Do modern novels make you cringe? Does it feel like everything written after 1950 is shallow, immoral, or ridden with sloppy language?
If your soul is slowly shriveling away inside of you and your eyes are screaming at you to find something, ANYTHING, worth their time to read, I have a solution for you!
First, spend a couple minutes of cathartic laughter with Terrible Writing Advice, where you can enjoy that someone besides yourself notices just how awful most modern novels are!

Then… take a look at my list below! With 50 recommendations of classic, first-rate literature, you’re sure to find something new and wonderful to read! I have personally read every title, and not only do I recommend them, but I love talking about them! Please comment about your favorite classic, any modern books and authors that are gems in this current ocean of mediocrity, or anything else book-related!

*UPDATE – I’ve added two bonus titles to the end of the article!

  1. George Elliot’s Middlemarch
  2. Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea
  3. Antoine de Saint Exupery’s The Little Prince
  4. Gail Carson Levine’s Fairest
  5. Elizabeth George Speare’s The Witch of Blackbird Pond
  6. Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
  7. Lloyd Alexander’s The Book of Three
  8. Lloyd Alexander’s The Black Cauldron
  9. Lloyd Alexander’s The Castle of Llyr
  10. Lloyd Alexander’s Taran Wanderer220px-The_Chronicles_of_Prydain_set
  11. Lloyd Alexander’s The High King
  12. Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman
  13. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby
  14. Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray
  15. Betty Smith’s A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
  16. Robert C. O’Brien’s MrsFrisby and the Rats of Nimh
  17. Peter S. Beagle’s The Last Unicorn
  18. Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time
  19. William Goldman’s The Princess Bride
  20. T.H. White’s The Once and Future KingOnceandFutureKing-768x1179.jpg
  21. C.S. Lewis’s The Great Divorce
  22. Anne Bronte’s The Tenant of Wildfell Hall
  23. C.S. Lewis’s Till We Have Faces
  24. Noel Streatfeild’s Theater Shoes
  25. Shakespeare’s The Tempest
  26. Louis Sachar’s Holes
  27. Norton Juster’s The Phantom Tollbooth
  28. Frank L. Baum’s The Wizard of Oz
  29. George McDonald’s The Light Princess
  30. Charles Dicken’s Great Expectationsgreat-expectations
  31. Gaston Leroux’s The Phantom of the Opera
  32. Frances Hodgson Burnett The Secret Garden
  33. Elizabeth Russell’s Halfbreeds (Yup, my shameless plug! But I’m not ashamed – I love reading my book, and I highly recommend it!)
  34. Aldous Huxley’s A Brave New World
  35. A.A. Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh
  36. Mary Ann Shaffer’s The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
  37. Sigrid Undset’s Catherine of Siena
  38. Mark Twain’s Joan of Arc
  39. Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
  40. J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan51f-7KjjFeL._SX317_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg
  41. Grace Lin’s Where the Mountain Meets the Moon
  42. Roald Dahl’s Matilda
  43. Dean Koontz’s Odd Thomas
  44. Louisa May Alcott’s An Old Fashioned Girl
  45. L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of the Island
  46. Shannon Hale’s Princess Academy
  47. Fanny Fern’s Ruth Hall
  48. Catherine Marshall’s Christy
  49. Jane Austen’s Persuasion
  50. Gail Carson Levine’s The Two Princesses of Bamarre
  51. J.R.R. Tolkien The Fellowship of the Ring
  52. Robert Louis Stevenson Treasure Island

16 thoughts on “50 BEST BOOKS OF ALL TIME”

  1. I have the opposite problem. I am completely unable to appreciate classics. On this list I’ve only really read The Great Gatsby, Brave New World, Matilda, and Winnie the Pooh.
    Three of them were okay- but I really am not a fan of Brave New World at all (blasphemy I know).
    I prefer the structure and action of contemporarily written novels. I feel like modern writers are not afraid to go where perhaps classic writers felt they couldn’t.

    1. It takes many people to make a world, doesn’t it? I think most of the time we are attuned to liking the things that we are accustomed to. I grew up on the classics: on complex sentence structure, older language, and slower pace. It’s hard for me to like recent novels that are so fast-paced and action oriented. But, to be fair, I will say that there are plenty of classics that are far too slow, and plenty of modern novels that have discovered the right balance of action and character development. I’m always striving for that myself!

    2. I have many. It sounds so terribly cliched but Stephen King is one. He is the exact opposite of what you are saying- his sentences and structuring are about as simple as it comes, but that’s what I love. When I read I want a story first and foremost. I feel like overly lyrical/complex writing takes away from the story.
      Last year I had a love affair with Ada Palmer’s Terra Ignota series. Bernard Cornwell ranks up there as a favorite and most-read. Sebastien de Castell is another favorite.
      Cornwell and Castell are both action focused. King has done either. It’s harder to put my finger on what I love about Palmer’s work. It’s extremely complex, but there’s not a lot of action, more intrigue.
      I do want to add I don’t hate classics. Pride & Prejudice is a favorite as well as To Kill a Mockingbird. A Study in Scarlett could easily be another. I have a bunch of books on my TBR that are on your list. Great Expectations (though I didn’t like A Tale of Two Cities) for one, The Once And Future King is another. And I saw you have Marc Twain’s Joan of Arc which I’d never even heard of before but will definitely check out.

    3. I love it! I’ve never read Stephen King, but I’ve wanted to. I know his writing style is probably not my favorite, but I’ve heard he’s a great storyteller, and I put a lot of emphasis on that when reading a book. I agree with you that sometimes language can take away from the story, and that’s a real shame! They should be a unified whole, in my opinion. You’ll probably like Great Expectations better than A Tale of Two Cities – it’s an easier read, with a lot more action, and less characters to keep track of. A Tale of Two Cities, not sure exactly why, can be difficult to get through. Yes! I LOVE Pride and Prejudice and To Kill A Mockingbird – two of my favorites! The Once and Future King is at the top of my favorites, but even I skipped parts of it the first time I read it. Don’t be afraid to skip some of his very long descriptions: they can detract from the story, and aren’t usually necessary. I’m going to have to look up the other three authors you mentioned – I’ve never heard of them.

  2. Also- I’m sorry if my comment came off wrong- I was totally not trying to rain on your parade. I actually wish I appreciated classics more and envy you that you have read so many.
    Maybe I’m just reading the wrong ones? Most classics on my list fall into the three star range.

    1. Ha ha, no worries! I love a good bit of contrary dialogue! It spices up life. I would say, don’t be afraid to read some of the easier classics, or to embrace the reading style that you love! We are all so unique!
      If you’re looking for some easily digestible classics, children’s literature is the place to go! There’s so much there that is so wonderful – and when I get tired of reading heavy stuff, I get so much insight from Books like Winnie the Pooh, Alice in Wonderland, the Phantom Tollbooth, and Roald Dahl books! Now I’m thinking I should put together a list of the best children’s literature! 😀📕

    2. You should go for it. I’ve read most of Roald Dahl. I remember loving him as a kid but now that I’m older I view him differently and I don’t think I’d read him again. He put those poor kids through hell (poor James and his terrible family) and it makes me really uncomfortable now that I am a mom lol.

    3. I am right there with you Sarah on wanting to appreciate the classics. It has taken me a long time to truly appreciate them. I mainly started reading them as an adult and so it took some training to adapt to the way they wrote back then. I often wonder if they really spoke the same way – hard to imagine. I often find it easier to watch a film version first and then try to read the book – that way I understand the story better and can follow it easier – Austen and Shakespeare confuse me until I see it played out and then I can follow the book better. I WANT to appreciate the classics more, 🧐 but I’m just sometimes too tired to try! 😴 They do take more effort than modern writers. What’s funny is I’m the mom who made Elizabeth read all those classics! I have read about 25% of what I made her read!!! 🤫

    4. Ha! Good for you. Pride and Prejudice is one of my favorite, but it took a lot of coaxing from a college professor to get me to see it. I later read Sense and Sensibility without her help and wasn’t incredibly fond of it.
      Shakespeare is somewhat hopeless for me. I was mostly made to read his tragedies and school and that’s just not my thing, but I think reading a play in general is not my thing. Bernard Cornwell- one of my favorite authors I listed above wrote a book about a year ago called Fools and Mortals and it is about the brother of William, Richard. In the book they act out the play A Midsummer Night’s Dream and that made me want to read it because it really did seem funny, but then I thought about how what was funny was the actions they were doing on stage and not necessarily their words. It seems like a lot of the context is lost if it isn’t being acted out or described.

  3. Sorry for some reason I’m not seeing a reply button by your last comment. Stephen King’s strength is definitely his story telling. When people want to read him but have never tried him before I usually recommend they read at least one older book and one newer book. His older books are a slow burn that people who grew up with him tend to love, and his newer books are much more action focused. The Dead Zone is one of the older ones I loved. (I never made it through The Shining or IT because they were too slow!) Newer ones I love: The Green Mile is a good introduction because it’s not TOO gory/gruesome. The story is beautiful. Under the Dome is probably my favorite book of all time. These are the only two books I think I’ve ever actually re-read. (Under the Dome I read three times and I’ve been thinking about it giving it another go- this one is super gruesome though.)
    And thank you for the heads up on T.H.White. Long descriptions are not my thing!

  4. Sorry- I’ll stop cluttering up your feed. You might try Sebastien de Castell’s Greatcoats series (it starts with Traitor’s Blade). It’s a Three Musketeers retelling. I don’t know if you liked that one but it sort of ties into your love of classics.
    Cornwell is a historical fiction author responsible for The Last Kingdom series on Netflix. There’s a whole set of books to go with them. His writing is very concise and too the point, and his books are almost never more than 350 pages long.
    Palmer is a newer author. Terra Ignota is not finished. It’s so hard to describe other than that it is a Utopia where everything is not at all what it seems. The main character is Mycroft Canner and this is a study in Mycroft as much as it is a study in philosophy.

  5. I’ve only read 14 of the one’s on your list, but I do have a love of classics. I love The Divine Comedy, The Decameron and The Canterbury Tales (noticing a theme?) and they usually earn me an eye roll. But if it’s modern books that prefer substance over speed I recommend historical fiction. My favorite historical fiction writers are Sharon Kay Penman and Edward Rutherford (another saga writer). And great post–I also have a love of best of (and worst of) lists!

  6. DIVINE COMEDY – YES! There’s a quote by someone (can’t remember who) that Shakespeare and Dante make up the whole expanse of the experience of mankind – Shakespeare is the width, and Dante the height and depth. I love that!
    I still need to read the Decameron, and I’ve only done snippets of Canterbury Tales.
    I love history, but I have a hard time with historical fiction. Only because I get so curious about what is real and what isn’t, so I end up reading about two volumes, because I have to read the true account to compare. It’s a bad habit!
    I plan to do some more of these lists, so I’m glad you’re enjoying them!😍

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