1 October 2023 Susannah

100 Favourite Novels

100 Favourite Novels

For my 100th newsletter, I decided to set myself the challenge of making a list (I’m a great list-maker!) of my 100 Favourite Novels. It proved really hard and I know that as soon as this newsletter has gone out to you, I’ll remember some other novel that should have been included.

These are not the ‘greatest’ novels ever, but they are personal favourites – books I return to again and again. I have cheated a bit and counted whole series as one, such as the Harry Potter books, or Elly Griffiths’ gorgeous Dr Ruth Galloway series, but you will just have to forgive me for that. After writing down the six Jane Austen novels, it became too hard to rank them in order of preference, so I’ve listed them alphabetically according to author’s surname. You may well be horrified at some I’ve included, shocked that I have left out books you adore, but try making such a list for yourself and you will discover how hard it is!

Anyway, I hope my list gives you food for thought and makes you reflect on which books have meant the most to you.

Here it is! Have a look at the links to read what I’ve written about them over the years.

Louisa May Alcott – Little Women
Elizabeth von Arnim – The Enchanted April
Jane AustenEmma, Mansfield Park, Pride and Prejudice, Persuasion, Sense and Sensibility, Northanger Abbey
Honoré de Balzac – Eugénie Grandet
E.F. Benson – the Mapp and Lucia series (especially Miss Mapp)
Anne Brontë – The Tenant of Wildfell Hall
Charlotte Brontë – Jane Eyre
Emily Brontë – Wuthering Heights
Mary Grant Bruce – the Billabong series (especially Billabong Gold)
Frances Hodgson Burnett – A Little Princess
A.S. Byatt – Possession
Miguel de Cervantes – Don Quixote
Agatha ChristieThe Murder of Roger Ackroyd
Wilkie Collins – The Moonstone
Susan Coolidge – What Katy Did
Jilly Cooper – Riders
R.F. Delderfield – To Serve Them All My Days
Charles DickensBleak House, Great Expectations, David Copperfield
Arthur Conan Doyle – The Hound of the Baskervilles
Alexandre Dumas – The Count of Monte Cristo
George EliotMiddlemarch, The Mill on the Floss
Henry Fielding – Tom Jones
F. Scott Fitzgerald – The Great Gatsby
E.M. Forster – A Room with a View
John Galsworthy – The Forsyte Saga
Bonnie Garmas – Lessons in Chemistry
Elizabeth GaskellNorth and South, Wives and Daughters, Cranford
Paul Gallico – Mrs ‘arris Goes to Paris
Lewis Grassic Gibbon – Sunset Song
Kenneth Grahame – The Wind in the Willows
Graham Greene – Travels with My Aunt
Elly Griffiths – the whole Dr Ruth Galloway series, starting with The Crossing Places
Thomas HardyTess of the D’Urbervilles, Far from the Madding Crowd
L.P. Hartley – The Go-Between
C.S. Harris – the Sebastian St Cyr series of mysteries
Ernest Hemingway – The Old Man and the Sea
Georgette HeyerArabella, Sylvester, Devil’s Cub, Frederica, Venetia, Friday’s Child
Elizabeth Jane Howard – the Cazalet series
Henry James – Washington Square
Jerome K. Jerome – Three Men in a Boat
Rudyard KiplingKim
D.H. Lawrence – Sons and Lovers
Harper Lee – To Kill a Mockingbird
Laurie Lee – Cider with Rosie
David Lodge – Nice Work
W. Somerset Maugham – Cakes and Ale
Daphne du Maurier – Rebecca
A.A. Milne – Winnie-the-Pooh
Margaret Mitchell – Gone with the Wind
Nancy MitfordThe Pursuit of Love, Love in a Cold Climate
L.M. Montgomery – The ‘Anne’ books (especially Anne of Green Gables, Anne of the Island, Rilla of Ingleside), the ‘Emily’ books, The Blue Castle
Edith Nesbit – The Railway Children
Boris Pasternak – Dr Zhivago
J.K. Rowling – the whole Harry Potter series
C.J. Sansom – the whole Matthew Shardlake series, starting with Dissolution
Dorothy L. Sayers – Gaudy Night
Vikram Seth – A Suitable Boy
Anya SetonKatherine, The Winthrop Woman
Nevil Shute – A Town Like Alice
Dodie Smith – I Capture the Castle
Muriel Spark – The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie
John Steinbeck – The Grapes of Wrath
Laurence Sterne – Tristram Shandy
D.E. Stevenson – Miss Buncle’s Book
Robert Louis StevensonTreasure Island, Kidnapped
William Makepeace Thackeray – Vanity Fair
J.R.R. Tolkien – The Hobbit
Leo Tolstoy – War and Peace
Anthony Trollope – The Barchester series (especially Dr Thorne), The Palliser series, The Way We Live Now
Ethel Turner – Seven Little Australians
Mark TwainTom Sawyer, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Evelyn Waugh – Brideshead Revisited
H.G. Wells – The Invisible Man
Edith Wharton – Ethan Frome
P.G. WodehouseThe Code of the Woosters
Emile Zola – Germinal

Do you have a list of favourite books? Is it as long as mine? Tell me your thoughts by leaving a comment.

I only recommend books I have read and know. Some of these links are my affiliate links. If you buy a book by clicking on one of these links I receive a small commission. It doesn’t cost you anything extra, but does help cover the cost of producing my free newsletter.

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Comments (41)

  1. Louise

    Thanks to you and your Bookclub I have read many on your list that I would never had picked up to read and enjoyed every one of them. My list starts with Hilary Mantel trilogy. Jane Austen is next and to finish off is a children’s book I’ve had for nearly 55years about a puppy. I really think that’s when my love of dogs started. I love how books take you in all sorts of directions of discovery and knowledge.

  2. An excellent list of worthies, and you have inspired me to re-read and even visit a few for the first time.
    I have a soft spot for Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club. I met this book at a time when I was newly married into a Chinese family and it helped me understand the complexity of another culture.
    I’m glad you included Brideshead Revisited, my all-time favourite. I regularly re-read – each time, marvelling at Waugh’s use of language and his extraordinary characters. It’s nice to be taken to Oxford, the great estate of Brideshead and onboard the steamer as it crosses the Atlantic. We are given a glimpse of Morocco and, of course, Venice. How I love to be taken to Venice!
    Jennifer Walker-Teh

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Isn’t Brideshead a truly wonderfl book! And the TV series was superb – a true classic of adaptation.
      I have only read The Joy Luck Club once, so should reread it. Thanks for the reminder.

  3. Yvonne Read

    I love to see so many of my favourite books on your list . I’ve decided to read some of them again. It is always good to meet up with old friends

  4. Fiona Shaw

    After reading your list and some of your comments, I am a little surprised we get on as we as we do, Susannah! Just kidding, I agree with you on some, disagree on some, and now have an even longer reading list to check out some new authors. During covid a friend challenged me to name my 10 favourite books; this is what I came up with. Tolkien – Lord of the Rings, Blixen – Out of Africa, Bronte – Wuthering Heights, Conrad – Heart of Darkness, Gabriel Garcia Marquez – One Hundred Years of Solitude, Kundera – The Unbearable Lightness of Being, De Kretser – The Rose Grower, Fitzgerald – The Great Gatsby, Anais Nin – A Woman Speaks, and J.D. Robb’s In Death series. Eclectic, I know, and so many more I could add! Recent French-related reading has led me to Colette, who I love, and I agree with you completely about Eugenie Grandet. So wickedly funny and yet so sad. See you in France next year. Fiona

  5. Anne Richmond

    I am pleased to see that your vast list includes many of my favourites but of course you include many I do not know at all, and so it should be. My only comment would be what about Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons, Howards End by E.M.Forster?
    and Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen , Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow by Peter Hoeg? and Miss Garnet’s Angel by Salley Vickers?????
    Very pleased to see that you include Travels with My Aunt and Three Men in a Boat, also in my own top 10!
    And my newest favourite is A Few Right Thinking Men by Sulari Gentil have you come across her?

    Most of my reading over the years has been determined by what I can find and buy in Op Shops – rather than in libraries or new from book shops, so many I realise, come from old school reading lists! so not a full open selection. But we each enjoy our choices don’t we! Thanks for yours, it really made me think!

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Glad you share many of my favourites. I have really enjoyed Sulari Gentil’s series with Rowland Sinclair, but was not so keen on her latest The Woman in the Library. I enjoyed all the others you lsited but didn’t love them.
      Op shops are often a good source of books. I also keep a Little Free Library so that books I no longer need can be enjoyed by others.

  6. Creating a list of personal favorite books is often a challenging task due to the emotional connection readers have with their choices. Can you share some insights into your selection process for these books? What criteria or factors did you consider when choosing these particular books as your personal favorites, and how do they continue to resonate with you over time? Additionally, how has the experience of compiling this list of favorites deepened your appreciation for the difficulty of such a task?

  7. Yvette

    I’ve read quite a few of the books you’ve listed. I was at an Agatha Christie talk you gave and you recommended the C J Sansom books so I have bought a few second hand since then but haven’t read any of them yet.

    I like the idea of doing a Top 100 and listing them alphabetically by author. I might start working on this myself I have a book dedicated Instagram so I could use it for content too. And perhaps often ask me for recommendations so that would be a good reference.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Making that list proved much harder than I thought it would be, so good luck with making yours. However, it was also fun to do and made me think about why I felt some books just had to be on it.

  8. Heather

    I have been reading with great interest, everyone’s comments and some have definitely missed the point….It is your favourite 100. I have read most on your list and have reread the Jane Austen books, Anthony Trollope (love his Barchester Tower series) the Bronte sisters and many more I have never read John Steinbeck but you have peaked my interest and I will definitely read it. I too, enjoyed Lessons in Chemistry – very quirky.

    I have started to compile my own list and the first one (after Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters, Anthony Trollope, George Elliot will be Van Loon’s Lives by Hendrik van Loon. It is absolutely delightful – well in my opinion. I think I will take a while to complete this list. A daunting project but a very absorbing one.

    Like yourself I grew up in New Zealand so didn’t know much about Australia literature. But there are some excellent Australian authors writing at the moment. I’m reading Karen Brooks book The Good Wife of Bath and recently read The Woman in the Library by Sulari Gentill who lives in Tasmania – a murder novel about a woman murdered in Boston Public Library. A good read I feel but not everyone’s cup of tea.

    Thanks Susannah.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Thanks for your comments and also reading suggestions. I have not read any Karen Brooks. I have loved Sulari Gentill’s Rowland Sinclair series, but was a bit disappointed by The Woman in the Library. Yes, my list was a very personal one and will probably continue to change as I read new books.

      • Heather

        I will read Sulari Gentill’s Rowland Sinclair series. I noted she had written other mystery novels. And yes, you do continue to change the list after reading new books. I find it very exciting and satisfying. I would be completely lost without books and libraries….together with cats and music!


        • Susannah Fullerton

          Absolutely! Books, libraries, cats and music are all essentials in life!

  9. PS I know this is a personal list, and was mainly throwing in my ideas as books for others to think about, consider and respond to! Not a criticism of your list.

  10. I am also struck by the lack of much adult-fiction Aussies here … no My brilliant career? And some of our mid to late Twentieth Century writers, like Thea Astley. I’ve read a couple of her books more than once, and still have some to read once. Patrick White too, I’ve read a couple of his more than once, Voss and The solid mandala. I am an Elizabeth Jolley fan, too. But, I could go on …

    Beyond the Australian contingent, an absolute must in my list would be Albert Camus’ The plague (La Peste) in my list. I’ve read that several times.

    Besides those, though, I like many of your selections. I adore Elizabeth von Arnim and I also love Edith Wharton though perhaps my favourite would be The house of mirth.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      I did not grow up in Australia and only came to live in Sydney when I was 26. I got no Aussie literature at school or university, so the only Australian books I read were children’s fiction – Ethel Turner, May Gibbs and Mary Grant Bruce. Once I arrived in Australia, I began to remedy that lack, but the books you read in your teens or study do stick with you and so I missed all that. I do NOT enjoy Patrick White’s books, I like My Brilliant Career though Sibylla drives me mad, and I enjoy, but don’t love Elizabeth Jolley.
      It was interesting that Camus’ The Plague became popular reading during the pandemic. I personally needed more cheerful books then, but for many people it helped them understand what we were all going through.

  11. Margi

    Your list reminded me how much I love The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. Must reread. As you know, I would add Anna Karenina by Tolstoy but also Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks and Everyone Brave is Forgiven, by Chris Cleave, both wonderful depictions of the World Wars – so convincing you feel that you are right there. I love Still Life too! Thank you Susannah for your list.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Yes, The Grapes of Wrath is such a great book and so incredibly tragic. He makes you feel the dust and desperation. Making lists is so hard and I’m already aware of so many I left out of mine.

  12. John

    It is an interesting list of choices, of which I have read more than I had expected. “Lessons in Chemistry” seems a strange choice: I have not read it, so perhaps it is more literary than the title suggests?

    I am struck by the Australian selection: no Marcus Clarke, Rolf Bolderwood, Henry Handel Richardson (“The Adventures of Richard Mahoney” and “The Getting of Wisdom” are remarkably different to each other), let alone our one and only, but it seems largely unloved, Nobel prize-winner for Literature, Patrick White, or Peter Carey. I agree that “Seven Little Australians” is both charming and superb, but the choice of the Billabong books above all of the above authors seems an unusual choice to me.

    I am also struck that the bulk of authors are English language: you have some French, but fewer than I would have guessed, and I thought you would probably include a few in other European languages; I did not expect Asians or Africans, their tending to have a different sensibility. Of those on your list I have read, I would happily accept almost all as best I recall them. I know you are not keen on “Crime and Punishment” or “The Brothers Karamazov”, but I would rate both higher than “War and Peace”.

    Anyway, thanks! Your list is fun and thought-provoking.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Yesl Lessons in Chemistry is perhaps an odd choice, but it’s a very recent novel (about to be made into a film) and it was quirky and different and I just loved it.
      I know some will be disappointed at my lack of Aussie fiction (please note there is no NZ fiction either, as Katherine Mansfield wrote short stories, not novels) but I just don’t love any of them enough except for Seven Little Australians and the Billabong novels.
      Do you ever re-read Crime and Punishment or War and Peace? That was also one of my criteria for my list – do I want to re-read it? While Tolstoy and Dostoevesky are both amazing, the only ones I have read twice are Anna K., War and Peace and Crime and Punishment, and am not sure I will ever read them again. But all so much fun to think about and my list is a fluid one and changes often.

      • John

        Thanks for the clarification re Lessons in Chemistry: I had never heard of it, so thought it might have been a favourite Chemistry textbook from your school years 🙂

        I am not disappointed by your having little Australian fiction, rather just surprised that the Billabong books appear while other novels that I think are considerably better do not.

        I gave away my copy of War and Peace after I read it and feel no desire to read it again although I think there is an excellent novel contained within it, just padded with far too much commentary, especially the 90 page postscript. I also gave away Crime and Punishment but for a different reason: I would happily read it again, but it is too depressing for me to want to keep a copy in my flat, where I would see it every day. The 932 page biography of Dostoevsky I have just read has three full chapters devoted to The Brothers Karamazov, explaining the references in it. In that light, that novel definitely seems worth another read, but inevitably I already have far too many books to read that I have not yet read at all.

        Once again, your list is great fun and thought-provoking. I think you have done us all a considerable service in this.

        • Susannah Fullerton

          Thanks for all your comments, John. And well done on reading that huge biography of Dostoevsky!
          The Billabong novels are not great books, but I loved them in childhood and they are still ‘comfort’ reads.

  13. rod pyne

    Thanks,Susannah,for keeping me on your mailing list all this time.Congrats on your 100th ! Loved perusing your “Top 100”. Remarkable how many of my choices are here. A little surprised you left Virginia Woolf off [To the Lighthouse and Mrs Dalloway] and I would have added Marcel Proust. Also,I love going back to Julian Symonds’ A Portrait of Corvo and to Sheridan Le Fanu’s Uncle Silas. Then,Wilkie Collins. And some Aussies: Randolph Stow’s Merrygoround in the Sea,George Johnston’s My Brother Jack,Arthur Boyd’s A Cardboard Crown and Patrick White’s Riders in the Chariot. Forster’s A Passage to India has to be added.What about the Russians? War and Peace and Anna Karenina and Dostoevsky’s Brothers Karamazov and The Idiot. Turgenev’s Flowers of Spring,also. In fact,100 hardly seems enough!
    Seeing your list took me back to 2005,when you sat me next to Tania Plibersek at the JASA Xmas lunch and we both perused your [earlier] list on that day.18 years ago.
    Thanks again for your newsletters.I keep thinking I should return to “things literary”…maybe soon. Rod Pyne

    • Susannah Fullerton

      100 is nowhere near enough! Good to hear from you, Rodney. You MUST come back to JASA – your sister will be giving us a talk next year.
      I am not a Virginia Woolf fan, so have to leave her out, and the same with Patrick White whose books I just do not like. Yes, Proust probably should be there, though I’ve only read his great work once. You have lsited some I’ve not read, so will add them to my future reading list.

  14. Margaret Debenham

    A wonderful and wide-ranging list, Susannah, and most would be on my list too (although there are 24 novels or authors which I haven’t read – must do something about that!). However, as the list is about very favourite favourites, I would have to delete a few I like but don’t quite love: Mark Twain (I read Huck and Tom Sawyer to my son when he was about 10, doing all the voices – probably quite badly – I think he enjoyed them, but it turns out he’s more into sci-fi), J K Rowling, Edith Wharton, Henry James, Somerset Maugham, Tolkien and (I know this is heresy) Bonnie Garmus. Instead I would add Louis de Bernieres (Birds Without Wings), Shirley Hazzard (The Transit of Venus), Geraldine Brooks (Year of Wonders), Colette (the Claudine novels), Sally Vickers (Miss Garnet’s Angel), Umberto Eco (The Name of the Rose), Fyodor Dostoevsky (Crime and Punishment), Virginia Woolf (To the Lighthouse, Orlando), Gustave Flaubert (Madame Bovary), Naguib Mahfouz (The Cairo Trilogy – I also love his Akhenaten Dweller in Truth, but I’m not sure it’s a novel), George Saunders (Lincoln in the Bardo), and Sarah Winman (Still Life – I know, I know, but I loved this book – possibly in part because I love Florence, and could see it so clearly as I read – and I LOVED the characters (not at all worried about the ending)). And I would have to include The Famous Five series. I would add Anna Karenina to Tolstoy, and The Woman In White to Wilkie Collins. Thank you for prompting this interesting exercise (and further reading).

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Isn’t it challenging to think about what we would leave in and what to exclude. You remind me that I MUST read the Cairo Trilogy – don’t know why I haven’t already. I haven’t read that Louis de Bernieres one either. I only quite liked Year of Wonders, don’t like Virginia Woolf much at all, and got irritated with the Claudine novels, so am fascinated by how differently we respond to the same books. I think a lot can depend on what time of our live we read them, and what mood we are in at the time.
      Thanks for giving me more suggestions and sharing your thoughts on my list.

  15. Jennifer Dewar

    Loved reading your list and totally agree it’s personal. Fortunately I’ve read most and am now encouraged both to read those I haven’t yet and to reread others.
    Many thanks for taking the time to compile this. With best wishes as ever, Jenny

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Yes, every reader will create a different list of favourites. Glad you enjoyed mine and it will inspire future reading for you.

      • roger Hall

        A lovely I have read about 90 of these., and I will try and follow up those zi haven’t. But I think you have missed a a very good author, Martin Cruz Smith. His Arkady series is extremely good; detective/crime sure, but along with each novel comes a shrewd analysis of Russian society. His Red Square s terrific, and the the significance of the title cleverly shifts from time to time.
        Roger Hall

        • Susannah Fullerton

          Thanks Roger. I read his Gorky Park and really enjoyed that and have kept meaning to get back to his books. Thanks for the reminder.

  16. Fran

    I too have read almost all of your 100.
    When people say things such as ‘I can’t believe you put in….. or left out’ they are forgetting that this is YOUR list
    My 100 would probably have half of yours and many that you may not enjoy., but it would be mine.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Absolutely! Such lists are entirely personal, and probably always changing, as we read new books or return to ones we read ages ago.

  17. Suzanne Williams

    Thank you…I love reading people’s lists of their favourite books.Most of your selection I’ve read but you did omit the Leopard by Giuseppe Lampedusa….probably Italy’s most famous book.With a tour of Sicily it’s almost mandatory and hopefully his house etc is included in the tour .let’s discuss more…I’ve read it 3 times and do have the DVD.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Yes, The Leopard is indeed a brilliant novel and one I will be definitely including in my tour of Sicily, but it is not one I adore so it didn’t quite make the cut as a ‘favourite’.

  18. Donna Fletcher Crow

    What a wonderful list, Susannah! I found myself saying, “Oh, yes.” to most of your choices. I’ll have to admit to shuddering at Ethan Frome, though. Such fin!

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Thanks so much, Donna, and glad you share my literary tastes. Yes, Ethan Frome is a grim book, but I love its depiction of the weather and landscape and its brilliant creation of claustrophobia.

  19. Graham H.

    “5 totally agree novels” – Billabong Gold, Hound of the Baskervilles, Wind in the Willows, Tristram Shandy, Three Men in a Boat. “5 novels by the selected authors that I think are better” – Cannery Row, Jekyll and Hyde, Towards Zero, The Secret Garden (or even Fauntleroy), Trustee from the Toolroom (or No Highway). “5 novels that I cannot believe you left out” – The Magic Mountain, Heidi, Heart of Darkness, Swallows and Amazons, Crime and Punishment. “2 novels that are unacceptable novels” – Don Quixote, Harry Potter – the former because it opens up so many perspectives, that it undercuts meaning and subverts society, and the latter because it’s so fake. The whole point of fiction is that it is supposed to be more true than truth, not less true.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Lists are such eprsonal things. Glad you agree on some of them. I can’t stand Heart of Darkness. I enjoyed The Magic Mountain but don’t love it, and liked Buddenbrooks more. I far prefer Kidnapped and Treasure Island to Jekyll and Hyde. Heidi is too sentimental. And I don’t agree at all with your comments on Don Quixote and Harry Potter. We must discuss some time!

  20. Professor Chris Browne

    Hi Susannah (from the hotel named after you in Singapore)

    Congratulations on your 100th newsletter. Vivien and I always look forward to the 1st of each month for the pleasure of reading your interesting articles.

    A quick check on your 100 best ” I agreed with 65 of them, had not read about 20 of them, and would have added The Heart of the Matter, The End of the Affair, and Brighton Rock for Graham Greene, The Sign of Four for Conan Doyle, Silas Marner Daniel Deronda and Adam Bede for George Eliot, A Christmas Carol and Pickwick under Dickens, Infamous Army for Heyer, To Have and Have Not, The End of the Affair and Fiesta for Hemingway and A Passage to India for Forster. Also probably The Nine Tailors for Sayers and The Woman in White for Collins. I would also include all of the Bernie Gunter novels of Philip Kerr, and the Aurelio Zen novels for Michael Dibdon.

    Best wishes
    Chris and Vivien in Singapore today but in Paris tonight.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Fascinating additions to my list, Chris. An Infamous Army is one of my least favourite Heyers. I’m not as big a Graham Greene fan as you. I agree that A Christmas Carol should be there. Oh dear, I’m going to have to re-work the list – again! We are so lucky to have such joy in books!

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