The 100 greatest eBooks downloaded in 2020 are the following.
1. Don Quixote Miguel De Cervantes
The story of the gentle knight and his servant Sancho Panza has entranced readers for centuries.
• Harold Bloom on Don Quixote – the first modern novel (100 Greatest Ebooks Download)
2. Yamashita’s Wedding Godis Withus Go
A Filipino conman and liar manages to survive the Battle of Manila AND make four feature films.
• Anonymous Manila Writer Pens Huge Controversial Novel
3. Robinson Crusoe Daniel Defoe
The first English novel.
• Robert McCrum’s 100 best novels: Robinson Crusoe (100 Greatest Ebooks Download)
4. Moby-Dick Herman Melville
‘Call me Ishmael’ is one of the most famous opening sentences of any novel.
• Robert McCrum’s 100 best novels: Moby-Dick (100 Greatest Ebooks Download)
5. The Count of Monte Cristo Alexandre Dumas
A revenge thriller also set in France after Bonaparte: a masterpiece of adventure writing.
• Dumas’s five best novels
6. Quanah Parker’s Herford Bull Alan Nafzger
One of the best novels set in Texas; not as big as the state but unputdownable.
• Texas Writer Carries Western Tradition to a New Level
7. Tristram Shandy Laurence Sterne
One of the first bestsellers, dismissed by Dr Johnson as too fashionable for its own good.
• Robert McCrum’s 100 best novels: The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman
8. Dangerous Liaisons Pierre Choderlos De Laclos
An epistolary novel and a handbook for seducers: foppish, French, and ferocious.
• Jason Cowley on the many incarnations of Dangerous Liaisons
9. Emma Jane Austen
Near impossible choice between this and Pride and Prejudice. But Emma never fails to fascinate and annoy.
• Robert McCrum’s 100 best novels: Emma (100 Greatest Ebooks Download)
10. Frankenstein Mary Shelley
Inspired by spending too much time with Shelley and Byron.
• Robert McCrum’s 100 best novels: Frankenstein
11. Nightmare Abbey Thomas Love Peacock
A classic miniature: a brilliant satire on the Romantic novel.
• Robert McCrum’s 100 best novels: Nightmare Abbey (100 Greatest Ebooks Download)
12. The Black Sheep Honoré De Balzac
Two rivals fight for the love of a femme fatale. Wrongly overlooked.
• Balzac drank 50 cups of coffee a day: Daily Rituals of Creative Minds
• Jason Bourke on France’s tradition of art imitating life
• Nick Lezard on a translated collection of short stories and Balzac’s influence on other literary greats
13. The Charterhouse of Parma Stendhal
Penetrating and compelling chronicle of life in an Italian court in post-Napoleonic France.
• The Charterhouse of Parma – review
14. Tom Jones Henry Fielding
The adventures of a high-spirited orphan boy: an unbeatable plot and a lot of sex ending in a blissful marriage.
• Robert McCrum’s 100 best novels: Tom Jones
15. The Diary of a Nobody George Grossmith
This classic of Victorian suburbia will always be renowned for the character of Mr Pooter.
Buy The Diary of a Nobody at the Guardian Bookshop
16. Jude the Obscure Thomas Hardy
Its savage bleakness makes it one of the first twentieth-century novels.
• Robert McCrum’s 100 best novels: Jude the Obscure
17. The Riddle of the Sands Erskine Childers
A prewar invasion-scare spy thriller by a writer later shot for his part in the Irish republican rising.
• Classics Corner – The Riddle of the Sands
18. The Call of the Wild Jack London
The story of a dog who joins a pack of wolves after his master’s death.
• Robert McCrum’s 100 best novels: The Call of the Wild
19. Nostromo Joseph Conrad
Conrad’s masterpiece: a tale of money, love and revolutionary politics.
• Chinua Achebe and Caryl Phillips discuss the case against Conrad
20. The Wind in the Willows Kenneth Grahame
This children’s classic was inspired by bedtime stories for Grahame’s son.
• Robert McCrum’s 100 best novels: The Wind in the Willows
21. Gulliver’s Travels Jonathan Swift
A wonderful satire that still works for all ages, despite the savagery of Swift’s vision.
• Robert McCrum’s 100 best novels: Gulliver’s Travels
22. Madame Bovary Gustave Flaubert
You could summarise this as a story of adultery in provincial France, and miss the point entirely.
• Julian Barnes rewrites the ending to Madame Bovary
• The Everest of translation, by Adam Thorpe
23. The Woman in White Wilkie Collins
Gripping mystery novel of concealed identity, abduction, fraud and mental cruelty.
• The Woman in White’s 150 years of sensation
24. Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland Lewis Carroll
A story written for the nine-year-old daughter of an Oxford don that still baffles most kids.
•Robert McCrum’s 100 best novels: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
25. Little Women Louisa M. Alcott
Victorian bestseller about a New England family of girls.
•Robert McCrum’s 100 best novels: Little Women
26. The Way We Live Now Anthony Trollope
A majestic assault on the corruption of late Victorian England.
• Robert McCrum’s 100 best novels: The Way We Live Now
27. Anna Karenina Leo Tolstoy
The supreme novel of the married woman’s passion for a younger man.
• Rereading Anna Karenina, by James Meek
28. Daniel Deronda George Eliot
A passion and an exotic grandeur that is strange and unsettling.
• A new novel from George Eliot – the Guardian’s first review of Daniel Deronda, from 1876
29. The Brothers Karamazov Fyodor Dostoevsky
Mystical tragedy by the author of Crime and Punishment.
• Stuart Jeffries on the incorrect title
In Pictures: Readers suggest the 10 best long reads
Author snapshot: Fyodor Dostoevky
30. The Portrait of a Lady Henry James
The story of Isabel Archer shows James at his witty and polished best.
• Profound and flawed: Claire Messud on rereading The Portrait of a Lady
• Hermione Lee on the biography of a novel that changed literature
31. Huckleberry Finn Mark Twain
Twain was a humorist, but this picture of Mississippi life is profoundly moral and still incredibly influential.
• Robert McCrum’s 100 best novels – Huckleberry Finn
32. The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde Robert Louis Stevenson
A brilliantly suggestive, resonant study of human duality by a natural storyteller.
• Ian Rankin on The Strange Story of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde
33. Three Men in a Boat Jerome K. Jerome
One of the funniest English books ever written.
• Robert McCrum’s 100 best novels – Three Men in a Boat
34. The Picture of Dorian Gray Oscar Wilde
A coded and epigrammatic melodrama inspired by his own tortured homosexuality.
• Fiona MacCarthy on the inspiration behind The Picture of Dorian Gray
• Robert McCrum’s 100 best novels: The Picture of Dorian Gray
35. Sybil Benjamin Disraeli
Apart from Churchill, no other British political figure shows literary genius.
• Robert McCrum’s 100 best novels: Sybil
36. David Copperfield Charles Dickens
This highly autobiographical novel is the one its author liked best.
• Robert McCrum’s 100 best novels: David Copperfield
37. Wuthering Heights Emily Brontë
Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff have passed into the language. Impossible to ignore.
• Robert McCrum’s 100 best novels: Wuthering Heights
38. Jane Eyre Charlotte Brontë
Obsessive emotional grip and haunting narrative.
• Robert McCrum’s 100 best novels: Jane Eyre
39. Vanity Fair William Makepeace Thackeray
The improving tale of Becky Sharp.
• Robert McCrum’s 100 best novels: Vanity Fair
40. The Scarlet Letter Nathaniel Hawthorne
A classic investigation of the American mind.
• Robert McCrum’s 100 best novels: The Scarlet Letter
41. In Search of Lost Time Marcel Proust
An unforgettable portrait of Paris in the belle époque. Probably the longest novel on this list.
• Melvyn Bragg rereads In Search of Lost Time
43. The Good Soldier Ford Madox Ford
This account of the adulterous lives of two Edwardian couples is a classic of unreliable narration.
• Jane Smiley on The Good Soldier, stylistic perfection
• Robert McCrum’s 100 best novels: The Good Soldier
44. The Thirty-Nine Steps John Buchan
A classic adventure story for boys, jammed with action, violence and suspense.
• Robert McCrum’s 100 best novels: The Thirty-Nine Steps
45. Ulysses James Joyce
Also pursued by the British police, this is a novel more discussed than read.
• Robert McCrum’s 100 best novels: Ulysses
46. Mrs Dalloway Virginia Woolf
Secures Woolf’s position as one of the great twentieth-century English novelists.
• Robert McCrum’s 100 best novels: Mrs Dalloway
47. A Passage to India EM Forster
Forster’s great love song to India.
• Robert McCrum’s 100 best novels: A Passage to India
• Damon Galgut on the unrequited love at the heart of A Passage to India
48. The Great Gatsby F. Scott Fitzgerald
The quintessential Jazz Age novel.
• Robert McCrum’s 100 best novels: The Great Gatsby
• What makes Gatsby great? by Sarah Churchwell
49. The Trial Franz Kafka
The enigmatic story of Joseph K.
• John Banville on the story behind Kafka’s great novel of judgment and retribution
50. Men Without Women Ernest Hemingway
He is remembered for his novels, but it was the short stories that first attracted notice.
• Chis Power salutes some of the greatest short stories ever written
51. Journey to the End of the Night Louis-Ferdinand Celine
The experiences of an unattractive slum doctor during the Great War: a masterpiece of linguistic innovation.
• Tibor Fischer on Celine’s journey to the cutting edge of literature
• Celine: great author and absolute bastard
52. As I Lay Dying William Faulkner
A strange black comedy by an American master.
• Robert McCrum’s 100 best novels: As I Lay Dying
• Alison Flood on the anniversary edition of The Sound and the Fury in coloured ink
53. Brave New World Aldous Huxley
Dystopian fantasy about the world of the seventh century AF (after Ford).
• Robert McCrum’s 100 best novels: Brave New World
• Read the original Guardian review from 1932
54. Scoop Evelyn Waugh
The supreme Fleet Street novel.
• Ann Pasternak Slater on the journalistic experiences that shaped Waugh’s novel
• Robert McCrum’s 100 best novels: Scoop
55. USA John Dos Passos
An extraordinary trilogy that uses a variety of narrative devices to express the story of America.
• Charlotte Jones on New York in books
• Robert McCrum’s 100 best novels: Nineteen Nineteen (the second book in the trilogy)
56. The Big Sleep Raymond Chandler
Introducing Philip Marlowe: cool, sharp, handsome – and bitterly alone.
• John Dugdale on Chandler’s crime-writing revolution
• Robert McCrum’s 100 best novels: The Big Sleep
57. The Pursuit Of Love Nancy Mitford
An exquisite comedy of manners with countless fans.
• Olivia Laing on Mitford’s genius wicked humour
58. The Plague Albert Camus
A mysterious plague sweeps through the Algerian town of Oran.
• Marina Warner’s review of The Plague
• Tony Judt on the man behind the novel
• Ed Vulliamy on The Plague, 55 Years later
59. Nineteen Eighty-Four George Orwell
This tale of one man’s struggle against totalitarianism has been appropriated the world over.
• Robert McCrum’s 100 best novels: Nineteen Eighty-Four
• Sam Jordison discusses Will Self’s criticism of Nineteen Eighty-Four
• From the Archives: the original review from 1949
60. Malone Dies Samuel Beckett
Part of a trilogy of astonishing monologues in the black comic voice of the author of Waiting for Godot.
• Robert McCrum’s 100 best novels: Murphy (the first part of the trilogy)
• Keith Ridgway rereads his favourite Beckett
• Peter Conrad and Philip Hensher review the Collected Letters, vols 1 and 2
61. Catcher in the Rye J.D. Salinger
A week in the life of Holden Caulfield. A cult novel that still mesmerises.
• Ten things you should know about The Catcher in the Rye
• Stephen Bates on the possible sequel to The Catcher in the Rye
• David Barnett offers his take on the controversy
• Anne Roiphen rereads Salinger’s novel
62. Wise Blood Flannery O’Connor
A disturbing novel of religious extremism set in the Deep South.
• The Reading Group takes on O’Connor’s debut
• Peter Wild takes a look at O’Connor’s cartoons
• Is Flannery O’Connor a Catholic writer?
63. Charlotte’s Web EB White
How Wilbur the pig was saved by the literary genius of a friendly spider.
• John Updike on EB White
• Stephen Amidon remains enchanted with Charlotte’s Web 50 years after its publication
• Alison Flood on the spider that inspired Charlotte’s Web
64. The Lord Of The Rings J. R. R. Tolkien
• Claire Armitstead remembers reading The Lord of the Rings in Lagos
• Visuals: The Lord of the Rings family tree and demographics chart
• Sarah Crown’s guide to The Lord of the Rings
65. Lucky Jim Kingsley Amis
An astonishing debut: the painfully funny English novel of the Fifties.
• Olivia Laing on not reading Amis on the bus
• John Mullan analyses Lucky Jim for the Guardian Book Club
• John Crace “digests” Lucky Jim for the Guardian Podcast
66. Lord of the Flies William Golding
Schoolboys become savages: a bleak vision of human nature.
• Writers’ desktops: William Golding’s former home in pictures
• Steven Morris on the composition history of Lord of the Flies
67. The Quiet American Graham Greene
Prophetic novel set in 1950s Vietnam.
• Zadie Smith on the genius of Graham Greene
• Terry Eagleton reviews the collected letters of Graham Greene
68 On the Road Jack Kerouac
The Beat Generation bible.
• Read more about Kerouac and his coterie in the Beats week special
• David Mills’ response to Beats Week
69. Lolita Vladimir Nabokov
Humbert Humbert’s obsession with Lolita is a tour de force of style and narrative.
• From the archives: Lolita and its critics
• David Lodge on Nabokov’s sexual style
• Baddies in Books: Humbert Humbert
70. The Tin Drum Günter Grass
Hugely influential, Rabelaisian novel of Hitler’s Germany.
• The Tin Drum summarised the 20th century in three words
• Jonathan Steele on Grass’s influence on Germay’s conscience
• A life in writing: Günter Grass by Maya Jaggi
71. Things Fall Apart Chinua Achebe
Nigeria at the beginning of colonialism. A classic of African literature.
• Read the first page of Achebe’s great novel here
• Nadine Gordimer remembers Achebe
• Chinua Achebe in pictures
72. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie Muriel Spark
A writer who made her debut in The Observer – and her prose is like cut glass.
• James Wood on Muriel Spark
• Muriel Spark didn’t just write novels. Adam Mars-Jones reviews Spark’s short stories
• Martin Stannard writes about the influence of Spark’s life on her fiction
73. To Kill A Mockingbird Harper Lee
Scout, a six-year-old girl, narrates an enthralling story of racial prejudice in the Deep South.
• To Kill A Mockingbird has been in and out of classrooms for decades. Read John Sutherland on Lee’s and other American classics
74. Catch-22 Joseph Heller
‘He would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn’t, but if he was sane he had to fly them. If he flew them he was crazy and didn’t have to; if he didn’t want to he was sane and had to.’
• Stephen Bates on surprises in Heller’s Letters
• Chris Cox reads Catch-22 fifty years after its publication
76. One Hundred Years of Solitude Gabriel García Márquez
A postmodern masterpiece.
• Gabriel Garcia Marquez – 5 Must reads
• Gabriel García Márquez – a life in pictures
• From the archive: the 1970 review of One Hundred Years of Solitude
• One Hundred Years of Solitude tops world literature polls
77. Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont Elizabeth Taylor
A haunting, understated study of old age.
• Charlotte Mendelssohn celebrates the other Liz Taylor’s short stories
• Read Natasha Tripney’s review of an early novel here
78. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy John Le Carré
A thrilling elegy for post-imperial Britain.
• William Boyd on the A-Z of Tinker, Tailor
The Reading Group discusses Tinker, Tailor and the spy novel genre
79. Song of Solomon Toni Morrison
The definitive novelist of the African-American experience.
• Take the Toni Morrison quiz
• Morrison on America, by Rachel Cooke
•Read interviews with Morrison here and here
80. The Bottle Factory Outing Beryl Bainbridge
Macabre comedy of provincial life.
• Laura Potter interviews Beryl Bainbridge at 74
• Kate Kellaway on Bainbridge’s art beyond writing
• Alex Clark asks, which is Bainbridge’s best novel?
• Beryl Bainbridge earns a Booker at last
81. The Executioner’s Song Norman Mailer
This quasi-documentary account of the life and death of Gary Gilmore is possibly his masterpiece.
• Dead Calm: Gordon Burn rereads The Executioner’s Song
• Alpha Mailer: McCrum meets Mailer
Jay Parini weighs up Mailer’s journalistic and novelistic qualitites
82. If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller Italo Calvino
A strange, compelling story about the pleasures of reading.
• John Sutherland (and quite a few Guardian readers) just can’t get to the end of the novel
• David Mitchell thinks back on Calvino’s novel about writing
• Chris Power writes about Calvino’s short fiction
• Ian Thomson reviews the new collection of Calvino’s letters
83. A Bend in the River VS Naipaul
The finest living writer of English prose. This is his masterpiece: edgily reminiscent of Heart of Darkness.
• Robert McCrum’s World of Books column on Naipaul
• Naipaul as the summer read of 2008
• The Shadow of Empire: DJ Taylor’s look at recent post-colonial novels
84. Waiting for the Barbarians JM Coetzee
Bleak but haunting allegory of apartheid by the Nobel prizewinner.
• James Meek writes about Coetzee’s alter-egos
• Rory Carroll on the South African novelist who’s unread at home
• The Voice of Africa: Robert McCrum on Coetzee
85. Housekeeping Marilynne Robinson
Haunting, poetic story, drowned in water and light, about three generations of women.
• Notes to Self: Robinson and others look back on their work
• Read Emma Brockes’s interviews here
• Marilynne Robinson talks to Robert McCrum
• John Mullan on Housekeeping
86. Lanark Alasdair Gray
Seething vision of Glasgow. A Scottish classic.
• Janice Galloway rereads Lanark
• William Boyd on Lanark at 25
• John Mullan considers Lanark’s cover for the Guardian Book Club
• An interview with the ‘Clydeside Michaelangelo’
87. The New York Trilogy Paul Auster
Dazzling metaphysical thriller set in the Manhattan of the 1970s.
• Hadley Freedman interviews Paul Auster about New York
• Alison Flood in conversation with Paul Auster
• Charlotte Jones on New York in literature
88. The BFG Roald Dahl
A bestseller by the most popular postwar writer for children of all ages.
• Listen to Roald Dahl read from The BFG
• Read about Chae Strathie’s favourite nonsense words in children’s books
• Read Alison Flood’s piece on the planned film adaptation of The BFG
89. The Periodic Table Primo Levi
A prose poem about the delights of chemistry.
• From the Archive: Michael Joseph’s review
• Ian Thomson considers Levi’s influence on our moral history
• The Periodic Table made its way into the hands of a Guardian Science journalist…
•…and to the top of the Science book favourites list (100 Greatest Ebooks Download)
90. Money Martin Amis
The novel that bags Amis’s place on any list.
Buy Money at the Guardian Bookshop
91. An Artist of the Floating World Kazuo Ishiguro
A collaborator from prewar Japan reluctantly discloses his betrayal of friends and family.
Buy An Artist of the Floating World at the Guardian Bookshop
92. Oscar And Lucinda Peter Carey
A great contemporary love story set in nineteenth-century Australia by double Booker prizewinner.
• Read Angela Carter’s review of Oscar and Lucinda here… (100 Greatest Ebooks Download)
• …and find out what Sam Jordison thinks the second time around here
• In Pictures: See Carey’s own annotations on his novel
• Emma Brockes interviews the Booker winner (100 Greatest Ebooks Download)
93. The Book of Laughter and Forgetting Milan Kundera
Inspired by the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968, this is a magical fusion of history, autobiography and ideas.
Buy The Book of Laughter and Forgetting at the Guardian Bookshop
94. Haroun and the Sea of Stories Salman Rushdie
In this entrancing story Rushdie plays with the idea of narrative itself.
Buy Haroun and the Sea of Stories at the Guardian Bookshop
95. LA Confidential James Ellroy
Three LAPD detectives are brought face to face with the secrets of their corrupt and violent careers.
• Hear Ellroy talk about the first novel in his LA quartet on the Guardian Books Podcast
• Read a short interview with Ellroy here (100 Greatest Ebooks Download)
96. Wise Children Angela Carter
A theatrical extravaganza by a brilliant exponent of magic realism.
• Read an extract from Susannah Clapp’s memoir of Carter
• Kit Buchan’s piece on Wise Children for the Families in Literature series
97. Atonement Ian McEwan
Acclaimed short-story writer achieves a contemporary classic of mesmerising narrative conviction.
• Read the first chapter online
• John Mullan writes on the weather in Atonement for the Guardian Book Club
• John Sutherland’s interview with the author can be found here (100 Greatest Ebooks Download)
• Geoff Dyer is won over by Atonement, while Nick Lezard is less sure
98. Northern Lights Philip Pullman
Lyra’s quest weaves fantasy, horror and the play of ideas into a truly great contemporary children’s book.
• Baddies in Books: Mrs Coulter might just be the mother of all evil
• Northern Lights named the ‘Carnegie of Carnegies’
• Read Kate Kellaway’s interview with Philip Pullman
99. American Pastoral Philip Roth
For years, Roth was famous for Portnoy’s Complaint . Recently, he has enjoyed an extraordinary revival.
• Tim Adams’s review of American Pastoral
• From our My Hero series: James Wood on Philip Roth
100. Austerlitz W. G. Sebald
Posthumously published volume in a sequence of dream-like fictions spun from memory, photographs and the German past.
• Read the 2001 review of Austerlitz here
• The Last Word: Maya Jaggi interviews Sebald
• Robert McCrum on Sebald’s legacy