Best Novels of All Time – Ranked

I collected 24 lists of “Best Novels of All Time” from books and the Internet and combined them into one meta-list.  Some of the lists included only novels written in English or novels written in the 20th Century, so I reached out to include the novels on other lists of great books, with an eye to including pre- and post-20th Century novels and novels written in languages other than English.  The original lists use somewhat differing definitions of ‘novel’ and purists may find books on the list that don’t meet one or more of those definitions. I apologize for any inconvenience. In the meta-list below, I have included every novel on four or more of the original source lists. Novels on the same number of lists are organized chronologically.

To see a longer list that includes every novel on three or more of the lists, organized chronologically, go here.

On 21 “Best Novels” Lists
One Hundred Years of Solitude (Colombia, 1967). By Gabriel García Márquez

Cover art for the first English language edition of One Hundred Years of Solitude (1970).

On 20 Lists
The Great Gatsby (US, 1925). By F. Scott Fitzgerald

The cover art for the first edition of The Great Gatsby.

On 18 Lists
Lolita (US, 1955). By Vladimir Nabokov

The covers of both volumes of the first edition of Nabokov’s Lolita.

On 17 Lists
Anna Karenina (Russia, 1877). By Leo Tolstoy
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (US, 1884). By Mark Twain

The cover art for the first U.S. edition of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885).

On 16 Lists
Don Quixote (Spain, Pt. 1: 1605; Pt. 2: 1615). By Miguel De Cervantes

The title page of the first edition of Don Quixote, Part 1 (1605).

Madame Bovary (France, 1856). By Gustave Flaubert

On 15 Lists
Wuthering Heights (UK, 1847). By Emily Bronte

The title page of the first edition of Wuthering Heights, giving the author’s pen name, Ellis Bell.

Moby-Dick (US, 1851). By Herman Melville
Crime and Punishment (Russia, 1866). By Fyodor Dostoyevsky
The Catcher in the Rye (US, 1951). By J.D. Salinger
To Kill A Mockingbird (US, 1960). By Harper Lee

On 14 Lists
Pride and Prejudice (UK, 1813). By Jane Austen
Jane Eyre (UK, 1847). By Charlotte Bronte
Middlemarch
(UK, 1872). By George Eliot
The Trial
(Austria-Hungary/Czechoslovakia, 1914-1915; pub. 1925). By Franz Kafka
Ulysses (Ireland, 1922). By James Joyce

Title and facing pages of a first edition of Ulysses (1922).

In Search of Lost Time (France, 1913-1927). By Marcel Proust
The Sound and the Fury (US, 1929). By William Faulkner
The Grapes of Wrath (US, 1939). By John Steinbeck
1984 (UK, 1949). By George Orwell

On 13 Lists
The Brothers Karamazov (Russia, 1880). By Fyodor Dostoevsky
Catch-22 (US, 1961). By Joseph Heller

Cover art for the first edition of Catch-22.

On 12 Lists
The History of Tom Jones, A Foundling (GB, 1749). By Henry Fielding
The Life And Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman (Ireland/GB, 1759). By Laurence Sterne
The Red and the Black (France, 1830). By Stendhal
War and Peace (Russia, 1867 (serial); 1869 (book)). By Leo Tolstoy
A Passage to India (UK, 1924). By E.M. Forster
Mrs. Dalloway (UK, 1925). By Virginia Woolf
The Sun Also Rises (US, 1926). By Ernest Hemingway
Invisible Man (US, 1952). By Ralph Ellison

Cover art for the first edition of Invisible Man.

Beloved (US, 1987). By Toni Morrison

On 11 Lists
Gulliver’s Travels (Ireland, 1726). By Jonathan Swift
Frankenstein (UK, 1818). By Mary Shelley
The Scarlet Letter (US, 1850). By Nathaniel Hawthorne
The Portrait of a Lady (US, 1881). By Henry James
To The Lighthouse (UK, 1927). By Virginia Woolf

Cover art for the first edition of To the Lighthouse.

The Stranger (France, 1942). By Albert Camus
Things Fall Apart (Nigeria, 1958). By Chinua Achebe

On 10 Lists
Robinson Crusoe (GB, 1719). By Daniel Defoe
David Copperfield (UK, 1850). By Charles Dickens
Tess of the d’Urbervilles (UK, 1892). By Thomas Hardy
On the Road (US, 1957). By Jack Kerouac
Midnight’s Children (UK, 1981). By Salman Rushdie

Cover art for the first edition of Midnight’s Children.

On 9 Lists
Emma (UK, 1816). By Jane Austen
Great Expectations (UK, 1861). By Charles Dickens
My Ántonia (US, 1918). By Willa Cather
The Age of Innocence (US, 1920). By Edith Wharton
The Magic Mountain (Germany, 1924). By Thomas Mann

Title and facing pages of the original German edition of The Magic Mountain.

An American Tragedy (US, 1925). By Theodore Dreiser
Their Eyes Were Watching God (US, 1937). By Zora Neale Hurston
The Big Sleep (US, 1939). By Raymond Chandler
Native Son (US, 1940). By Richard Wright

On 8 Lists
Candide (France, 1759). By Voltaire
Dead Souls (Russia, 1842). By Nikolai Gogol
Vanity Fair (UK, 1848). By William Thackeray
Les Misérables (France, 1862). By Victor Hugo
Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland (UK, 1865). By Lewis Carroll

Title and facing pages for first edition of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865).

Heart of Darkness (UK, 1899 (serial); 1902 (book)). By Joseph Conrad
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (Ireland, 1916). By James Joyce
All The King’s Men (US, 1946). By Robert Penn Warren
The Old Man and the Sea (US, 1952). By Ernest Hemingway
Go Tell It on the Mountain (US, 1953). By James Baldwin
The Golden Notebook (UK, 1962). By Doris Lessing

On 7 Lists
Bleak House (UK, 1853). By Charles Dickens
A Tale of Two Cities (UK, 1859). By Charles Dickens
Little Women (US, 1869). By Louisa May Alcott
The Call of the Wild (US, 1903). By Jack London
Nostromo (UK, 1904). By Joseph Conrad
A Farewell To Arms (US, 1929). By Ernest Hemingway
Brave New World (UK, 1932). By Aldous Huxley
The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter (US, 1940). By Carson McCullers
The Master and Margarita (USSR, 1940, pub. 1967). By Mikhail Bulgakov
Brideshead Revisited (UK, 1945). By Evelyn Waugh
Lord of the Flies (UK, 1954). By William Golding

Cover art for the first edition of Lord of the Flies.

The Leopard (Italy, 1958). By Giuseppe Tomasi Di Lampedusa
The Tin Drum (Germany, 1959). By Günter Grass
Rabbit, Run (US, 1960). By John Updike
A House for Mr. Biswas (Trinidad & Tobago/UK, 1961). By V.S. Naipaul
Slaughterhouse-Five (US, 1969). By Kurt Vonnegut
Gravity’s Rainbow (US, 1973). By Thomas Pynchon
American Pastoral (US, 1997). By Philip Roth

On 6 Lists
Clarissa (GB, 1748). By Samuel Richardson
Le Pére Goriot (France, 1835). By Honore de Balzac
The Count of Monte Cristo (France, 1844). By Alexandre Dumas
The Three Musketeers (France, 1844). By Alexandre Dumas
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (UK, 1886). By Robert Louis Stevenson
The Picture of Dorian Gray (Ireland, 1891). By Oscar Wilde
Dracula (Ireland, 1897). By Bram Stoker
The Awakening (US, 1899). By Kate Chopin
Kim (UK, 1901). By Rudyard Kipling
The House of Mirth (US, 1905). By Edith Wharton
Howards End (UK, 1910) By E.M. Forster
Sons and Lovers (UK, 1913). By D.H. Lawrence
The Good Soldier (UK, 1915). By Ford Madox Ford
Death Comes for the Archbishop (US, 1927). By Willa Cather
The Maltese Falcon (US, 1929). By Dashiell Hammett
Light in August (US, 1932). By William Faulkner

Cover art for William Faulkner’s 1932 novel Light in August.

As I Lay Dying (US, 1932). By William Faulkner
Tropic of Cancer (France, 1934; US, 1961). By Henry Miller
U.S.A. (trilogy) (US, 1930-1936). By John Dos Passos
Gone with the Wind (US, 1936). By Margaret Mitchell
Absalom, Absalom! (US, 1936). By William Faulkner
Of Mice and Men (US, 1937). By John Steinbeck
For Whom The Bell Tolls (US, 1940). By Ernest Hemingway
The Adventures of Augie March (US, 1953). By Saul Bellow
The Lord of the Rings (trilogy) (UK, 1954-1955). By J.R.R. Tolkein
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (UK, 1961). By Muriel Spark
Pale Fire (US, 1962). By Vladimir Nabokov
Herzog (1964). By Saul Bellow
Portnoy’s Complaint (US, 1969). By Philip Roth
Song of Solomon (US, 1977). By Toni Morrison
Love in the Time of Cholera (Colombia, 1985). By Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Disgrace (South Africa, 1999). By J.M. Coetzee
Atonement (UK, 2001). By Ian McEwan

On 5 Lists
The Tale of Genji (Japan, before 1021). By Murasaki Shikibu
Fathers and Sons (Russia, 1862). By Ivan Turgenev
Germinal (France, 1885) By Émile Zola
Jude the Obscure (UK, 1895). By Thomas Hardy
The Ambassadors (US/UK, 1903). By Henry James
The Golden Bowl (US, 1904). By Henry James
The Man Without Qualities (Germany, 1942). By Robert Musil
Animal Farm (UK, 1945). By George Orwell
Under the Volcano (UK, 1947). By Malcolm Lowry
Mallow, Malone Dies, The Unnameable (France/Ireland, 1951-1953). By Samuel Beckett
Wide Sargasso Sea (Dominica/UK, 1966). By Jean Rhys
Ragtime (US, 1975). By E.L. Doctorow
A Bend in the River (Trinidad And Tobago/UK, 1979). By V.S. Naipaul
The Name of the Rose (Italy, 1980). By Umberto Eco
The Color Purple (US, 1982). By Alice Walker
The Handmaid’s Tale (Canada, 1985). By Margaret Atwood

Cover art for the first edition of The Handmaid’s Tale.

Blood Meridian (US, 1985). By Cormac McCarthy
The Savage Detectives (Chile, 1998). By Roberto Bolaño
The Corrections (US, 2001). By Jonathan Franzen

On 4 Lists
The Sorrows of Young Werther (Germany, 1774, revised, 1787). By Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe
Persuasion (UK, 1817) By Jane Austen
The Last of The Mohicans (US, 1826). By James Fenimore Cooper
The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket (US, 1838). By Edgar Allan Poe
The Charterhouse of Parma (France, 1839). By Stendhal
Silas Marner (UK, 1861). By George Eliot
The Moonstone (UK, 1868). By Wilkie Collins
The Idiot (Russia, 1869). By Fyodor Dostoevsky
The Possessed (The Devils) (Demons) (Russia, 1872). By Fyodor Dostoevsky
Lord Jim (UK, 1900). By Joseph Conrad
Sister Carrie
(US, 1900). By Theodore Dreiser
The Wings of The Dove (US/UK, 1902). By Henry James
The Hound of The Baskervilles (UK, 1902) By Arthur Conan Doyle
The Wind in the Willows (UK, 1908). By Kenneth Grahame
The Rainbow (US, 1915). By D.H. Lawrence
Winesburg, Ohio (linked stories) (US, 1919). By Sherwood Anderson
Women in Love (UK, 1920). By D.H. Lawrence
Babbitt (US, 1922) By Sinclair Lewis
Journey to the End of the Night
 (France, 1932). By Louis-Ferdinand Céline
Appointment in Samarra (US, 1934). By John O’Hara
I, Claudius (UK, 1934). By Robert Graves
Tender Is the Night (US, 1934). By F. Scott Fitzgerald
Scoop (UK, 1938). By Evelyn Waugh
The Day of the Locust (US, 1939). By Nathanael West
Finnegans Wake (Ireland, 1939). By James Joyce
The Little Prince (France, 1943). By Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

The title and facing pages of the original French edition of The Little Prince, featuring illustrations by the author.

Loving (UK, 1945). By Henry Green
The Plague (France, 1947). By Albert Camus
The Naked and the Dead (US, 1948). By Norman Mailer
The Sheltering Sky (US, 1949). By Paul Bowles
Charlotte’s Web (US, 1952). By E.B. White
Lucky Jim (UK, 1954). By Kingsley Amis
The Recognitions (US, 1955). By William Gaddis
The Chronicles of Narnia (7-novel series) (UK, 1950-1956). By C.S. Lewis
Atlas Shrugged (US, 1957). By Ayn Rand
The Moviegoer (US, 1961). By Walker Percy
Revolutionary Road (US, 1961). By Richard Yates
A Clockwork Orange (UK, 1962). By Anthony Burgess
One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest (US, 1962). By Ken Kesey
The French Lieutenant’s Woman (UK, 1969). By John Fowles
Rabbit Redux (US, 1971). By John Updike
A Dance to the Music of Time (12-novel cycle) (UK, 1951-1975). By Anthony Powell
The World According to Garp (US, 1978). By John Irving
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (UK, 1979). By Douglas Adams
If On A Winter’s Night A Traveller (Italy, 1979). By Italo Calvino
Sophie’s Choice (US, 1979). By William Styron
Housekeeping (US, 1981). By Marilynne Robinson
Money: A Suicide Note (UK, 1984). By Martin Amis
The Lover (France, 1984). By Marguerite Duras  
Neuromancer (US/Canada, 1984). By William Gibson
The Unbearable Lightness of Being (Czechoslovakia, 1984). By Milan Kundera
White Noise (US, 1985). By Don DeLillo
The Joy Luck Club (US, 1989). By Amy Tan
The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle (Japan, 1995). By Haruki Murakami
Infinite Jest (US, 1996). By David Foster Wallace
Underworld (US, 1997). By Don DeLillo
White Teeth (UK, 2000). By Zadie Smith
Austerlitz (Germany, 2001). By W.G. Sebald