It just occurred to me that somehow I have never made a blog post about this or even mentioned it on any of my social media. So today I’m going to share with you my top five favourite novels of all time! These won’t be in any particular order, apart from number one which is my absolute favourite. It was horrifically difficult to just choose 5 novels, so I’ve included some honourable mentions at the end if you are interested in checking those out! So, let’s begin!
Monkey – Wu Chêng-ên
Probably the most popular book in the history of the Far East, this classic combination of picaresque novel and folk epic mixes satire, allegory, and history into a rollicking tale. It is the story of the rougish Monkey and his encounters with major and minor spirits, gods, demigods, demons, ogres, monsters, and fairies. – Goodreads
I cannot even describe how utterly glorious this novel is. It can be relatively confusing at times as everything is so carefully detailed but it’s a wonderful translation which flows beautifully. This is in fact the abridged version of Journey To The West, one of the Four Great Classic Novels of Chinese Literature. It took me a while to read this particular novel as there was simply just to much to take in, I needed some time to process it all. I don’t think I even need to beg you to buy this book, the synopsis should tell you all you need to know! Buy it here!
The Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck
First published in 1939, Steinbeck’s Pulitzer Prize-winning epic of the Great Depression chronicles the Dust Bowl migration of the 1930s and tells the story of one Oklahoma farm family, the Joads-driven from their homestead and forced to travel west to the promised land of California. Out of their trials and their repeated collisions against the hard realities of an America divided into Haves and Have-Nots evolves a drama that is intensely human yet majestic in its scale and moral vision, elemental yet plainspoken, tragic but ultimately stirring in its human dignity.
A portrait of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless, of one man’s fierce reaction to injustice, and of one woman’s stoical strength, the novel captures the horrors of the Great Depression and probes into the very nature of equality and justice in America. Goodreads
I randomly picked up this novel after enjoying Of Mice and Men by the same author, and it was reduced on Amazon so I just had to. This is a book that I need to reread at some point because I don’t think I fully understood or processed how utterly tragic this novel is. I won’t say what happens on the very last page, but I still think about it and it was simply just so powerful but awful. I’ve read very few novels as powerful as this one and I think it is essential reading if you are interested in American classics. Buy it here!
The Song of Achilles – Madeline Miller
Greece in the age of heroes. Patroclus, an awkward young prince, has been exiled to the court of King Peleus and his perfect son Achilles. Despite their difference, Achilles befriends the shamed prince, and as they grow into young men skilled in the arts of war and medicine, their bond blossoms into something deeper – despite the displeasure of Achilles’ mother Thetis, a cruel sea goddess. Goodreads
But when word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped, Achilles must go to war in distant Troy and fulfill his destiny. Torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus goes with him, little knowing that the years that follow will test everything they hold dear.
Are you surprised? You shouldn’t be! I cannot express how much I adored this novel despite the fact that it literally ripped me apart. I’ve been meaning to reread it but I don’t think I can put myself through that again just yet. If you have in interest in Greek mythology but would like an easy read, I’d highly recommend this! Not sure how much you’d love it if you want a very accurate take on ancient Greek mythology (I can’t tell you if it is or not since I’m not exactly a classicist), perhaps an actual Greek classic would be more your thing. Buy it here!
Uprooted – Naomi Novik
Agnieszka loves her valley home, her quiet village, the forests and the bright shining river. But the corrupted wood stands on the border, full of malevolent power, and its shadow lies over her life.
Her people rely on the cold, ambitious wizard, known only as the Dragon, to keep the wood’s powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman must be handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as being lost to the wood.
The next choosing is fast approaching, and Agnieszka is afraid. She knows – everyone knows – that the Dragon will take Kasia: beautiful, graceful, brave Kasia – all the things Agnieszka isn’t – and her dearest friend in the world. And there is no way to save her.
But no one can predict how or why the Dragon chooses a girl. And when he comes, it is not Kasia he will take with him. Goodreads
This is one of the books that I actually use to decide if I trust someone’s reviews. I’ve seen a lot of people give this a lower rating because it’s slow, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that! As you can see from the synopsis, this book is simply just magical. The magic system is utterly fascinating and I was absolutely hooked. Also, the ending was exactly what I wanted to when I closed the book, I just felt content and satisfied which barely ever happens when I read. Just an absolutely wonderful book if you are interested in fantasy novels. (Although be aware there are NO DRAGONS IN THIS BOOK. Do you have any idea how many times I’ve seen people on booktube mention it has dragons before they read it? I can understand that but yeah, don’t expect any dragons!) Buy it here!
The Lais of Marie de France
Contes d’aventures et d’amour, les Lais, composés à la fin du XIIe siècle par une mystérieuse Marie, sont d’abord, comme le revendique leur auteur, des contes populaires situés dans une Bretagne ancienne et mythique. Les fées y viennent à la rencontre du mortel dont elles sont éprises ; un chevalier peut se révéler loup-garou ou revêtir l’apparence d’un oiseau pour voler jusqu’à la fenêtre de sa bien-aimée. Mais la thématique universelle du folklore est ici intégrée à un univers poétique à nul autre pareil, qui intériorise le merveilleux des contes de fées pour en faire l’émanation de l’amour. Goodreads
I must apologise for the French synopsis but I couldn’t find an English one that didn’t just specify that it was a prose translation. So I’d recommend you pop it into Google Translate because it’s a really good summary. What more could a someone want, medieval French literature with werewolves, knights and fairies?? This is the book that really opened up my interest in medieval literature and I am so grateful for it. If you read this, Bisclavret is my favourite, would highly recommend it if you don’t want to read the whole thing! Buy the English translation here!
Some Honourable Mentions
I do absolutely love these books but I didn’t want this post to take 400 years to write so I’ve provided links to them if you want to read about them yourself!
The Ultimate Ambition in the Arts of Erudition – Shihab al-Din al-Nuwayri (Trans. Elias Muhanna) – Goodreads
- The Family of Pascual Duarte – Camilo José Cela – Goodreads
- The Lady of the Camellias – Alexandre Dumas fils – Goodreads
I hope you enjoyed and have found something new to pop on your TBR!