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Famous Novels

The Most Famous Novels Ever That are a Must-read

From Sense and Sensibility to A Thousand Splendid Suns, or Twilight; if you're a booklover, you know that any number of books read are never enough! With so many upcoming genres and writers, one has a lot of variety to pick from. Looking for a good book to stick your nose into? We've listed some famous novels from popular genres in this article.
Penlighten Staff
Index
The Oxford British and World English Dictionary defines a novel as "a fictitious prose narrative of book length, typically representing character and action with some degree of realism." In general, a novel can be described as a fictional work of writing, mostly in the form of prose, that builds up to a story. It should be noted that even if the story is largely related to an actual event or completely based on facts, most novels are claimed as fictitious, either in the text or on the publication page.

The word 'novel' was coined from the term 'novella' in the 18th century. However, today the two terms are used to describe two different literary forms. The major difference between a novella and a novel is the content length; a novel is usually around 200 to 500 pages whereas a novella runs up to a maximum of 150 pages or so

Classics

Anna Karenina (1877) by Leo Tolstoy
Alternate Genre: Psychological/Tragedy/Realism

It is a simple yet thought-provoking story of a married woman, Anna. The novel has a simplistic plot that encapsulates Anna's inner turmoil as her heart is caught between the debonair Count Vronsky, and her husband and child. It is a highly relatable story about a woman's inner conflict between her desires and her duties as a wife and mother. One of the most loved novels of all time, Tolstoy's tragic tale of love, desire, and fate is sure to engross you like never before.

The Grapes of Wrath (1939) by John Steinbeck
Alternate Genre: Historical Fiction/American Realism

Set amidst the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl in America, The Grapes of Wrath is a story of tragedy and struggle in its most raw form. Though the tale is that of a farmer's family from Oakland and their journey to California in search of jobs; in essence, it captures the struggle and hardship of the thousands of people whose lives were torn apart during that period. It showcases the spirit among those thousands; and their determination to work their way up from nothing while facing dire circumstances in the darkest of times.

Lolita (1955) by Vladimir Nabokov
Alternate Genre: Tragicomedy

The story begins with Humbert describing the demise of his childhood love, Annabel Leigh, and his obsession with young and seductive girls. His lust and obsession then focuses on the young Lolita, who reminds him of Annabel. Vladimir's tale displays a strange kind of love, one with obsession to the point of outrage. The emotions of passion gradually shape into tragedy as this high level drama novel comes to an end.

Gone With the Wind (1936) by Margaret Mitchell
Alternate Genre: Historical Fiction/Romance

The novel portrays American Civil War and Reconstruction through the life of the protagonist, Scarlett O'Hara. It also focuses on Scarlett's trial and tribulations and her complicated relationship with a charming 'rogue', Rhett Butler. Though the novel has lots of political, historical and social references, it is widely considered as a romantic novel.

Other Bestsellers
  • Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
  • Les Misérables by Victor Hugo
  • The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
  • Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë
  • Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  • War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
  • Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell
  • The Great Gatsby by Scott Fitzgerald
  • A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
  • Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
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Comedy

Catch-22 (1961) by Joseph Heller
Alternate Genre: Tragicomedy/War

Catch-22 is undoubtedly one of the most funniest novels ever, a truly perennial classic in the comic genre. The protagonist, Yossarian is a man who doesn't wish to fly in the war and is constantly tumbling around trying to save himself. The plot in itself is quite hilarious, with a bunch of funny characters stuck in ironic situations, and they will make you roll over with laughter every time you read this book.

Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal (2002) by Christopher Moore
Alternate Genre: Comic Fantasy

Lamb is a cracker of a book which lukewarmly approaches the subject of Christianity in a lighthearted way. Though we're all mostly aware of Christ's birth and the latter years, there's little known about his adolescent years. The book is narrated as though Biff (Christ's childhood pal and perhaps the only one who knew the entire story) is resurrected, and he is retelling the tale. With hilarious twists like hot girls, yoga and kung fu, Lamb is surely a must read.

Something Fresh (1915) by P. G. Wodehouse
Alternate Genre: Satire

Wodehouse is widely acknowledged as one of the most famous novelists of the comedy genre. His novels are funny as well as engrossing while his characters are classic likable eccentric caricatures. Something Fresh is the first Blandings Castle novel. The story begins with Lord Emsworth and the mess he steps into thanks to his habit of absentmindedly pocketing things. Hell breaks loose when he unknowingly pockets a prized Egyptian scarab beetle from a millionaire, Mr. Peters. It also so happens that Mr. Peters' daughter is set to marry Emsworth's son. Two young people are tasked with retrieving this scarab from Emsworth for Mr. Peters; hilarity ensues in their outrageous attempts to do so.

The Maintenance of Headway (2009) by Magnus Mills
This one is a great read if you are looking for something lighthearted and stress-relieving. A quirky story of bus drivers and how they manage to be on time, all day long. A witty story in the form of a short novel with an interesting take on the absurdities of day-to-day situations.

Other Bestsellers
  • Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
  • Straight Man by Richard Russo
  • Overqualified by Joey Comeau
  • You Suck: A Love Story by Christopher Moore
  • I Totally Meant To Do That by Jane Borden
  • English Passengers by Matthew Kneale
  • A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore
  • Wonder Boys by Michael Chabon
  • A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
  • Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis


Fantasy

The Hobbit (1937) by J. R. R. Tolkien
Alternate Genre: Action/Adventure

The quiet and peace-loving hobbit Bilbo signs up to reclaim the Lonely Mountain; an uncertain quest with dangers at every step. The story unwinds as a wizard (Gandalf), thirteen dwarves, and Bilbo attempt to complete an almost impossible journey to the Lonely Mountain.

A Game of Thrones (1996) by George R. R. Martin
Book I of A Song Of Ice And Fire
Alternate Genre: High Fantasy

A Game of Thrones is a story of betrayal, tragedy, and power. The story has countless layers with numerous plots and strikingly different characters, and points of view. As the name suggests, A Game of Thrones is all about power, possession, and desire, set amidst a great fantasy backdrop.

Assassin's Apprentice (1995) by Robin Hobb
#Book I: Farseer Trilogy

Fitz, a royal bastard, is disowned by his family at a young age. To find solace from his loneliness, he uses Wit, a form of magic, to communicate with animals. Several years later as he is accepted into the royal family, Fitz must learn new ways and train to become a royal assassin. However, in order to do so, he must surrender his old ways of life.

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell (2004) by Susanna Clarke

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell is a tale of two exceptional magicians in England during the 19th century. With Mr. Norell becoming an instant hit with the crowd, Jonathan Strange, a magician of great potential decides to become his pupil. Things begin fall apart when Jonathan is attracted to a different kind of magic, should he choose to follow it, he stands to lose his friendship with Mr. Norell among many other things close to his heart.

Other Bestsellers
  • The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis #Book I: The Chronicles of Narnia
  • The Book of the New Sun by Gene Wolfe
  • The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan #Book I: The Wheel of Time
  • The Dark Tower: The Wind Through the Keyhole by Stephen King #Book 4.5: The Dark Tower
  • The Mad Ship by Robin Hobb #Book II: The Liveship Traders Trilogy
  • The Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien #Book III: The Lord of the Rings
  • American Gods by Neil Gaiman
  • The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss #Book I: The Kingkiller Chronicle
  • The Crippled God by Steven Erikson #Book X: The Malazan Book of the Fallen
  • The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson #Book I: Mistborn


Romance

Outlander (1991) by Diana Gabaldon
Alternate Genre: Historical/Science Fiction

In the year 1945, Claire Randall, the protagonist, is reunited with her husband; and they decide to go on their second honeymoon to Scotland. In a flip of events, while walking in the ancient stone circle on the British Isles, she is transported to 1743, where she meets James Fraser - a Scottish soldier. Claire is torn between the two men in her life and is indecisive about giving her heart to James and moving on to a new life.

A Knight in Shining Armour (1989) by Jude Deveraux
Alternate Genre: Historical Fiction/Fantasy

Jude Deveraux is widely known for her historical romance writings. In this timeless romance classic, Dougless Montgomery is devastated, alone, and heartbroken by her lover's loss. Nicholas Stafford, Earl of Thornwyck, was a sixteenth century knight, who turned out to quite literally be her knight in shining armor.

Pride and Prejudice (1813) by Jane Austen
Alternate Genre: Classic

The initial draft of Jane Austen's famous Pride and Prejudice, was named as 'First Impressions'. This novel cleverly portrays the complications surrounding relationships and family, which makes even a modern reader relate to this well-crafted story. While Elizabeth is offended by Mr. Darcy's pride and highbrow manners, and her older sister, Jane, is love strung with their charming neighbor Mr. Bingley. With witty humor, Austen describes romance and courtship at its best in this timeless novel.

The Bride (1989) by Julie Garwood
Alternate Genre: Historical Fiction/Suspense

When Alec Kincaid has to choose an English bride, he chooses Jamie over anyone else. While he aches to be together, Jamie absolutely loathes his arrogant and brutish nature. However, the dilemma of trusting Kincaid and falling in love with him soon takes a backseat as Jamie hears rumors of him killing his previous wife.

Other Bestsellers
  • Nobody's Baby But Mine by Susan Elizabeth Phillips
  • Fifty Shades of Grey by E. L. James #Book I: Fifty Shades Trilogy
  • The Wedding Dress by Kimberly Cates
  • The Duke and I by Julia Quinn
  • Morning Glory by LaVyrle Spencer
  • Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles #Book I: Perfect Chemistry
  • Jewels of the Sun by Nora Roberts
  • Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire #Book I: Beautiful
  • The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie by Jennifer Ashley
  • Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie


Mystery/Suspense

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2005) by Stieg Larsson

A financial journalist, Mikael Blomkvist's professional reputation is down in the ruts after he loses a legal defamation suit. Three months in prison and a hefty monetary compensation later, Blomkvist is approached by Henrik Vanger to investigate the disappearance of his grandniece, Harriet. Vanger is inclined to believe that she was murdered, possibly by a family member. Though the offer seems suspicious, Blomkvist has little option but to accept it, considering his professional downfall. The catch is, Harriet disappeared 36 years ago and during this period, no one has come close to solving the mystery of her disappearance.

Murder on the Orient Express (1934) by Agatha Christie

In this novel, detective Hercule Poirot, is traveling on the Orient Express when a man (Ritchell) approaches him seeking help, as he fears someone is trying to murder him. The same night, the train halts due to a snowdrift a little past midnight; and next morning Ritchell is found dead due to multiple stab wounds. With the killer among them and a scrap of paper as the only piece of evidence, Poirot must solve this puzzle before it is too late.

Frankenstein (1818) by Mary Shelley
Alternate Genre: Horror/Romance/Science Fiction

Victor Frankenstein is a science student curious about life and and its origin. He creates a human body by assembling different body parts and is successful in bringing his creation to life. Upon succeeding he realizes that he's created an unnatural monster and is mortified by it. The creature, who was innocent to begin with, soon turns vengeful and violent due to loneliness. Frankenstein is considered one of the best classics even today, almost two centuries after it was published.

Sophie's Choice (1979) by William Styron

Three different storylines are entwined in this novel around three central characters; Stingo, Sophie, and Nathan. Stingo is a novelist and the story is narrated from his point of view. Sophie and Nathan are lovers with a strained and somewhat complicated relationship. While Nathan's behavior gradually becomes aggressive and radical, Sophie is a subdued character due to her inner torment and dilemma. With a twist at every step, the story takes a new turn at almost every revelation, making it an extremely intriguing read.

Other Bestsellers
  • Perfume: The Story of a Murderer by Patrick Süskind
  • Intensity by Dean Koontz
  • Alive in Necropolis by Doug Dorst
  • Life Expectancy by Dean Koontz
  • Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan
  • Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier
  • The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown
  • Misery by Stephen King
  • Are You Afraid of the Dark? by Sidney Sheldo
  • Dark Passage by M.L. Woolley
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Science Fiction

Ender's Game (1985) by Orson Scott Card
Alternate Genre: Fantasy

Andrew 'Ender' Wiggin, is chosen by the government as a soldier for an impending attack from an alien race, along with other brilliant children. Ender's performance is extraordinary at the military training, however, his own dilemmas, isolation, and fear seem plaguing him. It is dicey whether he will become the General that Earth desperately needs.

The Stars My Destination (1956) by Alfred Bester
Alternate Genre: Fantasy/Thriller/Suspense

Alfred Bester, a proven author in the genre of science fiction, presents an extraordinary thriller in the form of a sci-fi novel, The Stars My Destination. Gully Foyle is the lone survivor of the dead ship 'Nomad' floating about in the solar system. Resigned to his fate, Foyle is prepared to die, but as a passing by ship (Vorga) ignores his calls for help, something inside Foyle snaps. With vengeance as his only motive and emotion, an interesting game of shadows ensues. As the plot thickens, Foyle is only at the tip of the iceberg, surrounded by a series of mysteries.

Dune (1965) by Frank Herbert
#Book I: The Dune Saga
Alternate Genre: Fantasy

This science fiction classic, unlike most others, has a plot dating thousands of years into the future, where there are plenty of dynasties in space controlled by Noble houses. Dune revolves around the heir of one such noble house, Paul Atreides (the heir of House Atreides). The Atreids family controls Arrakis, a desert planet that is home to 'spice' melange - the inevitable source to interstellar travel. As the story intensifies with different empires scheming to take over Arrakis, this Frank Herbert marvel, packed with politics, philosophy, fantasy, drama, and emotions will transport you to another time altogether.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (1979) by Douglas Adams
Alternate Genre: Comedy

Though the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is considered as a great piece of science fiction, it's hard not to classify it as a comic novel. As the Earth is demolished, two friends, Arthur Dent and Ford Prefect begin an epic adventure through space. With comical characters, hilarious dialogs and quotes, this book has the perfect blend of out-of-the-box, quirky, and spontaneous humor.

Other Bestsellers
  • Foundation by Isaac Asimov #Book I: Foundation Series
  • A Fire Upon the Deep by Vernor Vinge
  • Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? - Philip K. Dick
  • The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham
  • The Time Machine by H. G. Wells
  • Neuromancer by William Gibson
  • 2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke
  • I, Robot by Isaac Asimov
  • Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein
  • Starship Troopers by Robert A. Heinlein

Horror

Nightwatching (2012) by John Zunski
Alternate Genre: Paranormal/Suspense

The plot, though simple, gradually builds an extremely intriguing and captivating story. Sondra and Travis McAfee move to the quiet and scenic woods of Montana to start fresh after the death of their 3-year-old son. Things soon get a lot more twisted in the lonely mountain cabin with both of them coming face-to-face with their inner demons; and possibly something, a lot more dark.

The Shining (1977) by Stephen King
Alternate Genre: Paranormal/Suspense

Stephen King brings out the best of horror in this classic. 5-year-old Danny was a telepath and a psychic, a 'shiner' as Dick Halloran called him. Things get ugly when his father, Jack Torrence is appointed as the caretaker of the Overlook Hotel; a creepy place with an evil mind of its own. Will Danny and his parents be fine after a blizzard leaves them isolated and trapped in this sinister hotel?

Dracula (1897) by Bram Stoker
Alternate Genre: Fantasy

Dracula is a must read if you're a fan of this genre. Bram Stroker sketched out one of the scariest monsters ever in this classic, practically setting a trend that is followed by a lot of horror novels even today. The writing style adopted by Stoker is quite unconventional, making it a slightly difficult read for some. However, it is one of the most renowned classics ever.

I Am Legend (1954) by Richard Matheson
Alternate Genre: Fantasy

Every person on Earth has turned into a vampire, except Robert Neville. Hunting monsters by day, praying and seeking safety by night are the only things left in his life. With loneliness and fear feeding onto him, how long can the last man on Earth stay alive?

Other Bestsellers
  • It by Stephen King
  • The House on the Borderland by William Hope Hodgson
  • The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris
  • The Nightwalker by Thomas Tessier
  • The Stand by Stephen King
  • The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
  • The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty
  • The Terror by Dan Simmons
  • Pet Sematary by Stephen King
  • The Three Impostors by Arthur Machen

Action/Adventure

The Lost World (1912) by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Alternate Genre: Fantasy

The Lost World is a tale of an enticing adventure set deep in the Amazonian plateau. Professor Challenger, the author's central character in his other books as well, is a brave and extraordinary man who risks it all to prove the existence of dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures. The plot is thrilling and plays along dangerously, keeping you glued till the last page - making it a great read for most.

Eye of the Storm (2012) by Buck Stienke and Ken Farmer
#Book I: Black Eagle Force
Alternate Genre: Techno Thriller

Buck Stienke and Ken Farmer have collaborated together for this action-adventure masterpiece. Superbly well described action scenes, threaded with historical facts and layered with the right amount of romance, Eye of the Storm is a power-packed story of ex-military special op experts.

Captains Courageous (1897) by Rudyard Kipling
Alternate Genre: Maritime Fiction

Harvey Cheyne Jr. is a railroad tycoon's spoiled son. Hilarity ensues as the teenager goes from riches to rags (quite literally so) after tumbling over from a cruise liner and getting saved by a fishing boat. The story unfolds with Harvey experiencing a simple life for the first time, on a boat full of ordinary people where he is forced to earn his bread. With the perfect concoction of adventure, drama, and humor, Captains Courageous is sure to keep you on the edge throughout.

Ice Station Zebra (1963) by Alistair MacLean
Alternate Genre: Suspense

Set in the chilling backdrop of a weather station at the North Pole, Ice Station Zebra tells the tale of spies, submarines, and saboteurs. The Dolphin, the star submarine of the American fleet, is set out to rescue a few stranded scientists on the ice station. But before it embarks on the rescue mission, a mysterious doctor comes aboard to join the crew. All in all, the plot is laced with enough number of sub-zero mishaps, twists, and tantalizing questions to make the book an absolute page-turner.

Other Bestsellers
  • Trojan Odyssey by Clive Cussler #Book XVII: Dirk Pitt
  • The God Complex by Chris Titus
  • King Solomon's Mines by H. Rider Haggard
  • Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
  • Angels and Demons by Dan Brown
  • Stormbreaker by Anthony Horowit
  • Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift
  • The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
  • The Orphan Uprising by James Morcan #Book III: Orphan Trilogy
  • Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne

Young Adult

The Hunger Games (2008) by Suzanne Collins
Book I of The Hunger Games Trilogy
Alternate Genre: Fantasy

Somewhere in the future, present day North America became a nation known as Panem; comprising a metropolis called The Capitol and twelve other districts. A brutal and inhuman contest of survival, The Hunger Games, is held annually on national TV by The Capitol. Katniss Everdeen signs up for a death sentence as she decides to replace her sister as a contestant. However, Katniss is a fighter with the sharpest survival instincts, unknowingly she becomes a tough contender, for everyone made to step up to the challenge.

The Fault in Our Stars (2012) by John Green
Alternate Genre: Tragedy/Comic

John Green, is sure to bring out an array of emotions in every reader with this spectacular novel. 13-year-old Hazel is all prepped to die due to stage IV thyroid cancer. Miraculously she is saved, giving her a few more years to live; years without friends or any hope of a normal life. However, Hazel gets her chance at happiness when she meets and falls in love with Augustus Waters, a kid from the support group. Finding joy and normalcy after years, will Hazel have to say goodbye much too soon or does fate have something else in store for her?

The Catcher in the Rye (1951) by J. D. Salinger

J. D. Salinger's controversial classic 'The Catcher in the Rye' strikes a chord with adults and teenagers alike. The storyline effectively captures emotions and dilemmas in any teenager's life with a touch of humor. Being misunderstood, left out and unable to fit anywhere, are issues that Holden Caulfield struggles with, like most other adolescents.

The Book Thief (2005) by Markus Zusak
Alternate Genre: Historical Fiction

Set amidst the Second World War in Nazi Germany, The Book Thief is the story of young Liesel Meminger and her profound love for reading. The story entails her friendship with a Jewish boy, Max Vandenburg hidden away in her basement, the bond she shares with her foster parents and of course, the books she steals at every chance. It is a heart touching tale that will haunt you long after the last page.

Other Bestsellers
  • Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J. K. Rowling #Book III: Harry Potter series
  • Twilight by Stephenie Meyer #Book I: Twilight Saga
  • Divergent by Veronica Roth
  • Delirium by Lauren Oliver
  • The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
  • Thirteen Reasons Why, by Jay Asher
  • The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan #Book I: Percy Jackson and the Olympians
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  • Eragon by Christopher Paolini #Book I: The Inheritance Cycle
  • Insurgent by Veronica Roth

Though we've tried to list as many famous novels as we could, it's a short list and there are way too many loved novels which could not be accommodated here. If you feel that some better novels can be included, do drop the names in the comment box given below, we'll update them as and when we can!