Every writer dreams of creating the world’s greatest novel, but taking pen to paper can prove a challenge. There are many fabulous books that line the shelves of libraries across the world; some have the strength and the power to wrench our hearts from our chest, to crack our sides with laughter and to force us to hold our breath in suspense as we devour the pages.
A great novel is able to take us from the humdrum of everyday life and to transport us into a world where the characters are as real as the people outside on our street, where the landscape is so vivid you could reach out and touch it, and where the plot is so absurdly or simply fascinating that we follow the journey with baited breath. Then there are those novels that challenge us, that lead us through a whirlwind of emotions and that stay with us until the end of time. Choosing the best novels in the world is never easy, it is a list that can be chopped and chewed and changed depending on how you feel that day. However there are titles that turn up time and time again as being the novels that changed the world.
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Leo Tolstoy sat down to pen one of the most scandalous love affairs ever to be told and it took him two decades to tell the tale. The young and unhappy aristocrat Anna Karenina leaves her husband to chase the dream of love with the charming Count Vronsky. This decision leaves her shunned from the social scene of Russia and things start to take a turn for the worse. This tragic tale is literally flawless and reading between the lines you get so much more than a trite love story, you get a glimpse into Russian upper class society, gender politics, philosophy, and the complexities of human relationships. This masterpiece is a firm reminder that the flight of fairytale is often bound by the weight of reality.
Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
“Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul.” So begins the tremulous journey through the mind and life of Humbert Humbert, a literary scholar with a penchant for a young so called nymphet named Lolita. Vladimir Nabokov is a master of the literary tongue and blends poetry and power into this fascinating and often disturbing novel that challenges the controversial topic of adolescents and sexuality. The story of Lolita is perhaps one of the finest examples in history of the unreliable narrator and this novel has proved to be a cult classic that will forever stand the test of time.
East of Eden by John Steinbeck
Even though John Steinbeck is known for his Great Depression era masterpiece The Grapes of Wrath, his greatest novel remains the epic East of Eden. The novel is ambitious and never falls short of spectacular as Steinbeck brings the biblical tale of Cain and Abel into the Salinas Valley. The Magnum Opus follows the family tree of the Hamilton family and explores the struggle of family ties, good and evil and the destruction of love. The characterization runs as deep as the valley and the complexities of the plot and theme are as sweepingly epic as the rolling landscape in which the story is set. This book is the true great American novel.
Catch 22 by Joseph Heller
“He was going to live forever, or die in the attempt.” Joseph Heller may have been a one hit wonder but no novel can strike as close to the bone as the fabulously satirical Catch 22. Captain John Yossarian of the US Army Air Force takes us through the mind melting absurdity of war and bureaucracy and teeters on the fine line of sanity and insanity. With a joke on every page and a non-chronological structure, Heller manages to capture the essence of screaming into paper and binding it all in an iconic comedy of errors. The book even coined a new phrase to be included in the English dictionary and has never failed to be relevant.
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
The only book ever penned by Harper Lee has turned out to be one of the most important stories to sit on our shelves. Short, sharp and woven with sweetness, the tale follows six year old scout and her loss of innocence in a tired old town in the deep south of Alabama. Scouts father, Atticus Finch, is perhaps one of the most moral characters in modern literature as he stands against the pitchfork to defend a black man at the height of racial inequality during the Great Depression. Harper Lee’s gift for storytelling is both spellbinding and flawless and she manages to tackle some hard hitting themes with compassion and even a warm dab of humor. To Kill a Mockingbird is a quiet masterpiece that will set fire to your soul and leave you smoldering for years to come.