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So many authors - so little time! Welcome to The Telegraph (UK) selection of ‘100 Novels Everyone Should Read’. We hope you enjoy their witty and pithy plot summaries. Do you agree with their selection?



The novels are listed over three pages in descending order. Enjoy! PAGE 1

 100 novels everyone should read

The Telegraph (UK) selection of the essential fiction library


  •  ©      100. The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkein—WH Auden thought this tale of fantastic creatures looking for lost jewellery was a ‘masterpiece’.
  • ©      99. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee—A child’s-eye view of racial prejudice and freaky neighbours in Thirties Alabama.
  • ©      98. The Home and the World by Rabindranath Tagore—A rich Bengali noble lives happily until a radical revolutionary appears.
  • ©      97. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams—Earth is demolished to make way for a Hyperspatial Express Route. Don’t panic.
  • ©      96. One Thousand and One Nights by Anon—A Persian king’s new bride tells tales to stall post-coital execution.
  • ©      95. The Sorrows of Young Werther by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe—Werther loves Charlotte, but she’s already engaged. Woe is he!
  • ©      94. Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie—The children of poor Hindus and wealthy Muslims are switched at birth.
  • ©      93. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John le Carré—Nursery rhyme provides the code names for British spies suspected of treason.
  • ©      92. Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons—Hilarious satire on doom-laden rural romances. ‘Something nasty’ has been observed in the woodshed.
  • ©      91. The Tale of Genji by Lady Murasaki—The life and loves of an emperor’s son. And the world’s first novel?
  • ©      90. Under the Net by Iris Murdoch—A feckless writer has dealings with a canine movie star. Comedy and philosophy combined.
  • ©      89. The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing—Lessing considers communism and women’s liberation in what Margaret Drabble calls ‘inner space fiction’.
  • ©      88. Eugene Onegin by Alexander Pushkin—Passion, poetry and pistols in this verse novel of thwarted love.
  • ©      87. On the Road by Jack Kerouac—Beat generation boys aim to ‘burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles’.
  • ©      86. Old Goriot by Honoré de Balzac—A disillusioning dose of Bourbon Restoration realism. The anti-hero ‘Rastingnac’ became a byword for ruthless social climbing.
  • ©      85. The Red and the Black by Stendhal—Plebian hero struggles against the materialism and hypocrisy of French society with his ‘force d’ame’.
  • ©      84. The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas—‘One for all and all for one’: the eponymous swashbucklers battle the mysterious Milady.
  • ©      83. Germinal by Emile Zola—Written to ‘germinate’ social change, Germinal unflinchingly documents the starvation of French miners.
  • ©      82. The Stranger by Albert Camus—Frenchman kills an Arab friend in Algiers and accepts ‘the gentle indifference of the world’.
  • ©      81.The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco—Illuminating historical whodunnit set in a 14th-century Italian monastery.
  • ©      80. Oscar and Lucinda by Peter Carey—An Australian heiress bets an Anglican priest he can’t move a glass church 400km.
  • ©      79. Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys—Prequel to Jane Eyre giving moving, human voice to the mad woman in the attic.
  • ©      78. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll—Carroll’s ludicrous logic makes it possible to believe six impossible things before breakfast.
  • ©      77. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller—Yossarian feels a homicidal impulse to machine gun total strangers. Isn’t that crazy?
  • ©      76. The Trial by Franz Kafka—K proclaims he’s innocent when unexpectedly arrested. But ‘innocent of what’?
  • ©      75. Cider with Rosie by Laurie Lee—Protagonist’s ‘first long secret drink of golden fire’ is under a hay wagon.
  • ©      74. Waiting for the Mahatma by RK Narayan—Gentle comedy in which a Gandhi-inspired Indian youth becomes an anti-British extremist.
  • ©      73. All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Remarque—The horror of the Great War as seen by a teenage soldier.
  • ©      72. Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant by Anne Tyler—Three siblings are differently affected by their parents’ unexplained separation.
  • ©      71. The Dream of the Red Chamber by Cao Xueqin—Profound and panoramic insight into 18th-century Chinese society.
  • ©      70. The Leopard by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa—Garibaldi’s Redshirts sweep through Sicily, the ‘jackals’ ousting the nobility, or ‘leopards’.
  • ©      69. If On a Winter’s Night a Traveller by Italo Calvino—International book fraud is exposed in this playful postmodernist puzzle.
  • ©      68. Crash by JG Ballard—Former TV scientist preaches ‘a new sexuality, born from a perverse technology’.
  • ©      67. A Bend in the River by VS Naipaul—East African Indian Salim travels to the heart of Africa and finds ‘The world is what it is.’
  • ©      66. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky—Boy meets pawnbroker. Boy kills pawnbroker with an axe. Guilt, breakdown, Siberia, redemption.
  • ©      65. Dr Zhivago by Boris Pasternak—Romantic young doctor’s idealism is trampled by the atrocities of the Russian Revolution.
  • ©      64. The Cairo Trilogy by Naguib Mahfouz—Follows three generations of Cairenes from the First World War to the coup of 1952.

Counting down! 100 TOP READS P.2




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