The Best English Language Novels Of All Time

Guest Post by Lovereading – Helping to find your next book.

Any list like this is bound to cause controversy as the criteria for what makes a work of literature good is subjective and based on the reader’s personal taste. These lists are good; however, as in their very nature they draw people’s attention to great works of art and hopefully introduce some new readers to books they weren’t previously aware of.  Here then is a very small and subjective selection of some of the best books ever written.

The Sheltering Sky by Paul Bowles: An incredible and very strange book that was originally rejected by publishers. Informed by Bowles’ own life and experiences of having lived a large part of his life in Morocco, this unusual tale of expats crashing up against a combination of the heat and the bewildering culture of North Africa is written in simple yet beautifully unadorned prose. The final section’s detailed description of Kit’s downfall in the dessert is unbelievably chilling and simply breath-taking.

Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller: One of the greatest cult favorites of all time which also happens to be one of the greatest books of all time. A tour de force of writing that makes a novel with no discernible plot into a wild ride that you never want to stop. From the strange incident with one of Ghandi’s followers in a house of ill-repute to the bed bugs that crawl over him as he sleeps on a mattress on the floor of a friend’s apartment, this tale of a man’s penniless but fearless journey through Paris is a testament to all that can be good about life, even when you have nothing.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo Nest by Ken Kesey: The story of the charismatic Randle McMurphy and his attempts to breathe some life into the mental institution. The fact that Randle is not insane but simply faking in order to avoid prison make his ultimate all the more poignant, but it is Kesey’s analogy of life itself as something stifled by an overpowering and unjust system that is the most thought provoking and sad message of the book.

The Picture of Dorian Grey by Oscar Wilde: Written by a man whose own flamboyance and personality seem to obscure the incredibly quality of his work. The Picture of Dorian Grey is often marketed as a gothic-horror-esque novel and this is a reflection the horror, encoded here, that Wilde was forced to live throughout his life due to his sexuality. This is not a book that needs to be read with any reference to its author though as it is simply a brilliant read.

The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler: Under-appreciated during his lifetime and certainly not the subject of too many revision books, Chandler’s work is now recognized as much more than simply pulp-fiction. The English born crime fiction writer took to the genre to new levels, particularly with his tales involving Philip Marlowe. Despite all of the brilliant shifts in plot and the sheer un-put-down-ability of this book, it is the way in which Chandler exposes the human heart in all its base ugliness that is truly the mark of greatness that characterizes this incredible piece of work.

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