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5 Novels Considered the “Greatest Book Ever Written”

Literary critics, historians, avid readers, and even casual readers will all have different opinions on which novel is truly the “greatest book ever written.” Is it a novel with beautiful, captivating figurative language? Or one with gritty realism? A novel that has had an immense social impact? Or one that has more subtly affected the world? Here is a list of 12 novels that, for various reasons, have been considered some of the greatest works of literature ever written.



1 Anna Karenina

Any fan of stories that involve juicy subjects like adultery, gambling, marriage plots, and, well, Russian feudalism, would instantly placeAnna Kareninaat the peak of their “greatest novels” list. And that’s exactly the ranking that publications likeTimemagazine have given the novel since it was published in its entirety in 1878. Written by Russian novelistLeo Tolstoy, the eight-part towering work of fiction tells the story of two major characters: a tragic, disenchanted housewife, the titular Anna, who runs off with her young lover, and a lovestruck landowner named Konstantin Levin, who struggles in faith and philosophy. Tolstoy molds together thoughtful discussions on love, pain, and family in Russian society with a sizable cast of characters regarded for their realistic humanity. The novel was especially revolutionary in its treatment of women, depicting prejudices and social hardships of the time with vivid emotion.


2 To Kill a Mockingbird

Harper Lee : believed to be one of the most influential authors to have ever existed, famously published only a single novel (up until its controversial sequel was published in 2015 just before her death). Lee’sTo Kill a Mockingbirdwas published in 1960 and became an immediate classic of literature. The novel examines racism in the American South through the innocent wide eyes of a clever young girl named Jean Louise (“Scout”) Finch. Its iconic characters, most notably the sympathetic and just lawyer and father Atticus Finch, served as role models and changed perspectives in the United States at a time when tensions regarding race were high.To Kill a Mockingbirdearned the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1961 and was made into an Academy Award-winning film in 1962, giving the story and its characters further life and influence over the American social sphere.


3 The Great Gatsby


Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsbyis distinguished as one of the greatest texts for introducing students to the art of reading literature critically (which means you may have read it in school). The novel is told from the perspective of a young man named Nick Carraway who has recently moved to New York City and is befriended by his eccentric nouveau riche neighbor with mysterious origins, Jay Gatsby.The Great Gatsbyprovides an insider’s look into the Jazz Age of the 1920s in United States history while at the same time critiquing the idea of the “American Dream.” Perhaps the most-famous aspect of the novel is its cover art—a piercing face projected onto a dark blue night sky and lights from a cityscape—an image that is also found, in a slightly different configuration, within the text itself as a key symbol.


4 One Hundred Years of Solitude


The late Colombian autho rGabriel García Márquez published his most-famous work,One Hundred Years of Solitude, in 1967. The novel tells the story of seven generations of the Buendía family and follows the establishment of their town Macondo until its destruction along with the last of the family’s descendents. In fantastical form, the novel explores the genre of magic realism by emphasizing the extraordinary nature of commonplace things while mystical things are shown to be common. Márquez highlights the prevalence and power of myth and folktale in relating history and Latin American culture. The novel won many awards for Márquez, leading the way to his eventual honor of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1982 for his entire body of work, of whichOne Hundred Years of Solitudeis often lauded as his most triumphant.


5 Invisible Man

Often confused with H.G. Wells’s science-fiction novella of nearly the same name (just subtract a “The”) , Ralph Ellison ’ sInvisible Manis a groundbreaking novel in the expression of identity for the African American male. The narrator of the novel, a man who is never named but believes he is “invisible” to others socially, tells the story of his move from the South to college and then to New York City. In each location he faces extreme adversity and discrimination, falling into and out of work, relationships, and questionable social movements in a wayward and ethereal mindset. The novel is renowned for its surreal and experimental style of writing that explores the symbolism surrounding African American identity and culture.Invisible Manwon the U.S. National Book Award for Fiction in 1953.


 
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