The Top 100 Works of Fiction

The Top 100 Works of Fiction

by Mr Plattes

24 January 2023


Any list of the ‘top’ 100 works of fiction is merely subjective. The contents of such a list depends on the tastes and erudition of its compiler.

To give you somewhat of an insight into my background, and thus my selections, by profession I am a keeper of a fine library and special collections devoted to the earth sciences. In my personal life, I am an avid reader and collector of, almost solely, works of fiction.

Do please rest assured, I make no claims for this list, it is merely but a list. I simply hope that you will enjoy perusing it. I adore all of the works included on it, & should it lead you to a work you’d not read before, I would be most gratified.

Some qualities of works of fiction, which I would personally appear to favour:

  • Works that are seminal, reflected by their influence on past and current literature and culture (as an example of such, the works of Hammett sit near the top of its tree [hard-boiled detective/crime — a beast of a genre] — they pervade almost all in that vein), are preferred.
  • Works that are desirable for bibliophiles tend to be rated highly. This is usually a sign of a great work — they, as a group, know what it is that they are sniffing around for acquisition. Should a stoush erupt at a sale room, and serious coin get thrown about, it will be over a most-worthwhile work. Critics do not set these prices — bibliophile-readers with deep pockets set these prices. For mine, the latter are far more erudite on the subject of ‘most-desirable’.
  • Works in which the protagonists are not overly introspective (or at all) are preferred (mind, there are odd exceptions). Works that do not lecture its reader (including on such as political and social causes) with a heavy bat, ditto. Matters of the human condition (fear, hope, love, &c.), universals, on the other hand… I am there for those!

The list was to be ranked according to quality. However, the order of the works that I arrived at is but rough, broad… Given more time, I could refine the list further. As a result, do take the positioning of a work, as compared to other works on the list, with an absolute grain of salt. It means but little — they all clamour! Also, had the list covered more works (say, a top-200), I would have slotted certain works from the Supplementary List in at higher places than some I have included in the top 100.

These works will have been those by authors already included in the list, for example Dickens, Hammett, Chandler, Steinbeck, and Christie. But, for the sake of some of the other authors, I shifted those to the Supplementary List. Note, there is no order to the Supplementary List (and a good number of further works could be added to it). Note also, I have not read all that is held in high esteem by those peoples that produced it — I have tried to (I have read much…), and continue to do so, and so, there will be works that I would include on my list, which are waiting in the wings to be read.

Should you wish for me to elucidate as to why I have selected certain works, or excluded others, &c., do please feel free to send me a note. There will be some works which I will have overlooked (not too many, mind…) –- where, should you mention one to me, I would exclaim ‘Holy Schweppes, you are quite right!’


Rank Year Author Title
1 -500 Homer The Iliad
2 -500 Homer The Odyssey
3 1925 F.Scott Fitzgerald The Great Gatsby
4 1280 Njal’s Saga
5 1605 Cervantes Don Quixote
6 1245 Laxdaela Saga
7 1300 Ehrbyggja’s Saga
8 1220 Egil’s Saga
9 -1200 Gilgamesh.
10 700 Beowulf
11 750 One Thousand and One Nights.
12 1349 Giovanni Boccaccio The Decameron.
13 1908 Kenneth Grahame The Wind in the Willows
14 1968 Mervyn Peake The Gormenghast Trilogy – Titus Groan; Gormenghast;
& Titus Alone
15 1952 Ernest Hemingway The Old Man and the Sea
16 1954 William Golding Lord of the Flies
17 1959 Gunter Grass The Tin Drum
18 1935 Agatha Christie Death in the Clouds
19 1934 Agatha Christie Murder on the Orient Express
20 1964 Agatha Christie A Carribean Mystery
21 1929  Dashiell Hammett The Maltese Falcon
22 1931  Dashiell Hammett The Glass Key
23 1934  Dashiell Hammett The Thin Man
24 1929  Dashiell Hammett The Drain Curse
25 1852 Charles Dickens Bleak House
26 1865 Charles Dickens Our Mutual Friend
27 1870 Charles Dickens Edwin Drood
28 1939 Raymond Chandler The Big Sleep
29 1943 Raymond Chandler The Lady in the Lake
30 1954 Raymond Chandler The Long Goodbye
31 1932 John Steinbeck The Pastures of Heaven
32 1938 John Steinbeck The Long Valley
33 1945 John Steinbeck Cannery Row
34 1954 John Steinbeck Sweet Thursday
35 1937 J.R.R. Tolkein The Hobbit
36 1840 E.A. Poe Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque
37 1841 E.A. Poe The Dupin tales – The Murders in the Rue Morgue; The Mystery
of Marie Rogêt; & The Purloined Letter
38 1913 Henri Alain-Fournier The Lost Estate
39 1829 Honoré de Balzac La Comédie humaine
40 1882 Robert Louis Stevenson Treasure Island
41 1886 Robert Louis Stevenson Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde
42 1892 G. Grossmith and W. Grossmith Diary of a Nobody
43 1961 Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa The Professor and the Siren
44 1888 Oscar Wilde The Happy Prince and Other Tales
45 1981 Gabriel García Márquez Chronicle of a Death Foretold
46 1967 Gabriel García Márquez One Hundred Years of Solitude
47 1880 Guy de Maupassant Any compilation of his short stories
48 1958 Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa The Leopard
49 1818 Mary Shelley Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus
50 1977 Naghuib Mafhouz The Harafish
51 1945 Ivo Andrić The Bridge over the River Drina
52 1934 Halldór Laxness Independent People
53 1897 Bram Stoker Dracula
54 1961 Joseph Heller Catch-22
55 1971 Charles Bukowski Post Office
56 1817 Jane Austen Northhanger Abbey
57 1813 Jane Austen Pride and Prejudice
58 1960 Italo Calvino Our Ancestors  –The Cloven Viscount; The Baron in the Trees;
59 The Nonexistent Knight
60 1021 Jaroslav Hašek The Good Soldier Švejk
61 1960 Roald Dahl Tales, inc. Kiss, Kiss
62 1851 Herman Melville Moby-Dick
63 1930 Faulkner As I Lay Dying
64 1886 Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy The Death of Ivan Ilyich
65 1853 Elizabeth Gaskell Cranford
66 1936 George Orwell Keep the Aspidistra Flying
67 1945 George Orwell Animal Farm
68 1949 George Orwell Nineteen Eighty-Four
69 1898 H. G. Wells War of the Worlds
70 1902 Arthur Conan Doyle The Hound of the Baskervilles
71 1846 Alexandre Dumas (père). The Count of Monte Cristo
72 1856 Ivan Sergeyevich Turgenev Shorter Fiction
73 1894 Rudyard Kipling The Jungle Book
74 1895 H.G. Wells The Time Machine
75 1896 H.G. Wells The Island of Doctor Moreau
76 1907 Arthur Machen The Hill of Dreams
77 1894 Arthur Machen The Great God Pan which includes The Inmost Light; The Red Hand;
The Three Impostors etc.
78 1912 William Hope Hodgson The Night Land
79 1907 William Hope Hodgson The Boats of the “Glen Carrig”
80 1908 William Hope Hodgson The House on the Borderland
81 1915 Franz Kafka The Metamorphosis
82 1928 Erich Maria Remarque All Quiet on the Western Front
83 1966 Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn Cancer Ward
84 1981 Ismail Kadare Palace of Dreams
85 1971 Ismail Kadare Chronicle in Stone
86 1899 Joseph Conrad Heart of Darkness
87 1901 M. P. Shiel The Purple Cloud
88 1950 Isaac Asimov. I, Robot
89 1981 Piers Anthony Bio of a Space Tyrant
90 1759 Voltaire Candide
91 1926 A.A. Milne When we were very Young; Winnie the Pooh; Now we are Six;
 & The House at Pooh Corner
92 1965 Frank Herbert Dune
93 1868 Wilkie Collins The Moonstone
94 1996 Stephen King The Green Mile
95 1895 Robert W. Chambers The King in Yellow
96 1894 Edogawa Rampo Japanese Tales of Mystery and Imagination
97 1957 Naghuib Mafhouz Cairo TrilogyPalace Walk; Palace of Desire; & Sugar Street
98 1903 Jack London The Call of the Wild
99 1912 Jack London The Scarlet Plague
100 1951 Jean Giono The Hussar on the Roof
Supplemental List (not in an any order)
1978 Ismail Kadare The Three-Arched Bridge
1980 Ismail Kadare Doruntine or The Ghost Rider
1893 Arthur Conan Doyle The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes
1892 Arthur Conan Doyle The Adventurs of Sherlock Holmes
1980 Umberto Eco The Name of the Rose
1950 Frederick Brown Night of the Jabberwock
1963 John Fowles The Collector
1977 Stephen R. Donaldson The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant
1922 F. Scott Fitzgerald The Beautiful and Damned
1872 Sheridan Le Fanu In a Glass Darkly
1782 Pierre Choderlos de Laclos Dangerous Liaisons
1220 The Quest of the Holy Grail
1182 Chrétien de Troyes Perceval, the Story of the Grail
1485 Thomas Malory Le Morte d’Arthur
1826 Mary Shelley The Last Man
1863 Jules Verne Voyages Extraordinaires
1917 Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy First Russian Reader: Tales
1865 Charles Lutwidge Dodgson Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, & Through the Looking-Glass,
and What Alice Found There
1838 E.A. Poe The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket
1890 Oscar Wilde The Picture of Dorian Gray
1862 Ivan Sergeyevich Turgenev Fathers and Sons
1808 Johann Wolfgang von Goethe Faust
1958 Truman Capote Breakfast at Tiffany’s
1889 Jerome K. Jerome Three Men in a Boat
1897 Richard Marsh The Beetle
1909 William Hope Hodgson The Ghost Pirates
1849 Charles Dickens David Copperfield
1843 Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol
1811 Jane Austen Sense and Sensibility
1937 Agatha Christie Death on the Nile
1953 Agatha Christie A Pocket Full of Rye
1957 Agatha Christie 4.50 from Paddington
1971 Agatha Christie Nemesis
1929 Dashiell Hammett Red Harvest
1940 Raymond Chandler Farewell, my Lovely
1942 Raymond Chandler The High Window
1949 Raymond Chandler The Little Sister
1933 John Steinbeck To a God Unknown
1937 John Steinbeck Of Mice and Men
1935 John Steinbeck Tortilla Flat
1957 Nevil Shute On the Beach
1848 William Makepeace Thackeray Vanity Fair
1885 Émile Zola Germinal
1931 Georges Simenon The Crime of Inspector Maigret
1970 Helene Hanff 84, Charing Cross Road
1934 Ernest Claes De Witte


Postscript by David Archibald

I am privileged to know Mr Plattes, who graciously undertook to apply his considerable erudition to compiling this list. Once again it is a list that eschews self-improvement through suffering. Thus no Dostoyevsky, no matter how profound his insights into the human condition might be. Inexplicably there is also no Nabokov or J.D. Salinger, two of the most lyrical writers in the English language.

As a quality check, Mr Plattes’s list was compared to the New York Times list of the 100 best novels. There are only nine novels in common — testimony to the breadth and depth of this list.

Mr Plattes has invited comments and suggestions. To that end please email them to me at