To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
To Kill a Mockingbird was first published in 1960 and became an instant success.
The book is loosely based on Harper Lee’s family, her neighbours and an event that occurred aged ten, in 1936, near her hometown of Monroeville, Alabama.
The book deals with extremely serious issues, yet somehow manages to retain warmth and humour in the telling of the story. It continues to be widely read in schools in the United States and around the world and has become a classic of modern American literature, winning the Pulitzer Prize.
1984, by George Orwell
Published in 1949, this was Orwell’s ninth and final book. 1984 is a dystopian novel taking place in the year 1984 in an imagined future, when much of the world has fallen victim to continuous war, omnipresent government surveillance, historical denialism and propaganda.
1984 centres on the consequences of government overreach, totalitarianism, mass surveillance, and repressive regimentation of all persons and behaviours within society.
The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien
The Lord of the Rings is one of the best-selling novels ever written, with over 150 million copies sold. An epic high-fantasy novel that began life as a sequel to Tolkien’s 1937 fantasy novel, The Hobbit, eventually developing into a much larger work.
Written in stages between 1937 and 1949, the story ranges across middle-earth, following the course of the War of the Ring through the eyes of its characters, most notably the hobbits Frodo, Sam, Merry and Pippin.
Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen
Written in 1812 by Jane Austen, the romantic novel, Pride and Prejudice, centres on the character of Elizabeth Bennet, who learns of the difference between superficial goodness and true goodness. Based in the Regency era, the comic side of the novel stems from its honest portrayal of education, marriage, manners and money in the society of that era.
Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott
Little Women is loosely based on the lives of Alcott and her sisters. The story follows the lives of the four March sisters, detailing their journey from childhood to womanhood. It was originally published in two volumes, in 1868 and 1869.
Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury
Regarded as one of Bradbury’s best works, Fahrenheit 451 presents a future American society where books are outlawed and “firemen” burn any that are found. First published in 1953, the book’s tagline ‘the temperature at which book paper catches fire, and burns’ explains the title.
Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte
Published under the pen name “Currer Bell” in 1847, Jane Eyre follows the experiences of its eponymous heroine, including her growth to adulthood and her love for Mr. Rochester, the brooding master of Thornfield Hall. Along with Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre is one of the most famous romance novels of all time. Considered by many to be ahead of its time because of Jane’s individualistic character and how the novel approaches the topics of class, sexuality, religion and feminism.
Animal Farm, by George Orwell
First published in 1945. The book tells the story of a group of farm animals who rebel against their human farmer, hoping to create a society where the animals can be equal, free, and happy. Ultimately, however, the rebellion is betrayed and the farm ends up in a state as bad as it was before, under the dictatorship of a pig named Napoleon.
The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck
Set during the Great Depression, The Grapes of Wrath focuses on a poor family of tenant farmers, the Joads, who are driven from their Oklahoma home by drought, economic hardship and agricultural industry changes.
Due to their desperate situation, the Joads set out for California along with thousands of other “Okies” seeking jobs, land, dignity, and a future.
First published in 1939, The Grapes of Wrath won the National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize for fiction. It was also cited prominently when Steinbeck was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1962.
A Tale of Two Cities, by Charles Dickens
Dickens’ best-known work of historical fiction, A Tale of Two Cities is regularly cited as the best-selling novel of all time.
Published in 1859 and set in London and Paris before and during the French Revolution, the story is of the French Doctor Manette, his 18-year-long imprisonment in the Bastille in Paris and his release to live in London with his daughter Lucie, whom he had never met.
Wuthering Heights, by Emily Bronte
Published in 1847 under her pseudonym “Ellis Bell”, the year before Emily Bronte’s death at the age of thirty, Wuthering Heights is considered to be one of the most haunting and tormented love stories ever written. The windswept moors are the unforgettable setting of this tale of doomed love between the troubled orphan Heathcliff and his wealthy benefactor’s daughter, Catherine Earnshaw.
Alice in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll
One of the best-known and most popular works of fiction, Alice in Wonderland has been enormously influential in both popular culture and literature, having a lasting popularity with adults as well as with children.
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was published in an 1865 novel written by English author Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, under the pseudonym Lewis Carroll, and tells of a young girl named Alice falling through a rabbit hole into a subterranean fantasy world populated by peculiar creatures.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain
First published in 1884, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is told in the first person by Huckleberry “Huck” Finn, the narrator of two other Twain novels (Tom Sawyer Abroad and Tom Sawyer, Detective) and a friend of Tom Sawyer. It is a direct sequel to The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.
The book is noted for its colourful description of people and places along the Mississippi River. Set in a Southern pre civil war society, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is an often scathing satire on entrenched attitudes, particularly racism.
Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut
Hailed as “one of the most enduring anti-war novels of all time”, the book follows the life and experiences of Billy Pilgrim, from his early years to his time as an American soldier and chaplain’s assistant during World War II, to the postwar years, with Billy occasionally traveling through time itself.
Slaughterhouse-Five was first published in 1969 and centres on Billy’s capture by the German Army and his survival of the Allied firebombing of Dresden as a prisoner-of-war (an experience which Vonnegut himself lived through as an American serviceman).
Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck
Published in 1937, Of Mice and Men is a novella that tells the story of George Milton and Lennie Small, two displaced migrant ranch workers moving from place to place in California, in search of new job opportunities during the Great Depression in the United States.
The book is based on Steinbeck’s own experiences working alongside migrant farm workers as a teenager in the 1910s (before the arrival of the Okies that he would describe in The Grapes of Wrath).
Catch 22 by Joseph Heller
Catch-22 is a satirical war novel and is often cited as one of the most significant novels of the twentieth century. It uses a distinctive non-chronological third-person omniscient narration, describing events from the points of view of different characters. The separate storylines are out of sequence so the timeline develops along with the plot.
First published in 1961, the novel is set during World War II, from 1942 to 1944. It mainly follows the life of antihero Captain John Yossarian, a U.S. Army Air Forces B-25 bombardier.
Lord of the Flies, William Golding
Published in 1954, Lord of Flies focuses on a group of boys stranded on an uninhabited island and their disastrous attempt to govern themselves. The book covers the tension between group thinking and individuality, between rational and emotional reactions, and between morality and immorality.
Midnight’s Children, Salman Rushdie
Midnight’s Children was published in 1981 and deals with India’s transition from British colonialism to independence and the partition of India.
The story is told by its chief protagonist, Saleem Sinai, born at the stroke of midnight at the exact moment of India’s independence, Saleem Sinai is a special child, born with telepathic powers connecting him with 1,000 other ‘midnight’s children’ all of whom are endowed with unusual gifts.
Midnight’s Children won both the Booker Prize and the James Tait Black Memorial Prize in 1981.
Dracula, Bram Stoker
Dracula is an 1897 Gothic horror novel that introduced the character of Count Dracula and established many conventions of subsequent vampire fantasy.
The novel tells the story of Dracula’s attempt to move from Transylvania to England so that he may find new blood and spread the undead curse, including the battle between Dracula and a group of humans led by Professor Abraham Van Helsing.
100 Years of Solitude, Gabriel Garcia Marquez
One Hundred Years of Solitude is a landmark 1967 novel, recognised as one of the most significant works in Spanish literature and telling the multi-generational story of the Buendía family, whose patriarch, José Arcadio Buendía, founded the town of Macondo, a fictitious town in the country of Colombia.
Since it was first published in May 1967 in Buenos Aires, 100 Years of Solitude has been translated into 37 languages and sold more than 30 million copies.