The 100 Greatest Books of All Time

Earlier this week I wrote a post about the ten most banned and censored books of all time.

Today’s post takes a look at the 100 greatest books in the world as chosen by W. John Campbell, a writer and literary critic.

In his The Book of Great Books: A Guide to 100 World Classics, written in 1997, Campbell not only lists the top 100 books, he provides summaries of each work with an analysis of the main themes, writing style, key characters, plots, the language and social trends in the period in which each book was written, and so on. The 866-page book has sold more than one million copies since its publication 19 years ago.

When the book was first published, The New York Times wrote that “The Book of Great Books unlocks the secrets to 100 of the world’s most enduring novels, plays, and epic poems. Encompassing great works by authors from Homer to Hemingway and from Machiavelli to Toni Morrison, this book will guide you through the plot twists, major themes, and key details that make these classics so enduringly classic.”

Obviously, not everyone will agree with Campbell’s selections.

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Missing from the list: Two Classics

For example, I can think of a few books that should be on the list that aren’t. Evelyn Waugh’s Scoop and Brideshead Revisited are missing, as is Sister Carrie, by Theodore Dreiser.

And then there’s The Count of Monte Cristo, by Alexander Dumas; Wuthering Heights, by Emily Bronte; The Brothers Karamazov, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky; Les Misérables, by Victor Hugo; Robinson Crusoe, by Daniel Defoe; Kim, by Rudyard Kipling; and To Kill a Mockingbird, by the late Harper Lee.

Clearly, Professor Campbell’s book was not meant to be authoritative. It is one person’s list, albeit a list compiled by an individual with impeccable credentials.

However, I will let you be the judge. Would these books fill your top 100 list?

You can let me know via e-mail or in the Comments area at the end of this post.

Here they are, listed alphabetically:

Aeneid, Virgil

All Quiet on the Western Front, Erich Marie Remarque

All the King’s Men, Robert Penn Warren

Animal Farm, George Orwell

As I Lay Dying, William Faulkner

As You Like It, William Shakespeare

The Awakening, Kate Chopin

Beowulf, Anonymous

Billy Budd, Herman Melville

The Bluest Eye, Toni Morrison

Brave New World, Aldous Huxley

The Call of the Wild, Jack London

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Candide, Voltaire

The Canterbury Tales, Geoffrey Chaucer

Catch-22, Joseph Heller

The Color Purple, Alice Walker

Crime and Punishment, Fyodor Dostoyevsky

The Crucible, Arthur Miller

Daisy Miller, Henry James

David Copperfield, Charles Dickens

Death of a Salesman, Arthur Miller

Diary of a Young Girl, Anne Frank

The Divine Comedy: Inferno, Dante

Doctor Faustus, Christopher Marlowe

A Doll’s House, Henrik Ibsen

Don Quixote, Miguel de Cervantes

Ethan Frome, Edith Wharton

Euthyphro Apology, Crito, Phaedo Plato

A Farewell to Arms, Ernest Hemingway

Faust, Parts 1 and 2, J. W. von Goethe

For Whom the Bell, Tolls Ernest Hemingway

Frankenstein, Mary Shelley

The Glass Menagerie, Tennessee Williams

The Good Earth, Pearl S. Buck

The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck

Great Expectations, Charles Dickens

The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald

Gulliver’s Travels, Jonathan Swift

Hamlet, William Shakespeare

Hard Times, Charles Dickens

Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad

Henry IV Part 1, William Shakespeare

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House Made of Dawn, N. Scott Momaday

The House of the Seven Gables, Nathaniel Hawthorne

Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou

Iliad, Homer

Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison

Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte

The Joy Luck Club, Amy Tan

Julius Caesar, William Shakespeare

The Jungle, Upton Sinclair

King Lear, William Shakespeare

Light in August, William Faulkner

Lord Jim, Joseph Conrad

The Lord of the Flies, William Golding

The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien

Macbeth, William Shakespeare

Madame Bovary, Gustave Flaubert

The Mayor of Casterbridge, Thomas Hardy

The Merchant of Venice, William Shakespeare

A Midsummer Night’s Dream, William Shakespeare

Moby-Dick, Herman Melville

Native Son, Richard Wright

1984, George Orwell

Odyssey, Homer

The Oedipus Trilogy, Sophocles

Of Mice and Men, John Steinbeck

The Old Man and the Sea, Ernest Hemingway

Oliver Twist, Charles Dickens

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s, Nest Ken Kesey

Othello, William Shakespeare

Paradise Lost, John Milton

The Pearl, John Steinbeck

The Plague, Albert Camus

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, James Joyce

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Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen

The Prince, Niccolo Machiavelli

The Red Badge of Courage, Stephen Crane

Republic, Plato

The Return of the Native, Thomas Hardy

Richard III, William Shakespeare

Romeo and Juliet, William Shakespeare

The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne

A Separate Peace, John Knowles

Silas Marner, George Eliot

Sons and Lovers, D.H. Lawrence

The Sound and the Fury, William Faulkner

Steppenwolf, Hermann Hesse

The Stranger, Albert Camus

The Sun Also Rises, Ernest Hemingway

The Taming of the Shrew, William Shakespeare

The Tempest, William Shakespeare

Tess of the D’Urbervilles, Thomas Hardy

Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston

Tom Sawyer, Mark Twain

Treasure Island, Robert Lewis Stevenson

Twelfth Night, William Shakespeare

Waiting for Godot, Samuel Beckett

Walden, Henry David Thoreau

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