A literary list for lovers of literature and lists

As an English major in college, I was often asked what my favorite book was. After a while, I started answering that it was an impossible question to answer because as a lit fanatic I could never narrow it down to just one.


I just finished reading The Contrarian’s Guide to Leadership by Stephen B. Sample. Sample argues that leaders should stick to reading “supertexts,” a term he uses to describe literature 400 years or older that has proven its worth through timeless truths and basic studies in human nature: texts like the Bible, The Torah, The Qur’an, Plato’s Republic, Aristotle’s Politics, Shakespeare’s plays. There are a few others on the list, but basically those texts that have stood the test of time and continue to speak to people around the world.

This made me think about all the books I’ve read, and as a lit nerd that’s a lot. I began to think about which ones I go back to and never tire of. I also had the crazy idea to cut my library down to 100 books, but immediately nixed that as I’ve just halved my collection since moving.

So here are the novels that continue to resonate, speak to, inspire, and remain on my favorite shelf year after year:

(in absolutely no particular order, because that’s an impossible task!)

  1.  Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton
  2. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  3. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
  4. 100 Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  5. A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry
  6. Atonement by Ian McEwan
  7. Gilead by Marilynne Robinson (anything by Robinson actually, she’s amazing!)
  8. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
  9. Middlemarch by George Eliot
  10. My Ántonia by Willa Cather
  11. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Confession: I did cheat while making this list. In the back of my mind I have a favorites list for poetry, plays, and nonfiction! I also have a list of works I really admire and appreciate for their beauty, artistry, and/or technique, but didn’t make it to my favorites list. So, be warned! This is just the beginning.