity Fair, William Makepeace Thackeray, novel 175
72. A Sentimental Education, Gustav Flaubert, novel 173
      Brave New World, Aldous Huxley, novel 173
76. Journey to the West, Wu Cheng'en, novel 170
      The Tin Drum, Günter Grass, novel 170
      Wide Sargasso Sea, Jean Rhys, novel 170
79. The God of Small Things, Arundhati Roy, novel 170
80. The Canterbury Tales, Geoffrey Chaucer, poetry and prose 166
      The Maltese Falcon, Dashiell Hammett, novel 166
83. Dracula, Bram Stoker, novel 165
      On the Road, Jack Kerouac, novel 165
85. Perfume: The Story of a Murderer, Patrick Suskind, novel 164
86. The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, Victor Hugo, novel 163
      David Copperfield, Charles Dickens, novel 163
      Magic Mountain, Thomas Mann, novel 163
      Memoirs of Hadrian, Marguerite Yourcenar, novel 131
90. The Spy Who Came in From the Cold, John Le Carré, novel 162
      The Master and Margarita, Mikhail Bulgakov, novel 162
92. Pedro Páramo, Juan Rulfo, novel 161
93. Aeneid, Virgil, poem 160
      The Idiot, Fyodor Dostoevsky, novel 160
      The Cherry Orchard, Anton Chekhov, play 160
      Atonement, Ian McEwan, novel 160
97. Gone With the Wind, Margaret Mitchell, novel 159
98. Dream of the Red Chamber, Cao Xueqin, novel 158
99. Fathers and Sons, Ivan Turgenev, novel 156

 
Contenders

That's the current top 99. For your additional reading pleasure, here's a score of 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:

Tom Jones, Henry Fielding, novel
One Thousand and One Nights, Anonymous, stories
Mahābhārata, Vyasa, epic poem
Old Goriot, Honoré de Balzac, novel
Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier, novel
The Importance of Being Earnest, Oscar Wilde, play
The Time Machine, H.G. Wells, novella
The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne, novel
The Confessions of Zeno, Italo Svevo, novel