The 100 Greatest Books Challenge

The Greatest Books Challenge started in 2008, when I started reading fiction. Before then, I bet I hadn’t read more than five books of fiction outside of a classroom in my entire life. I just preferred non-fiction and that was that. But in 2008, I was trying to relax – my mind, my body, my use of time – and only fiction could do that for me.

So, in a truly un-relaxed way, I decided to do some searching and see if there were lists of the greatest books with which I should start. I found more than a few, and I’ve updated the links for your reference and use too:

I combined several of these lists and, while my list may need to be updated, there are currently 218 books on it. I’ve read the 43 that are crossed off, making it clear that – with only 20% read – this is going to be a long, long project.

The Greatest Books Challenge:

  1. James Agee A Death in the FamilyBeowulf
  2. Achebe, Chinua Things Fall Apart
  3. Agee, James A Death in the Family
  4. Allison Bastard Out of Carolina
  5. Alvarez How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents
  6. Amis London Fields
  7. Atkinson Emotionally Weird
  8. Atwood The Handmaid’s Tale
  9. Austen, Jane Pride and Prejudice
  10. Austen, Jane Persuasion
  11. Austen, Jane Emma
  12. Auster, Paul The New York Trilogy
  13. Baldwin, James Go Tell It on the Mountain
  14. Bataille Visions of Excess
  15. Beckett, Samuel Waiting for Godot
  16. Beckett, Samuel Molloy Malone Dies
  17. Bellow, Saul The Adventures of Augie March
  18. Bellow, Saul Herzog
  19. Bellow Humboldt’s Gift
  20. Bely, Andrey Petersburg
  21. Bowles The Sheltering Sky
  22. Boyle Tortilla Curtain
  23. Bukowski Ham on Rye
  24. Bukowski Days Run Away Like Wild Horses Over the Hills
  25. Brontë, Charlotte Jane Eyre
  26. Brontë, Emily Wuthering Heights
  27. Camus, Albert The Stranger
  28. Candide, Voltaire
  29. Cather, Willa Death Comes for the Archbishop
  30. Cather, Willa My Antonia
  31. Cervantes Don Quixote
  32. Chaucer, Geoffrey The Canterbury Tales
  33. Chekhov, Anton The Cherry Orchard
  34. Chopin, Kate The Awakening
  35. Collins, Wilkie The Woman in White
  36. Conrad, Joseph Heart of Darkness
  37. Conrad, Joseph Nostromo
  38. Cooper, James Fenimore The Last of the Mohicans
  39. Crane, Stephen The Red Badge of Courage
  40. Dante Inferno
  41. Davis The Ecology of Fear
  42. De Balzac, Honore Le Pere Goriot
  43. de Cervantes, Miguel Don Quixote
  44. Defoe, Daniel Robinson Crusoe
  45. De Lafayette, Madame The Princess of Cleves
  46. Delany Babel 17
  47. Delillo White Noise
  48. Dickens, Charles A Tale of Two Cities
  49. Dickens, Charles Bleak House
  50. Dickens, Charles Great Expectations
  51. Dickens, Charles The Pickwick Papers
  52. Di Lampedusa, Giuseppe Tomasi The Leopard
  53. Doblin, Alfred Berlin
  54. Dos Passos, John U.S.A. Trilogy
  55. Greatest Books: Crime and Punishment DostoevskyDostoyevsky, Fyodor Crime and Punishment
  56. Dostoyevsky, Fyodor The Brothers Karamazov
  57. Douglass, Frederick Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass
  58. Doyle, Arthur Conan The Hound of Baskervilles
  59. Dreiser, Theodore An American Tragedy
  60. Dumas, Alexandre The Three Musketeers
  61. Eliot, George The Mill on the Floss
  62. Eliot, George Middlemarch
  63. Ellison, Ralph Invisible Man
  64. Emerson, Ralph Waldo Selected Essays
  65. Faulkner, William As I Lay Dying
  66. Faulkner, William The Sound and the Fury
  67. Faulkner, William Absalom, Absalom!
  68. Fielding, Henry Tom Jones
  69. Fitzgerald, F. Scott The Great Gatsby
  70. Flaubert, Gustave Madame Bovary
  71. Ford, Ford Madox The Good Soldier
  72. Forster, EM A Passage to India
  73. Freud Dora
  74. Fuentes, Carlos The Death of Artemio Cruz
  75. Gide, Andre The Counterfeiters
  76. Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von Faust
  77. Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von The Sorrows of Young Werther
  78. Gogol, Nikolai Dead Souls
  79. Golding, William Lord of the Flies
  80. Goncharov, Ivan Oblomov
  81. Grass, Gunter The Tin Drum
  82. Graves Goodbye to All That
  83. Hamsun, Knut Hunger
  84. Hardy, Thomas Tess of the d’Urbervilles
  85. Hasek, Jaroslav The Good Soldier
  86. Hawthorne, Nathaniel The Scarlet Letter
  87. Hedayat Blind Owl
  88. Heller, Joseph Catch 22
  89. Hemingway, Ernest A Farewell to Arms
  90. Hemingway, Ernest The Sun Also Rises
  91. Hemingway, Ernest For Whom the Bell Tolls
  92. Homer The Iliad
  93. Homer The Odyssey
  94. Hugo, Victor The Hunchback of Notre Dame
  95. Hugo, Victor Les Miserables
  96. Hurston, Zora Neale Their Eyes Were Watching God
  97. Huxley, Aldous Brave New World
  98. Ibsen, Henrik A Doll’s House
  99. James, Henry The Portrait of a Lady
  100. James, Henry The Turn of the Screw
  101. James, Henry The Ambassadors
  102. Joyce, James A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
  103. Joyce, James Ulysses
  104. Joyce, James Finnegans Wake
  105. Dubliners James JoyceJoyce, James Dubliners
  106. Kafka, Franz The Metamorphosis
  107. Kafka, Franz The Trial
  108. Kerouac, Jack On the Road
  109. Kingston, Maxine Hong The Woman Warrior
  110. Klein No Logo
  111. Lawrence, D. H.  Women in Love
  112. Leblanc Random Family
  113. Lee, Harper To Kill a Mockingbird
  114. L’Engle A Wrinkle In Time
  115. Le Guin The Earthsea Trilogy
  116. Lessing, Doris The Golden Notebook
  117. Letham Girl in Landscape
  118. Lewis, Sinclair Babbitt
  119. London, Jack The Call of the Wild
  120. Lowry, Malcolm Under the Volcano
  121. Mann, Thomas The Magic Mountain
  122. Mann, Thomas Buddenbrooks
  123. Manzoni, Alessandro The Betrothed
  124. Marek The Eagles Die
  125. Marquez, Gabriel García One Hundred Years of Solitude
  126. Maugham Of Human Bondage
  127. Melville, Herman Bartleby the Scrivener
  128. Melville, Herman Moby Dick
  129. Miller, Arthur The Crucible
  130. Milton Paradise Lost
  131. Mitchell, Margaret Gone with the Wind
  132. Morrison, Toni Beloved
  133. Munif, Abd al-Rahman Cities of Salt
  134. Murakami, Haruki The Wind Up Bird Chronicles
  135. Murakami, Haruki Wild Sheep Chase
  136. Musil, Robert The Man Without Qualities
  137. Nabokov, Vladimir Lolita
  138. Nin Delta of Venus
  139. O’Connor, Flannery A Good Man is Hard to Find
  140. O’Connor, Flannery Complete Stories of Flannery O’Connor
  141. O’Neill, Eugene Long Day’s Journey into Night
  142. Orwell, George Animal Farm
  143. Orwell, George Nineteen Eighty-Four
  144. Pasternak, Boris Doctor Zhivago
  145. Paton Cry the Beloved Country
  146. Plath, Sylvia The Bell Jar
  147. Plath, Sylvia Ariel
  148. Plato The Republic
  149. Poe, Edgar Allan Selected Tales
  150. Powell Wicked Pavilion
  151. Pritchett Collected Stories of V.S. Pritchett
  152. Proust, Marcel Swann’s Way
  153. Proust, Marcel In Search of Lost Time
  154. Pynchon, Thomas The Crying of Lot 49
  155. Pynchon, Thomas Gravity’s Rainbow
  156. Rand Atlas Shrugged
  157. Remarque, Erich Maria All Quiet on the Western Front
  158. Richardson, Samuel Clarissa
  159. Rosenbaum Movie Wars
  160. Rostand, Edmond Cyrano de Bergerac
  161. Roth, Henry Call It Sleep
  162. Rushdie The Satanic Verses
  163. Russo Empire Falls
  164. Salinger, J.D Franny and Zooey
  165. Salinger, J.D. The Catcher in the Rye
  166. Scott, Sir Walter Waverley
  167. Sendak Where the Wild Things Are
  168. Shakespeare, William Hamlet
  169. Shakespeare, William Macbeth
  170. Shakespeare, William A Midsummer Night’s Dream
  171. Shakespeare, William Romeo and Juliet
  172. Shaw, George Bernard Pygmalion
  173. Shelley, Mary Frankenstein
  174. Shikiby, Murasaki  The Tale of Genji
  175. Silko, Leslie Marmon Ceremony
  176. Solzhenitsyn, Alexander One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich
  177. Sontag On Photography
  178. Sophocles Antigone
  179. Sophocles Oedipus Rex
  180. Steinbeck, John The Grapes of Wrath
  181. Stendhal The Red and the Black
  182. Sterne, Laurence Tristram Shandy
  183. Stevenson, Robert Louis Treasure Island
  184. Stoker, Bram Dracula
  185. Stowe, Harriet Beecher Uncle Tom’s Cabin
  186. Suskind Perfume
  187. Swift, Jonathan Gulliver’s Travels
  188. Thackeray, William Vanity Fair
  189. Thoreau, Henry David Walden
  190. Thucydides History of the Peloponnesian War
  191. Tolkien, JRR Lord of the Rings
  192. Tolstoy, Leo War and Peace
  193. Tolstoy, Leo Anna Karenina
  194. Trollope, Anthony The Last Chronicle of Barset
  195. Turgenev, Ivan Fathers and Sons
  196. Twain, Mark The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
  197. Virgil Aeneid
  198. Vonnegut, Kurt Jr. Slaughterhouse-Five
  199. Vonnegut, Kurt The Breakfast of Champions
  200. Walker, Alice The Color Purple
  201. Wallace Infinite Jest
  202. Waugh, Evelyn Brideshead Revisited
  203. Wharton, Edith The House of Mirth
  204. Wharton, Edith The Age of Innocence
  205. Welty, Eudora Collected Stories
  206. Whitman, Walt Leaves of Grass
  207. Wilde, Oscar The Picture of Dorian Gray
  208. Williams, Tennessee The Glass Menagerie
  209. Williams Moise and the World of Reason
  210. Woolf, Virginia To the Lighthouse
  211. Wrede Dealing With Dragons
  212. Wright, Richard Native Son
  213. Xueqin, Cao Dream of the Red Chamber
  214. Yasunari, Kawabata Snow Country
  215. Yates Revolutionary Road
  216. Yoshimoto Kitchen
  217. Zinn, Howard A People’s History of the United States
  218. Zola, Emile Germinal


[UPDATE: I’ve since re-organized and updated the Greatest Books list and made it available for download here.]


2 Comments for “The 100 Greatest Books Challenge”


[…] I’m slowly but surely making my way through my list of “100” greatest books of all time.  I put “100” in quotes because I merged several top 100 lists and recently added the Pulitzer Prize winners in the Novel (1917-1947) and Fiction (1948-present) categories.  This leaves me with a list of the 300 greatest books from varied sources. […]

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