50 Best Classic Novels of All Time You Must Read – A Carefully Made List for Readers (Beginners and Pro Readers)

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50 Best Classic novels you must read list books fiction all time

What is classic? Leave books for a moment. Let’s discuss whatever classics we often hear – classic goal, classic straight drive by Tendulkar in cricket, the classic song by Jackson, classic performance by Birjoo Maharaj, a classic case of deception by the government, or anything classic… By these examples, we can certainly conclude that something admired by different generations and acknowledged by (almost) all those who understand (that field) may be termed classic. And therefore, we can safely say that classic novels are timeless literary treasures that offer a glimpse into different eras, cultures, and human experiences. They are popular for centuries because they capture the essence of their time and transcend it, speaking to universal themes that resonate with readers across generations. These novels provide profound insights into the human condition, challenging our preoccupations and perspectives, and igniting our imaginations. Whether through their compelling characters, intricate plots, or lyrical prose, classic novels have the power to transport us to different worlds, evoke deep emotions, and provoke introspection. Reading classics comes with many benefits. If you are still wondering whether you should read classic novels or not, read this article – Reading Classics: Where to Start?  (The article will open in a new tab.)

In this article, I will discuss the 50 best classic novels of all time you must read. I will also give brief details of these novels so that you can pick up your titles conveniently. I have also tried to include novels by writers from diverse backgrounds – Asian, African, American, European and more. I am sure any reader will enjoy going through this list. If you think I should have added any novel that I left, please share your thought in the comments section. We will discuss them for sure. All the best! Enjoy the list and do pick up the novels you love… because nothing brings greater joy than reading classics!


1. Moby-Dick by Herman Melville: Let’s begin with some adventure (inwards and outwards). Moby-Dick is an epic tale of Captain Ahab’s relentless pursuit of the white whale, exploring themes of obsession and fate. Begin with this amazing novel and start your journey in the world of classic novels.

2. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen: Jane Austen cannot be left alone! Whoever, whenever, wherever, and however makes a list of classic books, romantic books or books you must read before you perish, Austen’s name will be there! Pride and Prejudice is a witty and romantic novel depicting the complexities of love, marriage, and social class in 19th-century England. Though the timeline is defined, the novel is timeless.

3. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee: Harper Lee’s award-winning novel is a powerful exploration of racial injustice and the loss of innocence in the Deep South (United States of America) of the 1930s. The novel might have resurrected itself rather forcefully after the rise of debates on racism and discrimination in the USA in recent years.

4. 1984 by George Orwell: Like Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, 1984 by George Orwell has become a favourite for many book critics because of its timelessness and relevance. 1984 is a dystopian vision of a totalitarian society where individuality is suppressed and government surveillance is omnipresent. Rings a bell? Enjoy it!

5. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald: Though many might not agree, it is indeed a haunting portrayal of the Jazz Age and the reckless pursuit of the elusive American Dream, filled with themes of wealth, love, and disillusionment. However, the saving grace that might suit the readers is its portrayal of the undisclosed love of Jay Gatsby for Daisy Fay Buchanan.

6. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë: Jane Eyre’s flawless language and compelling story of a young woman’s journey of self-discovery, love, and resilience in Victorian England will always be relevant for any reader at any age. Therefore, I have added this amazing novel to this list as well. Have yourself an immersive experience of Victorian England, its people, its problems and its solutions.

7. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy: Russian masters… they were amazing with their stories and the way they put them to readers. Anna Karenina is a tragic and profound examination of love, morality, and societal norms set in 19th-century Russia. The storytelling is flawless, but the story might be too long for some readers. So, before you pick it up, make sure you are patient enough to observe as the story unfolds, slowly.

8. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger: A timeless coming-of-age novel that continues to resonate with readers of all generations, Salinger’s masterpiece is a must on any list of classic novels. First published in 1951, the novel follows the disillusioned and alienated teenager Holden Caulfield as he navigates the complexities of adolescence and adulthood in post-World War II America. Salinger’s novel has become an iconic work of literature, sparking conversations about teenage rebellion and the complexities of growing up in a world that can sometimes seem disorienting and devoid of meaning.

9. Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë: Well, I can say that Emily Bronte was ahead of her times! Her craft of fiction, story, choice of theme and overall set-up – everything is still able to keep readers attracted. A dark and passionate tale of love, revenge, and the destructive forces of obsession set on the Yorkshire moors.

10. Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy: Published in 1895, Jude the Obscure is a controversial novel that examines societal conventions, education, and the struggles of individuals striving for intellectual and emotional fulfilment, through the story of Jude Fawley and his aspirations.

11. Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes: An enduring masterpiece that has captivated readers for centuries and continues to do so. First published in 1605, this iconic novel has left its mark as one of the most influential works of Western literature. The story follows the delusional yet noble-hearted knight, Don Quixote, as he embarks on a series of fantastical adventures, accompanied by his loyal squire, Sancho Panza. Cervantes masterfully weaves together elements of satire, comedy, and social commentary, exploring themes of idealism, reality, and the power of imagination. Miguel de Cervantes has shown, in this work, humour can be wrapped with many serious elements!

12. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley: Dystopia! This word has become very relevant today. Amidst all the political and international relations turmoil, people have taken an interest in the idea of a dystopia. So, read this work by Huxley – a dystopian novel depicting a future society controlled by technology, where individuality and emotions are suppressed.

13. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas: A French masterpiece, a thrilling tale of revenge and redemption as Edmond Dantès seeks justice against those who betrayed him. The novel has been entertaining and captivating readers for more than two centuries now. Enjoy the timeless revenge plot…

14. The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne: Guilt and sin, perhaps, are amongst the most-explored themes in fiction by many celebrated authors of all time. Likewise, The Scarlet Letter stands as a deeply symbolic novel set in Puritan New England, exploring themes of sin, guilt, and redemption. You may find it enjoyable but also with serious subjects that make you think about these issues affecting our lives.

15. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde: Dealt with the Devil on the Crossroads? Nah! This novel explores a likewise theme but in a different way… A provocative story of a man’s Faustian pact, capturing the corrupting influence of vanity and aestheticism.

16. Les Misérables by Victor Hugo: An epic novel set in revolutionary France, delving into themes of justice, redemption, and the human spirit. Many critics have opined it to be one of the greatest novels ever produced by any French novelist. Read it. Then do share if you agree with the assessment.

17. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain: A satirical and insightful coming-of-age story that confronts racism, morality, and societal hypocrisy. Considered to be a beginner-friendly classic novel, it is suggested to anyone with an interest in reading classics.

18. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien: Popularised by a cinematic rendition, the novel has been entertaining readers for decades now. A sweeping fantasy epic filled with adventure, friendship, and the battle between good and evil, as always happens.

19. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky: Russian literary classic, a masterclass by Dostoevsky, this is a psychological exploration of guilt, conscience, and the consequences of one’s actions.

20. Chandrakanta by Devaki Nandan Khatri: Considered a pioneering work of Hindi literature, Chandrakanta is a gripping tale of love, magic, and adventure set in a fantastical world filled with intrigue and mystical powers. You can read it in Hindi if you read Hindi or enjoy the work in its English translation. You will be entertained royally, it is for sure.


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21. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll: A fantasy masterpiece, a novel that has been captivating young audiences for many years, it is a whimsical and imaginative tale that takes readers on a journey through a surreal and nonsensical world. Fun and joy are everywhere along with some lessons for life. First, enjoy it yourselves and then read it to kids around you. All the best!

22. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck: A poignant novel portraying the struggles of migrant workers during the Great Depression, emphasising themes of social injustice and human resilience. The realistic portrayal in the novel will surely impress readers on many levels.

23. The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky: Like Crime and Punishment by the same author, this one also is a philosophical novel exploring morality, faith, and the complexities of human nature through the lives of the Karamazov brothers. A must-read for lovers of Russian literary classics!

24. Shekhar: Ek Jeevani by Agyeya: Agyeya’s semi-autobiographical novel, unfinished, Shekhar: Ek Jeevani is a biography of the revolutionary freedom fighter Chandrashekhar Azad, capturing his fearless spirit and dedication to the freedom struggle. The novel aims at many things at once and largely succeeds even in its incompleteness. Agreya’s writing style is unmatched, even in his rich prose, and you will surely enjoy it if you read it in Hindi. However, you can also get some translated versions and enjoy reading them.

25. The End of the Affair by Graham Greene: Graham Greene is known for his stories that enter deep into the human psyche and penetrate the deep layers of the human heart. Likewise, in this poignant story of love, betrayal, and spiritual turmoil, the story follows the intense relationship between writer Maurice Bendrix, his former lover Sarah Miles, and her devout Catholic beliefs.

26. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle: Well, well… here is something for all the fans of spy fiction out there! Lose yourself in the world of world-famous spy Sherlock Holmes as he investigates cases for you. Arthur Conan Doyle’s legendary collection of detective episodes featuring the brilliant detective Holmes and his loyal companion, Dr John Watson.

27. Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf: Woolf’s novel seldom makes it out beyond elite literary circles! That’s why I chose to put Mrs. Dalloway on this list. A modernist novel that takes place over a single day, delving into the inner thoughts and experiences of the titular character and those around her.

28. The Hunchback of Notre-Dame by Victor Hugo: Another Victor Hugo classic! This is a Gothic novel set in medieval Paris, exploring themes of love, fate, and the beauty found within tragedy. You will have a bumpy ride reading this one because it involves more than just class… one of those rare occasions when the class meets content that will be enough to pull young readers as well.

29. The Outsider by Albert Camus: Albert Camus is a name that has been mistakenly put in the exclusive group of authors mostly considered outsiders or rather untouchables… well, it might be because of the philosophical nature of his works. However, do read this one, The Outside, by Camus to understand his style and content. It is a philosophical novel that explores the meaning of existence, alienation, and the absurdity of the human condition. However, don’t be afraid of the description. You may like it as you go on reading. Enjoy!

30. Middlemarch by George Eliot: A voluminous tale set in Victorian England, it is a sprawling novel examining the complexities of human relationships, ambitions, and societal expectations of the time. The writing style is like other Victorian works of fiction with a little distinction that Mary An Evans, pen-named George Eliot, brought with her writing.

31. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens: Charles Dickens must be a household name in England and anywhere where people have developed a love for English novels. Dickens’ tales do appear on our reading tables at least once in a lifetime. A Tale of Two Cities is a historical novel set during the French Revolution, weaving together personal drama and political unrest, and yet telling an interesting story that people have been loving for more than one and a half centuries now.

32. The Trial by Franz Kafka: I am not sure if people are afraid of Virginia Woolf or not, many are certainly afraid of Franz Kafka! To do away with this fear, you must read this acclaimed novel by him – The Rrial. It is a surreal and existential novel that follows the absurd journey of a man caught in a labyrinthine legal system.

33. The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner: This one is famous as a challenging and experimental narrative that explores the decline of a Southern family and the effects of time on human perception. Well, the description might seem too much for young readers, but the novel actually offers a very interesting tale intertwined with the philosophical and existential questions we generally avoid facing. By reading this novel, you do them both! Enjoy! 🙂

34. The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway: Hemingway’s stories were amazing! The present one, The Old Man and the Sea offers a concise and powerful novella depicting an old fisherman’s struggle against nature and his own mortality.

35. The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka: Only if you enjoyed Kafka in your first encounter, you will, perhaps, want more of him. Therefore, because I know Kafka is unavoidable after you read him once, here is the second – The Metamorphosis. A novella that tells the story of Gregor Samsa, who wakes up one morning transformed into a giant insect, examining themes of alienation and identity.

36. The Guide by R K Narayan: The story revolves around Raju, a charming but flawed protagonist who transitions from a tour guide to a revered spiritual guide. This novel by R K Narayan skilfully puts down the basics of Indian spiritual philosophy and the theory of Karma through the story. The author offers comedy, romance, and introspection together as he delves into Raju’s journey of self-discovery, shedding light on the illusions of fame, the power of redemption, and the consequences of societal expectations. Through Narayan’s evocative storytelling and richly drawn characters, “The Guide” offers a profound reflection on the human condition, cultural dynamics, and the eternal quest for meaning and fulfilment.

37. Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert: It is a  realistic novel that follows the tragic life of Emma Bovary, highlighting the consequences of romantic idealism. Another French classic that has endured almost a century and a half after being first published – this novel will be fitting into the life of any reader who might experience the emptiness around him or her.

38. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury: Okay, so, if philosophy does not suit your taste, you should rather read this dystopian work by accomplished author Ray Bradbury – Fahrenheit 451. It is about a dystopian society where books are banned and burned, exploring themes of censorship, knowledge, and the power of literature. Set against the backdrop of the nuclear bombing in The Second World War, the novel might seem to predict another one in the coming years.

39. Azadi by Chaman Nahal: The novel offers a vividly descriptive portrayal of the Indian freedom movement and the horrific memories of the partition of the country. Through vivid characters and compelling storytelling, Nahal intertwines historical events with intimate family dynamics, presenting a nuanced perspective on the challenges faced by individuals caught in the tide of political upheaval. “Azadi” not only captures the spirit of a nation’s fight for independence but also examines themes of identity, sacrifice, and the price of freedom, making it a significant contribution to Indian literature. Like Indian novels? Here’s a list you will love: Indian classic novels

40. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut: This one will be hilariously interesting for many readers! Though the novel is satirical in tone and nature, it tells many important truths and delves into philosophical musings of importance on many occasions. An anti-war novel that blends elements of science fiction and black comedy, reflecting on the destructiveness of war and the nature of time.

41. The Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray: In this legendary, satirical and critically acclaimed novel, Thackeray has done many things! Through sharp wit and keen observation, Thackeray exposes the vanity, hypocrisy, and follies of his characters, offering a scathing critique of a world driven by wealth, ambition, and the relentless pursuit of social status. With memorable characters and a captivating narrative, “The Vanity Fair” stands as a timeless classic, showcasing Thackeray’s literary prowess and his ability to delve deep into the human psyche.

42. The Serpent and the Rope by Raja Rao: For many critics, this is a masterpiece by Rao! In this novel, Rao explores themes of Eastern spirituality, Western materialism, and the struggle to find one’s place in a changing world. With its poetically flowing prose and rich symbolism, The Serpent and the Rope stands as a seminal work in Indian English literature, reflecting Raja Rao’s mastery of language and his ability to delve into the depths of human consciousness. Want to read a full review of this amazing Indian English literature classic? Read here: The Serpent and the Rope by Raja Rao

43. Lord of the Flies by William Golding: Imagine being stranded on an unknown island! What will you do? Read this chilling allegorical tale that examines the descent into savagery and the fragility of civilisation when a group of young boys is stranded on an uninhabited island. You will enjoy the William Golding masterpiece for sure!

44. “The Awakening” by Kate Chopin: Perhaps one of the leading attempts in the direction of feminity, female identity and female sexuality, this Kate Chopin’s work still stands as a landmark in the history of American literature! Enjoy this groundbreaking novel that explores female identity, sexuality, and societal constraints in late 19th-century America.

45. Beloved by Toni Morrison: Toni Morrison was a renowned author known for her realistic and lasting portrayals of the world she observed around herself. This one, Beloved, is a powerful and haunting novel that examines the lasting effects of slavery on individuals and communities. She has tried to blend historical fiction with elements of magical realism. Readers will enjoy this work and also learn about the hardships that certain communities had to undergo.

46. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy: Tolstoy examines themes of love, war, destiny, and the human condition, inviting readers to ponder the profound complexities of life and the impact of personal choices on the course of history. With its richly drawn characters and panoramic scope, “War and Peace” remains a timeless work that captivates and enlightens, solidifying Tolstoy’s reputation as one of the greatest novelists in literary history.

47. The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton: Love can happen anywhere, anytime and with anyone… the novel by celebrated American novelist, Edith Wharton, explores the same. Wharton’s 8th published novel delves into the social mores and restrictions of New York’s high society in the late 19th century, exploring themes of love, duty, and societal expectations with properly fitting characters and storylines.

48. Kamayani by Jaishankar Prasad: Many critics believe that Kamayani is more than a landmark in Modern Hindi Literature or Indian literature as a whole. Jaishankar Prasad’s celebrated work is an allegorical poem that explores the complexities of human emotions through mythological characters, addressing themes of love, morality, and self-realisation. It has an astonishing length, dedicated to measuring the nuances of thoughts in Manu, the first man according to Hindu beliefs, after the great flood that destroyed everything on the earth.

49. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath: Anyone who reads Sylvia Plath, almost instantly becomes interested in reading more about ‘her’ as well. For all those, read this semi-autobiographical novel that delves into the mental and emotional struggles of its protagonist, highlighting themes of identity, societal pressure, and mental illness.

50. Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D. H. Lawrence: Let’s finish with something astonishing! England, a country that boasts of its intellect and a prolonged rule over many countries in the world did not develop a society that could rise above petty norms which did not allow free-flowing creativity! That’s why they banned this daring and controversial novel that explores themes of love, passion, and sexual awakening against the backdrop of social class and cultural constraints in early 20th-century England. The story revolves around the illicit affair between Constance Chatterley, a young and intellectually unfulfilled aristocratic woman, and Oliver Mellors, her husband’s gamekeeper. Through his evocative prose and vivid characterisations, Lawrence delves into the complexities of human desire and the clash between societal expectations and personal fulfilment.


Explore classic literature on Amazon – click here to buy these books (and others) and get discounts


Friends and readers, I have tried to pick up novels from different times, countries and backgrounds. I am sure you will have a good time growing through this list. If you like a book, you can pick it up from Amazon India (if you are in India) or from any other source as per your choice. All the best in reading these masterpieces!


A list by Ashish for ReadByCritics

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1 Comment. Leave new

  • Navneet Patel
    July 2, 2023 4:12 pm

    Oh God! This is an amazing list of classic novels! I must agree.. Good to see you have mentioned a few novels by celebrated Indian novelists like Narayan and Raha Rao on this list. I will pick up at least 10 novels I haven’t read from this list of 50 wonderful novels.


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