What would the world be like if there were no novels? No writers, no writings, nothing at all? It is hard and painful to even imagine it. Some of us have fallen so deeply in love with novels that we aim to build our own mini-library and store precious novels.

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Novels are written in various genres to provide variety to the readers. Romance, comedy, horror, historical fiction, thriller, mystery, tragedy, and many other types of genres have carved their own place in the hearts of different readers. Some of us may be more interested in a certain genre than others.

Reading a novel allows one to step into an imaginary world and perceive what the story has been trying to portray or communicate.

Another thing that we all knowingly or unknowingly do is fall in love with fictional characters because some writers do their job in creating the characters so precisely that it cannot be helped.

Each and every novel will be different from another. Some of the novels will make you cry, some will make you laugh and some you will be able to relate to.

greatest english novels of all times

It is this ride of emotions that most of us willingly sign up for when we pick up a novel from a shelf to read.

You will not realize when these novels started to become your companion, but one thing can be guaranteed for sure and that is your heart will be content.

So, today we will share a list of the best novels of all time in English with you. Grab a pen and paper to note down the names as the following novels will definitely create an urge in you to read them. These can be considered as classics in their own terms, each telling a special and unique story.

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List of 17 Greatest English Novels of All Time [2021]

1. Pride and Prejudice

– by Jane Austen

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

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Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen — A romantic novel by Jane Austen is still being included in courses of literature students. The novel is set in 19th century England and follows the story of how Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy become a couple, keeping aside their own pride and prejudices for each other aside. The difference in their social status leads them to develop certain misunderstandings, but as the story progresses, they seem to be intrigued by each other and in the end accept each other. This novel also throws light on how society functioned at that time, for example, the main concern at that time was about chasing a wealthy match for their daughters and wed her off. Read More


2. Beloved

– by Toni Morrison

Beloved by Toni Morrison

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Beloved by Toni Morrison — A compelling novel that grabs readers’ attention to the sad and gruesome reality after the American Civil War. The Nobel Prize winner for literature, Toni Morrison, beautifully describes the intense condition of how African-Americans were treated, especially women. It is a heart-wrenching story about love, violence, pain, and cruelty. The novel revolves around Sethe, a former slave who tries to move on in life, but her past does not let her live peacefully and remains disturbed in her present too. To conclude, it is historical fiction that will make readers aware of how certain sections of society purposely treated those who were different from them on the basis of their skin color and race. Read More


3. Jane Eyre

by Charlotte Brontë

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

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Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë — Jane Eyre, the protagonist of the play has always searched for love and a sense of belonging. However, throughout her life, whether it’s in her aunt’s house or the school she went to, Jane was oppressed and dependent. She witnessed how there were gender differences and how people of superior class behaved unruly. Being an orphan and seeing the environment she was living in, Jane wanted to become independent and self-sufficient. She parted ways with Rochester, the one she loved because he had kept a secret that his wife was still alive. She strived for self-respect and wanted to be treated equally, be it at her work or in her marriage with Rochester at the end of the novel. Read More


4. Things Fall Apart

by Chinua Achebe

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

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Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe — What does the Igbo community do when they are introduced to European culture and told to convert to Christianity? A novel that shows how willing or not people are to accept the changes happening around them. Okonkwo, a man who is proud of his titles and achievements, believes that true masculinity is about having the spirit to fight always and not show any other emotions except aggression. The story is about his tragic fall, from how he wanted his clansmen to unite against the white men, but ended up committing suicide when no one supports him. Read More


5. Frankenstein

by Mary Shelley

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

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Frankenstein by Mary Shelley — This novel is horror and science fiction. Victor Frankenstein, a philosophy and chemistry student becomes curious to know about the secrets of life and death. In his urge to know more about everything he starts a creation that no one would ever expect, he pieces together a living being from stealing body parts. Victor gets terrified and scared by the grotesque appearance of his creation that he tries to escape away from it. The monster because of his appearance is loathed by every single human being he meets up with. He decides that he will search up for Victor and tell him to make a sole companion for him. Victor is threatened to make a female company for the monster. But, while working on his second creation, morality takes over Victor, he realizes that a similar second creation would be more dangerous. He again fled away and the monster now is in revenge mode to kill Victor. Thus, this story is all about how a person’s ambition to know about something that is way beyond their natural limits will result in something unnatural and unacceptable. Read More


6. To Kill a Mockingbird

by Harper Lee

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

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To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee — Though it is a coming-of-age book, in the beginning, we get to know about the siblings’ Scout and Jem Finch living with their father in Maycomb. The story is guaranteed to grab your attention when Atticus Finch, the children’s father and a lawyer by profession, takes the case of a black man who was charged for raping a white woman. Atticus faces a lot of hate and criticism for taking up the case, but he being an open-minded man, always sought and taught his children to believe in equality and respect everyone. The case being handled by Atticus becomes the talk of the town, not only because people were eager to know about the final justice, but the very fact that it involved the so-called two distinguished races. Read More


7. Great Expectations

– by Charles Dickens

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

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Great Expectations by Charles Dickens — Great Expectations engages the readers in the life of Pip, the protagonist, an orphan. The novel is a bildungsroman, it shows how there are moral, physical, and spiritual changes in Pip from childhood to adulthood. From working as a blacksmith’s apprentice to receiving a huge amount from a stranger, Pip’s journey to becoming an educated gentleman begins. But, the very question is who was Pip’s benefactor? Turns out it was the convict, Magwitch, whom Pip helped once when he was young.

So, what happens when he gets to know the truth? Will Pip become blinded by wealth and ignore everything and continue to enjoy the riches? A story that will question the readers whether true wealth is in terms of money or it’s about becoming a loyal and compassionate person? Read More


8. To the Lighthouse

– by Virginia Woolf

To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf

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To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf — To the Lighthouse is a great novel that clearly shows the different perspectives that is masculinity and femininity through its written characters. Virginia Woolf focuses on a family called the Ramsays, where each family member has his own way of thinking. Mr. Ramsay is rational, he views things using his intellect. On the other hand, Mrs. Ramsay functions by her emotions. Both of them fit into the traditional concept of how men and women should be. Lily Briscoe, an artist does not heed conventional femininity, she proves everyone wrong who believed that women cannot draw as they lack knowledge about it. Thus, this novel makes us think about whether gender-specific roles are worth following. Read More


9. A Passage to India

– by E.M. Forster

A Passage to India by E.M. Forster

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A Passage to India by E.M. Forster — A book set in the period of colonialism shows the racial discrimination that was inevitable at that time. The story begins with the arrival of two Englishwoman in India and one of them, Adela blames Dr. Aziz for raping her. Thus, it not only becomes a case to seek justice, but it also becomes one about the two different races and of them being the superior of the colonizers. However, Adela takes her case back as Aziz was innocent from the beginning. Despite all of this, the story does show how both the races could be friends, just like Aziz and Cecil Fielding, but it was just not the right time for them to continue it so, in the end, they parted on their own ways. Read More


10. The Great Gatsby

by F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

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The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald — The writer takes us into the lives of Americans in 1920. F. Scott Fitzgerald frames this story by distinguishing people on the terms of wealth. He described people as ‘old money’, ‘new money’, and ‘no money’. Old money were those who could be called the elites, they had their riches from many generations like Tom in the novel. New money were those who gained money recently from some illegal works. Gatsby was one of the ‘new money’ ones. He was from a poor background and then climbed up the ladder of status. This novel not only focuses on social stratification, but includes other themes like love and betrayal. Read More


11. Invisible Man

– by Ralph Ellison

Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

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Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison — Ralph Ellison has been very detailed about this story, writing on the topic of racial discrimination and the differences witnessed by the African-Americans, he keeps the narrator nameless. The writer uses this tactic to show how the African-Americans were at a loss of self-identity, and how their presence in society was unwelcome. This nameless narrator moves from the US to New York City and realizes that there is nothing different, the reality is the same, they aren’t treated like how the mass of white people are. By reading this novel, one could feel how the Africans, earlier being treated as slaves, were living no better of life. Read More


12. Lord of the Flies

– by William Golding

Lord of the Flies by William Golding

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Lord of the Flies by William Golding — What happens when some British schoolboys are stranded on an island? They try to do what they have seen in their civilized places, that is elect someone to lead them. However, it does not go that easily. The group of boys gets divided into two groups, one led by Jack, who symbolizes violence and a barbaric way of living, and on the other Ralph, who represents rational and civilized beings. The main point that William Golding wants to make is that evil is inherent in human beings, it is not restricted to a few people or a certain location. The evil element is there in every soul, it’s just how one realizes its effect and comes after it. Read More


13. Vanity Fair

– by William Makepeace Thackeray

Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray

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Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray — As the title of the novel suggests, the main theme the writer wants to portray to its readers is that in the race to achieve more wealth, materialistic things, and status, people turn cruel. They only desire success and want to be socially superior, but they forget that the loyalty and compassion of a human being are much more valuable than that. Though some materialistic things and riches are required, one must not be greedy and go to extreme extents to achieve them, they should cherish human relationships along their way. Read More


14. Animal Farm

– by George Orwell

Animal Farm by George Orwell

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Animal Farm by George Orwell — This novel is an allegory and George Orwell by doing this wants to portray how the government became more oppressive and totalitarian after the Russian Revolution of 1917. He uses satire for this purpose to ridicule how politics work. However, in this story, he uses barnyard animals like the ones who are rebelling against their human master’s tyranny.  The whole story focuses on how the lust for power can make anyone crazy and evil. The desire for more and more power later leads to corruption and destruction of the collective society. Read More


15. Gulliver’s Travels

– by Jonathan Swift

Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift

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Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift — The adventure journey of Lemuel Gulliver to remote places of the world is written in four parts. In these unknown places, he witnesses unusual people and animals having their own philosophies. For instance, he ends up being captured by the Lilliputians and becomes friends with the Houyhnhnms, the talking horses. Throughout his adventure, Gulliver mocks the English customs and how politics works. With every adventure of his, Gulliver puts forth various questions for the readers to ponder over, like, is a physical force more superior than being moral, or how people use their knowledge efficiently. Overall, this novel is quite humorous to read. Read More


16. White Teeth

– by Zadie Smith

White Teeth by Zadie Smith

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White Teeth by Zadie Smith — A novel about a unique friendship between two men. Samad Igbal and Archie Jones had been friends since wartime and the story focuses on their lives afterward. Being a Bangladeshi, Samad did face racism, but at the end, the writer presents the readers with the hope that different cultures could coexist peacefully, by showing how Samad’s and Archie’s children get pretty along with each other. To sum up, the writer, Zadie Smith tried to show Britain’s relations with people belonging to colonized countries and ends with hope for much better relationships in the coming modern society. Read More


17. Heart of Darkness

– by Joseph Conrad

Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

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Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad — A story about how Europeans treated the natives of Congo, Africans. Kurtz, a man who works for the company takes upon himself the unsaid role to civilize the native Africans, he tries to become their god. The natives are exploited for the advantage of the company and treated cruelly as slaves. The main thing that the writer wants to show through his story is that in European’s efforts to civilize and make the natives human, they forget that they themselves are turning barbaric by using force, manipulation, and cruel ways to rule over them. Despite even trying to understand the native culture and traditions, they were simply termed as exotic and viewed as people who need to be taught. Read More


Conclusion

These were a few of the many great novels that were written by great people. One thing impressive about novels is that at the end of every story, you will realize you have learned something new or got to know more about the history of certain places.

Also, you end up falling in love with certain fictional characters because the writers do such a mind-blowing job in carving their personalities and style through their words.

No doubts, the above novels are loved by people all over the world, and they deserve every inch of it to be popular and recognized.

Last but not least and definitely the most important thing is that for some people, reading has become a source of joy or their daily dose of serotonin in their lives.

You can check Wikipedia for more details on English novels.

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