I'm a firm believer that everybody should read more good literature. Whether you're a voracious bookworm or a reluctant reader, here are 10 fiction works that you should get our nose into. They span a number of literary periods and genres; from gothic horror to comedy sci-fi, so there truly is something for everyone.
10 Novels Everyone Should Read
There is an endless number of works of great literature. However, these 10 novels are ones that everybody should read at least once.
What Makes a ‘Great’ Read?
Of course, a love of literature, like a love of anything else, is a very subjective thing. And, there is clearly no formula to which all works of literary genius comply. Instead, there is always something indescribably brilliant about truly great novels; something that is impossible to quantify and something that many authors would give their right arms to be able to replicate.
As you can tell by the titles listed below, there is not a singular theme, location, era or narrative style among them. What they do all have in common, however, is that they are beautifully woven tales, which have secured their authors' places in the annals of great literary history. So, these are 10 novels that everyone should read.
10. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to The Galaxy
by Douglas Adams
First published in 1979, and based on a radio series of the same name, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is a sci-fi comedy. We follow the plight of Arthur Dent, who is plucked from Earth, just moments before the planet is destroyed to make way for a galactic motorway (freeway).
Arthur and his friend, Ford Prefect; who Arthur believed to be an out-of-work actor, but is in fact an alien, begin a madcap journey through space.
9. Cold Comfort Farm
by Stella Gibbons
A parody of rural melodramas, Cold Comfort Farm (first published in 1933), is an extremely popular comic novel. It tells the story of the young and sophisticated Flora Poste.
At the age of nineteen, Flora is orphaned and, ill-equipped to be anything other than a 'lady', travels to Sussex where she stays with relatives; the Starkadders, who are "not like other folk".
Strong willed and armed with common sense, Flora sets about resolving the family's myriad of problems.
8. The Name of The Rose
by Umberto Echo
First published in Italian, in 1980, The Name of The Rose transports the reader to a 14th century Franciscan abbey, where several of the monks are accused of heresy. Brother William of Baskerville sets about investigating these charges, but his inquiry is interrupted by seven peculiar deaths.
Sometimes described is the 14th century equivalent of Sherlock Holmes, it is an ever-twisting mystery that also delves into religious politics.
by Joseph Heller
Joseph Heller began writing Catch-22 in 1953 and it was eventually published in 1961. The action takes place off the coast of Italy towards the end of World War II. It follows a U.S. bomber squadron and one particular bombardier named Yossarian.
Yossarain is incensed, confused and frantic, because he can’t understand why thousands of people, who have never even met him, are trying to kill him.
6. The Trial
by Franz Kafka
“One fine morning” a young banker, named Joseph K, is arrested. The day happens to coincide with Joseph’s thirtieth birthday. Exactly one year later, he is arrested again. This time, he is taken to an abandoned quarry and killed.
The Trial, written around 1914/1915, tells the story of the intervening year. As with all of Kafka’s writing, the ‘meaning’ of the novel is elusive. However, it is ostensibly a tale of state-induced self-destruction.
5. The Catcher in the Rye
by J. D. Salinger
First published in 1951, The Catcher in The Rye was originally written with an adult audience in mind. However, it has subsequently become popular with adolescents and is a stalwart feature of many high school English classes.
It centres around Holden Caulfield, who tells the reader the story of a period of self-destructive behaviour. Although he never overtly gives his location, it is clear that Holden is telling this tale from the confines of a sanatorium or asylum.
4. The Unbearable Lightness of Being
by Milan Kundera
First published in English in 1984, The Unbearable Lightness of Being is considered a ‘modern classic’. It is a philosophical work, which tells the interconnecting stories of four people and four relationships: Tereza and Tomas, Tomas and Sabina, Sabina and Franz, Franz and Marie-Claude.
It’s a provocative glimpse at how history affects personal identity and personal existence. It examines the choices that change our lives and the imperfections of adult love.
by Mary Shelley
Written by an 18-year-old Shelley, Frankenstein tells the story of a young doctor, who discovers a method of artificially generating life. His creation, the monster, runs away from its master and seeks to learn more about human beings.
However, what he discovers is that he will never truly fit in. And is, therefore, destined to live out his miserable days alone. Desperate, forlorn and angry, the monster seeks out his master and begs him to create a companion for him.
Subtitled ‘The Modern Prometheus’, Frankenstein has been read as a warning of the dangers of scientific advancement and, more importantly, it’s propensity to meddle in nature.
by George Orwell
Another bleak view of the future is offered up in George Orwell’s masterpiece 1984, which explores a totalitarian regime. We follow Winston Smith, who is a low-ranking member of the governing party.
He is watched everywhere he goes and is constantly confronted with the image of the omniscient ‘Big Brother’. In an attempt to prevent all political rebellion, the party is implementing a new language called ‘Newspeak’.
“Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past."
1. Wuthering Heights
by Emily Bronte
Perhaps the finest example of Romantic literature, Wuthering Heights is Emily Bronte’s only novel. It tells of the passionate, all-consuming, destructive and, ultimately, doomed love between Catherine (Cathy) and Heathcliff.
Soon after it’s publication, the work was criticised for its characters, which are flawed, spiteful and, largely, dislikeable. However, it seems that these very complex and human qualities have simply added to the novel’s attraction.
Much more than just a love story, Wuthering Heights is a mixture of gothic horror, suspense, revenge tragedy and psychological thriller.
What Are Your Favourite Books?
Of course, this is not an all-inclusive list of great novels, so if I’ve missed one of your favourite works of literature, let me know in the comments below.