A book is just not a few pieces of paper bound together to form a series of stories. For avid readers, a book is more than that. It is a piece of literature that can give them peace, fulfilment, enjoyment and a lifetime full of experiences. It can transport readers to a world of mischief and adventures, teach the reader about the world’s history, and last but not the least – books enrich our knowledge, broaden our minds, relieve us from stress, and purify our souls from within.
The Online Computer Library Center has published a list of top 100 novels of all time that can be found in libraries around the world.
So, if you are thinking of plunging in an ocean of literary canon, this article is worth a read.
As it stands, we at The Business Standard have whittled down the Top 100 list to Top 10 for you to decide on where to start. We hope you enjoy our curation, or at least debate on what else should or should not have made the cut.
10. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
In what may be regarded as Charles Dickens's best work of fiction, Philip Pirrip – the meek and orphaned protagonist of the story – is apprenticed to have the career of a blacksmith but dreams of becoming a gentleman, and one day, under sudden and enigmatic circumstances, he finds himself in possession of “great expectations”. In this gripping tale of crime and guilt, revenge and reward, and the compelling characters of Magwitch, Estella, and the embittered Miss Havisham, the novel comes together to give readers the ultimate taste of revelation.
9. The Harry Potter Series by JK Rowling
A childhood classic, a timeless series of tales of the boy who was marked as “the chosen one”, JK Rowling has delivered to readers what may simply be her best set of works till date.
With seven books in the series, the stories set the readers for an enthralling ride to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry with Harry and Co in the magical world of The Burrow, Hogsmeade and Number 4 Privet Drive.
8. The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald
The Great Gatsby stands as the defining achievement of F Scott Fitzgerald’s career. The story is based on a fabulously wealthy Jay Gatsby and his newly formed love for the breathtakingly beautiful Daisy Buchanan and of exquisite parties on Long Island. This exemplary novel of the Jazz Age from the 1920s has been celebrated by generations of readers.
7. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Brave New World, written in 1931, is a dystopian novel by English author Aldous Huxley. Set in a futuristic World State of genetically modified citizens and an intelligence-based social hierarchy, the novel prophesied immense scientific developments in reproductive technology, sleep-learning, psychological manipulation, and classical conditioning that are combined to make a utopian society that faces challenges thrown at it by a single outsider. Considered a novel to be much ahead of its time, Brave New World has continued to be a part of many readers’ collection even today.
6. Animal Farm by George Orwell
With flaming idealism and stirring slogans, Animal Farm sets the stage for one of the most telling and satirical fables ever penned. The story is centred around a farm that is taken over by its overworked and mistreated animals, and they set out to create a paradise of progress, justice, and equality for all.
A Stalinist Russia was accounted as the target when the novel was first published. Today, it is devastatingly clear that whenever national freedom is under siege, the cutting clarity and savage comedy of George Orwell’s masterpiece never fails to deliver a ferociously fresh message to all of humanity.
5. Les Misérables by Victor Hugo
Victor Hugo, taking the novel as his canvas for criticising French political and judicial systems, takes readers deep into the Parisian underworld, immerses them in a battle between good and evil, and carries them to the barricades during the uprising of 1832 with a breathtaking realism that is unsurpassed in modern prose. The story revolves around Jean Valjean, a prisoner who breaks parole, and police inspector Javert, who tries to hunt him down for breaking parole. Buried within the dramatic story are themes that capture both intellect and emotions – enticing the readers’ thought process as the plot thickens.
4. The Stranger by Albert Camus
First published in 1946, Albert Camus painted the story of an ordinary man who was unwittingly drawn into a senseless murder on an Algerian beach. Camus explored what he then termed “the nakedness of man faced with the absurd”. His origin in Algeria and his experiences there in the thirties had been dominating influences in his thought and work.
3. The Complete Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle
Familiar to many, the stories of Sherlock Holmes are timeless classics that ring all the bells in even the minds of people who know the least about literature.
The classic lineup of 12 short stories was first serialised between July 1891 and June 1892, to finally be published the latter year. Since then, hundreds of thousands of readers have taken the stories to their hearts – making it an absolute must read for anyone with the slightest knack for thrill, adventure and mystery.
2. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
First published in 1962, To Kill a Mockingbird introduces feelings of compassion and drama, moving the readers deeply and transporting them to the roots of human behaviour – innocence and experience, kindness and cruelty, love and hatred, humour and pathos. The unforgettable story of a sleepy southern town and the lacking of basic humane conscience made the book what it is today, by becoming an instant bestseller and a critical success.
What Harper Lee always considered to be a simple love story today is regarded as a masterpiece of American literature – which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1961 and later made into an Academy Award-winning film.
1. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
In Russia’s struggle with Napoleon, Leo Tolstoy was confronted with a tragedy that got tangled with all of mankind. The novel can be described as a complete picture of everything in which people find their happiness and greatness, their grief and humiliation.
Greater than a historical chronicle, War and Peace is an affirmation of life itself and is considered as a central work of world literature and one of Leo Tolstoy’s finest literary achievements.