48 Best Classic Books to Read

Posted by Donald Latumahina 142 Comments

Reading classic books can boost your learning experience. There are some reasons why classic books can do that: they have stood the test of time, they give you different “lenses” to look through, and they will most likely be relevant even to the far future. Reading the classics is an excellent intellectual exercise which will arm you with a lot of powerful intellectual tools.

To find good classic books, there are trusted recommendations that can help us. The recommendations are found in the books How to Read a Book by Mortimer J. Adler and Charles van Doren, and The Well-Educated Mind by Susan Wise Bauer, both of which I believe are high-quality books. You can read the books for complete information about their recommendations (with suggestions on how to read them), but here I will directly give you the titles of the books which are recommended by both of them.

While I believe a book which is recommended by any of them is good, I think it’s safe to say that a book which is recommended by both of them is great.

So without further ado, here are the recommended classic books along with the Amazon and free download links (if any):

Novel

  1. Don Quixote (Miguel de Cervantes) – Download
  2. Gulliver’s Travels (Jonathan Swift) – Download
  3. Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen) – Download
  4. Oliver Twist (Charles Dickens) – Download
  5. The Scarlet Letter (Nathaniel Hawthorne) - Download
  6. Moby-Dick (Herman Melville) – Download
  7. Madame Bovary (Gustave Flaubert) – Download
  8. Crime and Punishment (Fyodor Dostoevsky) – Download
  9. Anna Karenina (Leo Tolstoy) – Download
  10. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Mark Twain) – Download
  11. The Trial (Franz Kafka) – Download

Autobiography and Memoir

  1. The Confessions (Augustine) – Download
  2. The Complete Essays (Michel de Montaigne) – Download
  3. Meditations on First Philosophy (Rene Descartes)
  4. Walden (Henry David Thoreau) – Download

History

  1. The Histories (Herodotus) – Download vol 1vol 2
  2. The Peloponnesian War (Thucydides) – Download
  3. The Republic (Plato) – Download
  4. Lives (Plutarch) – Download vol 1vol 2vol 3
  5. City of God (Augustine)
  6. The Prince (Niccolo Machiavelli) – Download
  7. Utopia (Sir Thomas More) – Download
  8. The Social Contract (Jean Jaques Rousseau)
  9. The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (Edward Gibbon) – Download vol 1vol 2vol 3 -vol 4vol 5vol 6
  10. Democracy in America (Alexis de Tocqueville) – Download vol 1vol 2
  11. The Communist Manifesto (Karl Marx) – Download

Drama

  1. Agamemnon (Aeschylus) – Download
  2. Oedipus the King (Sophocles) – Download
  3. Medea (Euripides)
  4. The Birds (Aristophanes) – Download
  5. Poetics (Aristotle) – Download
  6. Richard III (William Shakespeare) – Download
  7. A Midsummer Night’s Dream (William Shakespeare) – Download
  8. Hamlet (William Shakespeare) – Download
  9. Tartuffe (Moliere) – Download
  10. The Way of the World (William Congreve) – Download
  11. A Doll’s House (Henrik Ibsen) – Download
  12. Saint Joan (George Bernard Shaw)
  13. No Exit (Jean Paul Sartre)

Poet

  1. The Iliad (Homer) – Download
  2. The Odyssey (Homer) – Download
  3. Odes (Horace) – Download
  4. Inferno (Dante Alighieri) – Download
  5. The Canterbury Tales (Geoffrey Chaucer) – Download
  6. Sonnets (William Shakespeare) – Download
  7. Paradise Lost (John Milton) – Download
  8. Selected Poetry (William Wordsworth) – Download vol 1vol 2vol 3
  9. The Complete Poems (Samuel Taylor Coleridge) – Download

It may take years to read all these books, but it undoubtedly will be a very rewarding intellectual journey; they are among the best books of human civilization.


Categories: Learning

Please use your real name and note that I reserve the right to delete inappropriate comments.

  • sindhuja

    i had 2 do a project on classic buks..dt is i had 2 rite book reviews of any 5 classic buks….n i dint hav any idea of any classic buks…so thanx 4 dis wondrful list of ‘em…!

    • christina

      maybe you didn’t know any classic “buks” because you don’t know how to speak english

      • aci

        you are mean..

      • kate

        Well Christina, thank God you are perfect.

      • Sarah

        LOL christina well said

        • chrissie

          LOL Christina. Read sindhuja’s comment and I actually was a little horrified. No one is perfect, but that, that was just embarrassing.

    • Meena

      You sound so terribly illiterate. I suggest you start with kindergarten stories before even considering classics. Cannot imagine what your “buk reviews” are going to look like. I pity the poor teacher who has to go through your reviews.

      • erin

        Meena,

        I think you need to travel. Just because someone’s first language is not English does not mean that they are illiterate. This person may very well speak three or more languages; I think you owe Sindhuja an apology and since Lasal is probably right about it being internet speak, then your unkind and uninformed opinion makes your comments valueless.

        Erin

    • Lasal

      “2″ rite hav buks thanx 4 ‘em

      Idiots, I quote to thou name ye shall not know of this foreign dielct it, for the ignorant, is called Internet Speak.

      Shut up he probally smarter than you Cristina, kate, crissie and meena who may i say don’t understand where it is proper to use formal and informal language.

      Written with delibertate hipocracy

  • bob

    dont forget the Hobbit

  • Maria osman

    It is a good list but I think you have missed some novels like ‘kane and abel’, ‘gone with the wind’, ‘sense and sensibilities’, and many more….

  • Rob

    Art of war ~ Sun Tzu

  • http://monkey.com Saikat

    No the list is not right. Where is Famous Gitanjali by Rabindranath Tagore, its better than many of so called classic. Also it awarded him Noble prize.

  • Lats

    Invisible man by Ralph Ellison. Why aren’t there any African American writers on this list?

    • Den

      What are African American writers? Are they african or american? or do you actually mean black american writers.
      But to answer your question, maybe they are not good enough. To be honest I dont see many white american writers here either.

    • Jose

      This is a list of classics. Most of these books were written before 1800. Do you know of any great black writers (which I think is what you really mean by “African American)that wrote before 1800?

  • Albert

    Obviously all your lists are very personally biased, there is overabundance of English language writers. But this is nowhere truer than in your drama list, where there is not even one from the Spanish Golden Age. Maybe is it related to your ignorance, have you ever heard (not to mention read) about Lope de Vega or Calderon? And García Márquez (One hundred years of solitude), Rulfo (Juan Páramo), the supreme Borges? Those are the lists of someone whose reading has been too limited.

    • Jose

      You obviously didn’t read the author’s post. These are the books recommended by both, “How to Read a Book” and “The Well-Educated Mind”. It’s not the author’s personal opinion. Further, the great majority of these works were written before the 19th century and the majority of the authors you listed lived in the 20th century. Perhaps the list could benefit from the addition of selection from de Vega or Calderon, but it’s not a big deal that they’re missing from the list. There are many influential writers missing from the list-that’s the result of choosing only 48 books. Would you prefer that the list excluded Shakespeare instead? He wasn’t very influential…

    • jason

      Don Quixote is the first book mentioned on the list you ditz.

    • maricela

      Indeed, my believe is that classic refers to the 1800′s and early 1900′s. Those Latin American great authors do not go under the classic title.

    • Shar

      Comment well made Albert. I read a lot and have read “one hundred years of solitude”, and I understand it’s literary importance, but I have always felt that I just didn’t get it. I think I missed the point ……any ideas? Any input would be much appreciated….

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  • Jennifer Smith

    Add Jane Eyre to the list by charlotte bronte. One of the best books I have ever read and quite life changing for me. Probably aimed at females. By the way for those who dont like classical fiction why not try a retelling? My teen daughter hated classical but i gave her I am Jane Eyre by Teana Rownland- its a retelling of jane eyre and now that has encouraged her to read the original!

  • atlas shrestha

    these classical book whick i read is really intresting. it gave much more knowledge. so i would like to thank for the publication .

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  • Monique Avakian

    Great list and comprehensive.
    However, all male and all white and all from “western” civilization.

    It is always important for the well-educated person to ask: Who is writing the history, who decides what is more or less important, why and how does that keep them in power?

    I encourage you to expand this list.

    Respectfully,
    Monique

    • Malcolm

      True, Monique, in a way. Those who made history get to write it. Let’s avoid the PC rethoric. If you wonder about the other potential side of history go and inquire. Just because you think the list is deficient it does not make it so.

  • alexxx

    I don;t think this one has been mentioned, but perhaps Lolita, by Vladimir Nabokov? Very good list, Some weren’t mentioned, and that’s quite alright, people should be able to figure out that every single classis wouldn’t be on a lsit of only 48 books:)

  •  Dexufa

    The above commenters are overreacting. At no point does Latumahina claim that he believes this list the be-all, end-all of intellectual development. They further assert that it’s that Latumahina’s fault that this list excludes many great works.

    These commenters, and future ones, should read carefully the introductory paragraphs, and if you still come away thinking the same, read them again. Latumahina clearly states that the list is a summary of overlap between two different sources and that the sources contain other recommendations. Complain to the original sources if you want. Implying that Latumahina is ignorant or a closet racist makes a fool of the hypersensitive accuser and devalues both labels by improper attribution.

    Take this list for what it is, a springboard into expanding your reading. If you end your reading here, Gentle Reader, the fault is on you.

    Sidenote: There are countless great books of all origins and periods out there. It’s impossible to include them all to everyone’s satisfaction.

  • Babsi

    Hi, are there any prices involved for the downloads? Are they suitable for a laptop (the e-books), or do I need an e-reader. Please be so kind as to let me have some more information by e-mail: bcasack@hotmail.com

  • Geroge Orwell

    Dexufa, finally a voice of reason. For all the critics,. . .Political correctness will be the end of us if not reversed. If you can’t see that, you ARE the problem.

  • Tara

    I think this is a Great list to Begin with. I have read several of the above mentioned readings already. I love them all. I personally love to hold a book in my hands but it’s nice to have a download available to those that like to read by technology. It would be nice to see other future lists with a variety from eras and lands.

  • mamiko

    Do you have any other lists?
    I found my book for me but I need more different books.

  • mamiko

    More than half of the books I have read. And about the others I dont like them.Do you have any other list of books. Actually they are good books but I choose a little different and I m not finding my book. But thanks for helping.

  • nancy

    I love this website! Thank you so much for providing classic literature at no charge.

  • nancy

    One more thing – I can’t believe the odasity of some people on here….complaining….about the list not having this or that…..these are FREE books people – go buy your own book if you want something that’s not on the FREE list! Amazing!

  • zeb

    thanx for the list :)

  • Peter

    This was a nice service since it made clear that these were taken from two other well known reviewers and not the be all and end all. This list does not prohibit you from reading Invisible Man (which I read twice and loved). Most of these classics come from an earlier period where most known books were written by men. I would certainly add Emily Dickinson though. However, my primary concern is that the question of which are the better translations is completely overlooked. Often links to free downloads are for what many consider to be second rate or at least dated translations. I just picked up a nice copy of Fagles’ Illiad for $3.00. I would rather read that than Cowper’s free version linked to here,though the latter appears to be a very serious effort. I also note that Cowper’s version has more than a dozen intro pages on the issues of and difficulties of translation. So spend some time reading reviews of the various translations instead of plunging in to whatever version happens to be online. Browse a few versions at the bookstore or library. Even the books written in English have various versions that can affect your experience. I have seen Paradise Lost in several different version, with the lines formatted differently and with greatly varying degrees of annotation. Of course, there are many different versions of Shakespeare, some far more careful and reliable in their editing and annotations.

  • shreehari

    Thats a great list mate, thanx for it. dont mind their mindless comments.

  • chua

    the list is great and i absolutely agree with Jennifer Smith. I am an addicted in reading and have only recently started with the classic books but I would recommend jane eyre and the count of monte cristo. These books are very thrilling I promise!! =D

  • Emma

    Thank you allot. I’m from Holland and i love to read English books. But I prefer older books to improve my English. (:

  • Richard Claypool

    Thanks forthe list. Some I’ve read, others are on my toread list, and a few I’ve never encountered before.

    These lists are a jumping off point, and should be taken as such.

    I thoughtthe cat who put together this page did an exelent job with the introductory paragraphs. Unlike for example, rolling stone’s top 500 guitarists, we’re given a list with no prefertial treatment, reasons for the list, and the hope that we could have the intelectual ability to see this fact.

    Happy reading, and good hunting to all.

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