Mildly Epic List of Classics


My last list was a bit of a beginner’s list; books to help you dip your toe in the ocean of classics. This week, I want to write (much) longer list of mostly novels and plays, with some short stories, long poems and essays, organized by time period. Lyric poetry will get its own list (someday).



Notes about the list:

  • Instead of literary period I’m just going to go in half-centuries.
  • These are all books I’ve read (and liked) or want to read, and isn’t meant to be exhaustive (that would be a really long list). If I miss your favorite book or author, put it in the comments!
  • A * denotes a book that some might find challenging, due to style usually.
  • I’ve just listed one book by each author, usually my favorite one, or the best known.
  • I’ve tried to include authors that get overlooked, and avoid super-well-known books that are recentish and still commonly read (like 1984 or To Kill a Mockingbird)
  • Within the time range I haven’t gone in any particular order.


  • Mrs. Dalloway Virginia Woolf
  • Tender is the Night F Scott Fitzgerald
  • The Sun Also Rises Earnest Hemingway
  • The Quiet American Graham Greene
  • Wise Blood Flannery O’Connor
  • Howard’s End D. H. Lawrence
  • The Grapes of Wrath John Steinbeck
  • Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man James Joyce*
  • Father Brown Stories G.K. Chesterton
  • Till We Have Faces C.S. Lewis

1850s – 1900

  • Our Mutual Friend Charles Dickens
  • North and South Elizabeth Gaskell
  • The Moonstone Wilkie Collins
  • The Bostonians Henry James
  • My Antonia Willa Cather
  • The Scarlet Letter Nathaniel Hawthorne
  • The Brothers Karamazov Fyodor Dostoevsky
  • Anna Karenina Leo Tolstoy
  • Huckleberry Finn Mark Twain
  • Alice in Wonderland Lewis Carroll
  • Lilith George MacDonald
  • Walden Henry David Thoreau35_1hb.jpg


  • Sense and Sensibility Jane Austen
  • Frankenstein Mary Shelley
  • Jane Eyre Charlotte Bronte
  • Silas Marner George Eliot
  • Ivanhoe Sir Walter Scott
  • The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Other Writings Washington Irving
  • Any collection of short stories by Edgar Allen Poe
  • The Scarlet Letter Nathaniel Hawthorne
  • Moby Dick Herman Melville* (or, for a taste, try a collection of his short stories)
  • Faust I Goethe


  • Robinson Crusoe Daniel Defoe
  • Gulliver’s Travels Jonathan Swift
  • Pamela Samuel Richardson
  • Life of Johnson James Boswell
  • Essays by Thomas Paine
  • Rape of the Lock Alexander Pope


  • Paradise Lost John Milton
  • Tartuffe Moliere
  • Revenger’s Tragedy Thomas Middleton
  • Pilgrim’s Progress John Bunyan
  • Don Quixote Miguel de Cervantes
  • The Diary of Samuel Pepys
  • Of Plymouth Plantation William Bradford


  • Macbeth William Shakespeare
  • Doctor Faustus Christopher Marlowe
  • Utopia Thomas More


  • The Morte d’ Arthur Thomas Malory
  • Decameron Boccaccio

1300s and earlier

  • The Canterbury Tales Geoffrey Chaucer
  • Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
  • Beowulf 
  • The Divine Comedy Dante Alighieri

Myths and Folktales (oral traditions, collected at various times) images.jpeg

  • Brothers Grimm
  • Mabinogean (Welsh)
  • Icelandic Sagas
  • Perrault’sFairy Tales
  • Andrew Lang’s colored Fairy Books (i.e. The Blue Fairy Book, The Green Fairy Book)



This post was published accidentally incomplete; I’ve deleted the original, updated it, and am re-publishing it now.
Image sources:

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