The first installment of our 100 Best Novels list. The books featured are in no particular order.
1. Kindred (1979) by Octavia E. Butler
Right after her 26th birthday, Dana, a black writer, begins accidentally traveling back in time to antebellum Maryland. She seems to always arrive right in time to save the life of the same white boy. As he grows up and her trips to the past get longer, her life gets more and more dangerous. You can read my full review of the novel here.
2. Song of Solomon (1977) by Toni Morrison Macon "Milkman" Dead III is coming of age in Southside Michigan. Family drama and a disconnect from his community eventually leads Milkman to travel the country in search of gold and his family's origins.
3. The God of Small Things (1997) by Arundhati Roy
Rahel and Esthappen, fraternal twins, are children in India in the 1960s. There complex cast of family members results in a series of childhood traumas. Years later, in 1993, the twins reconnect and must face their grief and guilt.
4. Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937) by Zora Neale Hurston
As Janie Crawford, a black woman in her forties, recounts her life to her best friend, she takes readers through her sexual awakening, her three marriages, and her attempts at independence.
5. Midnight Robber (2000) by Nalo Hopkinson
Young Tan-Tan is celebrating Carnival on the Caribbean-colonized planet of Toussaint, but when her father commits a heinous crime, Tan-Tan joins him on the world of New Half-Way Tree--a place of folklore creatures and violent outcasts. You can read my full review of the novel here.
6. The Hate U Give (2017) by Angie Thomas
Starr Carter lives in a poor neighborhood and attends a fancy high school. When her best friend Khalil is murdered by a police officer, Starr's already messy life becomes even more complicated. As the only witness to the crime, Starr finds herself in the middle of twisted media narratives, corrupt cops, and protestors calling for justice.
7. The House on Mango Street (1984) by Sandra Cisneros
A series of vignettes tells the coming-of-age story of Esperanza Cordero, a Chicana girl growing up in a Hispanic neighborhood in Chicago. The novel focuses on one year in her life as she deals with sexuality, violence, social class, and identity.
8. Pride and Prejudice (1813) by Jane Austen
The classic romance of Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy needs no explanation. The original tale of enemies to lovers is arguably the most well-known and reinterpreted stories of all time.
9. The Left Hand of Darkness (1969) by Ursula K. Le Guin
Genly Ai, a human man, is sent as an envoy to the planet of Gethen. His job is to convince the Gethen nations to join the Ekumen, a confederation of planets similar to the EU. Ai's role is made more difficult by the cultural barrier of Gethenian's ambisexuality (lack of fixed sex). Eventually, Ai finds a partner in Estraven, a Gethenian politician who believes in his mission. This seminal science fiction novel tackles the complexities of gender in a way far beyond it's time.
10. And Then There Were None (1939) by Agatha Christie
Ten strangers, each with their own dark secrets, are invited to stay the weekend on a private island. When the murders begin, the guests realize that they are being killed in accordance with a famous nursery rhyme. The only question is... which one of them is the killer? This novel is one of Christie's most haunting mysteries.
11. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo (2017) by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Evelyn Hugo, the old Hollywood movie star, chooses unknown journalist Monique Grant to write her biography. Through a series of interviews in Evelyn's apartment, Monique learns the truth about the love affairs that make up Evelyn's public image.
12. The Night Circus (2011) by Erin Morgenstern
Celia and Marco have been trained to compete with each other. With a circus as their backdrop, the two young magicians fight, fall in love, and confront their intertwined fates.
13. To Kill a Mockingbird (1960) by Harper Lee
Jean Louise "Scout" Finch and her brother Jem are growing up in Alabama during the Great Depression. The children's lives are complicated by the fact that their widowed father Atticus is the lawyer set to defend Tom Robinson, a black man accused of raping a white woman.
14. Mrs. Dalloway (1925) by Virginia Woolf
Clarissa Dalloway's day and party planning is interrupted by the return of an old friend and all the memories he brings with him. Meanwhile, Septimus Warren Smith suffers from a mental breakdown after fighting in World War I. You can read more of my thoughts on Virginia Woolf here.
15. Never Let Me Go (2005) by Kazuo Ishiguro
Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy all attend Hailsham, an isolated English boarding school. The trio are safe and supported within the school walls, but, once they graduate, they must face the real purpose of the school and their own place in the world.
16. The Shadow of the Wind (2001) by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
Set in Barcelona circa 1945, Daniel, the son of an antique book dealer, falls in love with the book The Shadow of the Wind by Julian Carax. When he finds out that someone has been destroying all of Carax's work, Daniel is thrust into a world of secrets, murder, and love.
17. The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890) by Oscar Wilde
Dorian Gray is being painted by Basil Hallward, an artist obsessed with the young man's beauty. Through Basil, Dorian meets Lord Henry, an aristocrat with an amoral life philosophy. After listening to Lord Henry's thoughts, Dorian chooses to sell his soul in exchange for eternal youth and beauty.
18. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe (2012) by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
Aristotle and Dante don't have anything in common, but, over the course of a summer, the two form a bond that changes their lives forever.
19. Things Fall Apart (1958) by Chinua Achebe
Okonkwo, an Igbo man and local wresting star, lives among the Umofia clan in Nigeria. His life unfolds within the framework of European colonialism and the efforts of Christian missionaries.
20. The Murmur of Bees (2015) by Sofía Segovia
Set during the Mexican revolution and the 1918 influenza, Francisco and Beatriz Morales adopt an abandoned baby covered in a blanket of bees. As Simonopio grows up, he begins seeing visions of the future that help him save his family. However, his larger purpose in the world is yet to be revealed.