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50 Classics Everyone Should Read

We could talk all day about what constitutes a classic book. My list would be different to your list and we could debate the virtues of our choices ‘til we’re blue in the face!

The definition of a classic book is a long and hotly debated topic. All exemplary, all noteworthy, but as we discussed in a recent blog on our sister site LoveReading4Kids when we debated the top 50 classics every child (and adult) should read, there are some tenets that the classics all have in common.

In classic literature, a work is usually considered to be a representation of the period in which it was written and it merits lasting recognition, one that deserves re-reading five times, and picking up again five years even 100 years after its publication. They are a treasured experience, they are books which exercise a particular influence when they imprint themselves on our imagination as unforgettable. They don’t elicit indifference, they polarise opinion. In other words, in this interpretation, a recently-published book is not a classic. While the term "modern classic" may apply to books written after World War II, they need longevity to achieve the designation of a simple "classic."

Here at LoveReading we present our list of classic books, all published before 1950. 

We start with the collection of stories told by 24 fictional pilgrims in a story-telling competition in the incredible Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, hailing from 1476! With one book from the 1700s, an amazing 29 from the 1800s, we selected the remaining 19 from the 20th century and finish the list in 1950.

It is an incredible list of stunning classics, all of which we adore here at LoveReading. What’s your favourite, how many have you read…and what will you be reading or re-reading next?

Vanity Fair

Vanity Fair

Author: William Makepeace Thackeray, John Carey Format: Paperback Release Date: 30/01/2003

If you know Vanity Fair then the name Becky Sharp will immediately conjure images of a ruthless, immoral, and selfish social climber, and one of literatures most fascinating characters. At the time she was one of the first female leads and for her to be so ambitious and manipulative, well! Thackeray wrote a novel with flawed characters, cutting social commentary, along with the reality of being human and existing in a not so perfect world. Visit our '50 Classics Everyone Should Read' collection to discover more classic titles.

ebook of the month
Les Miserables

Les Miserables

Author: Victor Hugo, Norman Denny Format: Paperback Release Date: 25/03/1982

I first saw the musical, then read the book, and let me just put this out there, Les Miserables is long, and even with a relatively simple plot, not a particularly easy read. Having said that, I am glad that I read it, but am going to whisper this... I prefer the musical (and now I’m ducking). Visit our '50 Classics Everyone Should Read' collection to discover more classic titles.

ebook of the month
War and Peace

War and Peace

Author: Leo Tolstoy Format: Hardback Release Date: 07/01/2016

It's 1805 and St Petersburg, Russia is overwhelmed by terror and uncertainty as Napoleon marches on the country and war breaks out.  Focusing on three characters whose lives are transformed, War and Peace is about people trying to find their place in a world completely changed by war, social, political and spiritual upheaval. Timeless themes that resonate today while also offering an insight into a moment in history. A fantastic classic recommended by us. Visit our '50 Classics Everyone Should Read' collection to discover more classic titles.

ebook of the month
Brave New World

Brave New World

Author: Aldous Huxley Format: Paperback Release Date: 06/12/2007

Written in 1932, this is an amazing dystopian fiction is set in a futuristic world state where everyone has been conditioned to be content and perform according to a social and intelligence-based hierarchy. In a world where there have been scientific advancements in reproductive technology, sleep-learning and behaviour conditioning the question is posed through Bernard Marx, Helmholtz Watson and John, is it better to be manipulated and happy or to be free? A must-read for all science-fiction fans. Visit our '50 Classics Everyone Should Read' collection to discover more classic titles.

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Comments (74)

Aileen H - 25th October 2020

Brilliant selection of books

Tracy B - 25th October 2020

A great list of classics, have read quite a few of them and will be reading some of the ones I haven't read yet

Heather N - 25th October 2020

Great list! Some of my “go to” favs, a couple on my “must get round to reading” list, and a couple I hadn’t considered before.

Georgie W - 25th October 2020

It's a fabulous list. I've enjoyed many on there and plenty of others are on my wish list!

Leah T - 25th October 2020

Ashamed to admit I've never read The Great Gatsby, about time I corrected this error.

Jeanette L - 25th October 2020

Fantastic books definitely some brilliant books amongst these

James D - 25th October 2020

My favourite book growing up was The Catcher In The Rye. This is a great list.

Tracy G - 25th October 2020

I have read a few of these but there are lots that I still need to read.

Stephanie A - 25th October 2020

Love the list of mice and men and 1984 are personal favourites

Michelle P - 24th October 2020

Not read a classic for a very long time, I must keep this list so I can look out for them so I can ead one every now and again! Many thanks

Lauren O - 24th October 2020

What a great collection of books!

Sheri D - 23rd October 2020

I am surprised at how many of these I have read

Andrew W - 23rd October 2020

I'm shocked at myself! I've hardly read any of them!

Jennifer R - 22nd October 2020

Some great classics here, some real favourites and some I've yet to read x

Rebecca K - 22nd October 2020

I'm sorry to say that I haven't actually read any of these books! It has really inspired me to make a start as many of them have been on my 'to read' list for so long :)

Michael O - 22nd October 2020

Just under half but a few I am surprised I have missed.

Debbie H - 22nd October 2020

Murder on the Orient Express is a great favourite. I first read it when I was around 13. I should like to read all the books in this list.

Sonia G - 21st October 2020

What a fantastic list of classics, it definitely inspired me to re-read some of them again.

Maria D - 21st October 2020

I have always wanted to read the hound of the baskervilles

Maria J X - 19th October 2020

Such a great recommended list of books. Read quite a few books from this list and i absoultutely love them.One of my favourites articles. Thank you for recommending a fellow book-worm !

Charlotte C - 19th October 2020

I’ve read 12 so far on the list. One big plus of 2020 is ive made a nice dent in my to read list!

Christine L - 17th October 2020

What a great selection, must try and read more from this list

Richard T - 16th October 2020

Great list!

lynn n - 15th October 2020

I love Pride and Prejudice

Harriet T - 14th October 2020

Would love to have my own personal library one day which would hold all of these books plus many many others ?

DENISE W - 13th October 2020

There are some I have read on there others I would love to read great list thank you

Jenny A - 13th October 2020

I'm pleased to have read a lot of these, but I still have lots to go at.

Lesley S - 13th October 2020

Something for everyone. Some I love some I’m not so keen on, great list, thanks.

Natasha M - 12th October 2020

I have only read just the one of these. But I do have a lot of them on my to read list

Debbie E - 12th October 2020

Looks like a great collection!

Alex M - 12th October 2020

A great range of classics here. I'm trying to reread some during lockdown

Nadia J - 11th October 2020

I am ashamed at how many of these I have yet to read! I am going to do better!

Melanie P - 11th October 2020

I’m ashamed to say that I have only read a couple of these classic books but am now going to read more of them!

Tamsin T - 10th October 2020

I’m glad to see ‘Dracula’ and ‘Frankenstein’ on the list! I relied on the old school Gothic tales for my dissertation, but I would like to read the other classics on the list too.

Karen H - 9th October 2020

Really need to make time to read some classic books

Gaynor V - 7th October 2020

I was looking for Woman in WHite, Wuthering Heights and Ann of Green Gables - tow out of three!

Patricia A - 3rd October 2020

I'm 73 and have been an avid reader since Grandma taught me to read before I started school so I have read and enjoyed the majority of books on this list however I have never heard of one of them so will be looking out for a copy now. Beneath the Heart of the Sea The Sinking of the Whaleship Essex

Suzanne G - 2nd October 2020

I read The Call of the Wild so many times as a teenager! Many books on this list I still need to read - and encourage my teens to. Great list!

Jacqui G - 30th September 2020

Ulysses - I've tried to read this numerous times, roughly every five years, after someone whose book collection I truly admired said I should. I give up after three/four chapters each time, just can't get into it. Pleased to say I've read most of the rest.

Michelle S - 30th September 2020

The collection is amazing there are some lovely books that I would love to read.

Ruth H - 30th September 2020

Vanity Fair and The Count of Monte Cristo are two of my favourite books of all time! However, putting Middlemarch here - I hated that book, I must tell you all. I found it hard to read, and felt like I'd wasted my time. I know we all don't agree what's good and bad, though, so I accept it being here. Great list otherwise xx

Kate B - 28th September 2020

Brilliant books on here - A Room With A View and Dracula are my favourites

Pippa A - 28th September 2020

I'm guilty of not finding the time to read the classics and I have gaps, this is a great starting point for a 'to read' list.

Bridget A - 27th September 2020

I loved reading Of Mice & Men and 1984 at school. I really should read more of the classics

adrian p - 27th September 2020

Embarrassingly ive hardly read any of these

Annabel G - 27th September 2020

These are all such great classics and I would love to have a chance to read them all

Laura P - 27th September 2020

Some great titles in there! Is Vanity Hall going to be included?

tessa p - 26th September 2020

Recently read Jane Austen's Mansfield Park for the first time and would put it above Emma - Fanny Price deserves a place in classic book history!

claire w - 26th September 2020

Good collection. I've only read a few of them.

Sandra L - 26th September 2020

Now that has whetted my appetite for getting out the Golden Oldies and finding a quiet corner to get my head stuck into a good book again!

Clive H - 25th September 2020

Great Selection of Books

Sheena B - 25th September 2020

I have read a fair number of these I do like a classic to dive into

Mary L - 25th September 2020

Good selection. I have read quite a few but some sugfestions I will follow up

Peter W - 25th September 2020

Fabulous list.I would put Ulysses as my no 1.

Yolanda D - 25th September 2020

I'm a huge book fan & have really wanted to try some of these classics, for quite a long time. Theres just so many books & not enough time in the day to read everything I want to. I'm really going to try harder to fit one in.

Karen K - 25th September 2020

My next classic to reread is A Christmas Carol so I can chat to my daughter about it - she is studying it for her GCSE English Lit exams

Hayley B - 25th September 2020

I’ve not reading everything, but agree with a lot of the books, would have liked to see some Virginia Woolf or China Achebe’s Things Fall Apart. I’ve added one or two to my list though, because I haven’t read any Russian literature.

Julie T - 25th September 2020

I love this collection - some great books!

Claire T - 25th September 2020

Love this list ! I have read a few but will endeavor to read more !

Stuart W - 25th September 2020

Fantastic selection

claire m - 25th September 2020

You can't beat a Classic from either Dickens, Brontë or Austen. I'm yet to complete reading War and Peace, one day.

Sarah B - 25th September 2020

Great selection! Must check how many I've read.

Marion P - 24th September 2020

Great list of classic books that everyone should make time to read!

Susie W - 24th September 2020

I've read quite a few of them, but some are just too heavy going for me!

Gill W - 24th September 2020

Wow, what a fab collection of Classics. Makes me want to start reading them all over again.

Lisa R - 24th September 2020

A Room With A View is my favourite, and I've read 36 of them. I think there's a good mix of classics on here, although I'd love to have seen I capture The Castle by Dodie Smith make it on there. I'll be re-reading Murder on the Orient Express next.

Ben M - 24th September 2020

It is my aim to read more classics, and this list is a great start. Thank you!

Juliet D - 24th September 2020

Very few I haven’t read there - had some brilliant teachers at school who got us reading the good stuff!

Michelle L - 24th September 2020

I’m shocked to learn that I have read quite a few in the list. Yippie lol

Susan B - 24th September 2020

I love your lists. Thank you! I was slightly put off reading classics at school but have promised myself to dive in again, especially as the range of what is considered a classic is now much wider.

Andrea H - 24th September 2020

Ashamed at just how few I've read! Will keep the list to check out some titles over the coming year.

Film 1 - 27th July 2020

Thank you for sharing this list of classic books. Classic is always good to read.

JENNIFER N - 23rd May 2020

LEWIS GRASSIC GIBBON: A SCOTS QUAIR. This trilogy had a profound impact on me when I read it as a teenager

Vicki L - 23rd May 2020

Would love to read them all

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