They broke boundaries and challenged conceptions. We asked our readers for their must-reads; from timeless non-fiction to iconic bestsellers, these are their essential recommends.
Books ranked in no particular order.
They broke boundaries and challenged conceptions. We asked our readers for their must-reads; from timeless non-fiction to iconic bestsellers, these are their essential recommends.
Books ranked in no particular order.
We said: It is a truth universally acknowledged that when most people think of Jane Austen they think of this charming and humorous story of love, difficult families and the tricky task of finding a handsome husband with a good fortune.
They said: Philosophy, history, wit, and the most passionate love story.
We said: A novel before its time, Harper Lee’s Pulitzer-prize winner addresses issues of race, inequality and segregation with both levity and compassion. Told through the eyes of loveable rogues Scout and Jem, it also created one of literature’s most beloved heroes – Atticus Finch, a man determined to right the racial wrongs of the Deep South.
They said: A jarring & poignantly beautiful story about how humans treat each other.
We said: Jay Gatsby, the enigmatic millionaire who throws decadent parties but doesn’t attend them, is one of the great characters of American literature. This is Fitzgerald at his most sparkling and devastating.
They said: The greatest, most scathing dissection of the hollowness at the heart of the American dream. Hypnotic, tragic, both of its time and completely relevant.
Joe T, Twitter
We said: Gabriel García Márquez’s multi-generational spanning magnum opus was a landmark in Spanish literature.
They said: Magic realism at its best. Both funny and moving, this book made me reflect for weeks on the inexorable march of time.
Andre C, Twitter
We said: The ‘true crime’ TV show / podcast you’re obsessed with probably owes a debt to this masterpiece of reportage. Chilling and brilliant.
They said: In this groundbreaking novel, completed after six arduous years of research, Capote invented a new genre - the 'Nonfiction Novel' - applying prose techniques to fact. It spawned the school of New Journalism & invented the true crime genre as we know it.
We said: Rhys wrote this feminist and anti-colonial prequel to Charlotte Bronte’s novel Jane Eyre which chronicles the events of Mr Rochester’s disastrous marriage to Antoinette Conway or Bertha as we come to know her. A haunting novel set in the blearing heat of the Caribbean.
They said: Rhys took a character from a classic novel and breathed new life into the “madwoman in the attic” based on her own experiences/world view. She beautifully showed how the stories we read fold into our lives to make new stories.
Eric A, Twitter
We said: One of the greatest and most prescient dystopian novels ever written, this should be on everyone’s must-read list.
They said: Given the exponential growth of AI, Machine Learning & Robotics, Huxley's vision acts as a warning. Will we rise and challenge those who seek to shape our future or sleepwalk toward conditioning by technology?
David G, Twitter
We said: Cassandra Mortmain’s upbringing in a crumbling castle with her eccentric family may not be everyone’s experience, but we can guarantee her coming-of-age story with all its enchanting and disenchanting moments will resonate for many.
They said: A 'children's book' that speaks volumes (ha) about unrequited love and dysfunctional families. Timeless. And funny. (and we need some laughs on the 100 Classics list!)
Helen Y, Twitter
We said: One of literature’s steeliest heroines, in her short life Jane Eyre has overcome a traumatic childhood only to be challenged by secrets, strange noises and mysterious fires in her new home of Thornfield Hall. All while falling in love with her employer, Mr Rochester. A Gothic masterpiece which was groundbreaking in its intimate use of the first-person narrative.
They said: Because Jane is a role model: she stands up for herself, others and what she believes in, but isn't too proud to give second chances to those whose time is running out.
Sarah F, Twitter
We said: This novel is a masterful and completely captivating depiction of a man experiencing a profound mental unravelling. No amount of ethical bargaining on Raskolnikov’s part can free him from the parasitic guilt nested in his soul. A brilliant read if you loved Breaking Bad.
They said: No other novel has made me feel so much for the main characters, so deeply depicted by the author. I felt like an orphan when I finished it and it's the only novel I've re-read several times.
Angie V, Twitter
We said: It follows a clique of smart, attractive students at an elite university, and an outsider who finds himself forced to conceal a dark secret. A gripping and tense read.
They said: A modern classic - so well-articulated and written (something that’s hard to come by these days). Also, EXCELLENT PLOT!
We said: Jack London was a gold prospector in the Canadian wilderness and used his experiences to write about a dog named Buck who becomes a leader of the wild. With themes exploring nature and the struggle for existence in the frozen Alaskan landscape.
They said: Because everyone who loves the earth knows it’s true.
Helen D, Twitter
We said: An allegoric dystopia written in the wake of the Second World War, The Chrysalids cleverly strives to denounce acts of the past while including a profound plea for tolerance.
They said: A post-apocalyptic novel, about intolerance, loneliness, friendship, and what it means to be human. A fantastic sci-fi novel, as relevant today as it was in the 50s.
Hollie B, Twitter
We said: Austen’s last completed novel before her untimely death was one tinged with heartache and regret. Anne Elliot’s feelings for the handsome Captain Wentworth are re-ignited when he returns from sea. Will they get a second chance at happiness?
They said: This continues to be my favourite novel. It is a more mature love story, full of humourous, delightful observations of human behaviour. It offers us a glimpse of redemption. We change as we grow, and the mistakes made in our youth can be overcome.
We said: Every American writer since 1851 has been chasing the same whale: to somehow write a novel as epic and influential as Melville’s.
They said: The great American novel: great characters, wonderful language, thick with the Bible and Thomas Browne, and has the best opening sentence ever. What's not to like?
David H, Twitter
We said: C.S. Lewis’s timeless tale captured the hearts of children everywhere with its fantastical world through the wardrobe, full of fauns, dwarves and anthropomorphised animals. Whether you were Peter, Edmund, Susan or Lucy, we all wanted to put on a fur coat and go on a snow-laden adventure with Mr Tumnus.
They said: A beautiful timeless tale of innocence, wonder and sacrifice for young and old alike. It was one of the first books that I read from cover to cover without putting down!
Adisha K, Twitter
We said: To the Lighthouse is a daring novel with little regard for rules. There’s no consistent narrator, scant dialogue and almost no plot. With everything stripped away, we’re left with a breathtaking and lyrical meditation on relationships, nature and the folly of perception.
They said: You feel like you’re stood on top of a cliff with the sea breeze blowing right through your bones.
We said: Considered Bowen’s masterpiece novel, this is the story of 16-year old Portia who is sent to live with her Aunt in London, after her mother’s death. There, she falls for the attractive cad Eddie. A devastating exploration of adolescent love and innocence betrayed.
They said: This book captures the awkward tension and anxieties of the interwar period through a deeply reflective, but oddly naive, unloved girl.
Heather O, Twitter
We said: It received mixed reviews it was first published, in part because it challenged Victorian ideals of purity and sexual morals. But Hardy’s unflinching account of Tess’s bid for salvation in a society ready to condemn her is a harrowing and powerful read.
They said: This novel teaches us about the position of women in the past and their moments of frailty versus moments of strength. Basically, an important insight for everyone to have!
Abbie H, Twitter
We said: Written when Mary Shelley was just 18 years old, but don’t let that depress you. Frankenstein is a Gothic masterpiece with entertaining set pieces aplenty.
They said: Chosen for all the questions it raises about consequences and taking responsibility for your actions; nature versus nurture; the value of friendship. I could go on.
Julie A, Twitter
We said: This spine-chilling story was censored by Stalin and sadly only published after Bulgakov’s death.
They said: This novel has got the Devil mooching around Moscow with a massive black cat. Oh, and there’s a naked flying lady.
We said: A moving exploration of a young boy’s loss of innocence and a critical view of society at the end of the Victorian era.
They said: As a 17-year-old, I was completely absorbed by this story, wishing Leo was my brother so that I could protect him from the disappointment that awaited him.
We said: A psychiatric ward in Oregon is ruled by a tyrannical head nurse, but when a rebellious patient arrives her regime is thrown into disarray. A story of the imprisoned battling the establishment.
They said: A story that shows there is more to life than following rules. Having joy and being spontaneous are as important as anything else in life.
Darren B, Twitter
We said: The definitive dystopian novel, Orwell’s vision of a high surveillance society is gripping from the first page to the last.
They said: I first read this book years ago, and was glad I would never have to be a part of that kind of society. Yet, here I am in 2018, and so much of that novel has come true.
Donna J, Twitter
We said: In Mann’s semi-autobiographical family epic, he portrays the slow decline of a wealthy and highly esteemed merchant-family in northern Germany over four generations, as they grapple with the modernism of the 20th century.
They said: It’s a great novel about the rise and fall of a family, the relationship between fathers and sons, and the conflict between art and business. Well, and I have to say I do love family sagas.
Peter L, Twitter
We said: The novel which tells the story of a former Kentucky slave haunted by the trauma of her past life, also won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1988
They said: This book is amazing. Beautifully written, haunting and the level of detail of the lengths people went to protect their families from slavery is fantastic.
We said: This is the third full-length novel featuring Wodehouse’s best-known creations, the bumbling fool Bertie Wooster and his quick-thinking valet Jeeves. In this outing, the duo hatches a daring and hilarious scheme to steal an 18th-century cow-creamer. What could go wrong?
They said: The best of the Bertie and Jeeves novels by Wodehouse, the 20th century master of the light comic novel. Intricate plotting and brilliant command of English prose.
Matt F, Twitter
We said: Told by multiple narrators in a series of diary entries, letters, newspaper articles and ships’ logs; an old folklore tale becomes a frightening reality for solicitor Jonathan Harker and his friends after he visits Count Dracula. And the Count is not a hero like our modern vampires aka Edward Cullen.
They said: A Gothic tale of fear and love. Would one desire immortality at the cost of one’s morality and soul? Loneliness beckons down such a dangerous and fearful path.
Rob K, Twitter
We said: Perhaps the greatest story ever told, Tolkien’s incredible trilogy of otherworldliness brought a world of hobbits, dwarves, elves and orcs to life in a way never read before. Ultimately a tale of companionship and the battle between good and evil, the fictional world of Middle Earth has endured to become far greater than the sum of its parts.
They said: It's got the great sweeping story, romance, heroism, self-sacrifice, social commentary... it's not just magic and elves!
Anne O, Twitter
We said: Meander down the Mississippi River with Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer; on the surface, it’s a simple adventure but dig a little deeper and discover undercurrents of slavery, abuse and corruption in what Hemingway described as 'The best book we've had'.
They said: This book demonstrates how a young boy learns to think for himself, and shows us how we can, too. It’s funny, sweet and sad – sometimes all in the same paragraph.
Richard C, Twitter
We said: From the escaped convict lurking in the wild Kent marshes to the eccentric Miss Havisham who has remained in her wedding dress since the day she was jilted, Orphan Pip’s coming of age story is one of Dickens' most memorable and iconic novels.
They said: This book is not only important as a literary masterpiece and an evocative story - it also has universal appeal as, unfortunately, many children in today's world undergo the same suffering as Pip.
Ayesha K, Twitter
We said: The perfect read for a cacophonous political moment. Joseph Heller’s dizzying masterpiece brilliantly illustrates the way that power is hoarded and wielded like magic, with sleights of hand and rhetorical trickery deployed like weapons to leave normal people baffled and exhausted.
They said: In my opinion, there is no book that better captures human nature and the futility of conflict. You’ll come out the other side angry, uplifted, and crazy.
Sam W, Twitter
We said: A newlywed couple is shaken up by the arrival of the bride’s free-spirited and charismatic cousin Ellen, who piques the husband’s interests. He must decide to save a crumbling marriage or pursue his passions. Edith Wharton became the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize in 1921 for this novel which explores love, lust and social class, set in the Gilded Age of New York.
They said: “When SHE comes she is different, and one doesn't know why...".
Lulu B, Twitter
We said: It has come to be seen as the archetypal modern African novel in English and is read widely across Africa and Nigeria in which it is set. It follows the Okonowo a great and famous warrior and the most powerful men of his clan. But when outsiders threaten his clan’s way of life - will his temper and pride be his downfall? Read it to find out.
They said: A compelling and important exploration of cultural identity in relation to both the rising tide of British colonialism and the pressures of gender expectations. A poignant tragedy written with pathos. Necessary reading!
Danny N, Twitter
We said: Dorothea Brooke and the other inhabitants of Middlemarch grapple with art, religion, science, politics, self and society in the lead-up to the First Reform Bill of 1832 in a literary exploration of human follies. This book is considered by many to be the greatest Victorian novel.
They said: This book is superb in form and content. There is no better dissection of and insight into human society. She was the Shakespeare of her day and Middlemarch is her finest novel.
Tim R, Twitter
We said: A visceral tale, made of smells and sounds and bumps and knocks. A brilliant way to immerse yourself in one of the most fascinating and turbulent periods of the 20th century, via a wonderfully fantastical conceit.
They said: This is the most magical and well-written book I've read. The history of the partition of the Indian subcontinent told as a delightful allegory.
Claudia G, Twitter
We said: It is one of the greatest and most influential epic poems ever written, and (alongside The Odyssey) the oldest surviving work of Western literature. Although the story centres on the critical events of the last year of the Trojan war, Homer also explores themes of humanity, compassion and survival.
They said: This is the ultimate war poem, filled with existential drama, heroic striving, death, and the meaning of life.
Max G, Twitter
We said: Thackerary’s satirical reflection of society on the whole embodied in a cast of characters who although flawed, we can’t help but love and root for as we follow their fortunes and downfalls throughout the Napoleonic wars.
They said: Because Becky Sharp is the greatest female lead character in English literature. Bar none.
Greg R, Twitter
We said: The iconic country house setting of Brideshead see a family consumed by its religion battle with their loyalties. A reflective and nostalgic novel about class, family and homecomings.
They said: So evocative of a certain time and place, as well as being a compelling story.
Patricia C, Twitter
We said: Probably the least commented-upon aspect of Salinger’s masterpiece is how utterly hilarious it is. Holden is a character no one ever forgets.
They said: This novel’s main character, Holden, is coping with tragic loss, as all of us do in our lives. As he wanders aimlessly around the city, he struggles to plan his next life move, but finds happiness in small joys, such as his strong bond with his sister.
Alma E, Twitter
We said: Alice is a no-nonsense, quick-witted and daring – we could all learn a lesson or two from the resourceful young girl in Lewis Carroll’s tale packed with a troupe of unforgettable characters. A dizzying story full of riddles, puns and wordplay, at over 150 years old it features a heroine way ahead of her time.
They said: We should all get lost down a rabbit hole every once in a while and come out believing in six impossible things before breakfast #whyisaravenlikeawritingdesk
Lauren D, Twitter
We said: Maggie Tulliver is passionate, impulsive and intelligence but her desires clash against her family’s expectations and result in painful consequences. Eliot drew on the frustrations of her own rural upbringing to write one of her most powerful and moving novels.
They said: One classic everyone must read: The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot. A beautifully told story of an intelligent girl who yearns for more than society allows.
We said: The second novel in Trollope’s series known as the ‘Chronicles of Barsetshire’, opens as the Bishop of Barchester lies on his deathbed; soon the battle for power amongst the town’s key players will commence. Told with plenty of wisdom and wit.
They said: This book has tremendous characters and a plot which sucks you into such a different world, about which you find yourself caring desperately.
Hilary S, Twitter
We said: Primarily set in New York’s Greenwich Village, Another Country, tackled many themes that were taboo at the time of its publication including bisexuality, interracial couples and extramarital affairs - all in the sensational world of Harlem jazz and the Bohemian underworld.
They said: This is a book that shows how everyone can live and love together, passionately, dangerously, with exquisite music. I’ll never forget the thrill of first reading it.
Jon A, Twitter
We said: Vive la révolution! A sweeping epic and a completely satisfying read. Full of love, anger, drama and wit. Quite possibly the perfect novel.
They said: A beautiful story of the power of redemption and a good heart along with a backdrop of the socio-economic iniquities of 19th century France. Beautifully written, it tugs the heartstrings.
Gary G, Twitter
We said: Filled with all the sweet treats from your wildest dreams (and proving that nice guys don’t always finish last), Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is a cautionary tale for both children and adults. Don’t be greedy. Don’t spoil your children. Don’t chew gum. And don’t sit in front of the TV all day. ‘It rots the senses in the head!’
They said: This list wouldn't be complete without some of Roald Dahl's magic, and my golden ticket is for this novel.
Isanne V, Twitter
We said: A coming-of-age tale of teenage rebellion, set in a winner-takes-all world of drive-ins, drag races and switchblades. It created an anti-hero from the wrong side of the class divide – all written when S. E. Hinton was just 17. ‘Stay gold Ponyboy… stay gold’.
They said: The original YA novel, which sparked many crushes and made me fall in love with reading.
Claire C, Twitter
We said: An epic novel that will have you feeling all the emotions – and a prime example of the old adage that revenge is a dish best served cold.
They said: The best classic tale! A story of innocence, romance, betrayal, suffering, revenge and more importantly, Man’s triumph over all life throws at him.
Hayati Y, Twitter
We said: Having survived censorship, controversy and even legal action, Joyce’s most famous novel is renowned for its use of inner monologue and stream-of-consciousness technique. Whether it’s the greatest novel of the 20th century, or the most unreadable, is up for debate.
They said: Reading it as a person, an emotional journey. Reading it as a writer, technically mesmerizing and inspiring
We said: Mostly set in California, Steinbeck’s most ambitious novel follows two families and their interwoven stories. The author himself said, ‘It has everything in it I have been able to learn about my craft or profession in all these years.’
They said: Brilliant writing, epic family saga, drills deep into human nature and how we think, feel and act toward one another. My all-time favourite novel.
Naomi M, Facebook
We said: Two years in the making, this philosophical novel questions big topics like faith, free will and morality but it’s also a very readable one that’s part murder mystery, part courtroom drama.
They said: A depiction of the darkest recesses of human nature. But also of the brightest ones…
Luca C, Facebook
We said: Quite simply some of the finest writing ever committed to a page. A book that is simultaneously repulsive and utterly seductive.
They said: Beautifully written. The book takes you into the mind of this awful character and lets you roll around in the gorgeous word-play as the story unfurls.
Lesley L, Facebook
We said: This book will awaken the curiosity of any reader, no matter their age. There’s something so completely irresistible about hidden doors, mysterious noises and secret hiding places. But this is more than a story of adventures and gardening, at its heart, The Secret Garden promises that with time and plenty of nurturing, we can all blossom.
They said: I will never forget reading this book as a child. I felt I was in the middle of the story.
Ulrika F, Facebook
We said: Partly based on Waugh’s personal experiences, Scoop is a satirical take on the lengths reporters – and newspaper magnates – will go to for a story. With modern exposés on hacking scandals and the like, Scoop feels as relevant as ever.
They said: A funny story wrapped around absurdity, journalism and war.
Guy V, Facebook
We said: After 18 years in the Bastille, Dr Manette is released and sent to live in Britain with a daughter he’s never met. Split between Paris and London, A Tale of Two Cities is a mammoth story set during the brutal years of the French Revolution.
They said: Sitting alone at 16 years old after the family had gone to bed, tears streamed down my cheeks as I finished this novel.
Pat C, Facebook
We said: Diary of a Nobody follows a respectable middle-class man, Charles Pooter, and his attempts to live a respectable middle-class life. This riotously funny novel created such an impression that it inspired an adjective in honour of its main character: 'Pooterish', a self-important person who takes themselves far too seriously.
They said: I have read this book so many times and laugh out loud every time. I have a Penguin Classic copy of it that's falling apart but I wouldn't part with it for the world
Emma H, Facebook
We said: Anna Karenina is a woman who seems to have it all. She’s married, she’s wealthy, she’s well-liked – but she feels her life is empty until she meets Count Vronksy. Tolstoy’s novel is essentially a philosophical meditation on the meaning of life and happiness but it’s a very readable one.
They said: Simply the best in-depth characterisation of all time. Tolstoy's psychological insights have never been beaten.
Chris W, Facebook
We said: Manzoni’s novel takes in the story of two young lovers trying to be together and sets it against a wider backdrop of 17th-century Italian life. The Betrothed is considered by many to be the greatest novel ever written in Italian.
They said: This book is on the verge of being forgotten by casual readers, but it’s entertaining, socially and scientifically progressive for its time, has incredibly moving, beautifully-written passages on bread riots and the plague, and it has the best surprise trope-subversion at the end.
Shawna R, Facebook
We said: Immense yourself in the dazzling breadth of Woolf’s imagination in this short but powerful novel and follow Orlando from the court of Elizabeth I to a celebrated poet in the 20th century.
They said: What is it to be a woman? Woolf's modernist novel is so fresh even 90 or so years later. Gender fluidity before the term was even coined. And a history of literature as a backdrop.
Antonia M, Facebook
We said: Step into the dystopian USA and follow the saga of Dagny Taggart and Hank Rearden as they attempt to bring their Transcontinental railroad into existence, and uncover the secrets of a shadowy figure called John Galt along the way.
They said: This book engages the reader through its characters and themes, allowing one to be entranced through this cautionary tale that can be applied to the modern world.
Deanna H, Facebook
We said: When a scientist and inventor creates a time machine, he travels to the distant future to see what’s in store for humanity. This is the book that popularised time travel, but read deeper and it’s also a metaphor for the fractured society that we still live in today.
They said: A story of knowledge, education, and imagining a future.
Gultekin S, Facebook
We said: Sun-Tzu, author of the world’s oldest guide to military strategy, recognised that we live in a conflicted world. The layperson might not be involved in warfare but the advice within is just as useful for navigating the workplace or daily life.
They said: This should be called the little book of common sense. It makes everything easier to understand.
Darren G, Facebook
We said: Nobel-Prize winning author John Galsworthy wrote this multi-generational saga which chronicles the Forsyte family’s fortunes and downfalls as they live through dramatic social change, from the straight-laced Victorian era to the roaring 20s.
They said: This book gives you a wonderful impression of life in the 19th and early 20th century. It’s both enthralling and touching.
Hildegard S, Facebook
We said: Almost 60 years later Travels with Charley still proves an eye-opening insight into a country that’s so easy to view as a monolith. Steinbeck and his French Poodle encounter everyone from migrant farmers to KKK members in this reminder of a complicated political landscape that’s no less disparate today.
They said: One of the true first ‘road’ books – a search for the spirit of the ordinary American people.
Edith S, Facebook
We said: It was banned in the US and the UK for 30 years for being too ‘pornographic,’ and undoubtedly there are smutty moments, but Miller uses this to comment on the human condition. Told from a variety of first-person characters in 1930s Paris – including Miller’s own experiences as a struggling writer – the common thread between each character is their sexual encounters.
They said: Loud, funny, sexual Paris in the 1930s. I read it when I was 20, and it changed the way I look at the world.
Brendan P, Facebook
We said: Controversial during its time, this sequel to The Rainbow follows the lives of two women and the men they become involved with. Women in Love contains some of Lawrence’s finest writing.
They said: This is Lawrence at his best… although I do think Lady Chatterley’s Lover is under-rated…
David P, Facebook
We said: Paul Scott passed away at the peak of his writing career and his last novel, Staying On – which won the Booker Prize in 1977 – gives us a unique insight into life just after the end of the British rule in India.
They said: A funny, tragic, beautifully written study of an English colonial married couple left behind as an independent India moves ahead.
Catherine B, Facebook
We said: What began as a series of letters to Grahame’s sickly son evolved into one of England’s most beloved children’s books. A whimsical foray through the Berkshire countryside, the camaraderie between Ratty, Badger, Mole and Mr Toad still embodies traditional British eccentricities to a tee.
They said: You can enjoy this book at any age – and it’s beautifully written.
Vicky A, Facebook
We said: The novel tells the story of Jim Burden, an orphan boy and Ántonia Shimerda who are brought as children to be pioneers in Nebraska in the late 19th century. This is Cather’s final book in the Great Plains trilogy and was praised for bringing the American West to life.
They said: Quite simply, a beautifully written book.
Carolyn R, Facebook
We said: Controversial at the time of publication, Brontë’s classic love story between Catherine and Heathcliff still resonates with readers today. Widely considered a staple of Gothic fiction and the English literary canon, this book has gone on to inspire many generations of writers – and will continue to do so.
They said: Passion, heartbreak – this is the greatest novel ever written.
Tessa J, Facebook
We said: In 18th-century France, one man’s greatest passion and gift leads him down a path of sensual depravity. After discovering he has no scent of his own – despite having a remarkable sense of smell – Jean-Baptiste Grenouille trains in the art of perfume-making so he can create the ultimate scent – one that is made from 25 young virgin girls.
They said: A story of suspense and love, with beautiful narration.
Ivy W, Facebook
We said: Considered as Maugham’s most autobiographical of his work, the author stated, ‘This is a novel, not an autobiography, though much in it is autobiographical, more is pure invention.’ Regardless, the story of Philip Carey, a man with ambitions who falls in love with a loud but irresistible waitress is considered one of his finest books.
They said: A compelling story of unreciprocated love.
Rajan D, Facebook
We said: At the centre of Bleak House is the never-ending legal case of Jarndyce and Jarndyce which draws together a disparate group of people who hope in some way to profit from the case. Dickens’ scathing reflection of the legal profession went some way to support a judicial reform movement in the 1870s.
They said: An amazing story, with so many twists and turns
Jane E, Facebook
We said: Would-be poet Lucien Chardon moves from the French Provinces to the glamorous beau monde of Paris where he quickly discovers a world far more dangerous than he ever imagined. De Balzac paints a vivid and brutal picture of the hypocrisy and moral history of his times.
They said: A magnificent story about human nature, ambition and society (in any century).
Isabel K, Facebook
We said: Part comedy, part searing satire, we’re taken to the Midwest to follow Vonnegut’s ageing writer Kilgore Trout on an absurd narrative. You may love it, you may not get the point. Either way, you’ll find it hard not to laugh.
They said: Reading this blend of surrealism, sci-fi and other genres made me realise that sometimes, fiction can be more powerful than real-life stories!
Kleber L, Facebook
We said: This is arguably Dickens’ most famous tale. Ebenezer Scrooge, Tiny Tim and exclamations of 'Bah Humbug!' are as synonymous with the festive seasons as Santa, turkey and Christmas pudding.
They said: A masterpiece. The ultimate story of hope and redemption.
We said: Silas Marner was Eliot’s favourite of her novels. It tells the story of an isolated miser, who is given a second chance to transform his life when he adopts a young orphaned child. With themes of religion, industrialisation and community, the book also provides us with a glimpse of a vanished rural world.
They said: Redemption and love. Beautifully written
Rhiannon C, Facebook
We said: One of literature’s most famous parties - this groundbreaking postmodernist novel centres around Clarria Dalloway’s preparations for a party she’s hosting, exploring themes of mental health, modernity and time.
They said: A reminder that no life is too small.
Marianna S, Facebook
We said: In Little Women, Louisa May Alcott set out to write a book in which girls would see them themselves accurately reflected. The March sisters, with their four very different personalities and ambitions, accurately embody both the challenges of growing up and the irreplaceable bond of sisterhood.
They said: A story of growing up and changing and the world set around a group of young girls. This book is as timeless as it is beautiful.
Luke E, Twitter
We said: Winner of the Man Booker Prize in 1978, this is a story of strange obsessions and reflection which haunt Charles Arrowby who retires from London’s glittering theatre world to an isolated home by the sea. An unforgettable story, beautifully told.
They said: This book left me speechless, while reading and after reading and I still can't find the words to describe why it is one of the most impressive pieces of writing I have ever read.
We said: Both the book and 1972 film adaptation became global phenomena with this searing portrayal of New York’s Mafia underworld. A powerful story of tradition, blood, honour and of course, family allegiance.
They said: This novel teaches the reader about the strengths and failures of human nature.
Louisa J, Twitter
84. The Castle by Franz Kafka
We said: Taking the word ‘Kafkaesque’ to new levels, The Castle is a nightmarish reach into an autocratic world. Bamboozling from start to the very unfinished end (the novel ends mid-sentence), this is Kafka’s finest commentary on oppression and bureaucracy.
They said: This book leads the reader into a maze of conundrums, confusion, iciness and moral fog. Never to be forgotten once read.
Arnold F, Twitter
We said: Written in the form of an autobiography of the Roman Emperor Claudius capturing the madness and debauchery of ancient Rome. Both I, Claudius and Graves’s sequel Claudius the God are regarded today as pioneering masterpieces of historical fiction, as well as gripping reads.
They said: A beautifully written novel about absolute power. Very relevant.
Ian M, Twitter
We said: The story that made every child want to dance on tiptoes over midnight rooftops and soar away to Neverland, J. M. Barrie’s tale of the boy who could never grow up brought magic to bedtimes everywhere. From the Lost Boys to fearsome pirates, the enchanting adventure of Peter Pan has, both literally and metaphorically, never grown old.
They said: A book that reminds everyone to never grow up inside!
Jennifer M, Twitter
We said: A medievalist protagonist encounters a series of misadventures in a comedic exploration of the human condition. Widely regarded today as a tragicomic classic that exposes 'intellectualism'.
They said: I chose this book just because the characters are fantastic, and it makes me laugh.
We said: Featuring Maugham himself as a character and adapted twice for the big screen, The Razor's Edge tells the story of an American pilot trying to adjust back to normal life following the First World War. It’s a gruelling look at the devastating effects of post-war trauma, and a philosophical journey to find meaning in life.
They said: A profound story of one man’s journey to find himself.
Holden M, Twitter
89. Lark Rise to Candleford by Flora Thompson
We said: Many will remember the recent BBC series of the same name; Lark Rise to Candleford is author Flora Thompson’s semi-autobiographical recollections of her youth and growing up in Oxfordshire, and paints a delightful portrait of country life at the end of the 19th century.
They said: Perhaps a little bit out of left field, but I love this book. It's simple, it's beautifully written and it's all about capturing a vanishing way of life as countryside farming turns to Victorian towns... really eloquent, really moving!
We said: When proud and passionate Eustacia Vye marries Clym Yeobright, she believes she can finally leave her rural life at Egdon Heath behind. But their unhappy marriage causes a chain of events culminating in tragedy, and their realisation that their destinies cannot be controlled.
They said: I chose this book because Eustacia Vye is misunderstood - as are many women.
Linda M, Twitter
We said: A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man was Joyce’s first novel and details the young artist discovering his voice, craft and identity through his literary alter ego, Stephen Dedalus. There are echoes of his techniques here before they are refined in his later works such as Ulysses and Finnegans Wake.
They said: Joyce is not only the greatest stylist in English, but the novel contains one of the most complex discussions of aesthetics in the 20th century.
Donald K, Twitter
We said: Conrad’s novella has been deemed by many as a ‘difficult read’, but this enigmatic and atmospheric piece of fiction of Charles Marlow’s journey up the Congo river – which also provided the inspiration for Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now – will leave you unfolding its many layers for a long time after.
They said: What an amazing piece of writing from someone who had to learn the language first...
Tracey L, Twitter
We said: A swooningly romantic book with an exhilaratingly combative pairing at the centre. The themes of wealth and gender inequality are woven in seamlessly, and are completely integral to the electric dynamic between Margaret Hale and John Thornton.
They said: This novel combines a beautiful love story and discussion of important economical and social issues of its time.
We said: ‘When it first came out it was viewed as being far-fetched,’ said Margaret Atwood in 2017. The continued regression of abortion laws and women’s rights across the world has only made Atwood’s dystopian all the more pertinent; and ensuring the book – and TV show’s – place in history as a lynchpin of the feminist resistance.
They said: I chose this book because it gives a feminist perspective on the world. Also, Atwood uses events from history to create the story, which I find important. History is a circle.
Emma H, Twitter
We said: A novel of two halves, Suite Francaise is about life and death in occupied France, and finding love and hope in the most unexpected of places.
They said: This is my favourite book. It is an extremely moving account of the kinds of things that actually happened in Nazi-occupied France during the Second World War. It presents the dilemmas, fears and choices that were felt and had to be made by ordinary people.
Jim H, Twitter
We said: This deeply personal and unforgettable account of a day in the life at a Soviet labour camp in the 1950s is highly considered to be one of the greats of contemporary literature.
They said: Solzhenitsyn’s writing from personal experience of life/existence in a forced labour camp under Stalin's communist regime is a stark, brutal, masterpiece.
Brian T, Twitter
We said: The Winshaw family are the most powerful and cruellest family in England that is until their biographer Michael Owen starts investigating the family’s corrupt and immoral activities. A dark and wickedly funny story which makes a profound statement on the Thatcherite era.
They said: This novel has so much to say about human nature, political power and the elite, and always will do. Caustic, heartfelt, funny, devastating; a beautiful book.
Declan C, Twitter
We said: One of Dostoyevsky's underrated works, this short story is divided into six sections. With themes of loneliness and unrequited love told by a nameless narrator – it’s quintessential Dostoyevsky.
They said: This is an incredibly beautiful and uplifting book. Everyone should read it!
We said: Dickens uses the fictional town of Coketown and its inhabitants to explore the harsh realities of the Industrial Age and the importance of imagination in a world driven by fact.
They said: Pathos, humour, social comment, politic and incredibly well-drawn, believable characters.
What's your favourite classic read? Let us know at @penguinukbooks.
Books ranked in no particular order. Some answers have been edited for clarity and style.