10 best fiction novels of all time

Need something good to read? Not impressed with the current junk out there? Want something deep? Meaningful? Critical thinking required? A way to escape and grow as a person at the same time? Having read thousands of books in my day, I have curated a top 10 list of European and American fiction novels that at one time or another caused me to swear ‘This was the best book ever written.’ Many touch on concepts of solitude, existential angst, and the conflict of man vs himself juxtaposed with man vs society. Certainly timely subjects, once again proof that there really is nothing new under the sun. Enjoy! And if you like something by a specific author, dive in and read more of their works.

  • Brothers Karamozov. The ultimate of ultimates. The perfect novel. An existential, political, and religious masterpiece. Without God, anything is possible. Three brothers, three different paths through life, weaving their way through turn of the century Russian society. A foreshadowing of social and religious upheaval that would pave the way to the Soviet revolution.
  • The Plague. While not Camus’ most famous novel, certainly a very timely one. A doctor is trapped in a North African walled town while a plague insidiously approaches and then begins to wreak havoc on the population. A tribute to perseverance and hope in the face of despair.
  • Last Temptation of Christ – A masterpiece of the dichotomy between a person’s essential spiritual and material identity. A psychological melodrama that happens to manifest itself in the man who was Jesus but is universal enough to appeal to people of all religions.
  • Magister Ludi – My favorite book of all time. Herman Hesse wrote many masterworks, but this is another candidate for the perfect novel. Sometime in the future, an elite group of intellectual students separated from society for their genius abilities, synthesizes the knowledge of all past generations amongst all subjects and weaves them together in a game of sorts, a world wide web of interconnected memes. A teacher in the school helps guide the young students through their intellectual and moral development, culminating in a surreal out of body experience told in three dream visions that will leave you thinking you have had an experience yourself.
  • Nausea – Sartre’s bleak but poignant trip through the mind of Roquentin, a bourgeois wanderer through a meaningless slice of French postindustrial life, meandering through people and places in search of some type of escape from his existential angst, culminating in a glimpse of the eternal in the form of a chestnut tree that leaves him thinking everything in life is simply de trope.
  • The Complete Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – A bit lighter but no less complex than the above, a trip through the seedy side of Victorian London with Sherlock and Watson as guides is one of the best collections of not only detective stories ever written, but also a window into the complex psychological states of the human mind. Holmes attention to detail used to solve cases can show us all an enlightened way to observe the world around us and see the truth in ways it reveals itself in all aspects of human behavior.
  • Fathers and Sons – Another masterpiece of Russian literature, this novel focuses on the tension in society between rich and poor, land owners and peasants, religion and nihilism, old an young. Another timeless look at youth coming up through life where a previous generation has written all the rules, as it struggles to find a meaningful way forward.
  • The Magus – Part mystery novel, part suspense thriller, totally surreal, this novel is a mix of Picasso like interpretations of existence and diabolical James Bond like villainous characters. This one is hard to describe but it will take you to another place for a good week of extreme escapism.
  • Steppenwolf – I had to put another Hesse novel in there. Steppenwolf follows the story of a lonely man, well cultured but lost in the blankness of society, as he descends into the underbelly of the city, seeking meaningful experiences and possibly some meaning to his existence. Trends well with the isolation of the current situation. A mix of Mozart and Jazz.
  • Walden – What happens when a man decides to live alone in nature in a small house with no contact with people around him. Part meditation, part ode to nature, we see how beautiful solitude can be and how, with nature as our host, we are never truly alone.
About the Author
Life long leaner, Doctor, tinker, tailor, guitar player.
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