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12 Novels Considered Best of All Times

What makes a book worthy of the title "greatest of all times"? What makes for a Pulitzer-winning novel? Is the social impact? Is it the immense pleasure of simply reading it by yourself? Is it the life lessons it teaches? And will every book that wins such fame remain relevant for all generations to come? In this article, we'll discuss 12 books considered to be the greatest of all times, and see what kind of impact they made. 

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

Published (in its entirety) in 1878 and consisting of over 860 pages divided into eight parts, this book is not only one of the best works of Leo Tolstoy but of the entire literature world. It is a fiction book set in feudal Russia, telling the tales of more than a dozen major characters, specifically circling the affair of leading characters Anna Karenina herself and her lover Count Alexei Kirillovich Vronsky. The novel discusses themes of love, loyalty and betrayal, family and desire. Tolstoy referred to his creation as his first true novel. Depicted in the photograph above is Greta Garbo from the book's movie adaptation from 1935. 

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird gained immediate success with its publication in 1960. The Pulitzer came no later than a year after the book was published. The literary masterpiece discusses racism, rape, and the destruction of innocence, but does so in a warm, almost humorous tone, through the eyes of a young narrator. This was Lee's first novel and it was adapted into a movie in 1962. 

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Fitzgerald never got to see his Gatsby gain the iconic literary status it has today, as it sold less than 24,000 copies during his lifetime. Published in 1925, the roaring 20s are its main theme. The plot is partially based on Fitzgerald's own experiences with a young girl in 1922. He attended the same parties that are so vividly described in the novel, and as the saying goes, lived to tell the tale. The novel discusses the American dream, social classes, and inherited status. It was first adapted to a silent movie in 1926. Since then, numerous other films were published. 

100 Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

100 Years pf Solitude won Marques a Nobel for Literature. Published in 1967, it tells of several generations of the Buendia family living in the fictional town of Macondo, founded by the family patriarch. This literary creation has been translated into 46 languages and has sold over 50 million copies around the world. It is one of the founding works of the magical realism literary genre, depicting worlds with blurred lines between fantasy and reality. 

A Passage to India by E. M. Forster

Published in 1924, this is yet another book on this list of greatest novels of all times discussing racism. In this novel, the racial tension is between the British and the Indians, which leads to the unjustified arrest of a local Indian Doctor accompanying several British visitors. This novel was included in Time magazine's list of All Time 100 Novels. 

Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

This 1952 novel, consisting of over 580 pages, addresses several issues faced by the black community at the time of the book's publication. Among those are nationalism, marxism, and social reforms, but also individual identity. After the novel was published, Ellison became the first African American writer to win the U.S. National Book Award for Fiction in 1953. 

Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes

A timeless masterpiece that remains relevant to this day, forever holding its status as an eternal classic. Don Quixote was first published centuries ago in 1605. What makes this work, often referred to as the first-ever modern novel, so timeless? At the time of its publication it was regarded as a comic but after the French Revolution it stood as a symbol of the individual in a society and of the contrast between realism and idealism. 

Beloved by Toni Morrison

Beloved by Toni Morrison was both published and awarded a Pulitzer the same year- 1987. Its main themes surround mother's love and racial cruelty during and after the slavery period in America. The plot is set after the Civil War and is inspired by real events that occurred to Margaret Garner, an enslaved woman who escaped and fled to the free state of Ohio in 1856. However the law allowed her re-capture and when law forces came to arrest her, she was killing her children to spare them a life of slavery. 

Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

This day-in-the-life-format novel was published in 1925 and tells of a day in the life of Clarissa Dalloway, set after World War 1. During this day she's in preparations for a party that she hosts that evening. The plot goes in and out of the characters' minds and travels through different timelines to paint a picture of Mrs. Dalloway's life in the new social structure after the War. 

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

Published in 1958 and written by Nigerian author Chinua Achebe, this novel discusses precolonial life followed by the European invasion of the writer's home country. It was originally written in English and describes the impact of the white man on Indigenous tribes in Africa. The first part tells of Okonkwo, a local man, describing his life, culture, and family, followed by two parts telling of European invasions. The novel is considered one of the first African novels to be globally critically acclaimed.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

Another one of the more veteran books on this list is Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre, published in 1847. This timeless, canonic classic follows the psychological and moral growth of leading heroine Jane Eyre, from childhood to adulthood. The entire plot is told in a first-person narrative, and every event is colored with psychological advancements. This was the first book to be written in this style.  

The Color Purple by Alice Walker

This novel's plot is partially based on letters written by the leading character Celie to both God and her sister, Nettie. This book groups together disadvantaged characters trying to shape their own lives. The leading heroine, Celie, navigates through a life full of abuse. The novel brutally depicts racism and sexual violence, thus becoming a target of censorship. It was adapted to a movie in 1985, and despite being nominated for 11 different awards, it won none. 
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