The complete list of the top 100 English novels ever written.
John Bunyan’s 1678 novel “The Pilgrim’s Progress”
This is a tale about a man seeking truth, narrated with the straightforward elegance of Bunyan’s writing, making it a timeless English masterpiece.
2. Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe (1719)
No other book in English literature had as many editions, adaptations, and translations by the late 1800s. Defoe’s iconic novel is a sophisticated literary treat that is impossible to resist.
3. Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift (1726)
Gulliver’s Travels, written by Jonathan Swift, is a satirical work that has remained in print and ranks third on our list of the top English novels.
4. Clarissa by Samuel Richardson (1748)
The novel’s protagonist, Clarissa, is a tragic figure who is forced by her unethical newly wealthy family to wed a wealthy man whom she despises. This book was praised by Samuel Johnson for its profound understanding of the human psyche.
5. Tom Jones by Henry Fielding (1749)
Tom Jones is a classic English novel that captures the spirit of its age and whose famous characters have come to represent Augustan society in all its loquacious, turbulent, comic variety.
The 1759 novel “The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman” was written by Laurence Sterne.
Laurence Sterne’s lively story created both joy and unease upon its initial release and still holds onto its sharpness.
7. Emma by Jane Austen (1816)
Jane Austen’s most notable work, Emma, combines the lightheartedness of her previous novels with a profound understanding of human emotion.
The novel “Frankenstein” was written by Mary Shelley in 1818.
The debut novel of Mary Shelley has been praised as a work of genius in the genre of horror and the dark.
“Nightmare Abbey,” written by Thomas Love Peacock in 1818.
The enjoyment derived from Nightmare Abbey, which was influenced by Thomas Love Peacock’s connection with Shelley, comes from the author’s playful mockery of the romantic movement.
10. The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket by Edgar Allan Poe (1838)
The sole novel by Edgar Allan Poe – a renowned tale of adventure with supernatural elements – has captivated and impacted numerous authors throughout the years.
Benjamin Disraeli’s novel, Sybil, was published in 1845.
The upcoming leader showed moments of excellence that matched those of the most renowned Victorian authors.
The book “Jane Eyre” was written by Charlotte Brontë in 1847.
The Victorian era was captivated by Charlotte Brontë’s seductive and eerie masterpiece. Its notable achievement was its personal and engaging conversation with the audience.
The novel “Wuthering Heights” was written by Emily Brontë in 1847.
Emily Brontë’s windswept masterpiece is notable not just for its wild beauty but for its daring reinvention of the novel form itself.
14. Vanity Fair by William Thackeray (1848)
William Thackeray’s remarkable work, taking place in 19th century England, showcases the exceptional talent of a writer at the height of his skills.
“David Copperfield” was written by Charles Dickens in 1850.
David Copperfield marked the point at which Dickens became the great entertainer and also laid the foundations for his later, darker masterpieces.
16. The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne (1850)
Nathaniel Hawthorne’s astounding book is full of intense symbolism and as haunting as anything by Edgar Allan Poe.
Herman Melville wrote Moby-Dick in 1851.
Melville’s monumental masterpiece remains a beloved and influential presence in the landscape of American literature, captivating readers with its wisdom, humor, and enthralling storytelling.
18. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll (1865)
Lewis Carroll’s brilliant nonsense tale is one of the most influential and best loved in the English canon.
“The Moonstone” was written by Wilkie Collins in 1868.
Wilkie Collins’s masterpiece, hailed by many as the greatest English detective novel, is a brilliant marriage of the sensational and the realistic.
The novel Little Women was written by Louisa May Alcott in the years 1868-1869.
Louisa May Alcott’s highly original tale aimed at a young female market has iconic status in America and never been out of print.
21. Middlemarch by George Eliot (1871-2)
This literary masterpiece remains a prominent example of the most exceptional Victorian novels.
22. The Way We Live Now by Anthony Trollope (1875)
The Way We Live Now, which was fueled by the author’s anger towards the corrupt state of England, was initially disregarded by critics but is now widely regarded as Trollope’s greatest work.
23. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain (1884/5)
The story written by Mark Twain about a rebellious boy and an escaped slave searching for freedom on the Mississippi River is still considered a quintessential masterpiece of American literature.
In 1886, Robert Louis Stevenson wrote “Kidnapped”.
“Kidnapped” remains a powerful tale of adventure, historical insight, and exploration of the Scottish identity.
The book “Three Men in a Boat” was written by Jerome K Jerome in 1889.
Jerome K Jerome’s unintentional masterpiece about frolicking on the Thames river continues to be a comedic treasure.
Arthur Conan Doyle’s novel, The Sign of Four, was published in 1890.
In his second adventure, Sherlock Holmes and his loyal companion Watson truly shine as they solve another case in the brilliant mind of author Conan Doyle.
In 1891, Oscar Wilde wrote The Picture of Dorian Gray.
Upon its release, Wilde’s cleverly alluding story about youth, beauty, and corruption was met with loud cries of disapproval.
The novel “New Grub Street” was written by George Gissing in 1891.
George Gissing’s depiction of the harsh realities of a career in literature is just as applicable today as it was in the late 1800s.
29. Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy (1895)
Hardy exposed his deepest feelings in this bleak, angry novel and, stung by the hostile response, he never wrote another.
The novel “The Red Badge of Courage” was written by Stephen Crane in 1895.
Stephen Crane tells the story of a young man’s journey to adulthood through his experiences as a soldier, providing a model for the iconic American war novel.
31. Dracula by Bram Stoker (1897)
Even after more than a century, Bram Stoker’s iconic tale of vampires remains relevant and reflective of its era.
32. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad (1899)
The work of Joseph Conrad tells the story of a transformative voyage in pursuit of Mr Kurtz, and possesses the straightforwardness of a powerful tale.
“Theodore Dreiser’s 1900 novel, Sister Carrie”
Theodore Dreiser may not have been known for his elegant writing, but his relentless novel about a rural girl’s pursuit of the American dream has a powerful momentum.
“Kim” by Rudyard Kipling was published in 1901.
In the well-known tale of a young spy by Kipling, a child without parents in British India is faced with a decision between the East and the West.
35. The Call of the Wild by Jack London (1903)
Jack London’s compelling tales of a domesticated dog’s return to the wild showcase an exceptional writing style and masterful storytelling.
“The Golden Bowl” is a novel written by Henry James in 1904.
There is no other work in American literature that compares to Henry James’s incredible, intricate, and suffocating novel.
The novel “Hadrian the Seventh” was written by Frederick Rolfe in 1904.
This intriguing yet forced tale follows a hack writer and priest as he ascends to the papacy, providing insight into its idiosyncratic creator – as described by DH Lawrence as a “man-demon”.
38. The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame (1908)
This timeless story set by the river and its significant impact on the folklore of Edwardian England.
In 1910, HG Wells published a novel called “The History of Mr Polly.”
The selection is vast, however, Wells’s satirical depiction of a character uncannily similar to himself is the standout novel.
The book “Zuleika Dobson” was written by Max Beerbohm in 1911.
Over time, Beerbohm’s seemingly comedic Edwardian satire has gained a sinister influence.
Ford Madox Ford’s novel, The Good Soldier, was published in 1915.
Ford’s most notable work delves into the exploration of moral decay hidden beneath the surface of an English gentleman, and its impact on stylistic techniques continues to be felt in present times.
The novel, “The Thirty-Nine Steps” was written by John Buchan in 1915.
John Buchan’s espionage thriller, with its sparse, contemporary prose, is hard to put down.
43. The Rainbow by DH Lawrence (1915)
DH Lawrence’s The Rainbow is considered to be one of his best works, highlighting his reputation as a daring, versatile, and modern author.
44. Of Human Bondage by W Somerset Maugham (1915)
The semi-autobiographical novel by Somerset Maugham showcases the author’s raw honesty and talent for storytelling at its finest.
In 1920, Edith Wharton published The Age of Innocence.
The tale of a troubled marriage in New York serves as a strong condemnation of a society that has become disconnected from its cultural roots.
The novel “Ulysses” was written by James Joyce and published in 1922.
This depiction of a typical day for three individuals living in Dublin is still considered a remarkable piece of literature, with its clever use of language even surpassing that of Shakespeare.
The novel “Babbitt” was written by Sinclair Lewis in 1922.
Although it may be lacking in organization and cunning, this captivating portrayal of 1920s America compensates with its vibrant satire and well-developed characters.
The novel A Passage to India was written by EM Forster in 1924.
EM Forster’s most successful piece is surprisingly prophetic regarding the topic of imperialism.
In 1925, Anita Loos wrote the novel “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.”
While it may be considered a guilty pleasure, one cannot deny the lasting impact of a story that played a defining role in the era of jazz.
“Mrs Dalloway”, written by Virginia Woolf in 1925.
Woolf’s exceptional novel uses the backdrop of a day of party planning to explore themes of lost love, decision-making, and mental health.
51. The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald (1925)
Fitzgerald’s iconic work during the jazz age has now become a captivating symbol of the timeless enigma of artistic expression.
Sylvia Townsend Warner’s novel, Lolly Willowes, was published in 1926.
A young lady defies societal norms by embracing witchcraft in this unique satire set in post-World War I England.
The novel “The Sun Also Rises” written by Ernest Hemingway and published in 1926.
Hemingway’s debut novel, which is considered his finest work, follows a journey to 1920s Spain in order to examine themes of bravery, fear, and masculinity.
The novel “The Maltese Falcon” was written by Dashiell Hammett in 1929.
The crime suspense novel by Dashiell Hammett and its gritty protagonist Sam Spade had a significant impact on writers like Chandler and Le Carré.
55. The book “As I Lay Dying” was written by William Faulkner in 1930.
The lasting impact of William Faulkner’s compelling story depicting the unrefined rural lifestyle in Mississippi is still evident in modern times.
56. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley (1932)
The idea of Aldous Huxley’s prediction of a society ruled by global capitalism in the future is just as accurate as Orwell’s renowned dystopia.
Stella Gibbons’ 1932 novel, Cold Comfort Farm.
Gibbons is most famously known for his book, which was a satire on pastoral fiction during the late Victorian era. However, it continued to have a lasting impact on many generations that followed.
The novel “Nineteen Nineteen” was written by John Dos Passos in 1932.
The middle volume of John Dos Passos’s USA trilogy is revolutionary in its intent, techniques and lasting impact.
Henry Miller’s 1934 novel, “Tropic of Cancer.”
The first novel by the American author explored the dark and scandalous world of Paris, and had a significant impact on the direction of the genre, despite facing challenges from censorship.
60. Scoop by Evelyn Waugh (1938)
Evelyn Waugh’s Fleet Street satire remains sharp, pertinent and memorable.
61. Murphy by Samuel Beckett (1938)
Samuel Beckett’s debut novel is a work of absurdism that showcases his distinct comedic style.
62. The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler (1939)
Raymond Chandler’s first hardboiled novel captures the gritty underworld of Los Angeles and introduces Philip Marlowe, the quintessential fictional detective.
The novel “Party Going” was written by Henry Green in 1939.
Taking place on the brink of war, this overlooked modern work of art focuses on a clique of intelligent and lively party-goers who are hindered by fog.
The novel At Swim-Two-Birds was written by Flann O’Brien in 1939.
Flann O’Brien’s first humorous work is complex and intricate, serving as both a commentary on and an example of the Irish novel.
The novel “The Grapes of Wrath” was written by John Steinbeck in 1939.
Considered a masterpiece among American literature, this exploration of a destitute family’s struggle during the Great Depression caused quite a stir within American culture.
“Joy in the Morning” is a novel written by PG Wodehouse in 1946.
During his troubled time in war-torn Germany, PG Wodehouse wrote his poignant Jeeves novel which is considered his greatest work.
67. All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren (1946)
This is an intriguing tale of individual and governmental wrongdoing, taking place in the southern United States during the 1930s.
68. Under the Volcano by Malcolm Lowry (1947)
Malcolm Lowry’s masterpiece about the last hours of an alcoholic ex-diplomat in Mexico is set to the drumbeat of coming conflict.
69. The Heat of the Day by Elizabeth Bowen (1948)
In her 1948 book, Elizabeth Bowen effectively portrays the mood of London during the blitz and offers insightful perspectives on human emotions.
70. Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell (1949)
The famous novel “1984” by George Orwell was a costly endeavor for the author, but is widely considered to be the most well-known English novel of the 20th century.
71. The End of the Affair by Graham Greene (1951)
Graham Greene’s poignant story of infidelity and its consequences links together multiple important themes in his writing.
The novel “The Catcher in the Rye” was written by JD Salinger in 1951.
The examination of adolescent defiance by JD Salinger continues to be a highly debated and popular American book from the 1900s.
The novel “The Adventures of Augie March” was written by Saul Bellow in 1953.
During the ongoing search for the quintessential American novel, Saul Bellow’s adventurous third book often succeeds in capturing the essence.
74. Lord of the Flies by William Golding (1954)
Initially disregarded as “terrible and uninteresting”, Golding’s keenly observed novel about a dystopian desert island has now achieved classic status.
Lolita, written by Vladimir Nabokov in 1955.
Nabokov’s tragicomic tour de force crosses the boundaries of good taste with glee.
The novel “On the Road” was written by Jack Kerouac and was published in 1957.
The well-known novel of Kerouac’s beat-generation, fueled by pea soup and benzedrine, has a fascinating backstory that is just as renowned as the book itself.
The novel “Voss” was written by Patrick White in 1957.
A love story set against the disappearance of an explorer in the outback, Voss paved the way for a generation of Australian writers to shrug off the colonial past.
In 1960, Harper Lee published the novel “To Kill a Mockingbird”.
Her second novel finally arrived this summer, but Harper Lee’s first did enough alone to secure her lasting fame, and remains a truly popular classic.
Muriel Spark’s 1960 novel, “The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie.”
This brief yet poignant story by Muriel Spark tells of a Scottish schoolteacher’s downfall and is a superb example of storytelling in fiction.
In 1961, Joseph Heller published “Catch-22”.
This sharp and critical novel against war was initially not well-received by the public, but is now recognized as a pioneering commentary on the dangers of military obsession.
81. The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing (1962)
Regarded as a significant piece of literature during the women’s rights movement in the 1960s, this examination of a divorced single mother’s quest for individual and political identity remains a bold and ambitious masterpiece.
The novel A Clockwork Orange, written by Anthony Burgess in 1962.
Anthony Burgess’ novel of a dystopian society continues to shock and incite thought, refusing to be overshadowed by Stanley Kubrick’s phenomenal film adaptation.
Christopher Isherwood’s 1964 novel, “A Single Man.”
The tale of a homosexual man from England facing grief in Los Angeles, written by Christopher Isherwood, is a masterfully condensed piece.
Truman Capote’s book, In Cold Blood, was published in 1966.
The non-fiction book by Truman Capote depicts a real-life tale of a violent murder in rural Kansas, offering insight into the hidden and unsettling aspects of postwar America.
The novel “The Bell Jar” was written by Sylvia Plath in 1966.
Sylvia Plath’s highly descriptive and autobiographical novel, in which a female protagonist grapples with her sense of self amidst societal expectations, is a significant work in Anglo-American feminist literature.
One of the most popular books written by Philip Roth is Portnoy’s Complaint, which was published in 1969.
This hilariously witty book follows a young Jewish American’s fixation with self-gratification and sparked controversy upon its release, but is still considered his most brilliant piece of literature.
87. Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont by Elizabeth Taylor (1971)
Elizabeth Taylor’s exquisitely drawn character study of eccentricity in old age is a sharp and witty portrait of genteel postwar English life facing the changes taking shape in the 60s.
88. Rabbit Redux by John Updike (1971)
Harry “Rabbit” Angstrom, Updike’s lovably mediocre alter ego, is one of America’s great literary protoganists, up there with Huck Finn and Jay Gatsby.
“The 1977 novel Song of Solomon, written by Toni Morrison”
The novel with which the Nobel prize-winning author established her name is a kaleidoscopic evocation of the African-American experience in the 20th century.
In 1979, VS Naipaul wrote A Bend in the River.
VS Naipaul’s portrayal of an African country’s journey towards independence is seen as controversial due to accusations of racism, but is still considered his greatest work.
Salman Rushdie’s novel, Midnight’s Children, was published in 1981.
Salman Rushdie’s groundbreaking novel written in Indian English combines personal and historical elements, as it follows the life of a young man who was born at the exact time of India’s independence.
92. Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson (1981)
Marilynne Robinson’s story of two sisters who are orphans and their eccentric aunt in a small town in Idaho has received praise from notable figures such as Barack Obama and Bret Easton Ellis.
Martin Amis’s 1984 novel, “Money: A Suicide Note”, explores the theme of money and its destructive effect on individuals.
Martin Amis’s era-defining ode to excess unleashed one of literature’s greatest modern monsters in self-destructive antihero John Self.
94. An Artist of the Floating World by Kazuo Ishiguro (1986)
Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel about a retired artist in postwar Japan, reflecting on his career during the country’s dark years, is a tour de force of unreliable narration.
The novel “The Beginning of Spring” was written by Penelope Fitzgerald in 1988.
Fitzgerald’s story, set in Russia just before the Bolshevik revolution, is her masterpiece: a brilliant miniature whose peculiar magic almost defies analysis.
96. Breathing Lessons by Anne Tyler (1988)
Anne Tyler perfectly showcases her ability to capture the essence of a middle-aged, mid-American marriage through her expert storytelling, humor, and mastery of American dialogue.
John McGahern’s novel “Amongst Women” was published in 1990.
This contemporary work of art from Ireland explores the fractures within Irish patriarchy and mourns for a bygone era.
The novel “Underworld” was written by Don DeLillo and was published in 1997.
Don DeLillo, known for his ability to evoke fear in his writing, takes readers on a grand adventure through the past and present of America’s societal and cultural landscape.
99. Disgrace by JM Coetzee (1999)
Coetzee’s award-winning novel, with its deeply human perspective, imbues a fictional realm that beckons and perplexes political analysis.
The novel “True History of the Kelly Gang,” written by Peter Carey in 2000.
Peter Carey completes our collection of significant achievements in literature with his Booker prize-winning masterpiece that delves into the story of Australia’s notorious antihero, Ned Kelly.