The Observer's 100 greatest novels of all time
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David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
"My other piece of advice, Copperfield," said Mr. Micawber, "you know. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen nineteen and six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery. The blossom is blighted, the leaf is withered, the god of day goes down upon the dreary scene, and — and in short you are for ever floored. As I am!"
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn - Mark Twain
We said there warn't no home like a raft, after all. Other places do seem so cramped up and smothery, but a raft don't. You feel mighty free and easy and comfortable on a raft.
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
'It was much pleasanter at home,' thought poor Alice, 'when one wasn't always growing larger and smaller, and being ordered about by mice and rabbits. I almost wish I hadn't gone down that rabbit-hole — and yet — and yet — it's rather curious, you know, this sort of life! I do wonder what can have happened to me! When I used to read fairy-tales, I fancied that kind of thing never happened, and now here I am in the middle of one! There ought to be a book written about me, that there ought! And when I grow up, I'll write one.'
Little Women (Penguin Popular Classics) - Louisa May Alcott
Three Men in a Boat: To Say Nothing of the Dog... - Jerome K. Jerome
It always does seem to me that I am doing more work than I should do. It is not that I object to the work, mind you; I like work: it fascinates me. I can sit and look at it for hours. I love to keep it by me: the idea of getting rid of it nearly breaks my heart.
The Picture of Dorian Gray - Oscar Wilde
But we never get back our youth. The pulse of joy that beats in us at twenty becomes sluggish. Our limbs fail, our senses rot. We degenerate into hideous puppets, haunted by the memory of the passions of which we were too much afraid, and the exquisite temptations that we had not the courage to yield to. Youth! Youth! There is absolutely nothing in the world but youth!
Nineteen Eighty-Four - George Orwell
When you make love you're using up energy; and afterwards you feel happy and don't give a damn for anything. They can't bear you to feel like that. They want you to be bursting with energy all the time. All this marching up and down and cheering and waving flags is simply sex gone sour. If you're happy inside yourself, why should you get excited about Big Brother and the Three-Year Plans and the Two Minutes Hate and all the rest of their bloody rot?
The Lord of the Rings - J.R.R. Tolkien
The brave things in the old tales and songs, Mr. Frodo: adventures, as I used to call them. I used to think that they were things the wonderful folk of the stories went out and looked for, because they wanted them, because they were exciting and life was a bit dull, a kind of a sport, as you might say. But that's not the way of it with the tales that really mattered, or the ones that stay in the mind. Folk seem to have been just landed in them, usually — their paths were laid that way, as you put it.
Lord of the Flies - William Golding
His voice rose under the black smoke before the burning wreckage of the island; and infected by that emotion, the other little boys began to shake and sob too. And in the middle of them, with filthy body, matted hair, and unwiped nose, Ralph wept for the end of innocence, the darkness of man's heart, and the fall through the air of the true, wise friend called Piggy.
The Catcher in the Rye - J.D. Salinger
Northern Lights (His Dark Materials) - Philip Pullman
Lyra and her dæmon moved through the darkening hall, taking care to keep to one side, out of sight of the kitchen.
Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
A squat grey building of only thirty-four stories. Over the main entrance the words “Central London Hatchery and Conditioning Centre” and, in a shield, the World State's Motto: “Community, Identity, Stability”.
Vanity Fair (Penguin Classics) - William Thackeray
Ah! Vanitas vanitatum! Which of us is happy in this world? Which of us has his desire? or, having it, is satisfied? — Come, children, let us shut up the box and the puppets, for our play is played out.
Robinson Crusoe (Penguin Classics) - Daniel Defoe
He bade me observe it, and I should always find that the calamities of life were shared among the upper and lower part of mankind; but that the middle station had the fewest disasters.
Gulliver's Travels - Jonathan Swift
He (the Emperor) is taller by almost the breadth of my nail, than any of his court, which alone is enough to strike an awe into the beholders.
Frankenstein: Or, the Modern Prometheus - Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
How can I describe my emotions at this catastrophe, or how delineate the wretch whom with such infinite pains and care I had endeavoured to form? His limbs were in proportion, and I had selected his features as beautiful. Beautiful! Great god, His yellow skin scarcely covered the work of muscle and arteries beneath; his hair was of a lustrous black, and flowing; his teeth of a pearly whiteness; but these luxuriances only formed a more horrid contrast with his watery eyes, that seemed almost of the same colour as the dun white sockets in which they were set, his shrivelled complexion, and straight black lips.
Wuthering Heights - Emily Brontë
I can not express it; but surely you and everybody have a notion that there is, or should be an existence of yours beyond you. What were the use of creation if I were entirely contained here? My great miseries in this world have been Heathcliff's miseries, and I watched and felt each from the beginning; my great thought in living is himself. If all else perished, and he remained, I should still continue to be; and if all else remained, and he were annihilated, the universe would turn to a mighty stranger. I should not seem a part of it. My love for Linton is like the foliage in the woods: time will change it, I'm well aware, as winter changes the trees. My love for Heathcliff resembles the eternal rocks beneath: a source of little visible delight, but necessary. Nelly, I am Heathcliff — he's always, always in my mind — not as a pleasure, any more than I am always a pleasure to myself — but as my own being; so, don't talk of our separation again — it is impracticable.
Jane Eyre - Charlotte Brontë
I care for myself. The more solitary, the more friendless, the more unsustained I am, the more I will respect myself.
The Scarlett Letter - Nathaniel Hawthorne
On the breast of her gown, in fine red cloth, surrounded with an elaborate embroidery and fantastic flourishes of gold thread, appeared the letter A.
Moby-Dick or, The Whale - Herman Melville
Call me Ishmael. Some years ago — never mind how long precisely — having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on shore, I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world. It is a way I have of driving off the spleen and regulating the circulation. Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people’s hats off—then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can.
Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
The priest stood up and took the crucifix; she stretched forth her neck as though she were thirsting, pressed her lips to the body of the God-Man and imprinted on it, with all her fading strength, the most ardent kiss of love she had ever
Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
And with fury, as it were with passion, the murderer falls on the body, and drags it and hacks at it; so he covered her face and shoulders with kisses. She held his hand, and did not stir. "Yes, these kisses--that is what has been bought by this shame.
Yes, and one hand, which will always be mine--the hand of my accomplice." She lifted up that hand and kissed it. He sank on his knees and tried to see her face; but she hid it, and said nothing. At last, as though making an effort over herself, she got up and pushed him away. Her face was still as beautiful, but
it was only the more pitiful for that.
The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde - Robert Louis Stevenson
It was for one minute that I saw him, but the hair stood upon my head like quills. Sir, if that was my master, why had he a mask upon his face?
In Search of Lost Time - Marcel Proust
Even in the most insignificant details of our daily life, none of us can be said to constitute a material whole, which is identical for everyone, and need only be turned up like a page in an account-book or the record of a will; our social personality is created by the thoughts of other people.
Ulysses - James Joyce
I was a Flower of the mountain yes when I put the rose in my hair like the Andalusian girls used or shall I wear a red yes and how he kissed me under the Moorish wall and I thought well as well him as another and then I asked him with my eyes to ask again yes and then he asked me would I yes to say yes my mountain flower and first I put my arms around him yes and drew him down to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will Yes.
A Passage to India - E.M. Forster
"As he strolled down hill beneath the lovely moon, and again saw the lovely mosque, he seemed to own the land as much as anyone who owned it. What did it matter if a few flabby Hindus had preceded him there, and a few chilly English succeeded."
On the Road - Jack Kerouac
They danced down the streets like dingledodies, and I shambled after as I've been doing all my life after people who interest me, because the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones that never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes "Awww!"
Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta. She was Lo, plain Lo, in the morning, standing four feet ten in one sock. She was Lola in slacks. She was Dolly at school. She was Dolores on the dotted line. But in my arms she was always Lolita.
Atonement - Ian McEwan
Know a bit
Don Quixote - Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra
In some village in La Mancha, whose name I do not care to recall, there dwelt not so long ago a gentleman of the type wont to keep an unused lance, an old shield, a skinny old horse, and a greyhound for racing.
Emma - Jane Austen
Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever, and rich, with a comfortable home and happy disposition, seemed to unite some of the best blessings of existence; and had lived nearly twenty-one years in the world with very little to distress or vex her.
The Charterhouse of Parma - Stendhal
On 15 May 1796, General Bonaparte made his entry into Milan at the head of that youthful army which but a short time before had crossed the Bridge of Lodi, and taught the world that after so many centuries Caesar and Alexander had a successor.
The Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
On the 24th of February, 1815, the look-out at Notre-Dame de la Garde signalled the three-master, the Pharaon from Smyrna, Trieste, and Naples.
The Brothers Karamazov (Penguin Classics) - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
The awful thing is that beauty is mysterious as well as terrible. God and the devil are fighting there and the battlefield is the heart of man.
The Call Of The Wild - Jack London
Buck did not read the newspapers, or he would have known that trouble was brewing, not alone for himself, but for every tidewater dog, strong of muscle and with warm, long hair, from Puget Sound to San Diego. Because men, groping in the Arctic darkness, had found a yellow metal, and because steamship and transportation companies were booming the find, thousands of men were rushing into the Northland. These men wanted dogs, and the dogs they wanted were heavy dogs, with strong muscles by which to toil, and furry coats to protect them from the frost.
The Great Gatsby - F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Trial - Franz Kafka
Someone must have been telling lies about Joseph K., for without having done anything wrong he was arrested one fine morning. His landlady's cook, who always brought him his breakfast at eight o'clock, failed to appear on this occasion. That had never happened before.
The Plague - Albert Camus
Les curieux événements qui font le sujet de cette chronique se sont produits en 194., à Oran. De l’avis général, ils n’y étaient pas à leur place, sortant un peu de l’ordinaire. À première vue, Oran est, en effet, une ville ordinaire et rien de plus qu’une préfecture française de la côte algérienne.
Charlotte's Web - E.B. White
To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
Catch-22 - Joseph Heller
There was only one catch and that was Catch-22, which specified that a concern for one's safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind. Orr was crazy and could be grounded. All he had to do was ask; and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more missions. Orr would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn't, but if he were sane he had to fly them. If he flew them he was crazy and didn't have to; but if he didn't want to he was sane and had to. Yossarian was moved very deeply by the absolute simplicity of this clause of Catch-22 and let out a respectful whistle.
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy - John le Carré
The truth is, if old Major Drover hadn't dropped dead at Taunton races Jim wouldn't have come to Thursgood's at all.
If on a Winter's Night a Traveller - Italo Calvino
Stai per cominciare a leggere il nuovo romanzo Se una notte d'inverno un viaggiatore di Italo Calvino. Rilassati. Raccogliti. Allontana da te ogni altro pensiero. Lascia che il mondo che ti circonda sfumi nell'indistinto. La porta è meglio chiuderla; di là c'è sempre la televisione accesa. Dillo subito, agli altri: «No, non voglio vedere la televisione!» Alza la voce, se no non ti sentono: «Sto leggendo! Non voglio essere disturbato!» Forse non ti hanno sentito, con tutto quel chiasso; dillo piú forte, grida: «Sto cominciando a leggere il nuovo romanzo di Italo Calvino!» O se non vuoi non dirlo; speriamo che ti lascino in pace.
The BFG - Roald Dahl
Sophie couldn't sleep. A brilliant moonbeam was slanting through a gap in the curtains. It was shining right on to her pillow. The other children in the dormitory had been asleep for hours. Sophie closed her eyes and lay quite still. She tried very hard to doze off.
The Periodic Table - Primo Levi
In order for the wheel to turn, for life to be lived, impurities are needed, and the impurities of impurities in the soil, too, as is known, if it is to be fertile. Dissension, diversity, the grain of salt and mustard are needed: Fascism does not want them, forbids them, and that’s why you’re not a Fascist; it wants everybody to be the same, and you are not. But immaculate virtue does not exist either, or if it exists it is detestable.
Dangerous Liaisons - Choderlos de Laclos
Tu vois, ma bonne amie, que je te tiens parole, & que les bonnets & les pompons ne prennent pas tout mon temps ; il m’en restera toujours pour toi.
One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.
Mrs. Dalloway - Virginia Woolf
U.S.A. (Twentieth Century Classics) - John Dos Passos
The young man walks fast by himself through the crowd that thins into the night streets; feet are tired from hours of walking; eyes greedy for warm curve of faces, answering flicker of eyes, the set of a head, the lift of a shoulder, the way hands spread and clench; blood tingles with wants; mind is a beehive of hopes buzzing and stinging; muscles ache for the knowledge of jobs, for the roadmender’s pick and shovel work, the fisherman’s knack with a hook when he hauls on the slithery net from the rail of the lurching trawler, the swing of the bridgeman’s arm as he slings down the whitehot rivet, the engineer’s slow grip wise on the throttle, the dirtfarmer’s use of his whole body when, whoaing the mules, he yanks the plow from the furrow
The Diary of a Nobody - Weedon Grossmith,George Grossmith
We settle down in our new home, and I resolve to keep a diary. Tradesmen trouble us a bit, so does the scraper. The Curate calls and pays me a great compliment.
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