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Another interesting thing is that while Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone is there with 107 million copies sold, the second book in the series only has 60 million copies sold, so it seems that about 40% of people are not continuing on with the series after book one. I was surprised to see series there that I had to look up; Perry Mason, The Railway Series and San-Antonio, I expected to see only series that were radily familiar. I’m going to guess that there is either a copy of a Harry Potter book or A Tale of Two Cities in your house. We run a pretty sweet little bookish Instagram account, if we do say so ourselves (and we do). Critics Lev Grossman and Richard Lacayo pick the 100 best English-language novels published since 1923—the beginning of TIME. For the books project, Grossman and I each began by drawing up inventories of our nominees. Written in diary form, this travelogue is perhaps the first example of modern, literary travel writing. During a 30-year conversation that unfolds in travellers’ stops and train stations across Europe, we learn about Austerlitz’s efforts to understand himself.
In 1973, Matthiessen trekked into the mountains of Nepal to study the Himalayan blue sheep and try to glimpse a snow leopard. This journey down the Orange River by kayak interweaves the history of South Africa with white-water adventures.
After two years as a student at Nanjing University, Seth hitchhiked back to his home in New Delhi via Tibet.
Newby humorously describes a badly planned attempt to scale one of Afghanistan’s most challenging peaks. This is Bryson’s farewell journey across Britain, delivered with characteristic humour and nostalgia, while offering insights into modern society. Political history meets travelogue in this description of Orwell’s role in the Spanish Civil War. The story of a voyage up the Inside Passage from Seattle to Juneau, 1 000 miles alone in a 35-foot yacht. In 1960, Steinbeck and his French poodle Charley set out in a converted pick-up truck to tour America. Morris describes Venice as ‘a cheek-by-jowl, back-of-the-hand, under-the-counter, higgledypiggledy, anecdotal city … rich in piquant wrinkled things, like an assortment of bric-a-brac in the house of a wayward connoisseur, or parasites on an oyster shell’.
Chatwin ventures into the desolate realm of Outback Australia to learn the meaning of the Aboriginals’ ancient ‘dreaming tracks’, paths that are transmitted down the ages in song. Scholar, activist, provocateur, teacher, community-builder, inspiration: No one word can span the career of bell hooks or capture how much we love her work. This classic from the 1920s makes a devastatingly eloquent argument with a simple takeaway: For a women artist to thrive, she must have space in which to work and some money for her efforts. This master work by Audre Lorde, a Caribbean American lesbian feminist writer, collects her prose from the late 70s and early 80s. How we did it (our pseudo-scientific methodology): After calling for nominations on September 9, 2011, we counted all reader picks that appeared on the Ms.
Checked out the list, proud to have read a good handful of the books mentioned, but figure I’ll make it my two or three year goal to read the rest. Although I agree that Facebook is an imperfect tool for getting a balanced, representative sample! The first book of seven about a mischievous monkey who is kidnapped by the man in the yellow hat. A childhood favourite for so many, this went on to inspire a generation of illustrators – and a very poor film.
A beautifully drawn story from the former children’s laureate about a lonely girl who finds company in a gorilla. This edition contains seven stories, including the beguiling Billy’s Beetle — you have to find the beetle hiding somewhere on each spread. The poem is reproduced at picture-book length with Grey’s striking illustrations and paper engineering. This charming verse story about how different animals behave is less well known than Eric Carle's The Very Hungry Caterpillar, but more fun.
Scarry’s immensely detailed books about everyday life can lead to some good conversations, and are great for children who need to know how things work (more or less all of them). This may not be to everyone’s taste, but there’s no escaping the lavatory when it comes to children’s humour, and this book (translated from the original German) manages to be educational too.
Illustrated by Hilda Offen, the Red Fox edition contains two abridged versions of these well-loved Norwegian stories about the woman who shrinks.
It may now be over-familiar, but it’s hard to imagine a library without one of Donaldson’s catchy rhyming tales.
Like Gravett’s Orange, Pear, Apple, Bear, this book by an exceptional writer and illustrator is for very young children. One of the best books about the alphabet, from Thames and Hudson's The Ministry of Letters series. Concerning a lonely hippo who is visited at home by various hippo comrades, this jolly counting book goes down as well as up.
Kerr’s books about Mog the cat are still going strong, but this stand-alone story is perhaps her most original.
Or one of the Ahlbergs' other classic illustrated tales such as Peepo or Each Peach Pear Plum.
A sideways look at diversity: the good-natured patchwork elephant disguises his true colour to fit in better with the grey herd, to miserable effect. The first in the series, in which the irrepressible Tim stows away aboard a steamer in high winds.
Though undoubtedly more famous for her Charlie and Lola series, Lauren Child’s retelling of this classic fairy tale is wildly inventive. Concerning a hat-thieving fish, this winsome tale of rough justice won the 2014 Kate Greenaway Medal and the 2013 Randolph Caldecott Medal in America. This charmingly quirky set of drawings of the world, laced with facts and figures, was a surprise bestseller. A sophisticated narrative by the art historian which runs up to the First World War, written in language any child can understand.
An excellent single-volume history of Britain, in simple and elegant language, warmed by an uncomplicated national pride.
The diary kept by a young Dutch-Jewish girl during the two years in which her family lived concealed under the Nazi occupation of Holland. This chunky and charmingly old-fashioned volume contains every nursery rhyme you can possibly think of (and many you couldn't).
Andrew Lang’s fin de siecle collections of fairy tales are great, but this illustrated collection of Hans Christian Andersen's stories would make a good starter. There are beautiful editions of individual poems, such as “The Quangle Wangle’s Hat” (illustrated by Helen Oxenbury, Mammoth), but why not opt for the collected works?
Every child’s book shelf needs the breadth of an anthology, and this one contains nearly 100 extracts from nursery rhymes, fairy tales and all kinds of stories. The naughty puppet’s story is retold from his own perspective in imitable fashion by Michael Morpurgo, with lovely drawings by Emma Chichester Clark.
The first in a dizzying series that imagines a counterfactual England in which the Jacobites rule into the 19th century while the nefarious Hanoverians plot on the sidelines.
Box sets of The Chronicles of Narnia seem to be out of print, so here’s the first in the series.
E Nesbit’s classic Five Children and It has been brilliantly transplanted by Kate Saunders to the trenches, in a moving homage. This American classic concerns a pig who is rescued from butchery by the web-weaving showmanship of a spider called Charlotte.
The first in the successful series, which has been adapted for the cinema, is set in a fictional Viking world in which dragons are trained as pets.
Despite naff modern covers and inferior novels churned out by the deceased author's estate, the original adventures of Hal and Roger deserve to be rediscovered. Willy, an anaemic and neglected evacuee from south London, is stabled with the gruff bachelor Tom Oakley on his farm. This first instalment of McKay's marvellous series about the Casson family won the Whitbread Prize in 2001, but remains underrated and underread. Akin to Enid Blyton's young sleuths, St John's modern heroine is a fearless adventuress, probing around her uncle's Cornish town for mysteries (which she certainly finds). From the current Children's Laureate, a thought-provoking novel: young Kaspar joins the non-violent Guardians of his city, working to keep the rebels out. Based on a draft found after the author’s death in 2010, this loveable story concerns a girl stolen from her Himalayan campsite by a yeti and taken to a secret paradise in a volcanic crater. The classic ballet novel; once entranced, a young reader can progress to the rest of the Shoes series. Another fantasy, the first in the series about Meg Murry and the search for her missing father. The first of the Alex Rider spy novels: a James Bond Jr with all the gadgets and none of the misogyny.
The ultimate football novel: Mal Peet's extraordinary debut unfolds as an interview between a sports reporter and the world's best goalkeeper. Unusually for a children's book of the time, this charming whodunnit is set in a contemporary, realistic Berlin peopled with fairly rough types.


As sensuous as anything Dahl ever wrote: who could forget James eating his way into the sweet, giant peach, or his perfectly named aunts — Spiker and Sponge?
A once-cherished little girl is left orphaned and paupered; her headmistress turns sour and enslaves her as a starving servant at the school. A timelessly silly classic, the first novel in White's mischievous Once and Future King series. A magical tale about a troubled and unloved girl called Mary Lennox, who finds a secret garden in her uncle's lonely house.
You can’t have a library without Beatrix Potter, and there’s no messing about with this edition which contains all 23 tales. The collected edition seems to be out of print, but a good place to start would be The Secret of the Unicorn.
This is the complete text from Penguin, but Simon & Schuster have published a classy pop-up edition, based on an abridged version, with artwork by Robert Sabuda. An exquisite novella about a bizarre, ethereal boy encountered by an airman while stranded in the desert overnight. These new illustrations by the author of Charlie and Lola provide a contemporary twist on the Swedish classic.
The first in a series set between the wars at a time when children mucked about in boats and built camps by themselves – or at least we like to think they did. It was a close run thing between the Famous Five and Malory Towers, but the prize must go to the adventures of George and co. A girl would adore the Chalet School books – and, thrillingly for children who like to stick with a series they know and like, there are nearly 60 of them. No childhood is complete without this novel from 1905, immortalised by the 1970 film starring Jenny Agutter.
This new edition, with drawings by David Roberts, is unusual in hiding a little detail on every page.
The French classic (there known as Patapoufs et Filifers) is about a fat brother and a thin brother – and the battle that ensues between two warring nations.
This is the first in the captivating series about the red-headed orphan and the one that covers her early childhood.
The first novel in the much-awarded Chaos Walking trilogy, set in a dystopian world wherein all creatures can see and hear each other's thoughts. Set in a future England under occupation, Meg Rosoff's brilliant novel predated the current vogue for dystopian teenage fiction but has yet to be bettered. If we were to add together sales of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, arguably a series, they would fit in right around the middle, with 250 million books sold.
In a genre that has constantly evolved since before the days of Mary Shelley, Jules Verne and H.G. Giving a nod to the pioneers is fine, but when the newest selection on your list is 15 years old, you know that it’s not a list of the best of all time.
06, 2010Welcome to the massive, anguished, exalted undertaking that is the ALL TIME 100 books list. Once we traded notes, it turned out that more than 80 of our separately chosen titles matched. Having heard for years that Richard Yates’ Revolutionary Road was one of the great but underappreciated American novels, I searched it out. It was written in 1922 by a survivor of the journey, Cherry-Garrard, and is justly praised for its candid treatment of the expedition and the causes of its demise. It concerns a journey in 1933-34 through the Middle East to Oxiana on the border between Afghanistan and the Soviet Union. He embodies the universal human search for identity and the struggle to impose coherence on memory.
Illustrated with the author’s own photographs, it’s an evocative story of discovery about our past, ethnicity and, ultimately, the self. This is the story of that journey and his fascinating encounters with nomadic Muslims, Chinese officials, Buddhists and fellow travellers.
It brilliantly portrays the lives of ordinary Russians in the clutches of a harsh communist regime. His inexperience proves his undoing, but along the way readers are treated to a string of entertaining episodes. His account distils the people, places, conversations, ships and history he encounters on the voyages. It recounts his departure from a sleepy Cotswolds home bound for Spain armed with little more than an adventurous spirit and his trusty violin. With rigorous observation and lyrical evocations of place, this is the best work of arguably the finest living travel writer. He lived there for three years and recorded how villagers struggled to hang on to a way of life unchanged for centuries, encroached on every side by the tide of package tourism. This novel-cum-travelogue is a poetic meditation that offers an uplifting vision of man’s place in the world. She points the way forward toward a world where women are perceived as more than vessels of chastity. This book looks at the ways women today make sex objects of themselves, and she’s not impressed. She painstakingly refutes each insidious anti-feminist argument–for instance, that feminism is responsible for a supposed epidemic of unhappiness in women. She argues for the reclaiming of the tarnished word cunt, and discusses her personal experiences with self-protection, sex work, abortion and solidarity.
Yes Means Yes: Visions of Female Sexual Power and a World Without Rape by Jaclyn Friedman and Jessica Valenti  Find it here. The Means of Reproduction: Sex, Power, and the Future of the World by Michelle Goldberg  Find it here. America’s Women: 400 Years of Dolls, Drudges, Helpmates, and Heroines by Gail Collins  Find it here. The Girls Who Went Away: The Hidden History of Women Who Surrendered Children for Adoption in the Decades Before Roe v.
The Sacred Hoop: Recovering the Feminine in American Indian Traditions by Paula Gunn Allen  Find it here. A Woman Speaks: The Lectures, Seminars and Interviews of Anais Nin  by Evelyn Hinz, editor  Find it here. The Work of a Common Woman: The Collected Poetry of Judy Grahn, 1964-1977 by Judy Grahn  Find it here. Myths of Gender: Biological Theories About Women And Men by Anne Fausto-Sterling  Find it here. Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America by Melissa Harris-Perry  Find it here. Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers: A History of Lesbian Life in Twentieth-Century America by Lillian Faderman  Find it here. The Body Project: An Intimate History of American Girls by Joan Jacobs Brumberg  Find it here. I suppose I missed out on the vote somehow, but what I would love would be to hear a list of texts chosen by those who founded and continue to build on the legacy of Ms. The demographic made up by Facebook excludes a huge group of women: women without computers or internet access, women without free time for social networking, older women who have no idea what the facebook is . Her words remain the most effective way for a child today to grasp the reality of the Holocaust. The slim books adopt a subversive, jokey voice but the historical points they make are serious.
E B White, who also produced a writer's handbook called The Elements of Style, follows his own rules about prose to gloriously stylish effect.
The resourceful brothers quest rare animals the world over to take back to zoos, and avoid maiming or death only narrowly on each page.
Initially, it's rather a shock to them both but under Tom's hesitant care Willy thrives and Tom melts at the waif's gratitude. Wynne Jones's marvellous Chrestomanci series, flavoured with Victoriana, has been vastly influential — on J K Rowling, in particular.
This modern classic has been reprinted in a new hardback edition to celebrate its 15th birthday. A German professor and his nephew descend through an Icelandic volcano into the bowels of the earth.
According to this novel, they are casing the joint, tracking lost relatives and dodging that cruel fate – PDS (Permanent Doll State). Young Arthur (nicknamed Wart) is transformed into all sorts of fish and fowl by his unorthodox tutor Merlin to learn the ways of the world. Alpine Heidi is sent to school in Frankfurt am Main, but grows pale and sickly in the city smog. Whereas Kipling ommitted any mention of God, Ted Hughes's elegant and amusing creation tales bring the Divine Maker back into the story. Tintin helps Captain Haddock track down his ancestral treasure, hindered by nefarious crooks, tropical sharks and the captain's own weakness for rum. Some of them have now fallen out of print, but this one, the second, is as good a place as any to start. The characters are re-imagined for a new generation in a mode that is perfectly sympathetic to Kenneth Grahame’s words.


The longer sequel, The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle, which won the Newbery Medal, is trickier to get hold of, especially if you’re after a pretty edition. Both are exquisite coming-of-age stories, the first set in France and the second in India, to be read by a girl in her teens.
Older children, however, will enjoy this beguiling novel about a girl and her grandmother, and the summer they spend together on a remote island. Cos we've got enough Podcast material to keep you occupied for roughly 2 years and 147 days.
The fact that A Tale of Two Cities sits at the top of this list is fantastic and astounding and unbelieveble and gives me hope for the human race.
The way that The Hobbit is selling now (top 5 on a few genres on amazon) means that it may actually be approaching the 300 million mark as a series. Wells, science fiction novels are as much a product of the time in which they are written as the future they try to predict. I’ve never had to turn to Google so many times to figure out what an author’s vocabulary meant. This is one of the more recent novels I’ve read, but I think it deserves a place on the list. Circling a star is an artificial ring about 1 million miles wide and approximately the diameter of Earth’s orbit (which makes it about 600 million miles in circumference). It took me years to find this gem, and it gets far less clout than it deserves, but it is one of my favorites. This choice is new, compared to most of the other selections on this list, but it does such a great job of combining the galactic and the small that I had to include it.
I was already in love with sci-fi when I discovered the Moties, but Niven and Pournelle showed what could really be done by masters of science fiction and storytelling. Perhaps more of Heinlein should be on this list, but I’ll settle for just one selection. Inspired by the Vietnam War, The Forever War follows a recruit in a war against an alien foe that, due to time dilation during travel at the speed of light, lasts for thousands of years.
Definitely a darker addition to this list, Bester is perhaps also one of the more forgotten authors from sci-fi’s golden age. No list would be complete without something from Asimov, and though a lot of people will rank the Foundation series higher, I prefer I, Robot.
Someone once said that Bradbury had predicted more modern technology earlier than any other writer, and few of his books demonstrate his foresight as well as Fahrenheit 451.
Where many series drop off in quality after the first book (for example, sequels to Dune and Ender’s Game are, with rare exception, not as good as the first novel), I enjoyed every novel in Hyperion Cantos. Although Herbert struggled to get Dune into publication, it stands as one of the most influential sci-fi novels of all time. Balancing an exciting an action packed story with interesting ideas and issues, Ender’s Game in many ways typifies the modern science fiction novel, and it remains a fan favorite decades after it first appeared on the scene. Tickets, Photo Ops, Autographs and other products purchased off the GrowTix site cannot be resold. I have spent the months since then pressing it into the hands of anybody who will take it, including yours.
The book is a witty account of Byron’s adventures and the architectural treasures of the region. As he climbs, Matthiessen charts both his inner and his outer path, offering a deepening understanding of reality.
The book explores a remarkable moment just before the Second World War as he travels through a Europe soon to be transformed. An essential for any enthusiast of rail travel, it features some of the world’s great trains, including the Trans-Siberian and India’s Grand Trunk Express. She reveals that simply making ends meet is a silent struggle for many Americans, especially for women with families to support. She urges all to live a feminism that finds commonality across differences and makes room for impassioned debate. I’d highly recommend it, especially as a sort of beginner’s book (like, for new feminists and stuff)!
Insisting he be the sole translator, Gombrich had not finished rewriting it when he died in his nineties.
They find there a great cavern, with an (infested) ocean lapping at petrified trees and giant mushrooms. Not quite a parody but certainly a burlesque, it remains profoundly amusing 75 years later. Make sure you get the edition from 1997 with Eileen A Soper’s illustrations, rather than the newer edition in which the text has been modernised. I also suspect that its age gives it a bit of a head start and that it is probably mandatory reading (and buying) in some parts of the British elementary school system. Once I did, though, The Quantum Thief and its sequels proved to be mind-blowing, exciting and gripping storytelling.
Maybe it’s unfair to include two by Wells, but he did it first, so I think he deserves credit. More than just spaceships and interstellar colonization, it is a deep and powerful story about redemption. Alien invasions have been done many times, but few have surpassed the Wells’ influence.
2001 was written in cooperation with Stanley Kubrick’s development of the movie by the same name.
Whether it is Big Brother, omnipresent surveillance, Newspeak or thought control, it’s here. Often seen as anticipating the cyberpunk movement, Bester also prophesied the rise of mega-corporations stronger than national governments. It gave us Asimov’s laws of robotics (“A robot may not injure a human being[…]” and so on), which have permeated science fiction since. Due to Hyperion‘s structure as a collection tales by pilgrims on a common voyage, Jo Walton compares Hyperion to The Canterbury Tales, and the description is a good one.
There were writers we had to admit we love more for their short stories than their novels—Donald Barthelme, Annie Proulx, Flannery O’Connor, Eudora Welty. A few titles that seemed indispensable some years ago turned out on a second tasting to be, well, dispensable. Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston’s great story of a black woman surviving whatever God and man throws at her, was not part of the required reading list when I was in school. To judge by the final picks, issues of work, sex and intersectionality ranked highest among our reader’s feminist concerns. To break ties, we went first by whether books got votes on multiple platforms, then by Goodreads rank. Otherwise, I’m really looking forward to reading some of these, especially some of the ones that I hadn’t heard of before! Classic novels from the golden age of science fiction are big on ideas while modern novels tend to look to character and story, borrowing elements from other genres to become better reads. In it, man’s technological advancement appears to be prompted and initiated by an alien artifact.
Not the most enjoyable read, but what it lacks in readability it more than makes up in ideas. Set in a post-apocalyptic future, Dick’s noir examines the difference between androids and humans and was the inspiration for the movie Blade Runner. In my estimation HG2G and Ender’s Game only get higher position because of their relative place in modern memory and because, dare I say?, they are far more enjoyable reads. This one is chosen by me, Richard Lacayo, and my colleague Lev Grossman, whom we sometimes cite as proof that you don’t need to be named Richard to be hired as a critic at TIME, though apparently it helps. More common was the experience I had with Saul Bellow’s Herzog, about a man coming to terms with the disappointments of midlife by directing his questions everywhere. She has been one of, if not the, most foundational authors, for myself and for many other women I know (young and old), in terms of building a real feminist movement. The upshot is that today more people than ever before are reading and enjoying science fiction, largely because the books are better reading. Then there was the intellectual massif of Norman Mailer, indisputably one of the great writers of our time, but his supreme achievements are his headlong reconfigurations of the whole idea of non-fiction, books like Armies of the Night and The Executioner’s Song. The ideas are still there, but they share space on the page with thrilling descriptions, intricate plots, strange and empathetic characters and creative new settings.
It left its treadmarks on me even then, but this time his experienced heart spoke to me differently. Powers, Mary McCarthy, Edmund White, Larry McMurtry, Katherine Ann Porter, Amy Tan, John Dos Passos, Oscar Hijuelos—we looked over our bookcases and many more than 100 names laid down a claim. Without further ado, then, here are my picks for the top 25 science fiction novels of all time.



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