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The 50 Most Influential Books of All Time


These are the most influential books in literature.


  1. The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer. Written in the 14th century, this collection of tales brought to life characters and stories that remain popular today. The Canterbury Tales also provides a glimpse into the customs and practices within the society at the time of its writing. This work is one of the most read books and one of the most studied in all the world. Many scholars suggest that Chaucer’s magnum opus contributed greatly to the popularization of the English vernacular in literature.

  2. Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri. Considered one of the most important pieces of world literature, the Divine Comedy is an epic poem that details a journey through the realms of the afterlife and, allegorically, the soul’s discovery of God. Long considered to be the greatest piece of Italian literature, the Divine Comedy also provides us with a closer view of medieval Christian theology and philosophy.

  3. The Complete Works of William Shakespeare. William Shakespeare is often considered the greatest writer in the English language and the greatest dramatist in all of history. The characters, stories, and language have taken hold of readers for hundreds of years and have greatly contributed to shaping modern culture. Shakespeare’s complete works have been translated into every major language and are still enjoyed around the world.

  4. Moby Dick by Herman Melville. This now-famous book about a man’s hunt for the great whale is considered one of the greatest American novels ever written. Moby Dick is heavy on symbolism, but is also famous for the detailing of the whaling industry in the 19th century and its many different narrative styles and structures.

  5. 1984 by George Orwell. This dystopian novel describes life in a totalitarian regime that has stripped the people of their rights. The themes in this novel have become a major part of modern culture, creating terms and concepts that have been incorporated into our own society. Surveillance, truth, and censorship take center stage in this novel; no other book has contributed to our understanding of these themes like 1984.

  6. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. Another dystopian novel, this one by Huxley is often considered one of the great novels of the 20th century. Huxley’s novel looked unfavorably on the loss of an individual’s identity through futuristic technological advancements. Huxley’s own fears of commerciality and the emerging youth culture are fully on display in this novel.

  7. The Iliad and The Odyssey by Homer. These two ancient Greek epic poems are not only the preeminent works in ancient Greek literature, but they are also incredibly influential texts for all forms of art, thought, and music in Western civilization. The Iliad details a few weeks during the end of the Trojan War and the Odyssey describes Odysseus’ ten-year journey home from the Trojan War. These two works are important for their detail of Greek history and legend, the composition of story, and the development of themes.

  8. Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes. This Spanish novel, originally published as two books, is one of the most influential and popular novels in the world. It’s also considered to be one of the best books ever written. The adventure, symbolism, and characterization contained in Don Quixote has promoted the book to the incredible popularity it has today. Don Quixote became one of the earliest canonical texts and has been inspiring artists of all kinds for hundreds of years.

  9. In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust. Daunting in length, the seven-volume In Search of Lost Time is one of the most prominent modern works of the early 20th century. The novel explores themes of memory, childhood, and meaning, but it avoids the plot-driven model of 19th-century novels. The supporting cast are incredibly well drawn and the events are moved forward by the differing perspectives that experience them, writing techniques that have been emulated endlessly since the novel’s publication.

  10. Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert. Flaubert’s story of a woman who engages in adulterous affairs in an attempt to escape from a loveless marriage was subjected to heavy censorship at the time it was published, and Flaubert was taken to trial over the novel. After his acquittal, Madame Bovary became renowned as a masterpiece of the Realism movement.

  11. Arabian Nights translated by Andrew Lang. This English language version of One Thousand and One Nights retells the ancient stories that have now become popularized around the world, including the plight of Scheherazade, the adventures of Aladdin, and the voyages of Sinbad.

  12. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez. Considered to be one of the most significant novels in the Spanish literary canon, One Hundred Years of Solitude tells the story of the Buendía family over several generations. The style and themes in the novel are seen to be representative of a unique Latin American literary movement of the 1960s: Magical Realism.

  13. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy. Though Tolstoy was hesitant to call this a novel, War and Peace is often included in the discussion of the best novels of all time. Chronicling the French invasion of Russia in 1812, the book looks at the psychological effects of the war and the philosophical discussions that it created.

  14. The Tale of Genji by Murasaki Shikibu. Written in the beginning of the 11th century, The Tale of Genji is often called the first novel. While it does not have a plot by definition, the story does have many elements of a modern novel, including a main character, a supporting cast, and characterization. Translation of this novel has proved difficult over time, but most still consider it the first and greatest work in Japanese literature.

  15. Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriett Beecher Stowe. Written by a middle aged, white woman in 1851, Uncle Tom’s Cabin has been credited for changing the views of slavery in the north and continues to serve as a reminder of the effects of slavery and other inhumane acts.

  16. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. While Fyodor Dostoyevsky has written several works that could be considered some of the most influential ever published, Crime and Punishment is one that stands above the rest as one of the best books ever written. This novel explores the mind of an individualistic person from within, challenging the rules of crime and punishment as they apply to the main character and the people around him.

  17. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe. The theme of preserving cultural history in the face of Western domination in this novel gave voice to the oppressed people in Africa and caught the attention of the world. This novel, written in 1958, is still widely read and studied as an example of the damage of colonialism.

  18. Faust by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Faust is a tragic play, but it has long been considered the single greatest work in German literature. The tale tells of Faust selling his soul to the devil for worldly knowledge and pleasures. The influence this story has on art, literature, music, and thought is immeasurable.

  19. Beloved by Toni Morrison. Written to honor the memory of African American slaves brought over during the slave trade, Toni Morrison’s Beloved is one of the most recognizable and influential texts in modern literature. For giving voice to the African-American experience and observing and recording the collective memory of the population, Morrison’s novel won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1988.

  20. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. Not only is The Lord of the Rings one of the best-selling novels in the world, it also helped form and shape the high fantasy genre. While many of the themes from the story were adapted from earlier mythologies, The Lord of the Rings itself became the foundational text for all fantasy readers and authors.


Tags: всемирная литература, литература
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