World famous novels list
Books are deeply personal things. Each of us form unique bonds with the characters we read about, relate to storylines and personalities in different ways and enjoy all sorts of genres from crime to romance, gothic to fantasy.
World Book Day celebrates the comfort, joy and fulfilling challenges to be found in a good novel, with readers taking part in a host of activities around the world.
Sadly, those of us here at The Independent HQ have not opted for fancy dress this year, but we have been having a long, hard think about the books that are closest to our hearts.
Together, we’ve come up with a list of 43 novels that mean the most to us, from the classics to less well-known stories deserving of a wider audience.
Take a look at our picks and see if any of them grab your fancy. Pour yourself a cuppa and enjoy.
The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
I have read it to three-year-olds who learn about friendship and confronting fear, to seven-year-olds who ponder about nature and wistfulness and for me, to reflect on other-worldliness and personal space. Martin King
The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
I cried reading this book. Hemingway’s story of the anguished, hopeless love affair between American war veteran Jake Barnes and Lady Brett Ashley is set against the backdrop of the San Fermin bull festival in Pamplona, Spain. The writer is more present in this work than he is in any other, in Jake’s cold, slightly bitter voice; in his friend and Brett’s ex-loved Robert Cohn you can picture Hemingway’s former boxing partner Harold Loeb. At the place of his first obsession, Hemingway succeeds in distilling the passion and life to be found there. Roisin O'Connor
Naïve. Super by Erland Loe
I have lent this book to friends so many times that I've ended up having to buy 5+ copies. It is written from a child-like perspective and yet has this incredible profundity. A simple story of a Norwegian man trying to gather some sort of semblance of meaning in the world, it has a completely disarming honesty and truth like no other I have come across in literature. It also extols the simple joy of bouncing a ball against a wall, which I think is nice. It might be a cliche, but reading this will change your life. Christopher Hooton
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
One of the most heart-wrenching books I have ever read that transcends cultural gaps to touch the darker areas within us all. Betrayal, guilt and redemption are the strongest themes here, with Hosseini's second, mother-daughter novel A Thousand Splendid Suns also strongly recommended, so long as you’re willing to let the tears keep falling. Definitely try and read this before watching the also excellent film. Jess Denham
All Who Go Do Not Return by Shulem Deen
I was brought up an Orthodox Jew and this story about a man's journey out of Orthodoxy was compelling both because of its value and how it did and did not reflect my childhood. One for anyone who has ever felt lost. Dina Rickman
Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
I am infinitely astonished that English isn't Nabokov's first language given his absolute mastery of it. His language comes in such rich torrents and his ornate, stylish sentences are so enviable.
If Lolita had been released today it would have been subject to 10, 000 think pieces accusing it of, at best, insensitivity, at worst, paedophilia, so I'm glad it wasn't. Through its story of a pompous, middle-aged man's lust for a young girl, Lolita lays the burn of human desire completely bare. Christopher Hooton
Captain Corelli's Mandolin by Louis de Bernieres
Expect some hefty historical chapters about the Italian and German occupation of Cephalonia in World War II. Wade through these, interesting as they are, and you'll find many fascinating explorations of love, including my favourite passage about love in literature. “Love is a temporary madness...” Jess Denham
The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach
Books ‘staying with you long after the final page’ might be a cliche but could not be truer in the case of Chad Harbach’s all-consuming, all-American novel. Every fully-developed character slowly becomes a friend whether you love them, hate them or somewhere in between and it’s hard not to empathise with the crippling self-doubt that threatens to destroy Henry’s future. Prior baseball knowledge is not a necessity: The Art of Fielding sparked the most heated debate yet at my monthly Book Club and not one of us knew what a shortstop was before reading it. If the human condition fascinates you, turn to this one next. Jess Denham
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
Carroll’s work is the greatest paradise for dreamers there is. Reading and re-reading Alice’s adventures taught me, each time, that imagination is an infinite thing and the word ‘impossible’ belongs to the vocabulary of the uninspired. Clarisse Loughrey
Requiem for a Dream by Hubert Selby Jr
An utterly depressing read but one that is necessary to understand no one is infallible to an addiction. Selby’s descriptions are outstanding; you truly experience the harrowing lives of these four unfortunate New Yorkers. This book is a train crash - uncomfortable to read but gripped by its gruesome reality. Ryan Ramgobin
The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald
This quintessential jazz age novel is about so much more than a shallow bunch of rich people hosting lavish parties. Fitzgerald explores crushed idealism, hopeless love and the elusiveness of the American Dream. The green light at the end of Daisy's dock will speak to everyone's unfulfilled dreams. Jess Denham
Vanity Fair by William Thackery
I dearly love Austen, but she’s forgivingly attached to her creations. She mocks them with a smiling nod and an effusive warmth. Not Thackeray though; Becky Sharp is despicable, calculating, and relentlessly cruel. And, boy, do I love her for it. Clarisse Loughrey
Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace
One of the most ambitious books ever written, a synopsis for which would itself take up most of a novella. Set in a very American dystopia and lurching from tennis academies to rehab centres, it skewers the sadness of capitalism just by looking blankly at it. Wallace possessed Pynchon-like wittiness no matter what the topic. He could literally spend three pages describing a paving slab and you'd be scintillated. Christopher Hooton
The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien
When I was a wee nipper my Dad gave me a copy of The Hobbit for my birthday, marking my first foray into the fantastical world of Middle Earth. Immediately, I fell in love with Bilbo’s adventure into the Lonely Mountain, the characters being so loveable and, unlike The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien’s writing was so easily accessible. Now, every time I return to the Shire it’s like revisiting an old friend; I just wish I could forget about those awful film adaptations. Jack Shepherd
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