The 100 best books of all time
In 2002, the Norwegian Book Clubs gathered 100 authors from 54 countries and asked each one to list the 10 best works of fiction of all time. The authors responded and this list was created. The titles are arranged alphabetically by author name, so no one book stands above any other. The listmakers did, however, honor a single work – “Don Quixote” by Miguel de Cervantes – with the title of “best literary work ever written.” The following is the group’s definitive list of the world’s 100 best books. How many have you read?
1. ‘Things Fall Apart,’ by Chinua Achebe
In this 1958 novel by Nigerian author Chinua Achebe, wrestler and town leader Okonkwo seems to have an idyllic life – until he loses his temper and causes his family to be thrown out of his village for a period of seven years. While Okonkwo is gone, European missionaries arrive, and the village to which he returns years later seems very different from the one that he remembers.
2. ‘Fairy Tales,’ by Hans Christian Andersen
Any number of fantasy stories – tales so popular that most have by now become woven into the very fabric of Western culture – are included in this collection by Danish author Hans Christian Andersen, including the story of “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” “The Little Mermaid,” “The Princess and the Pea,” “The Snow Queen,” and “The Ugly Duckling.”
3. ‘The Divine Comedy,’ by Dante Alighieri
This epic poem by Italian master poet Dante Alighieri – a three-part work which describes the poet’s journey through Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven – is both the best known work of Italian literature and one of the outstanding gems of world literature
4. ‘Epic of Gilgamesh,’ anonymous
This epic poem from Mesopotamia – one of oldest surviving works of literature on the planet – tells the story of Gilgamesh, the king of the ancient city of Uruk, who befriends a man named Enkidu and with whom he embarks on several adventures.
5. ‘Book of Job,’ anonymous
‘The Book of Job’ – an ancient Hebrew text and one of the books of the Old Testament – follows the struggles of Job, a prosperous man and faithful servant of God, who is tested when Satan destroys his worldly possessions and causes him to suffer. The Book of Job is one of the most famous attempts of all literature to explain the tribulations of the righteous.
6. ‘One Thousand and One Nights,’ anonymous
This famous collection of Middle Eastern folk tales is framed by the story of Scheherazade, the young wife of a Persian king, who tells her husband stories that continue for many nights in an effort to hold off her planned execution. The tales which Scheherazade tells her husband include both histories and comedies.
7. ‘Njáls saga,’ anonymous
‘Njáls saga’ is an Icelandic saga dating from medieval times. The work’s protagonists are Njáll, a wise lawyer, and his friend, a warrior named Gunnarr, both of whom are tragically drawn into the feuding prevalent in their country at that time.
8. ‘Pride and Prejudice,’ by Jane Austen
Novelist Jane Austen examines country society and social norms of England in the early 1800s in the humorous, sharply observed “Pride and Prejudice,” in which heroine Elizabeth Bennet is forced to reassess her initial impression of the surly yet very wealthy Mr. Darcy.
9. ‘Le Père Goriot,’ by Honoré de Balzac
This 1835 novel by French master Honoré de Balzac follows three protagonists, all of whom reside in a boarding house. There’s Goriot, the father of two daughters who forgoes his own comfort so his daughters can rise in society; Rastignac, a young law student who tries to advance professionally and socially; and Vautrin, a mysterious criminal.
10. ‘Molloy,’ ‘Malone Dies,’ and ‘The Unnamable,’ by Samuel Beckett
This trilogy by Irish avant-garde writer Samuel Beckett was selected for the list as a single entry. “Molloy” follows the possibly connected characters of Molloy and Moran, while “Malone Dies” centers on a man named Malone who is writing a novel about a man named Macmann. “The Unnamable” is made up of a monologue by