10 Novels Everyone Should Read

by WiseFool

There is an endless number of works of great literature. However, these 10 novels are ones that everybody should read at least once.

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.

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.

7. Catch-22

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.

3. Frankenstein

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.

2. 1984

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.

Updated: 01/25/2013, WiseFool
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WiseFool on 01/25/2013

Hello Elias, I've never read any Yourcenar, but, after that high praise, I shall have to rectify that. Is there a work that you would recommend as a favourite, or as a good introduction to her work?

EliasZanetti on 01/24/2013

Great article! Very inspiring! I agree with all books listed, they're awesome!
I'd also like to bring about the name of a great writer in the history of literature: Marguerite Yourcenar! She wrote some of the most amazing books that I have ever read, impressed me with her understanding of the human soul and the human ... being! Cheers!

katiem2 on 09/23/2012

Just checking your list with my mental notes, My daughters are both prolific readers I want to cover all the basis and making certain they read the greats. Good list, thanks :)K

BrendaReeves on 07/21/2012

Let's see, what are my favorite books? To Kill a Mockingbird, A Christmas Carol, Great Expectations, A Cricket on the Hearth, East of Eden, Grapes of Wrath. I've read many classics, and I've been thinking of reading them all over again. Great article.

WiseFool on 05/12/2012

Hello Triggered, thanks for taking the time to comment. I'm really pleased that you've enjoyed many of my choices. I agree with your description of Kundera as "mind-blowing". 'The Unbearable Lightness of Being' is one of those books that stays with you long after you've finished reading - it did for me anyway. And, no, definitely no Harry Potters. No offence to J.K. Rowling intended, but I don't consider those to be 'great' reads.

Tiggered on 05/11/2012

I've read nine out of your ten at one time or another and some of your choices are on my The Greatest Hits list too - Kundera is mind-blowing, with Douglas Adams and Heller following closely behind. And I was so relieved not to find Harry Potter here! ;)

WiseFool on 02/23/2012

Hello Sheilamarie, it is undoubtedly subjective. To be honest, if I were being stranded on a desert island with only 10 books, I'm not sure I could whittle it down. Dostoevsky is a good one, I find him a little heavy going, but I should persist!

sheilamarie on 02/23/2012

Choosing the top ten list is definitely a subjective thing. I'm not even sure I could choose my all time favorites. I love several of your choices, though I'd have to add some Dostoevsky.

WiseFool on 01/19/2012

Thanks for the opinions ladies. Kinworm, I too am a big Jane Austen fan. Was difficult compiling a list that didn't include her, but was trying to give as broad a spectrum as possible. Ended up leaving out many that I adore. Rose, glad you approve of 'Wuthering Heights', too. You're right, of course, Kafka's not everybody's cup of tea, but I think everyone should give him a whirl - even if it's to realise he's too unsettling.

Rose on 01/19/2012

Great #1 choice. Loved "Catcher in the Rye" and "The Name of the Rose". However didn't get on well with the Kafka - too unsettling for my tastes!

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