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Top 10 Best Books of All Time
Top 10 Best Books of All Time



1984 (George Orwell, 1949)

George Orwell's classic dystopian novel is a rare work that grows more haunting as its futuristic purgatory becomes more real. Life in the Oceanian province of Airstrip One is a world of perpetual war, pervasive government surveillance, and incessant public mind control. The individual is always subordinated to the state, and it is in part this philosophy which allows the Party to manipulate and control humanity. In the Ministry of Truth, protagonist Winston Smith is a civil servant responsible for perpetuating the Party's propaganda by revising historical records to render the Party omniscient and always correct, yet his meagre existence disillusions him to the point of seeking rebellion against Big Brother, eventually leading to his arrest, torture, and reconversion. Since the publication of Nineteen Eighty-Four in 1949, many of its terms and concepts, such as Big Brother, doublethink, thoughtcrime, Newspeak, and Memory hole, have become contemporary vernacular. In addition, the novel popularized the adjective Orwellian, which refers to lies, surveillance, or manipulation of the past in the service of a totalitarian agenda.


The Canterbury Tales (Geoffrey Chaucer, 14th century)

Geoffrey Chaucer's magnum opus, The Canterbury Tales depicts the journey of a group of pilgrims who travel together on a journey from Southwark to the shrine of Saint Thomas Becket at Canterbury Cathedral. Each traveler tells his or her own story, and Chaucer uses the colorful tales to paint an ironic and critical portrait of English society at the time. Perhaps the greatest product of medieval literature, The Canterbury Tales are required reading on almost every college campus.


The Sound and the Fury (William Faulkner, 1929)

Considered William Faulkner's first work of true genius, The Sound and the Fury revolves around the beautiful and tragic Caddy Compson, whose story Faulkner tells through separate monologues by her three brothers--the idiot Benjy, the neurotic suicidal Quentin and the monstrous Jason. As one critic has described it, "What Faulkner has created is a modernist epic in which characters assume the stature of gods and the primal family events resonate like myths." The novel was largely responsible for earning Faulkner the 1949 Nobel Prize in Literature.


War and Peace (Leo Tolstoy, 1869)

One of the most celebrated works of fiction in the history of literature, Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace delineates in graphic detail events leading up to the French invasion of Russia, and the impact of the Napoleonic era on Tsarist society, as seen through the eyes of five Russian aristocratic families. The epic story has been adapted into almost every medium--film, opera, theatre, radio and television. Noted for its mastery of realistic detail and variety of psychological analysis, War and Peace is generally regarded as one of the world's greatest novels. Tolstoy himself, somewhat enigmatically, said of his masterpiece that it was "not a novel, even less is it a poem, and still less an historical chronicle."


Don Quixote (Miguel de Cervantes, 1615)

The most influential work of literature from the Spanish Golden Age, and perhaps in the entire Spanish literary canon, Don Quixote revealed to the world Cervantes' literary genius in the character of old Don Quixote who has become so entranced by reading romances of chivalry that he determines to become a knight errant and pursue bold adventures, accompanied by his squire, the cunning Sancho Panza. As they roam the world together, the aging Quixote's fancy leads them wildly astray. At the same time the relationship between the two men grows in fascinating subtlety. Often considered to be the first modern novel, Don Quixote is a wonderful burlesque of the popular literature its disordered protagonist is obsessed with. A founding work of modern Western literature, it was described by Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoyevsky as "The final and greatest utterance of the human mind."


The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Mark Twain, 1885)

Considered one of the Great American Novels, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn tells the story of a teenaged misfit who finds himself floating on a raft down the Mississippi River with an escaped slave, Jim. In the course of their perilous journey, Huck and Jim meet adventure, danger, and a cast of characters who are sometimes menacing and often hilarious, but underlying Mark Twain's good humor is a dark subcurrent of Antebellum cruelty and injustice that makes this novel a frequently funny book with a very serious message--one that offers an often scathing look at entrenched attitudes, particularly racism.


Moby Dick (Herman Melville, 1851)

Inspired in part by his own short career aboard a whaleship in 1841, Herman Melville's Moby Dick is almost universally regarded as one of the greatest novels in the English language. The story tells the adventures of the wandering sailor Ishmael. When Ishmael sets sail on the whaling ship Pequod one cold Christmas Day, he has no idea of the horrors awaiting him out on the vast and merciless ocean. The ship’s strange captain, Ahab, is in the grip of an obsession to hunt down the famous white whale, Moby Dick, and will stop at nothing on his quest to annihilate his nemesis. In Moby-Dick, Melville employs stylized language, symbolism, and metaphor to explore numerous complex themes. As a reviewer in the Sunday Times once wrote, "In his great whaling epic Melville roamed both the seas, and the secret places of men's minds. In the alternate playfulness and ferocity of the great white whale he found the perfect metaphor within which to develope his views on life, death and God."


The Iliad (Homer, 8th century BC)

One of the greatest war stories of all time, Homer's epic poem The Iliad follows the trials of Achilles, Helen, Hector, and other heroes of Greek myth and history in the tenth and final year of the Greek siege of Troy. Interwoven in the tragic sequence of events are powerfully moving descriptions of the ebb and flow of battle, the besieged city of Ilium, the feud between the gods, and the fate of mortals. More than just a war story, it is one of the foremost achievements in Western literature.


The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (William Shakespeare, 1623)

Containing all of his plays, sonnets and longer poems, The Complete Works of William Shakespeare is a collection of the greatest dramatic literature known to man. The world's pre-eminent dramatist, Shakespeare's plays have been translated into every major living language and are performed more often than those of any other playwright, living or dead. His work has repeatedly been adopted and rediscovered by new movements in scholarship and performance, always unlocking new depths of meaning. His plays remain highly popular today and are constantly studied, performed and reinterpreted in diverse cultural and political contexts throughout the world.


The Bible (anonymous, original date of publication unknown)

The sacred scripture of Judaism and Christianity, The Bible is the best selling book in history. Whether you believe in the literal truth of the holy scriptures or not, there's no question that it is great literature, with some of the most well-known stories in Western culture. Almost everyone is familiar with the primary characters of The Bible--Adam and Eve, Noah, Moses, Abraham, King David, Samson, Solomon, John the Baptist and of course Jesus of Nazareth. It's the most read (and quoted!) book ever. What it means, however, has often been the subject of heated debate, inspiring George Bernard Shaw to muse that "No man ever believes that the Bible means what it says: He is always convinced that it says what he means."

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