Best Books of All Time: 101 Books to Read Before You Die (2020)

Best Books of All Time
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Best Books of All Time

You asked for it, so here it is! The 101 best books of all time across all types and genres from my entire, master-library of book recommendations.

Want something more specific? For some best book lists by topic and genre (including a fiction/nonfiction split), head over to the book recommendations page

Outraged? Delighted? Think something’s missing? Your thoughts and suggestions make my day (honestly, I frogging LOVE them 🐸) and they also make this list better for everyone. Please leave a comment with your suggestions, below. I’d genuinely love to hear from you.

One last thing – I’ll be keeping this list up to date as the years go by so if you’d like to hear about that, head over to the free tools section of the site and I’ll send you something to help you read more, learn faster and wake up productive as a bonus for joining the tribe.

For now though, here’s the list of top books to read

The 101 Best Books of All Time (By Popular Vote)

NOTE: I’ve ranked these best books of all time by their Goodreads rating, number of Goodreads reviews and first publication date. The goal is to balance what’s well loved, what’s widely read and what has stayed timelessly relevant.

For a list with more modern books in it, check out the bonus section.

  1. Holy Bible (1611), Anonymous
    King James Version
    1,590 pages. Rated 4.4 over 208,200 reviews on Goodreads.
  2. Pride and Prejudice (1813), Jane Austen
    279 pages. Rated 4.3 over 2,797,800 reviews on Goodreads.
  3. Tao Te Ching (-300), Lao Tzu
    160 pages. Rated 4.3 over 105,800 reviews on Goodreads.
  4. The Count of Monte Cristo (1844), Alexandre Dumas
    1,276 pages. Rated 4.3 over 714,300 reviews on Goodreads.
  5. Qurʾan (609), Anonymous
    604 pages. Rated 4.3 over 55,100 reviews on Goodreads.
  6. The Brothers Karamazov (1879), Fyodor Dostoyevsky
    796 pages. Rated 4.3 over 226,400 reviews on Goodreads.
  7. The Complete Grimm’s Fairy Tales (1812), Jacob Grimm
    880 pages. Rated 4.3 over 140,400 reviews on Goodreads.
  8. The Essential Rumi (1273), Rumi
    416 pages. Rated 4.4 over 35,400 reviews on Goodreads.
  9. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1892), Arthur Conan Doyle
    246 pages. Rated 4.3 over 228,500 reviews on Goodreads.
  10. Meditations (180), Marcus Aurelius (Summary)
    A deeply humbling and thoughtprovoking insight into the stoic mindset of one of history’s greatest leaders and thinkers – by Roman emperor, philosopher and example to us all, Marcus Aurelius.
    303 pages. Rated 4.2 over 102,600 reviews on Goodreads.
  11. The Fellowship of the Ring (1954), J.R.R. Tolkien
    1,216 pages. Rated 4.4 over 2,242,600 reviews on Goodreads.
  12. Anne of Green Gables (1908), L.M. Montgomery
    320 pages. Rated 4.3 over 679,800 reviews on Goodreads.
  13. Gone with the Wind (1936), Margaret Mitchell
    1,037 pages. Rated 4.3 over 1,037,700 reviews on Goodreads.
  14. The Complete Fairy Tales (1835), Hans Christian Andersen
    803 pages. Rated 4.3 over 118,800 reviews on Goodreads.
  15. The Little Prince (1943), Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
    93 pages. Rated 4.3 over 1,232,400 reviews on Goodreads.
  16. The Hobbit, or There and Back Again (1937), J.R.R. Tolkien
    366 pages. Rated 4.3 over 2,728,300 reviews on Goodreads.
  17. Shakespeare’s Sonnets (1609), William Shakespeare
    488 pages. Rated 4.3 over 79,300 reviews on Goodreads.
  18. Crime and Punishment (1866), Fyodor Dostoyevsky
    671 pages. Rated 4.2 over 580,300 reviews on Goodreads.
  19. East of Eden (1952), John Steinbeck
    601 pages. Rated 4.4 over 407,500 reviews on Goodreads.
  20. And Then There Were None (1939), Agatha Christie
    264 pages. Rated 4.3 over 730,900 reviews on Goodreads.
  21. Night (The Night Trilogy #1) (1958), Elie Wiesel
    115 pages. Rated 4.3 over 919,900 reviews on Goodreads.
  22. The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes (1894), Arthur Conan Doyle
    378 pages. Rated 4.3 over 77,700 reviews on Goodreads.
  23. Les Misérables (1862), Victor Hugo
    1,463 pages. Rated 4.2 over 638,600 reviews on Goodreads.
  24. Mere Christianity (1952), C.S. Lewis
    191 pages. Rated 4.3 over 276,100 reviews on Goodreads.
  25. Persuasion (1817), Jane Austen
    249 pages. Rated 4.1 over 495,800 reviews on Goodreads.
  26. The Godfather (1964), Mario Puzo
    448 pages. Rated 4.4 over 311,000 reviews on Goodreads.
  27. To Kill a Mockingbird (1960), Harper Lee
    324 pages. Rated 4.3 over 4,240,100 reviews on Goodreads.
  28. The Dhammapada (-400), Anonymous
    114 pages. Rated 4.3 over 21,500 reviews on Goodreads.
  29. Rebecca (1938), Daphne du Maurier
    449 pages. Rated 4.2 over 417,800 reviews on Goodreads.
  30. The Prophet (1923), Kahlil Gibran
    127 pages. Rated 4.2 over 219,400 reviews on Goodreads.
  31. Letters from a Stoic (-49), Seneca
    256 pages. Rated 4.3 over 18,200 reviews on Goodreads.
  32. Jane Eyre (1847), Charlotte Brontë
    507 pages. Rated 4.1 over 1,538,900 reviews on Goodreads.
  33. How to Win Friends and Influence People (1936), Dale Carnegie (Summary)
    The classic guide to greatly improving effectiveness and efficiency by mastering the ability to work with and through the people around you – by self-improvement guru, Dale Carnegie.
    288 pages. Rated 4.2 over 532,000 reviews on Goodreads.
  34. The Importance of Being Earnest (1895), Oscar Wilde
    76 pages. Rated 4.2 over 290,100 reviews on Goodreads.
  35. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (1950), C.S. Lewis
    206 pages. Rated 4.2 over 2,018,800 reviews on Goodreads.
  36. A Study in Scarlet (1887), Arthur Conan Doyle
    123 pages. Rated 4.2 over 299,900 reviews on Goodreads.
  37. As a Man Thinketh (1902), James Allen
    80 pages. Rated 4.3 over 53,100 reviews on Goodreads.
  38. The Return of Sherlock Holmes (1905), Arthur Conan Doyle
    455 pages. Rated 4.3 over 49,500 reviews on Goodreads.
  39. The Screwtape Letters (1942), C.S. Lewis
    223 pages. Rated 4.2 over 313,700 reviews on Goodreads.
  40. The Flowers of Evil (1857), Charles Baudelaire
    464 pages. Rated 4.3 over 45,400 reviews on Goodreads.
  41. The Richest Man in Babylon (1926), George S. Clason
    194 pages. Rated 4.3 over 93,400 reviews on Goodreads.
  42. Ficciones (1944), Jorge Luis Borges
    174 pages. Rated 4.5 over 45,800 reviews on Goodreads.
  43. The Great Divorce (1945), C.S. Lewis
    146 pages. Rated 4.3 over 101,700 reviews on Goodreads.
  44. The Idiot (1869), Fyodor Dostoyevsky
    667 pages. Rated 4.2 over 120,900 reviews on Goodreads.
  45. 1984 (1949), George Orwell
    237 pages. Rated 4.2 over 2,886,700 reviews on Goodreads.
  46. Endurance (1959), Alfred Lansing
    Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage
    282 pages. Rated 4.4 over 76,600 reviews on Goodreads.
  47. The Secret Garden (1911), Frances Hodgson Burnett
    331 pages. Rated 4.1 over 839,600 reviews on Goodreads.
  48. Selected Stories of Anton Chekhov (1903), Anton Chekhov
    467 pages. Rated 4.4 over 29,000 reviews on Goodreads.
  49. The Autobiography of Malcolm X (1965), Malcolm X
    466 pages. Rated 4.3 over 183,700 reviews on Goodreads.
  50. The Bhagavad Gita (-400), Krishna-Dwaipayana Vyasa
    160 pages. Rated 4.1 over 51,700 reviews on Goodreads.
  51. The Master and Margarita (1967), Mikhail Bulgakov
    335 pages. Rated 4.3 over 222,100 reviews on Goodreads.
  52. Sense and Sensibility (1811), Jane Austen
    409 pages. Rated 4.1 over 912,700 reviews on Goodreads.
  53. The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson (1890), Emily Dickinson
    716 pages. Rated 4.2 over 68,500 reviews on Goodreads.
  54. Letters to a Young Poet (1929), Rainer Maria Rilke
    80 pages. Rated 4.3 over 45,300 reviews on Goodreads.
  55. Demons (1872), Fyodor Dostoyevsky
    733 pages. Rated 4.3 over 35,100 reviews on Goodreads.
  56. Roots (1976), Alex Haley
    The Saga of an American Family
    729 pages. Rated 4.4 over 140,200 reviews on Goodreads.
  57. Where the Wild Things Are (1963), Maurice Sendak
    37 pages. Rated 4.2 over 774,900 reviews on Goodreads.
  58. Apology (-380), Plato
    127 pages. Rated 4.2 over 31,900 reviews on Goodreads.
  59. Shōgun (Asian Saga, #1) (1975), James Clavell
    1,152 pages. Rated 4.4 over 140,000 reviews on Goodreads.
  60. Charlotte’s Web (1952), E.B. White
    184 pages. Rated 4.2 over 1,337,500 reviews on Goodreads.
  61. Much Ado About Nothing (1598), William Shakespeare
    246 pages. Rated 4.1 over 206,400 reviews on Goodreads.
  62. Dune (Dune Chronicles, #1) (1965), Frank Herbert
    604 pages. Rated 4.2 over 681,300 reviews on Goodreads.
  63. War and Peace (1867), Leo Tolstoy
    1,392 pages. Rated 4.1 over 248,600 reviews on Goodreads.
  64. Little Women (1868), Louisa May Alcott
    449 pages. Rated 4.1 over 1,583,500 reviews on Goodreads.
  65. I, Robot (Robot, #0.1) (1950), Isaac Asimov
    224 pages. Rated 4.2 over 259,900 reviews on Goodreads.
  66. Think and Grow Rich (1937), Napoleon Hill (Summary)
    A best-selling book of all time and a cornerstone guide to the Law of Attraction and the role of the subconscious in transforming your life – by a titan of the self-help genre, Napoleon Hill.
    233 pages. Rated 4.2 over 187,900 reviews on Goodreads.
  67. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1962), Ken Kesey
    325 pages. Rated 4.2 over 604,300 reviews on Goodreads.
  68. I, Claudius (Claudius, #1) (1934), Robert Graves
    468 pages. Rated 4.3 over 50,900 reviews on Goodreads.
  69. The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890), Oscar Wilde
    367 pages. Rated 4.1 over 893,500 reviews on Goodreads.
  70. Aesop’s Fables (-560), Aesop
    306 pages. Rated 4.1 over 111,300 reviews on Goodreads.
  71. On the Shortness of Life (-49), Seneca
    106 pages. Rated 4.2 over 15,700 reviews on Goodreads.
  72. The Fall of the House of Usher and Other Tales (1839), Edgar Allan Poe
    400 pages. Rated 4.2 over 66,100 reviews on Goodreads.
  73. His Last Bow (Sherlock Holmes, #8) (1917), Arthur Conan Doyle
    256 pages. Rated 4.3 over 34,600 reviews on Goodreads.
  74. Watchmen (1987), Alan Moore
    416 pages. Rated 4.4 over 472,500 reviews on Goodreads.
  75. The Divine Comedy (1320), Dante Alighieri
    798 pages. Rated 4.1 over 108,100 reviews on Goodreads.
  76. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969), Maya Angelou
    289 pages. Rated 4.2 over 375,400 reviews on Goodreads.
  77. Notes from Underground (1864), Fyodor Dostoyevsky
    136 pages. Rated 4.2 over 70,500 reviews on Goodreads.
  78. Ender’s Game (Ender’s Saga, #1) (1985), Orson Scott Card
    324 pages. Rated 4.3 over 1,074,200 reviews on Goodreads.
  79. Stoner (1965), John Williams
    278 pages. Rated 4.3 over 89,700 reviews on Goodreads.
  80. Hamlet (1600), William Shakespeare
    289 pages. Rated 4.0 over 691,700 reviews on Goodreads.
  81. Foundation (Foundation, #1) (1951), Isaac Asimov
    244 pages. Rated 4.2 over 383,600 reviews on Goodreads.
  82. The Hound of the Baskervilles (1902), Arthur Conan Doyle
    256 pages. Rated 4.1 over 230,800 reviews on Goodreads.
  83. The Phantom Tollbooth (1961), Norton Juster
    256 pages. Rated 4.2 over 226,000 reviews on Goodreads.
  84. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass (1871), Lewis Carroll
    239 pages. Rated 4.1 over 439,000 reviews on Goodreads.
  85. The Complete Poems (1820), John Keats
    416 pages. Rated 4.3 over 20,700 reviews on Goodreads.
  86. The Upanishads (-500), Anonymous
    143 pages. Rated 4.2 over 11,800 reviews on Goodreads.
  87. The Elements of Style (1918), William Strunk Jr. (Summary)
    A short, prescriptive classic filled with good advice on writing great (American) English while omitting needless words – by professor and author William Strunk Jr.
    105 pages. Rated 4.2 over 69,000 reviews on Goodreads.
  88. Lonesome Dove (1985), Larry McMurtry
    945 pages. Rated 4.5 over 139,300 reviews on Goodreads.
  89. The Three Musketeers (1844), Alexandre Dumas
    625 pages. Rated 4.1 over 261,600 reviews on Goodreads.
  90. A Christmas Carol (1843), Charles Dickens
    104 pages. Rated 4.1 over 572,000 reviews on Goodreads.
  91. The Complete Maus (1986), Art Spiegelman
    296 pages. Rated 4.6 over 124,500 reviews on Goodreads.
  92. The Intelligent Investor (1949), Benjamin Graham
    623 pages. Rated 4.2 over 66,100 reviews on Goodreads.
  93. The Imitation of Christ (1418), Thomas à Kempis
    288 pages. Rated 4.2 over 18,100 reviews on Goodreads.
  94. Cosmos (1980), Carl Sagan
    384 pages. Rated 4.4 over 107,700 reviews on Goodreads.
  95. The Complete Essays (1572), Michel de Montaigne
    1,344 pages. Rated 4.2 over 15,200 reviews on Goodreads.
  96. Leaves of Grass (1855), Walt Whitman
    624 pages. Rated 4.1 over 85,800 reviews on Goodreads.
  97. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (1979), Douglas Adams
    193 pages. Rated 4.2 over 1,340,200 reviews on Goodreads.
  98. Love You Forever (1986), Robert Munsch
    32 pages. Rated 4.4 over 192,500 reviews on Goodreads.
  99. The Stand (1990), Stephen King
    1,153 pages. Rated 4.3 over 579,800 reviews on Goodreads.
  100. Mahabharata (-400), Krishna-Dwaipayana Vyasa
    444 pages. Rated 4.3 over 7,700 reviews on Goodreads.
  101. The Art of Living (125), Epictetus
    The Classical Manual on Virtue, Happiness and Effectiveness
    128 pages. Rated 4.2 over 12,600 reviews on Goodreads.

The 25 Best Nonfiction Books (Ignoring Publication Date)

I love using publication date in my ranking algorithm. There’s something special about books that have endured tens, hundreds or even thousands of years. But for some people, that’s just not that important. And I get that. So here’s a bonus list of the 25 best books of all time from my database without penalising more recent books.

(NOTE: I’ve included only the top rated title from books that are part of a series to maximise diversity in the list.)

  1. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (2007), J.K. Rowling
    759 pages. Rated 4.6 over 2,396,000 reviews on Goodreads.
  2. The Name of the Wind (2007), Patrick Rothfuss
    662 pages. Rated 4.5 over 653,700 reviews on Goodreads.
  3. A Storm of Swords (2000), George R.R. Martin
    1,177 pages. Rated 4.5 over 638,300 reviews on Goodreads.
  4. Educated (2018), Tara Westover
    334 pages. Rated 4.5 over 508,600 reviews on Goodreads.
  5. The Book Thief (2005), Markus Zusak
    552 pages. Rated 4.4 over 1,544,800 reviews on Goodreads.
  6. The Martian (2012), Andy Weir
    369 pages. Rated 4.4 over 663,500 reviews on Goodreads.
  7. Unbroken (2010), Laura Hillenbrand
    A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption
    473 pages. Rated 4.4 over 657,700 reviews on Goodreads.
  8. A Thousand Splendid Suns (2007), Khaled Hosseini
    372 pages. Rated 4.4 over 988,600 reviews on Goodreads.
  9. Becoming (2018), Michelle Obama
    426 pages. Rated 4.6 over 215,200 reviews on Goodreads.
  10. East of Eden (1952), John Steinbeck
    601 pages. Rated 4.4 over 407,500 reviews on Goodreads.
  11. Watchmen (1987), Alan Moore
    416 pages. Rated 4.4 over 472,500 reviews on Goodreads.
  12. A Man Called Ove (2012), Fredrik Backman
    337 pages. Rated 4.4 over 457,300 reviews on Goodreads.
  13. Night (The Night Trilogy #1) (1958), Elie Wiesel
    115 pages. Rated 4.3 over 919,900 reviews on Goodreads.
  14. All the Light We Cannot See (2014), Anthony Doerr
    531 pages. Rated 4.3 over 792,500 reviews on Goodreads.
  15. Sapiens (2011), Yuval Noah Harari
    A Brief History of Humankind
    443 pages. Rated 4.5 over 217,600 reviews on Goodreads.
  16. Born a Crime (2016), Trevor Noah
    Stories From a South African Childhood
    304 pages. Rated 4.5 over 209,800 reviews on Goodreads.
  17. The Stand (1990), Stephen King
    1,153 pages. Rated 4.3 over 579,800 reviews on Goodreads.
  18. The Godfather (1964), Mario Puzo
    448 pages. Rated 4.4 over 311,000 reviews on Goodreads.
  19. The Little Prince (1943), Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
    93 pages. Rated 4.3 over 1,232,400 reviews on Goodreads.
  20. Holy Bible (1611), Anonymous
    King James Version
    1,590 pages. Rated 4.4 over 208,200 reviews on Goodreads.
  21. Ender’s Game (Ender’s Saga, #1) (1985), Orson Scott Card
    324 pages. Rated 4.3 over 1,074,200 reviews on Goodreads.
  22. Oh, the Places You’ll Go! (1990), Dr. Seuss
    44 pages. Rated 4.4 over 310,200 reviews on Goodreads.
  23. When Breath Becomes Air (2016), Paul Kalanithi
    208 pages. Rated 4.4 over 292,900 reviews on Goodreads.
  24. Gone with the Wind (1936), Margaret Mitchell
    1,037 pages. Rated 4.3 over 1,037,700 reviews on Goodreads.
  25. Man’s Search for Meaning (2006), Viktor E. Frankl (Summary)
    A gruelling and yet deeply liberating insight into they why behind each of our whats and hows – by holocaust survivor, psychologist and founder of logotherapy, Viktor Frankl.
    165 pages. Rated 4.4 over 270,900 reviews on Goodreads.

II. Best Books Of All Time

These are the overall best books to read (by type).

III. Best Nonfiction Books (A-Z)

These are the best nonfiction books to read (by topic).

IV. Best Fiction Books (A-Z)

These are the best fiction books to read (by genre).

Or, you can read all my book recommendations.
Arthur
Arthur
Arthur is a productivity coach and writer who helps top young execs and entrepreneurs be more productive, find more balance and live more meaningfully. Want to know more? Take this 2-minute quiz to discover your Productivity Quotient (PQ) and learn how to get BIG things done. Take the Quiz →
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Saad
Saad
10 months ago

Have you read the Quran?

Also, have you read “Confession” by Tolstoy?

Claudia McBride
Claudia McBride
10 months ago

I can’t believe Leo Tolstoy’s “War and Peace” didn’t make this list. I thought this book would be dry and boring but it was one of the most exciting books I’ve ever read. I’m surprised more people haven’t loved it.

Claudia McBride
Claudia McBride
10 months ago
Reply to  Arthur

Glad to see “War and Peace” made this list. As you say, an awesome book. If you ever want to start a revolution be sure to read Robert A. Heinlein’s “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress” for directions on how to go about setting it up. This one makes my top 100 book list.