A few years ago TIME magazine asked 125 of the world’s most celebrated writers to name their Top 10 novels of all time. No doubt after the resignations of many, many unpaid interns, they combined all these lists to make the ultimate Top 10 list.
We thought we’d share it with you. We’d like a few more women on there but hey, isn’t that always the way.
Do you agree with the picks? Did your favourite book mis the cut? Tell us in the comments section below.
George Eliot’s most ambitious novel is a masterly evocation of diverse lives and changing fortunes in a provincial community.
Peopling its landscape are Dorothea Brooke, a young idealist whose search for intellectual fulfillment leads her into a disastrous marriage to the pedantic scholar Casaubon; the charming but tactless Dr Lydgate, whose marriage to the spendthrift beauty Rosamund and pioneering medical methods threaten to undermine his career; and the religious hypocrite Bulstrode, hiding scandalous crimes from his past.
As their stories interweave, George Eliot creates a richly nuanced and moving drama, hailed by Virginia Woolf as ‘one of the few English novels written for adult people’.
The Steppe established Chekov’s reputation. It is the simple yet unforgettable tale of a young boy’s journey to a new school in Kiev, travelling through majestic landscapes towards an unknown life. Gusev depicts an ocean voyage, where a man dies and is thrown to sharks, and the sea takes on a terrifying, primeval power. In The Kiss a shy soldier is kissed by mistake in a darkened room; in A Dreary Story a man reaches the end of his life and questions its worth; and in The Duel two men’s enmity ends in farce.
The definitive translation of the greatest French novel of the twentieth century
In the opening volume of Proust’s great novel, the narrator travels backwards in time in order to tell the story of a love affair that had taken place before his own birth. Swann’s jealous love for Odette provides a prophetic model of the narrator’s own relationships. All Proust’s great themes – time and memory, love and loss, art and the artistic vocation – are here in kernel form.
Fitzgerald’s glittering Jazz Age masterpiece
Jay Gatsby is a self-made man, famed for his decadent champagne-drenched parties. Despite being surrounded by Long Island’s bright and beautiful, Gatsby longs only for Daisy Buchanan. In shimmering prose, Fitzgerald shows Gatsby pursue his dream to its tragic conclusion. The Great Gatsby is an elegiac and exquisite portrait of the American Dream.
Considered one of Shakespeare’s most rich and enduring plays, the depiction of its hero Hamlet as he vows to avenge the murder of his father by his brother Claudius is both powerful and complex. As Hamlet tries to find out the truth of the situation, his troubled relationship with his mother comes to the fore, as do the paradoxes in his personality. A play of carefully crafted conflict and tragedy, Shakespeare’s intricate dialogue continues to fascinate audiences to this day.
It’s lovely to live on a raft. We had the sky up there, all speckled with stars, and we used to lay on our backs and look up at them’
Huck Finn spits, swears, smokes a pipe and never goes to school. With his too-big clothes and battered straw hat, Huck is in need of ‘civilising’, and the Widow Douglas is determined to take him in hand. And wouldn’t you know, Huck’s no-good Pap is also after him and he locks Huck up in his cabin in the woods. But Huck won’t stand too much of this, and after a daring escape, he takes off down the Mississppi on a raft with an runaway slave called Jim. But plenty of dangers wait for them along the river – will they survive and win their freedom?
Humbert Humbert is a middle-aged, fastidious college professor. He also likes little girls. And none more so than Lolita, who he’ll do anything to possess. Is he in love or insane? A silver-tongued poet or a pervert? A tortured soul or a monster? …Or is he all of these?
Tolstoy’s enthralling epic depicts Russia’s war with Napoleon and its effects on the lives of those caught up in the conflict. He creates some of the most vital and involving characters in literature as he follows the rise and fall of families in St Petersburg and Moscow who are linked by their personal and political relationships. His heroes are the thoughtful yet impulsive Pierre Bezukhov, his ambitious friend, Prince Andrei, and the woman who becomes indispensable to both of them, the enchanting Natasha Rostov.
‘It has a perfection that not only stamps it, but that makes it stand almost alone.’ Henry James
Beautiful Emma Rouault yearns for the life of wealth, passion and romance she has encountered in popular sentimental fiction, and when her doctor, the well-meaning but awkward and unremarkable Charles Bovary, begins to pay her attention, she imagines that she may be granted her wish. However, after their marriage, Emma soon becomes frustrated with the boredom of provincial life and finds herself seeking escape and contemplating adultery.
As Emma’s efforts to make a reality of her fantasies become more dangerous, both she and those around her must face the shattering consequences of her actions. Causing widespread scandal when it was published in 1857, Madame Bovary is Gustave Flaubert’s masterpiece and one of the landmark works of nineteenth-century realist fiction.
Anna Karenina is a novel of unparalleled richness and complexity, set against the backdrop of Russian high society. Tolstoy charts the course of the doomed love affair between Anna, a beautiful married woman, and Count Vronsky, a wealthy army officer who pursues Anna after becoming infatuated with her at a ball.
Although she initially resists his charms Anna eventually succumbs, falling passionately in love and setting in motion a chain of events that lead to her downfall. In this extraordinary novel, Tolstoy seamlessly weaves together the lives of dozens of characters, while evoking a love so strong that those who experience it are prepared to die for it.