25. Charles Dickens, Bleak House (1853)
Just about everything that Dickens did best, he did best here — the rich, expansive cast of characters, the glorious descriptions, the wry but urgent social commentary — but he also managed to fit it all into a complex structure that toys with narration and tense. Bleak House is both ahead of its time and timeless.
24. James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916)
23. Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov (1880)
22. Emily Brontë, Wuthering Heights (1847)
21. Theodore Dreiser, An American Tragedy (1925)
20. Larry McMurtry, Lonesome Dove (1985)
19. Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita (1955)
18. Herman Melville, Moby-Dick (1851)
17. Cormac McCarthy, The Road (2006)
16. Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre (1847)
A heart-thumping romance that should be given to girls before their 13th birthday, with the knowledge that they will reduce it to tatters over countless rereadings. Our dear Jane struggles for self-possession in 19th-century England while fighting off the magnetism of grouchy Rochester. Love wins.
15. E.L. Doctorow, Ragtime (1975)
14. Fyodor Dostoevsky, Crime and Punishment (1867)
13. Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird (1960)
Set in the 1930s, Lee’s story of racial injustice in Alabama, turning on the arrest of an innocent black man for rape, was a stirring document in the emerging civil rights movement.