War and Peace (1869) is a novel that follows the lives of several aristocratic families during the French invasion of Russia and the Napoleonic Wars. It explores themes of love, war, politics, and the human condition, and is considered one of the great works of literature.
Crime and Punishment (1866) is considered one of the greatest masterpieces of Russian literature. It follows a young man called Rodion Raskolnikov – first as he plots to kill an elderly pawnbroker, then as he commits the deed, and finally as he confronts the many consequences of his actions. Emotionally poignant as well as philosophically and psychologically complex, the novel has left a visible mark on generations of writers, thinkers, and artists ever since its publication.
Brave New World (1932) is a dystopian novel set in a world where citizens are socially engineered to be complacent and pleasure-seeking. It’s a world that worships Henry Ford – a scaled-up version of an assembly line that’s mass produced, homogenous, and ultimately consumable.
Of Mice and Men (1937) is a poignant tale that traces an unlikely friendship between two impoverished workers in California during the Great Depression: compact, quick-witted George Milton, and huge, childlike Lennie Small.
Nineteen Eighty-Four, also published as 1984, is a dystopian novel from 1949 that deals with the perils of totalitarianism. It’s set in an imagined future in a superstate called Oceania, which is ruled by an authoritarian government that maintains power through constant surveillance and other insidious means.
Death of a Salesman (1949) is widely regarded as one of the twentieth century’s greatest plays. A poignant critique of the promises and pitfalls of capitalism and the American Dream, it follows the salesman Willy Loman, his increasingly tense relationships with his family and colleagues, and his tragic, hallucinatory descent into fantasy and madness.
Lord of the Flies (1954) is the allegorical story of a group of young boys stranded on a deserted island and left to fend for themselves and create a society. As the boys struggle with the complexities of leadership, cooperation, and survival, they are forced to face some fundamental questions about human nature and the fragility of civilization.
The Iliad (c. eighth century BC) is one of the oldest and most important works of Western literature. Attributed to ancient Greek poet Homer, the epic poem recounts the final days of the Greek siege of Troy. At the center of the story is Greek war hero Achilles, who has to beat back the Trojan enemy, struggle against meddling gods, and vie for recognition among his fellow Greeks.
Antigone (c. 441 BC) is a tragedy by Sophocles, one of ancient Greece’s greatest playwrights. After a civil war, two brothers – the leaders of rival factions – are dead. One is remembered as a patriotic hero; the other, as a treacherous usurper. The king of Thebes, Creon, has forbidden anyone to bury the traitor – an order the man’s sister, Antigone, can’t square with her conscience. The stage is set for a conflict pitting the individual against the state, justice against law, idealism against realism, and a defiant woman against a male-dominated world.
Lessons in Chemistry (2022) is the story of Elizabeth Zott, a brilliant scientist who has the misfortune of being a woman in 1950s America. After a frustrating failed academic career, Zott finds success in an unlikely place: as the host of a television cooking show.
Frankenstein (1818) is a Gothic horror classic that tells the tale of ambitious young scientist Victor Frankenstein. Obsessed with the idea of creating life, Frankenstein assembles a freakish human-like monster. But when he animates it, he’s shocked at the horror he’s created. Although the monster seeks affection at first, it’s continually rejected and eventually seeks revenge on humankind.
Wuthering Heights (1847) is a masterpiece of English literature. Set in Yorkshire, it tells the story of two families and their intense, often tumultuous relationships – in particular, the stormy romance between Heathcliff and Catherine.
The Alchemist (1988) follows the story of a young Andalusian shepherd, who travels to the pyramids of Egypt to find a treasure he has recurrently dreamed about. On his journey, he has to overcome multiple obstacles – through which he learns valuable life lessons. Based on a thirteenth-century folktale, it explores topics such as following your dreams, finding your destiny, and the nature of love.
East of Eden (1952) is a sweeping epic that centers around three generations of the Trask family. Growing up, Adam Trask competed with his brother for his father’s love – with jealousy and vengeance leading to violent consequences. When Adam has children of his own, he struggles to spare them the same fate.
Animal Farm (1945) is a classic satirical novella that transplants the events of the Russian Revolution of 1917 to a small English farm. Once the animals stage an uprising, a political battle ensues between an ideological pig named Snowball and a power-hungry pig named Napoleon.
Romeo and Juliet (c. 1591-1597) is the iconic tragedy of two youths who fall in love amid the feud raging between their two families. The many themes it explores include love and hate, fate and free will, and dream and reality.
To Kill a Mockingbird (1960) is one of the most influential American novels ever written. Set in a small town in Alabama in the 1930s, it follows the Finch family over three tumultuous years as a trial divides a community. Covering themes of love and hate, innocence and experience, and kindness and cruelty, Harper Lee’s book goes to the heart of human behavior.
Hamlet (c. 1509-1601) is widely regarded as Shakespeare’s greatest play. A tragedy in five parts, it tells the story of Prince Hamlet, a thinker who must turn to action to avenge his father. It’s not only the finely crafted plot that’s fascinated readers and theatergoers down the centuries, though – Hamlet is also a penetrating study of the meaning of life and death.
The Catcher in the Rye (1951) is J. D. Salinger’s classic coming-of-age novel, telling the story of the troubled young Holden Caulfield. Holden has just been expelled from school, and spends several days traversing New York City, sharing his opinions of the world around him.
Beowulf is a masterpiece of Anglo-Saxon literature, set in sixth-century Scandinavia. The narrative poem recounts the heroic exploits of Beowulf, who battles monsters and eventually becomes king.
The Great Gatsby (1925) tells the tale of a tragic romance set against a Roaring Twenties backdrop of hedonism and excess. It's considered a defining work of America’s Jazz Age and the time leading up to the Great Depression. With sales surpassing 30 million copies worldwide, it’s among the twentieth century’s most enduring novels.
Macbeth (1606) is the Shakespearean tragedy of Scottish general Macbeth and his doomed attempt to seize his country’s throne. His ambitions ignited by a prophecy spoken to him by three witches, Macbeth’s path to power begins with anxiety and reticence and ends with callousness and cruelty. His story is a timeless exploration of guilt, paranoia, madness, prophecy, and the evils of ambition.
American Psycho (1991) is a controversial cult novel that uses graphic violence to satirize modern capitalism and consumer culture. It follows the life of Patrick Bateman, a wealthy and handsome investment banker living in Manhattan in the 1980s. Beneath his polished exterior lies a psychopathic killer who preys on his victims without remorse. Bateman’s exploits quickly grow more and more extreme, and his mask of sanity starts to slip.
Things Fall Apart (1958) was the first in the African Writers Series of 350 books published between 1962 and 2003 which provided an international audience for many African writers. It tells the story of a respected leader of an Igbo community and the problems faced by the community as white men arrive and bring with them their laws and religion.
The Song of Achilles (2011) is a creative retelling of Homer’s Iliad. The epic tale of the Trojan War is transformed into a moving love story, told from the perspective of Patroclus, the beloved companion of the Greek hero Achilles.
Jane Eyre (1874) is an intense, intimate portrait of a young woman’s search to find her place in Victorian society without compromising her passionate ideals. It follows her as she navigates life’s obstacles – and her developing love for the mysterious Edward Rochester.
The Hobbit (1937) is the classic fantasy adventure story of an unsuspecting hobbit named Bilbo Baggins. Ripped unexpectedly from his idle epicurean life by the wizard Gandalf, Bilbo finds himself on a journey to help a group of dwarves take back their stolen treasure from the jealous dragon Smaug. Along the way, he encounters trolls, elves, goblins, and spiders – plus a certain magic ring – and eventually finds that he had what it took to be a hero all along.
Persuasion (1817) is the story of Anne Elliot, a 27-year-old woman whose heart was broken at 19, when she was persuaded not to marry the naval captain Frederick Wentworth – the love of her life. When Anne and Captain Wentworth cross paths again, they are both still unattached. But does the Captain still carry a torch for Anne, or has resentment and time snuffed out the flame forever?
A Rose for Emily (1930) was first published in Forum magazine. Told in a nonlinear style, it starts with the funeral of Emily, a fixture in the fictional Jefferson County. It then goes back in time to trace moments of her life, and the decline in her health and status.
Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow (2022) by Gabrielle Zevin tells the story of Sadie and Sam, childhood friends turned creative collaborators and video game designers. The novel charts the tumultuous highs and lows of Sam and Sadie’s friendship against the vividly realized backdrop of the gaming industry at the turn of the 21st century.
The Kite Runner (2003) is narrated by Amir, an Afghan living in the US, as he reflects on his childhood in Kabul, and an incident that changed his life. This best-selling novel is a story of friendship, family, betrayal, and redemption.
Anyone who’s curious about a book that was a New York Times bestseller for 2 years
Dune (1965) is a modern epic, often considered the greatest sci-fi novel of all time. Set in a distant future, it follows the story of Paul, son of the noble Duke Leto of Atreides, as he adapts to life on Arrakis – his family’s new dominion. The desert planet is highly contested as it’s the source of a valuable commodity called spice. Soon, Paul must join the native desert people in an epic battle against the power-hungry enemies of Arrakis.
Little Women (1868-1869) tells the story of the four March sisters, and the struggles and day-to-day obstacles they faced while becoming young adults. While the story takes place in the American Northeast, it’s a universal coming-of-age story that has been appreciated around the world.
The Screwtape Letters (1942) is a satirical novel in the form of letters written from one demon to another. Senior demon and hellish administrator Screwtape shares advice and lessons with his nephew, Wormwood, who is tasked with tempting his “patient” away from God and toward Satan. As such, readers see the ordinary troubles and temptations of human life depicted from a devil’s point of view.
Mad Honey (2022) tells the story of two women who have fled abusive pasts to make a new life in the small town of Adams, New Hampshire. When one is found dead, and the other finds her son accused of the murder, the tense courtroom drama that unfolds shines light on the true cost of secrets kept for love.
Verity (2018) is the breakout thriller leaving mystery fans breathless. Taut and tense, with a final plot twist delivered like a sucker-punch, the novel leaves readers questioning everything in the end — especially the truth.
The Secret History (1992) is the gripping tale of a group of Classics students at a New England college who are involved in the murder of a classmate. The novel explores the complex relationships between the friends, and the impact the incident has on their lives.
We Were Liars (2014) is the suspenseful story of the wealthy, carefree Sinclair family and the tragic event that exposes the cracks in their perfect facade – as told by an unreliable narrator, Cadence Sinclair.
A Court of Thorns and Roses (2020) follows the story of Feyre, who inadvertently kills a fairy and finds herself on the wrong side of the fairy/human border. She is given the choice to die in exchange for the life she took or go to live as a human prisoner in the land of Faerie. Her choice launches her on a journey of adventure and romance. This is the first book in the five-part A Court of Thorns and Roses series.
Where the Crawdads Sing (2018) is a coming-of-age story that seamlessly blends into a murder mystery and an ode to nature. A reminder that we are forever shaped by our childhoods, it recounts the early life of a remarkable girl, Kya, and her transformation into an equally remarkable young woman.
The Nightingale (2015) is a historical novel telling the often-neglected story of those left behind when soldiers go off to war. Set in northwestern France during World War II and told through the eyes of two sisters, this sweeping saga reveals the hidden horrors, and heroism, of the survivors.
Normal People (2018) tells the story of Marianne and Connell, two people who grow close during the final days of secondary school. As they move on to college and careers, the two struggle to make sense of their relationship and their feelings for one another.
A Little Life (2015) follows the lives of four friends in New York City: aspiring actor Willem, moody painter JB, quiet architect Malcolm, and the brilliant, mysterious litigator Jude. Over the years, the four friends grow together, drift apart, find love and success, and struggle with loss and addiction. As enigmatic Jude gradually moves into the center of the narrative, the full extent of his unbearable burden begins to reveal itself.
Thunderstruck (2006) is the true story of two seemingly unrelated people, an inventor and a murderer. Set in Edwardian England, the lives of the men intersect in one of the most suspenseful criminal cases in history.