The Guardian’s “1000 novels must read” list

I have an utter fascination with book lists. There’s something about discovering a great book list that is rewarding for its own sake — whether ranked or unranked — both in the recognition in the familiar and the discovery of the unfamiliar that holds a beguiling power of interest. Not to mention the seemingly endless amounts of new reading material book lists provide us with. One of the best book lists of them all is The Guardian’s epic compilation: “1000 novels everyone must read”, filled with some familiar titles, novels that we’ve always been meaning to read but never had, and many, many others we’ve never heard of before.

Quite an impressive feat of bookish attention:

“Selected by the Guardian’s Review team and a panel of expert judges, this list includes only novels — no memoirs, no short stories, no long poems — from any decade and in any language. Originally published in thematic supplements — love, crime, comedy, family and self, state of the nation, science fiction and fantasy, war and travel — they appear here for the first time in a single list.”

The Guardian’s 1000 novels list is organized by seven broad categories comprising the human condition — be sure to check out the brief introductions to each section; they’re well worth reading: War & travel; Science fiction & fantasy; State of the Nation; Family & self; Comedy; Crime; Love

Here’s a link to the complete list at a glance: The Definitive List.

One could spend forever with a list like this. One of my personal favorites is the Comedy section:

“Comedy is not humour. You shouldn’t expect to be laughing all the way through these novels. Sometimes you will be, but at other times you will be crying. Every comic, it is said, wants to play Hamlet, and many comic novelists — Evelyn Waugh, archetypally — have a serious purpose. The world’s hypocrisies and deceptions are targets that must be attacked, comedy the literary weapon of choice. The greatest comic novels — Don Quixote, Tristram Shandy, Oblomov, Bouvard et Pécuchet, Dead Souls, A Handful of Dust, Pnin — demonstrate that the comic mode can sustain the very greatest writing. Comic writing can be a brutal, unforgiving business, yet it can produce great and multi-layered prose, combining comedy, pathos and satire.”

1000 novels everyone must read: Comedy (part one)

1000 novels everyone must read: Comedy (part two)

1000 novels everyone must read: Comedy (part three)

1000 novels everyone must read: Comedy (part four)


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I run the ThinkLab at the University of Cambridge, and research digital habits, productivity, and wellbeing.

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