Looking for the best books of all time? You’re in the right place.
Each year, there are millions of books published worldwide, and there have been billions of them published since time immemorial.
According to Forbes, there are between 600,000 to 1,000,000 books published in a given year in the US.
And that’s counting for the US alone.
Needless to say, that is a whole lot of books.
So my guess is you may be wondering which of these books is actually worth your time?
Not just from the books published in a given year, but from all the books published since time immemorial.
You’re looking for the best books of all time. Am I correct?
Well, that is where is carefully curated list comes in.
Most of the books on this list have been featured on prestigious lists and have won prestigious awards such as the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the National Book Award.
So if you are looking for the very best of books, you are sure to find them on this list.
All right? Let’s get right in. Shall we?
1. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
In 1999, the Library Journal elected To Kill a MockingBird as the “Best Novel of the Century.”
The novel, published in 1960, immediately became a bestseller and still is to this day.
Plot: Told from the point of view of Jean Louise, a six-year-old girl nicknamed Scout, the story takes place in the fictional town of Maycomb, Alama, during three years of the Great Depression.
Scout lives with Jeremy, her older brother, and Atticus, her middle-aged father who is also a respectable lawyer in their town.
As the novel progresses, Scout and Jeremy befriend their next-door neighbor, Dill, who visits Maycomb every summer.
The story unfolds as these three children are fascinated by their mysterious neighbor, Arthur “Boo” Radley.
What’s in it for you: A gripping look at a world of great beauty and ugly inequalities through the eyes of a young girl, as her father — a lawyer by trade — gives up almost everything to fight for a black man unfairly accused of a heinous crime.
2. In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust
First published in France between 1913 and 1927, In Search of Lost Time was pronounced “the most respected novel of the century” by Edmund White, during the 100th year of the novel’s first volume.
Plot: The novel centers on the narrator’s recollections of his childhood and adulthood experiences during the late 19th to 20th century aristocratic France.
The narrator also reflects heavily on the loss of time and lack of meaning in his life.
What’s in it for you: A timeless classic that will inspire you to reread it several times — in spite of its intimidating length.
3. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Great Gatsby, published in 1925, is considered to be a literary classic and a huge contender for the title of the “Great American Novel.”
Plot: It follows the life of a young and mysterious millionaire, Jay Gatsby, who fell in love with a young maiden, Daisy, while stationed as a military officer overseas.
As time goes by, Jay loses contact with his beloved Daisy, and in his absence, she reluctantly marries another man.
Years later, Daisy and her husband Tom move into the neighborhood where the rich magnate Jay Gatsby lives.
Finally reunited with his lost love, Jay attempts to win Daisy back, and this sets off a series of dramatic events that will keep the reader turning the pages.
What’s in it for you: An unforgettable story of life in America in the 1920s.
4. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Written by a man considered to be one of the greatest authors of all time, Anna Karenina is an epic novel that deals with several themes, such as betrayal, faith, family, and marriage.
Plot: The storyline centers on the scandalized affair between a married woman, Anna Karenina, and a dashing young bachelor, Count Alexei Kirillovich Vronsky.
Their affair forces the young lovers to elope to Italy in search of happiness, but they later return to Russia after they fail to establish a social life in Italy.
The plot unravels as things take a turn for the worse for them after their return.
What’s in it for you: An excellently written story of forbidden love that exposes the hypocrisy of society.
5. Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell
Published in 1949, the novel Nineteen Eighty-Four has been featured on Time’s 100 best English-language novels from 1923 to 2005.
Plot: In an imagined future, the year 1984, most of the world has fallen victim to war, dictatorship, and propaganda.
Great Britain, known in the novel as Airstrip One, is ruled by a superstate, Oceania, whose ruling party and mysterious leader will go to unimaginable lengths to persecute individuality and independent thinking.
The storyline progresses as the protagonist, Winston Smith, decides to rebel against Oceania and its dictatorship rule.
What’s in it for you: A remarkable and haunting novel that will engross you in its world from start to finish.
6. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
Published in 1961, Catch-22, a satirical war novel, is often praised as one of the most important novels of the twentieth century.
Plot: Set during World War II from 1942 to 1944, the novel follows the lives of Captain John Yossarian and his cohorts, as it questions the absurdity of war and military life.
Throughout their journey, Yossarian and his friends attempt to maintain their sanity while fulfilling their service requirements, so they can return home.
What’s in it for you: One of the greatest war novels ever written.
7. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
Published in 1951, The Catcher in the Rye has been included in both Time Magazine and Modern library’s list of the 100 best English-language novels written since 1923.
Plot: The novel follows the life of a teenager, Holden Caulfield, who battles with complex issues of innocence, identity, belonging, loss, connection, sex, and depression.
What’s in it for you: One of the greatest coming-of-age stories of all time.
8. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
Published in 1869, War and Peace is one of the best novels of the great Russian author Leo Tolstoy.
Plot: Focusing on the stories of five Russian aristocratic families, the novel narrates the French invasion of Russia and the implications of the Napoleonic era on Tsarist society.
What’s in it for you: Beautiful prose that has often been compared to Homer’s epic poems.
9. Ulysses by James Joyce
Published in 1922, Ulysses is considered one of the most important works of modernist literature.
Plot: Centered on the life of protagonist Leopold Bloom, the novel narrates his nomadic encounters and appointments on a fateful day, 16 June 1904.
What’s in it for you: A remarkable masterpiece that offers readers a life-changing experience.
10. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Márquez
Published in 1967, One Hundred Years of Solitude is considered the most important work of Colombian author Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
Plot: The novel tells the story of seven generations of the Buendia family in Maconda, a town invented by founding patriarch José Arcadia after he dreams of a city of mirrors.
It details the rise and fall of the Buendia family, as they face several obstacles, including death and extinction, through several generations.
What’s in it for you: A novel filled with unforgettable characters, and a true masterpiece in the art of fiction.
11. Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes
Published in two parts in 1605 and 1615, Don Quixote has been considered as the first modern novel and is often praised as the best literary work ever written.
Plot: Alonso, who has read too many chivalric romance tales that it begins to mess with his head, decides to fight for the revival of chivalry, and so he becomes a knight-errant and serves his nation under the name of Don Quixote de la Mancha.
What’s in it for you: A wonderfully written romance novel that will haunt your imagination for years to come.
12. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
Published in 1954, The Lord of the Rings, a high-fantasy novel, is considered one of the best-selling novels of all time, having sold over 150 copies worldwide.
Plot: It revolves around the One Ring, which was created in an earlier age by the Dark Lord Sauron to rule all the other Rings of Power.
What’s in it for you: A novel filled with unparalleled magic and otherworldliness, Lord of the Rings will touch the heart of all readers — both old and young alike.
13. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
Published to wide critical acclaim in 1937, The Hobbit remains popular today and is lauded as a classic in children’s literature.
Plot: Set in a fictional world, the novel follows the quest of Bilbo Baggins — the namesake hobbit — as he tries to win a fair share of the treasure guarded by Smaug the dragon.
What’s in it for you: A magnificent account of an adventure filled with a little bit of suspense, a little bit of humor, and a whole lot of magic that will touch your heart.
14. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
Published in 1950, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe has been featured in several prominent lists, including Time Magazine’s list of the 100 Best Young-Adult Books of All Time.
Plot: Set in Narnia, a fictional land of talking animals and mythical creatures ruled by the vicious White Witch, the novel revolves around four English siblings who accidentally discover this magical land.
Now, Lucy, Edmund, Susan, and Peter are charged with saving Narnia from the evil White Witch while also saving their own lives.
Throughout their journey, they receive help from a powerful talking lion, Aslan, as they strive to fulfill their daunting prophecy.
What’s in it for you: Open the door and enter a new world. This fantasy novel will spark your imagination in ways you would never imagine.
15. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
Praised as the author’s most famous work, A Tale of Two Cities — published in 1859 — is often cited as the best-selling novel of all time.
Plot: Set in the period of the French revolution, the novel revolves around French Doctor Manette, his imprisonment in Paris, and subsequent release to live in London with a daughter he has never met.
What’s in it for you: A novel drenched in drama, romance, and suspense that leaves you wanting more.
16. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
Published in 1958, Things Fall Apart is recognized as the quintessential modern African novel in English, having received global critical acclaim.
Plot: The novel chronicles pre-colonial life in Nigeria and the effects of the arrival of Europeans in the country during the nineteenth century.
It tells the story of Okonkwo, an Ibo man and the local wrestling champion in the fictional clan of Umuofia, as he fruitlessly fights against the revolution of the Europeans.
What’s in it for you: A worthy and monumental tribute to the African heritage.
17. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
Published in 1939, The Grapes of Wrath has won both the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize for fiction.
Plot: Set during the Great Depression, the novel focuses on a poor family of tenant farmers, the Joads, who are driven out of their Oklahoma home by drought, economic hardship, agricultural industry, and bank foreclosures.
Now, the Joads set off for California, along with thousands of others, seeking greener pastures, better job opportunities, and a better future.
What’s in it for you: A perfect portrait of the battle between the powerful and the powerless, as the novel questions the very existence of equality and justice in America.
18. The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown
A 2003 mystery thriller, The Da Vinci Code is a huge worldwide bestseller, having sold over 80 million copies as of 2009.
Plot: The novel is centered on symbolist Robert Langdon and cryptologist Sophie Neveu.
After a murder, these two become both suspects and detectives as they search not only for the killer but also for the secret the victim was charged to protect.
What’s in it for you: A powerful murder mystery that will make you think, ponder, and question what you have taken for granted as indisputable fact.
19. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
Published in 1847, Jane Eyre is one of the most famous romance novels of all time.
Plot: Centered on the life of its namesake heroine, the novel follows Jane’s growth to adulthood and her love for Mr. Rochester, Master of Thornfield Hall.
What’s in it for you: The most quotable book about being in love.
20. The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky
Published serially from 1879 to 1880, The Brothers Karamazov has since been acclaimed as one of the supreme achievements in world literature.
Plot: Centered on Fyodor Pavlovich Karamazov and his three sons, this murder mystery novel revolves around themes of free will, morality, and ethical debates of God.
What’s in it for you: A complex story that is awe-inspiring and capable of bringing you to tears — if and when you are able to connect all the right dots.
21. Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë
Published in 1847, Wuthering Heights is considered one of the greatest classics of English literature.
Plot: The storyline follows the life of Heathcliff, a man who becomes obsessed with vengeance when his soul mate, Cathy, marries another man.
The novel explores the effects of envy, nostalgia, pessimism, and resentment.
What’s in it for you: A gripping story of love, revenge, and tragedy.
22. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Pride and Prejudice, published in 1813, has predominantly appeared on the top of lists of ‘most-loved books’ among literary scholars and the reading public.
Plot: The storyline follows the life of a wealthy man, Mr. Bennet, who has a particularly unique problem: he has five unmarried daughters who cannot inherit a penny from his estate as it can only be inherited by a male heir.
Mr. Bennet’s wife is also without inheritance, and so his entire family will be left with nothing upon his death.
This situation makes it crucial for all five of Mr. Bennet’s daughters to find a suitable, wealthy husband in order to support themselves. So, will all five daughters find the wealthy man of their dreams?
What’s in it for you: Full of wonderful characters, this romantic novel may be the most magnificent piece of writing you’ll ever read.
23. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
Published in 1865, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is one of the best-known and most popular works of English literature.
Plot: The novel narrates the story of a young girl, Alice, who falls through a rabbit hole into a fantasy world populated by strange creatures.
What’s in it for you: A window to a magical world filled with unforgettable characters and adventures.
24. The Bridges of Madison County by Robert James Waller
Published in 1992, The Bridges of Madison County is one of the bestselling books of the twentieth century, having sold over 60 million copies worldwide.
Plot: The novel narrates the story of a married woman who starts an affair while her husband and children are away — an affair that comes with unexpected drama, twists and turns.
What’s in it for you: A simply unputdownable romance novel.
25. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
Published in 1952, Invisible Man won the US National Book Award for fiction in 1953 and has also been included in Time’s 100 Best English-Language novels from 1923 to 2005.
Plot: The novel follows a nameless young black man who goes underground to write the story of his life and his ability to be invisible.
Invisible Man addresses many of the social and intellectual issues faced by African Americans in the early 20th century.
What’s in it for you: An eventful and powerful novel that will change your perspective on how the American society treats black people.
26. Beloved by Toni Morrison
Published in 1987, Beloved won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1988.
Plot: The novel is inspired by the life of Margaret Garner, an African American who escaped slavery by crossing the Ohio River to Ohio, a free state.
However, upon being captured, Margaret chose to kill her own daughter rather than have her taken back into slavery.
What’s in it for you: A masterpiece that brings the unimaginable world of slavery into literature.
27. Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
Having sold more than 50 million copies, Anne of Green Gables, a 1908 classic children’s novel, is considered one of the bestselling books worldwide.
Plot: The novel narrates the adventures of an 11-year-old orphan girl, Anne Shirley, who is mistakenly sent to two middle-aged siblings, Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert.
Mathew and Marilla had initially wanted a boy to help around on their farm, but they accept Anne upon meeting her, and that’s how the adventures of Anne begins.
What’s in it for you: A classic children’s novel that is filled with believable characters, and, most importantly, an adorable main character whom most readers will fall in love with.
28. Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill
Published in 1937, Think and Grow Rich is a self-help book that has sold more than 80 million copies worldwide since its publication.
Plot: Hill wrote Think and Grow Rich after more than twenty years of studying many exceptional individuals who had amassed great fortunes.
The book asserts that desire, faith, and persistence can propel us to great heights if we can suppress negative thoughts while focusing on long-term goals.
What’s in it for you:
- The secrets that could bring you a fortune.
- A lifetime worth of knowledge and ideas about the amassing of wealth.
- The ‘Law of Success’ philosophy.
29. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling
Published in 1998, the fantasy novel Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets was a runaway bestseller and won high praise and awards from critics, the book industry, and young readers.
Plot: Following Harry’s second year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, a series of messages appear on the walls of the school’s corridors warning that the ‘Chamber of Secrets’ has been opened and that the ‘heir of Slytherin’ would kill all students who do not come from fully magical families.
The plot thickens as Harry, Ron, and Hermione investigate these attacks throughout the school year.
What’s in it for you: The adventurous novel will transport you to a magical land that will fill your life with so much joy and fantasy.
30. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K Rowling
Published in the year 2000, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire won a Hugo award in 2001 and is the only novel to do so from the famous Harry Potter series.
Plot: Set in Harry’s fourth year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, the novel follows Harry as he is mysteriously entered into the Triwizard Tournament without his consent and is forced to compete.
Harry must then overcome several unforeseen obstacles that threaten his life.
What’s in it for you: A magical world that feels just as real as the world we live in.
So there you have it. A concise list of the best books of all time.
They included Pulitzer Prize-winning books, National Book Award winners, and runaway bestsellers.
I do hope this list lived up to your expectations, and if there are any books that you think should have made the list but didn’t, please let me know in the comments section.
Thank you for reading this blog post, and do share it with friends and family if you found it to be helpful.