100 Must-Have Books In Your Library: Part I

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If you want the perfect library, forget about those DIY decoration tips for a minute and get these books first!

In this list, you’ll find the must-have and must-read novels of world literature; some were written in the last century and other classical literary works are from ancient times.

This is the first part of a very large list including 100 books. So, to be continued :) Enjoy reading!

The list is not in any kind of rank order, and all book summaries were taken from Wikipedia.

1. "Anna Karenina," (1877) Leo Tolstoy

Anna Karenina is the story of a married aristocrat/socialite and her affair with the affluent Count Vronsky. The story opens when she arrives in the midst of a family broken up by her brother's unbridled womanizing—something that prefigures her own later situation, though she would experience less tolerance by others.

2. "Republic," (380 BC) Plato

The Republic is a Socratic dialogue concerning the definition of justice, the order and character of the just city-state and the just man.

3. "Madame Bovary," (1856) Gustave Flaubert

Madame Bovary is the French writer Gustave Flaubert's debut novel. The story focuses on a doctor's wife, Emma Bovary, who has adulterous affairs and lives beyond her means in order to escape the banalities and emptiness of provincial life.

4. "The Prince," (1532) Niccolò Machiavelli

The Prince is a 16th-century political treatise by the Italian diplomat and political theorist Niccolò Machiavelli.

The Prince is sometimes claimed to be one of the first works of modern philosophy, especially modern political philosophy, in which the effective truth is taken to be more important than any abstract ideal. It was also in direct conflict with the dominant Catholic and scholastic doctrines of the time concerning politics and ethics.

5. "Thus Spoke Zarathustra," (1883) Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche

Thus Spoke Zarathustra: A Book for All and None is a philosophical novel by German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, composed in four parts between 1883 and 1885 and published between 1883 and 1891.

Much of the work deals with ideas such as the "eternal recurrence of the same", the parable on the "death of God", and the "prophecy" of the Übermensch.

6. "The Red and the Black," (1830) Stendhal

Le Rouge et le Noir is a historical psychological novel. It chronicles the attempts of a provincial young man to rise socially beyond his modest upbringing through a combination of talent, hard work, deception, and hypocrisy. He ultimately allows his passions to betray him.

7. "The Sorrows of Young Werther," (1774) Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Die Leiden des jungen Werthers is an epistolary, loosely autobiographical novel. It was an important novel of the Sturm und Drang period in German literature, and influenced the later Romantic movement in literature.

Goethe, 24 years old at the time, finished Werther in six weeks of intensive writing in January–March 1774. It instantly put him among the first international literary celebrities, and remains the best known of his works to the general public. Towards the end of Goethe's life, a personal visit to Weimar became a crucial stage in any young man's Grand Tour of Europe.

8. "Love in the Time of Cholera," (1985) Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Love in the Time of Cholera is a novel by Colombian author Gabriel García Márquez an a movie adaptation was released in 2007.

Some critics choose to consider Love in the Time of Cholera as a sentimental story about the enduring power of true love. Others criticize this opinion as being too simple. García Márquez himself said in an interview, "you have to be careful not to fall into my trap”.

9. "The Social Contract," (1762) Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Du contrat social ou Principes du droit politique by Jean-Jacques Rousseau is a book in which Rousseau theorized about the best way to establish a political community in the face of the problems of commercial society, which he had already identified in his Discourse on Inequality (1754).

The Social Contract helped inspire political reforms or revolutions in Europe, especially in France. The Social Contract argued against the idea that monarchs were divinely empowered to legislate. Rousseau asserts that only the people, who are sovereign, have that all-powerful right.

10. "The Stranger," (1942) Albert Camus

L’Étranger is a French novel by Albert Camus. Its theme and outlook are often cited as examples of Camus's philosophy of the absurd and existentialism, though Camus personally rejected the latter label.

The title character is Meursault, an indifferent French Algerian ("a citizen of France domiciled in North Africa, a man of the Mediterranean, an homme du midi yet one who hardly partakes of the traditional Mediterranean culture"]). He attends his mother's funeral. A few days later he kills an Arab man in French Algiers, who was involved in a conflict with a friend. Meursault is tried and sentenced to death. The story is divided into two parts, presenting Meursault's first-person narrative view before and after the murder, respectively.

11. “The Interpretation of Dreams,” (1899) Sigmund Freud

Die Traumdeutung is an 1899 book by psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud, in which Freud introduces his theory of the unconscious with respect to dream interpretation, and discusses what would later become the theory of the Oedipus complex. Freud revised the book at least eight times and, in the third edition, added an extensive section which treated dream symbolism very literally, following the influence of Wilhelm Stekel. Freud said of this work, "Insight such as this falls to one's lot but once in a lifetime."

12. "The Brothers Karamazov," (1880) Fyodor Dostoyevsky

The Brothers Karamazov is the final novel by the Russian author Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Dostoyevsky spent nearly two years writing The Brothers Karamazov, which was published as a serial in The Russian Messenger from January 1879 to November 1880. The author died less than four months after its publication.

The Brothers Karamazov is a passionate philosophical novel set in 19th century Russia, that enters deeply into the ethical debates of God, free will, and morality. It is a spiritual drama of moral struggles concerning faith, doubt, judgement, and reason, set against a modernizing Russia, with a plot which revolves around the subject of patricide. Dostoyevsky composed much of the novel in Staraya Russa, which inspired the main setting. Since its publication, it has been acclaimed as one of the supreme achievements in world literature.

13. "The Origin of Species,” (1859) Charles Darwin

On the Origin of Species is a work of scientific literature by Charles Darwin which is considered to be the foundation of evolutionary biology. Darwin's book introduced the scientific theory that populations evolve over the course of generations through a process of natural selection. It presented a body of evidence that the diversity of life arose by common descent through a branching pattern of evolution.

14. "The Metamorphosis," (1915) Franz Kafka

Die Verwandlung, is a novella by Franz Kafka. It has been called one of the seminal works of fiction of the 20th century and is studied in colleges and universities across the Western world.

The story begins with a traveling salesman, Gregor Samsa, waking to find himself transformed (metamorphosed) into a large, monstrous insect-like creature. The cause of Gregor's transformation is never revealed, and Kafka himself never gave an explanation. The rest of Kafka's novella deals with Gregor's attempts to adjust to his new condition as he deals with being burdensome to his parents and sister, who are repelled by the horrible, verminous creature Gregor has become.

15. "Nausea," (1938) Jean Paul Sartre

La Nausée is a philosophical novel by the existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre, and in his opinion, one of his best works.

The novel takes place in 'Bouville' (literally, 'Mud town') and it concerns a dejected historian, who becomes convinced that inanimate objects and situations encroach on his ability to define himself, on his intellectual and spiritual freedom, evoking in the protagonist a sense of nausea.

French writer Simone de Beauvoir, Sartre's lifelong partner, claims that La Nausée grants consciousness a remarkable independence and gives reality the full weight of its sense.

It is one of the canonical works of existentialism. Sartre was awarded, though he ultimately declined, the Nobel Prize for literature in 1964. The Nobel Foundation recognized him "for his work which, rich in ideas and filled with the spirit of freedom and the quest for truth, has exerted a far-reaching influence on our age." Sartre was one of the few people to have declined the award, referring to it as merely a function of a bourgeois institution.

16. "Siddhartha," (1922) Herman Hesse

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Siddhartha is a novel that deals with the spiritual journey of self-discovery of a man named Siddhartha during the time of the Gautama Buddha. The book, Hesse's ninth novel, was written in German, in a simple, lyrical style. It was published in the U.S. in 1951 and became influential during the 1960s. Hesse dedicated the first part of it to Romain Rolland.

17. "1984," (1949) George Orwell

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Nineteen Eighty-Four, often published as 1984, is a dystopian novel set in Airstrip One (formerly known as Great Britain), a province of the superstate Oceania in a world of perpetual war, omnipresent government surveillance and public manipulation, dictated by a political system euphemistically named English Socialism (or Ingsoc in the government's invented language,Newspeak) under the control of a privileged elite of the Inner Party, that persecutes individualism and independent thinking as "thoughtcrime."

Many of its terms and concepts, such as Big Brother, doublethink, thoughtcrime, Newspeak, Room 101,telescreen, 2 + 2 = 5, and memory hole, have entered into common use since its publication in 1949. Nineteen Eighty-Four popularised the adjective Orwellian, which describes official deception, secret surveillance and manipulation of recorded history by a totalitarian or authoritarian state. In 2005, the novel was chosen by Time magazine as one of the 100 best English-language novels from 1923 to 2005.

18. "The Unbearable Lightness of Being," (1984) Milan Kundera

Nesnesitelná lehkost bytí is a 1984 novel about two women, two men, a dog and their lives in the 1968 Prague Spring period of Czechoslovak history. It explores the artistic and intellectual life of Czech society from the Prague Spring of 1968 to the invasion of Czechoslovakia by the Soviet Union and three other Warsaw Pact countries and its aftermath.

19. "The Name of the Rose," (1980) Umberto Eco

Il nome della rosa is the 1980 debut novel by Italian author Umberto Eco. It is a historical murder mystery set in an Italian monastery, in the year 1327, an intellectual mystery combining semiotics in fiction, biblical analysis, medieval studies and literary theory.

20. "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance," (1974) Robert M. Pirsig

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values (ZAMM) is a work of philosophical non-fiction, the first of Robert M. Pirsig's texts in which he explores his Metaphysics of Quality.

The book sold 5 million copies worldwide. It was originally rejected by 121 publishers, more than any other bestselling book, according to the Guinness Book of Records.

The book is generally regarded as an American cultural icon in literature.

21. "Brave New World," (1932) Aldous Huxley

Brave New World is a novel set in London in the year AD 2540 (632 A.F.—"After Ford"—in the book), the novel anticipates developments in reproductive technology, sleep-learning, psychological manipulation, and classical conditioning that combine profoundly to change society.

In 1999, the Modern Library ranked Brave New World fifth on its list of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century.

22. "Lord of the Flies," (1954) William Golding

Lord of the Flies is a novel by Nobel Prize-winning English author William Golding about a group of British boys stuck on an uninhabited island who try to govern themselves with disastrous results.

The book indicates that it takes place in the midst of an unspecified nuclear war. Some of the marooned characters are ordinary students, while others arrive as a musical choir under an established leader. Most appear never to have encountered one another before. The book portrays their descent into savagery; left to themselves on a paradisiacal island, far from modern civilisation, the well-educated children regress to a primitive state.

The novel is a reaction to the youth novel The Coral Island by R. M. Ballantyne.

23. "A Clockwork Orange," (1962) Anthony Burgess

A Clockwork Orange is a dystopian novel by Anthony Burgess published in 1962. Set in a near future English society featuring a subculture of extreme youth violence, the teenage protagonist, Alex, narrates his violent exploits and his experiences with state authorities intent on reforming him. The book is partially written in a Russian-influenced argot called "Nadsat".

In 2005, A Clockwork Orange was included on Time magazine's list of the 100 best English-language novels written since 1923.

24. "Animal Farm," (1945) George Orwell

Animal Farm is an allegorical and dystopian novella. According to Orwell, the book reflects events leading up to the Russian Revolution of 1917 and then on into the Stalinist era of the Soviet Union.

Time magazine chose the book as one of the 100 best English-language novels (1923 to 2005).

25. "Fahrenheit 451," (1953) Ray Bradbury

Fahrenheit 451 is a dystopian novel. It  presents a future American society where books are outlawed and "firemen" burn any that are found. The title refers to the temperature that Bradbury asserted to be the autoignition temperature of paper.

The novel has been the subject of interpretations focusing on the historical role of book burning in suppressing dissenting ideas. In a 1956 radio interview, Bradbury stated that he wrote Fahrenheit 451 because of his concerns at the time (during the McCarthy era) about the threat of book burning in the United States. In later years, he stated his motivation for writing the book in more general terms.

26. "Essays," (1580) Montaigne

Essais, of Michel de Montaigne are contained in three books and 107 chapters of varying length. Montaigne's stated goal in his book is to describe man, and especially himself, with utter frankness and honesty ("bonne foi"). He finds the great variety and volatility of human nature to be its most basic features, which resonates to the Renaissance thought about the fragility of humans.

27. "Don Quixote," (1605) Miguel de Cervantes

Fully titled The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha is a Spanish novel by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra. Published in two volumes, in 1605 and 1615, Don Quixote is considered the most influential work of literature from the Spanish Golden Age and the entire Spanish literary canon. As a founding work of modern Western literature and one of the earliest canonical novels, it regularly appears high on lists of the greatest works of fiction ever published.

The story follows the adventures of a hidalgo named Mr. Alonso Quixano who reads so many chivalric romances that he loses his sanity and decides to set out to revive chivalry, undo wrongs, and bring justice to the world, under the name Don Quixote de la Mancha.

28. "The Divine Comedy," (14th Century) Dante Alighieri

The Divine Comedy is widely considered the preeminent work of Italian literature and is seen as one of the greatest works of world literature. The poem's imaginative vision of the afterlife is representative of the medieval world-view as it had developed in the Western Church by the 14th century. It helped establish the Tuscan language, in which it is written, as the standardized Italian language It is divided into three parts: Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso.

29. "The Iliad," (7-8 BC) Homer

The Iliad is an ancient Greek epic poem traditionally attributed to Homer. Set during the Trojan War, the ten-year siege of the city of Troy by a coalition of Greek states, it tells of the battles and events during the weeks of a quarrel between King Agamemnon and the warrior Achilles.

30. "The Little Prince," (1943) Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Le Petit Prince is a novella, the most famous work of French aristocrat, writer, poet, and pioneering aviator Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.

It is the fourth most-translated book in the world and was voted the best book of the 20th century in France.

The Little Prince is a poetic tale, with watercolour illustrations by the author, in which a pilot stranded in the desert meets a young prince fallen to Earth from a tiny asteroid. The story is philosophical and includes social criticism, remarking on the strangeness of the adult world.

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