The Greatest Literature of All Times, Types and Places

Years of research have culminated in Editor Eric's current list of the world's 999 greatest literary works from 2100 BCE to the twenty-first century CE. Select the "Greatest Literature" on this or any page.

Also, check the lists of the greatest novels, novellas, short stories, and plays—plus the top science fiction, fantasy, and crime or mystery works.

On all lists, you can click links to Eric's more than 500 commentaries on authors, books, translations and adaptations of great literature.

Latest Commentaries

Little Women first editionKind hearts and a mother's wisdom

All fiction—all art or entertainment really—is either disturbing or comforting. Most both disturbs and comforts in varying measures. It's why we read: to experience ups and down of life besides our own. Some works create tensions and dangers to stir us up and then resolve them happily to relieve us. Others keep digging to awaken.... Little Women

Mon Ami Maigret first editionThe mind games of Maigret

My Friend Maigret is often ranked among the best of Georges Simenon's Inspector Maigret crime works, if not the best. Which is curious because the novel is somewhat of an anomaly—not the usual Maigret. Which, come to think of it, may not be so strange after all. This short novel's differences from all the other short Maigret novels.... My Friend Maigret

missing graphicContaining the crazy

John Irving writes big books. Yes, long novels—longer than most contemporary works you find on the bestseller lists. But big in so many other ways. Big characters, big themes of the day, big and sprawling stories. And, most gloriously, he's got that knack of creating worlds. Give the first fifty pages—sometimes the first five pages of almost any... John Irving

Empire of the Sun first editionA boy's adventures in the furnace

After his post-apocalyptic tales of psychological horror, after his scandalous work on human mangling and perverse sexuality, J.G. Ballard turned to producing his most conventional, biographical and realistic novel in 1984. And it proved to be his most deeply disturbing work yet. Empire of the Sun is not disturbing in the way of superficially shocking.... Empire of the Sun

Quiet American first editionThe romance to end romanticism

Partway through The Sorrows of Young Werther you might wonder if this is actually a parody of romantic stories. Werther's attachment to his beloved Charlotte, Lotte for short, can come across as a ridiculously over-the-top passion. Or so it may appear to a modern reader. What Werther calls a love for all eternity we would.... The Sorrows of Young Werther

Quiet American first editionThe unquiet Brit and the Americans

The biggest obstacle to properly appreciating The Quiet American is getting past Graham Greene's uncanny political prescience. In the 1950s, when Vietnam wasn't yet on the radar for most Western readers, when U.S. foreign policy and military power were still widely seen as forces to make the world safe for democracy.... The Quiet American

Agatha Christie photoThe great puzzle maker

The least suspicious suspect did it. The victim did it. No one did it. Everyone did it. The narrator did it. The detective did it.... In her novels, stories and stage productions, Agatha Christie rang every possible change on the standard whodunit to keep her readers guessing—usually incorrectly. However one-dimensional her characters.... Agatha Christie

See full menu of Recent Commentaries >>

Genres and extras

Crime and mystery book coverCrime and mystery book coverThe greatest crime works of all time

Editor Eric's list of the 199 greatest works of crime, mystery and detective fiction. Evidence from two hundred years of writing has been sifted and countless witnesses (readers, writers and critics) have been questioned to solve the mystery: what are the greatest stories and novels ever published in this still very popular genre?

Science fiction book coverScience fiction book coverThe greatest SF works of all time

Editor Eric's list of the 199 greatest works of speculative and science fiction—the greatest SF stories and novels published on this planet at least. The earliest, believe it or not, was first printed in 1638 and involved a flight to the moon. The latest of the greatest take us well into the twenty-first century.

Fantasy book coverFantasy book coverThe greatest fantasy literature of all time

Editor Eric's list of the 99 greatest works of fantasy, featuring the greatest stories and novels published in this burgeoning genre. The oldest works go back to ancient times and it's had a persistent following through the centuries. But it's really taken off in recent decades.

Movie sceneMovie sceneMovies (and TV series) for people who love great books

Faithful adaptations or completely different art form? A guide to more than 200 films, film series and television productions based on the greatest works of literature reviewed on these pages. From the serious to the silly, from the authentic to the awful.

Movie sceneMovie sceneThe Greatest Canadian Literature

The best novels, drama and poetry from writers in the Great White North, plus commentaries on selected books and Canadian authors. Canadian literature started obscurely in the early nineteenth century, but since the mid-twentieth century it's ranked among the best—and most acclaimed—in the world.

Toronto Reads

Eric's reviews of Toronto-related books, as published in Streeter and Town Crier community newspapers.
Recent reviews:
Writing Gordon Lightfoot graphic The Hungry Ghosts graphic The Mousehouse Years graphic Take Us to Your Chief graphic The Girl in a Coma graphic No Time to Bury Them graphic DifficultP graphic Difficult People
No Time to Bury Them
The Girl in a Coma
Take Us to Your Chief
The Mousehouse Years
The Hungry Ghosts
Writing Gordon Lightfoot

Features of Note

How works were selected

Wondering what makes this list of great literature the most accurate and most comprehensive. What makes these books the best? Read Editor Eric's account of how the Greatest Literature of All Time list was researched, created, revised and re-created repeatedly over more than twenty years.

What counts as SF?

The story of science fiction and the long, continuing struggle to define it. How Eric settled on the criterion used for his greatest SF list.

Finding the best translations

Much of what you read in English was not written in English. Does it matter? (Short answer: Yes.) What makes the best translation?

Much ado about Shakespeare

Shakespeare's eyes

He's the greatest of course—at least most people think so. So Eric has a lot of off-beat material about the Bard on this site:

William Shakespeare: What was he really about?

The controversy: Was it Shakespeare who wrote Shakespeare's plays?

The histories: What he wrote—and what really happened

What they've said: Not all writers have thought Shakespeare's the best

And, after all that, the plays are the thing:

HamletHenry IV, Part 1Julius CaesarKing LearMacbethOthelloThe Merchant of VeniceRomeo and JulietThe Tempest