Books You Need to Read to be Considered Well-Read

Contemporary or classic novels, plays, poem and short story anthologies, that any serious reader should read at least ones in his or her life.
1

by
4.28 avg rating — 4,543,619 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
2

by
4.19 avg rating — 3,178,817 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
3

by
4.13 avg rating — 137,166 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
4

by
3.95 avg rating — 2,769,228 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
5

by
4.26 avg rating — 3,029,027 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
6

by
4.02 avg rating — 7,160 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
7

by
4.23 avg rating — 5,667 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
8

by
3.88 avg rating — 212,007 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
9

by
3.92 avg rating — 721 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
10

by
3.75 avg rating — 2,068,468 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
11

by
3.92 avg rating — 3,808,585 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
12

by
3.81 avg rating — 2,757,252 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
13

by
3.99 avg rating — 1,698,536 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
14

by
3.88 avg rating — 1,956,368 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
15

by
3.90 avg rating — 679,359 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
16

by
3.69 avg rating — 2,280,400 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
17

by
3.85 avg rating — 814,582 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
18

by
3.82 avg rating — 1,157,100 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
19

by
4.02 avg rating — 735,988 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
20

by
4.13 avg rating — 1,637,309 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
21

by
4.47 avg rating — 7,127,106 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
22

by
4.08 avg rating — 977,185 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
23

by
3.81 avg rating — 1,174,705 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
24

by
3.41 avg rating — 710,755 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
25

by
4.27 avg rating — 2,923,479 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
26

by
3.87 avg rating — 355,247 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
27

by
4.05 avg rating — 672,078 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
28

by
4.06 avg rating — 605,247 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
29

by
3.50 avg rating — 189,772 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
30

by
3.51 avg rating — 481,715 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
31

by
3.70 avg rating — 90,499 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
32

by
3.86 avg rating — 1,352,732 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
33

by
really liked it 4.00 avg rating — 950,005 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
34

by
3.78 avg rating — 656,404 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
35

by
3.97 avg rating — 755,656 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
36

by
4.26 avg rating — 751,486 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
37

by
4.22 avg rating — 633,954 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
38

by
4.08 avg rating — 1,136,833 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
39

by
3.99 avg rating — 1,453,736 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
40

by
4.06 avg rating — 463,182 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
41

by
3.99 avg rating — 714,085 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
42

by
4.12 avg rating — 267,199 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
43

by
3.98 avg rating — 727,542 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
44

by
3.98 avg rating — 4,735 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
45

by
3.89 avg rating — 668,086 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
46

by
4.09 avg rating — 1,695,871 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
47

by
3.78 avg rating — 839,593 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
48

by
4.09 avg rating — 83,001 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
49

by
4.34 avg rating — 977,945 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
50

by
3.89 avg rating — 417,075 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
51

by
4.41 avg rating — 222,706 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
52

by
4.30 avg rating — 1,080,392 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
53

by
3.98 avg rating — 357,531 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
54

by
3.87 avg rating — 321,785 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
55

by
3.68 avg rating — 249,527 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
56

by
4.18 avg rating — 686,917 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
57

by
4.22 avg rating — 525,886 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
58

by
4.17 avg rating — 141,523 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
59

by
3.87 avg rating — 328,475 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
60

by
4.19 avg rating — 635,209 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
61

by
really liked it 4.00 avg rating — 144,533 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
62

by
3.90 avg rating — 317,633 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
63

by
4.22 avg rating — 1,451,079 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
64

by
3.68 avg rating — 256,681 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
65

by
4.08 avg rating — 760,144 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
66

by
4.18 avg rating — 1,430,983 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
67

by
3.87 avg rating — 199,529 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
68

by
4.35 avg rating — 10,018 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
69

by
4.50 avg rating — 571,663 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
70

by
4.26 avg rating — 524,091 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
70

by
3.88 avg rating — 2,130,322 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
72

by
3.77 avg rating — 867,198 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
73

by
3.71 avg rating — 172,169 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
74

by
3.66 avg rating — 106,281 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
75

by
4.31 avg rating — 1,383,704 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
76

by
3.69 avg rating — 291,370 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
77

by
4.14 avg rating — 483,552 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
78

by
4.28 avg rating — 147,815 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
79

by
3.96 avg rating — 1,250 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
80

by
4.47 avg rating — 176,395 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
81

by
4.07 avg rating — 8,278 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
82

by
3.98 avg rating — 181,394 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
83

by
4.33 avg rating — 273,129 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
84

by
4.01 avg rating — 597,164 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
85

by
3.45 avg rating — 241,277 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
86

by
4.12 avg rating — 90,475 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
86

by
3.82 avg rating — 390,188 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
88

by
3.92 avg rating — 104,704 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
89

by
3.81 avg rating — 67,821 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
90

by
4.44 avg rating — 55 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
91

by
really liked it 4.00 avg rating — 1,058,337 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
92

by
4.13 avg rating — 900,293 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
93

by
3.66 avg rating — 171,508 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
94

by
4.05 avg rating — 281,241 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
95

by
4.24 avg rating — 414,084 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
96

by
3.88 avg rating — 212,613 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
97

by
4.29 avg rating — 223,219 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
98

by
3.99 avg rating — 224,238 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
99

by
3.69 avg rating — 355,572 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
100

by
4.38 avg rating — 222,342 ratings
Rate this book
Clear rating
flag this list (?)
738 books · 543 voters · list created August 26th, 2010 by Joe (votes) .
278 likes · 
Lists are re-scored approximately every 5 minutes.


Joe 19 books
0 friends
Ricki 4256 books
1477 friends
Sara 2314 books
43 friends
Diane 3 books
0 friends
Susan 458 books
5 friends
Benjamin 301 books
0 friends
Hweeps 1439 books
37 friends
Carrie 2365 books
61 friends

More voters…


Comments Showing 1-31 of 31 (31 new)

dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by [deleted user] (new)

Why the hell is "To Kill a Mockingbird" at number 1 and "Ulysses", the very definition of "literature", only 78. And no "Molloy" either?


message 2: by Caleb (new)

Caleb I take huge issue with Animal Farm being #4. That book is boring as hell and would be considered simplistic by a 3rd grader. It's practically condescending. When my high school lit. teacher told me it was his favorite book, I lost all respect for him as a reader and writer. I made an account here just to correct this wrong.


message 3: by A (new)

A Thorpe deleted user wrote: "Why the hell is "To Kill a Mockingbird" at number 1 and "Ulysses", the very definition of "literature", only 78. And no "Molloy" either?"

Probably because nobody ever actually reads "Ulysses" and people actually read "To Kill a Mockingbird"


message 4: by James (new)

James Doto Caleb wrote: "I take huge issue with Animal Farm being #4. That book is boring as hell and would be considered simplistic by a 3rd grader. It's practically condescending. When my high school lit. teacher told me..."

Obviously you completely missed the point of the entire book.


message 5: by Booklovinglady (last edited Oct 05, 2014 07:55AM) (new)

Booklovinglady A wrote: "Probably because nobody ever actually reads "Ulysses" and people actually read "To Kill a Mockingbird.."

I voted for both but you certainly have a point there.

It also sort of works the other way around: I disliked The Catcher in the Rye for instance but would have read it anyway should I have known beforehand, even if it hadn't been compulsory reading for me at the time. Animal Farm and Lord of the Flies aren't quite my thing either but I'm still glad I've read them.

I noticed by the way that there's an emphasis on books originally published in English, as there are only a few exceptions in this Listopia at present. For me 'being well read' is not only a work in progress but it also means having read important books published originally in other languages than English (whether in a translation or in the original language) and I was wondering how others felt about this. I'm moderator of a Dutch/Flemish group and our seasonal challenges take us around the world, which made me come across some classics I'd never even heard of before. like The Rose Garden (Gulistan) of Saadi, The Book of Dede Korkut, The Ring Of The Dove or the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, for example.

By the way, have a look at the Listopia for Forbidden books (now often considered classics), because there are certainly "Books you need to read to be considered well-read" on there. The number of titles which can be found on both Listopias is stricking...


message 6: by Beks (new)

Beks Caleb wrote: "I take huge issue with Animal Farm being #4. That book is boring as hell and would be considered simplistic by a 3rd grader. It's practically condescending. When my high school lit. teacher told me..."

oh right... you get that it's a political fable that millions of people have identified with?


message 7: by Tyler (new)

Tyler Cameron Even if you don't get the Russian revolution bit Animal Farm is a great satire on humanity.


message 8: by Monica (new)

Monica What happened to reading for it's own sake? What happened to picking up a book and reading it, simply to enjoy it? I've read a lot of the books on this list, not out of some ego-driven desire to flaunt my "well-read" superiority in the face of my peers, but because i held the (obviously mistaken) belief that these books have attained that lofty status of 'classic' for a reason. And that reason is simply that they are good books. I guess i've come to realize that life is too short (and my love for a book i can sink my teeth into is too great) to spend my time reading something i don't want to, just so i can say "i've read that!"


message 9: by Booklovinglady (last edited Jun 06, 2015 10:04PM) (new)

Booklovinglady Monica wrote: "What happened to reading for it's own sake? What happened to picking up a book and reading it, simply to enjoy it? I've read a lot of the books on this list, not out of some ego-driven desire to fl..."

Just ignore the title of this Listopia and vote for the books you liked or loved (a lot). That's what I did :-)


message 10: by Quint (new)

Quint Quinton This is an exceptionally helpful list to someone such as I, whom was not given the proper 'education' in terms of reading and speech. Though I have passed Math, English, History and the like with flying colors, I find myself dumb-founded when it comes to the most basic of logic processing--the kind that reading is supposed to enhance. As I search for both entertainment and a better intelligence, I hold great appreciation to the creator of the list--putting out the most common sense of book titles out for even the most uneducated to find easily. Now, let's start with Winnie the Poo--and hopefully work our way up to The Great Gatsby.


message 11: by Tyler (new)

Tyler Cameron Quint wrote: "This is an exceptionally helpful list to someone such as I, whom was not given the proper 'education' in terms of reading and speech. Though I have passed Math, English, History and the like with f..."
I have to say I don't understand the draw to Gatsby... I found it no better than average. Atlas Shrugged however...


message 12: by Booklovinglady (last edited Dec 19, 2015 04:40AM) (new)

Booklovinglady "Monica wrote: "What happened to reading for it's own sake? What happened to picking up a book and reading it, simply to enjoy it? I've read a lot of the books on this list, not out of some ego-driv..."

By the way, did anyone have a look at 12 Books You NEED On Your Bookshelf :-) Very similar...


message 13: by Neal (new)

Neal None of The Lord of the Rings books are on this list? The books that defined modern fantasy? O_o Well, consider them added now.


message 14: by Meli (new)

Meli Only 2 women authors in the top 20? If this is what the canon looks like then we have some work to do.


message 15: by Erin (new)

Erin Monica wrote: "What happened to reading for it's own sake? What happened to picking up a book and reading it, simply to enjoy it? I've read a lot of the books on this list, not out of some ego-driven desire to fl..."

One should always read a book for its own sake; the purpose of lists (better than this one) should be to direct you to books that many people have enjoyed and been enriched by. Since joining groups focused on reading classics, I have been delighted and edifies that books I had either not heard of or might have overlooked before. Certainly, if you are reading a book with the sole goal of saying that you have, you are wasting your time.


message 16: by Tyler (new)

Tyler Cameron Mel wrote: "Only 2 women authors in the top 20? If this is what the canon looks like then we have some work to do."

I'm always interested in comments like this. I don't ever consider the gender of the author. If I read something I like I will up more by that person. If GR, or a friend recommends something I will look into it, but I never consider the writer's gender. I like most genres, and have enjoyed books by men and women to be sure, but gender, race, religion... whatever of the writer simply don't enter into it.


message 17: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan M I like Oscar Wilde, but I'd prefer Gogol's "The Portrait" to The Picture of Dorian Gray, even if the former is a short story (that may have inspired Wilde's story). I'm disappointed that Gogol is overlooked altogether on this otherwise good list. His short story, "The Overcoat," is brilliant and the foundation of virtually all of Russian literature.


message 18: by Meli (last edited Feb 10, 2020 02:51AM) (new)

Meli Tyler wrote: "Mel wrote: "Only 2 women authors in the top 20? If this is what the canon looks like then we have some work to do."

I'm always interested in comments like this. I don't ever consider the gender of..."


Hello, thanks for your comment. I understand why it wouldn't occur to someone to look at the gender-- there is so much fabulous work out there. Why should the background of the author make a difference? The reason why I started looking at the gender is that I realized we are not picking up good books indiscriminately.

There are good books by people of all backgrounds, yet the ones that come into our sphere-- through networks on Goodreads, friends, publishers, articles, bookstores, etc. are not randomly ordered, because there is a historical gendered logic of access and exclusion to it. Because of this, lots of good books by men make this list here, for example, but the equally fantastic books written by women do not.

One more comment- the concept of "women exclusion" assumes an "inclusion" default, in which men are already found. If the men "category" is the default and women is the exception, then the complexity of gender in art and social spaces is already knotty. Lots to be said on this :-)


message 19: by J. (new)

J. Caleb wrote: "I take huge issue with Animal Farm being #4. That book is boring as hell and would be considered simplistic by a 3rd grader. It's practically condescending. When my high school lit. teacher told me..."
I am sorry, do you realize its an allegory of the Russian revolution, and everything in the book actually happened in real life? How is that simplistic?


message 20: by Erin (new)

Erin There is an over representation of English books on this list (not that many of them aren’t rightfully classics), but I do not believe that one can be considered well-read without reading at least the major classics from around the world.

And then there are books that even those who enjoyed them could not conceivably think are literature, much less belonging on this list (Twilight being a flagrant example)! Maybe I should create a new list...


message 21: by Nelle (new)

Nelle Paige This looks overwhelmingly white. Hardly well-read.


message 22: by Erin (new)

Erin Nelle wrote: "This looks overwhelmingly white. Hardly well-read."

Agreed! Many of then are, of course, excellent books, but if you only read English plus a sampling of other European works, one could hardly be considered well-read.


message 23: by Booklovinglady (new)

Booklovinglady Nelle wrote: "This looks overwhelmingly white. Hardly well-read."

In Europe most authors were/are white...


message 24: by Meli (last edited Feb 10, 2020 02:46AM) (new)

Meli Booklovinglady wrote: "Nelle wrote: "This looks overwhelmingly white. Hardly well-read."

In Europe most authors were/are white..."


This all too familiar argument is really a side step (or worse, a pretense) to qualify white reading canons. There is such a fantastic history of literature from other populations. If we say that most authors from these places are white we are simply blinded to the rich contributions of women and non-white authors. Fantastic lit created by other people is minimized because we make blanket biased acceptances of what is of merit and who is producing it in Europe and America.


message 25: by Erin (last edited May 16, 2020 09:29PM) (new)

Erin Booklovinglady wrote: "Nelle wrote: "This looks overwhelmingly white. Hardly well-read."

In Europe most authors were/are white..."


That’s completely irrelevant. The problem is that this list, like many, is overwhelmingly authors of Europe or European descent as if the “Western canon” were the only literary tradition in the world when nothing could be further from the truth. Great works are and have long been produced around the world and one cannot be considered well-read at all if their reading has been confined to only a single tradition.


message 26: by Booklovinglady (new)

Booklovinglady @Nelle, Mel & Erin

Being from The Netherlands, I agree to disagree.


~☆~Autumn♥♥ Booklovinglady wrote: "@Nelle, Mel & Erin

Being from The Netherlands, I agree to disagree."


I agree with you Booklovinglady.


message 28: by Booklovinglady (new)

Booklovinglady @~☆~Autumn♥♥
😀


message 29: by Felicity (new)

Felicity I like reading lists, and there's no reason for anyone to be indignant if it doesn't match their list. There can be no definitive list like this. I would encourage you to correct the typo in the introduction (once, not ones).


message 30: by Jeffrey (new)

Jeffrey Gao James wrote: "Caleb wrote: "I take huge issue with Animal Farm being #4. That book is boring as hell and would be considered simplistic by a 3rd grader. It's practically condescending. When my high school lit. t..."

No, it really is that dumb.


~☆~Autumn♥♥ Jeffrey wrote: "James wrote: "Caleb wrote: "I take huge issue with Animal Farm being #4. That book is boring as hell and would be considered simplistic by a 3rd grader. It's practically condescending. When my high..."

I agree. It is awful and I only gave it one star.


back to top



Related News

From independent presses, to tales in translation, to critical darlings and new debut novels, these books (all published in the U.S. this year)...

Anyone can add books to this list.