Choosing an ultimate top 10 for novels is an impossible task. This is because there is no arguing with taste, and what a casual reader likes is likely to be very different from the preferences of an avid reader. Similarly, historians and literary critics will have very different opinions as well. The issue lies not just in taste, but also in the fact that it is so hard to define what “the best novel” actually means. Could that be a novel that uses fantastic figurative language, one that has a huge social impact, one that is based on realism?

The recommendation, therefore, if someone is looking for an ultimate top 10 list, is to first look at who wrote the list. There are some books that are likely to appear again and again at the same time, although those are books most people enjoy to read have already come across anyway. That being said, here is Walter Viola‘s personal top 10 best novels of all time list.

The Top 10 Best Novels of All Time According to Walter Viola

  1. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy. It is a work of fiction written in eight parts, telling the story of Anna, the disenchanted housewife, and Konstantin Levin. The book realistically describes human life, specifically place in Russian society, emotively discussing prejudices and the substandard treatment of women.
  2. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, published in 1960 and the only book Lee every wrote until 2015, just before he died, when he wrote a sequel. The book looks into life in the American South, particularly in relation to racial prejudices.
  3. The Great Gatsby, written by F. Scott Fitzgerald. It teaches literary students the world over about how to think critically of what is written. It discusses the 1920s Jazz Age and the concept of the American Dream.
  4. One Hundred Years of Solitude, written by Gabriel Garcia Marquez from Columbia. Published in 1967, it discusses the establishment of the Macondo town by seven generations of the same family. The book uses magic realism styles, something that Marquez eventually won the Nobel Prize for literature for.
  5. A Passage to India by E.M. Foster, published in 1924. It discusses the tensions between colonial Brits and native Indian populations, while at the same time considering how the two cultures can co-exist. While set in a fictional city, the book is based largely on Forster’s own experiences.
  6. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison, which is as influential, if not more, than H.G. Well’s The Invisible Man. It discusses the African American male’s identity, and how he often feels invisible in society.
  7. Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes, first published in 1615 and perhaps the best-known piece of Spanish literature ever written. It discuses romance and chivalry.
  8. Beloved by Toni Morrison, written in 1987. It is haunting and spiritual, following escaped slave Sethe in 1873. She killed her own child, Beloved, so that she would not have to be a slave, and the woman is then followed by a spectral figure throughout the book. It is one of the few books that discusses the psychological impact of slavery.
  9. Mrs. Dalloway, written by Virginia Woolf, which describes a single day in the life of Clarissa Dalloway, a British sociality. It is unique mainly in its writing style.
  10. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, which was published in 1958. It is a piece of African literature in which the effects on British colonialism on Nigerian tribal towns is described.