A collage of book covers on a light blue background. Titles include I Capture the Castle, Beloved, The Secret History and The Wind in the Willows.
Reading lists

100 must-read classics, as chosen by our readers

They broke boundaries and challenged conceptions. We asked you for your must-read classics; from iconic bestsellers to lesser-known gems, these are your essential recommends. 

They broke boundaries and challenged conceptions. We asked you for your must-read classics; from iconic bestsellers to lesser-known gems, these are your essential recommends.

Everyone loves a classic novel, but where to start? From Jane Austen to Charles DickensToni Morrison to Fyodor Dostoevsky, the fiction canon is so vast you can easily get lost in it.

So we asked our readers to tell us about their favourite classic books. The resulting list of must-reads is a perfect way to find inspiration to start your classics adventure. There's something for everyone, from family sagas and dystopian fiction to romances and historical fiction.

And if you enjoy this, you can also learn about our reader's favourite books by female authors, most loved children's books and the best memoirs they've ever read.  Start at the beginning of our list (books are ranked in no particular order) and tick them off as you go on this handy downloadable list

23. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey (1962)

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.

You 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 

24. Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell (1949)

We said: The definitive dystopian novel, George Orwell’s vision of a high surveillance society is gripping from the first page to the last. 

You 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

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91. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce (1916)

We said: A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man was James 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.

You 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

What's your favourite classic read? Let us know at @penguinukbooks.

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