It is impossible for a mere human being or even a statistical organization to condense “top novels of all time” down in ten numbers. There are hundreds of novels that are popular and convincing enough to fight a battle of equals for the number 1 position. It is only natural with large scopes in the literary genre, myriad writing styles and sales volumes that every critic or book lover will come up with an entirely different list for the top 10 great novels of all time.
Here I also attempt to define the top 10 novels of all time. It is based on profound research which considers distinct parameters like popularity, number of copies sold, relevancy with the time, and my own personal choice.
The list starts with the novel “Hamlet” by Shakespeare and ends with “1984” by George Orwell. The beauty of the list is that irrespective of author’s location and year of publication these novels are as endearing and relevant as they were in their publishing year.
This is story of a Danish prince seeking revenge for his father’s murder. It is Shakespeare’s longest play one of the most influential tragedies in English literature, with a story that has spun countless adaptations and retelling. Not surprisingly, this sixteenth century marvel is still as popular now as it was when it was written.
Mr. Shakespeare narrated a story of a man who sacrifices himself for justice. Calling it a story of revenge would do it no justice, it is in fact, a pursuit for identity and self-knowledge. I believe this is the reason that over centuries the best schools and universities of the world have welcomed Hamlet as the integral part of the English Literature syllabus.
Voltaire narrates a story of a young man whose name is Candide. He lives a sheltered life under the guidance of his mentor Pangloss who teaches him the doctrine of “optimism.” However, Candide experiences an abrupt change in his life. Subsequently, he faces painful disillusionment in face of unforgiving hardship of life. Candide’s mentor Pangloss infused the optimistic thought in his mind i.e. “all is for the best,” but when Candide fell in love with Baron’s beautiful daughter, he abandoned the optimistic thought and made his own way in the world.
Mr. John Steinbeck describes the story of a poor family who is in great depression because of the financial hardship caused by drought and changes in financial and agricultural industries. The family lives in Oklahoma, but because of the stringent and hopeless situation, they decide to move California in search of work and human dignity.
Published in 1939, the Grapes of Wrath is one of the classic novels of American literature. For this novel, Mr. Steinbeck won the Pulitzer Prize and National Award. Later on this book is again remembered in 1962 when Steinbeck had been awarded the Nobel Prize.
It is a psychological thriller novel published in two volumes. Stendhal attempts to portray the character of a provincial young man who is ambitious and willing to rise high. He is young, talented, hard worker, but also deceptive for his ambition. However, later he becomes the victim of his own passions.
It is a French novel and originally published in 1830. Its full title is Le Rouge et le Noir: Chronique du XIXe siècle, meaning The Red and the Black: A Chronicle of the 19th Century.
Through “Invisible Man,” Mr. Ralph Ellison intellectually raises social issues, which African-Americans were facing during the early twentieth century. Mr. Ellison smartly describes the terms black nationalism, racial policies of Booker T. Washington, the relationship between black identity and Marxism, and personal identity.
Published in 1952, this book won the U.S. National Book Award for Fiction in 1953.
The story of “War and Peace” circles around the French invasion of Russia. It also describes the impact of the Napoleon’s era on Russian Tsarist society. Mr. Tolstoy tells this story through his characters which are from five Russian families of aristocratic society.
The novel published in the year 1869, is considered as one of the central works of world literature.
Miss Austen intelligently describes “manners” through her character Elizabeth Bennet. Elizabeth is the second daughter of a country man. She lives in a fictional town of Meryton in Hertfordshire nearby London.
Elizabeth candidly deals with the issue of manners through education, mortality, and marriage in the landed gentry’s society of British Regency.
Pride and Prejudice retains its high position in the list of “most loved books.” Surprisingly, it was sold more than 20 million copies.
Ulysses is characterized as the “illustration and summation of the all movements. Mr. James Joyce very smartly portrays a series of parallels between his characters and events.
The novel is difficult to summarize, but it has a very simple story. Mr. Joyce describes the story of two characters i.e. Leopold Bloom, a middle aged Jewish man and Stephen Daedalus, a young intellectual. Ulysses is one of the greatest masterpieces of modernist literature and given special place in Modern English Literature.
The story starts with the Miss Lee’s observations of her family and neighbors. Later, Miss Lee raises serious social issues of racial inequality and rape. She narrates about her father Atticus Finch in such a way that many of the readers characterize him as their moral hero and lawyers recognize him as a model of integrity.
The novel is one of the best books of classical American literature and has for good reasons won the Pulitzer Prize.
Mr. George Orwell intellectually describes English Socialism. He describes a fictional province “Airstrip One” (i.e. Great Britain). As Mr. Orwell narrates, this province exists in the world of perpetual war and under the surveillance of omnipresent government. The government is ruled by “Inner Party Elite” who prosecutes the independent thinking by the name of “thoughtcrime” and “individualism” as well.
Unquestionably, 1984 is a novel unique of its kind. Everyone should (must) read it once.