51 Classics You Should Read If You Want To Be A Literature Know-It-All

51 Classics You Should Read If You Want To Be A Literature Know-It-All

Avatar of Alejandro I. López

By: Alejandro I. López

February 7, 2017

Books 51 Classics You Should Read If You Want To Be A Literature Know-It-All
Avatar of Alejandro I. López

By: Alejandro I. López

February 7, 2017

Nobody has said the classics are perfect. In fact, countless readers who have tackled such lauded works like the epic poems of Homer, or the dense and inexhaustible texts from Joyce or Alighieri, see these works more with a "slow and parsimonious” style than with an artistic statement. 

In the twenty-first century, we are seeing opinions about literature veer towards simplicity. Now more than ever we encounter cardboard characters or insignificant narratives, all jammed together as if it were following a fashion trend. It is a nostalgic attitude that tries to rescue the best works of the past because of their quality or simply because of the ignorance regarding present works.

In most cases, this principle lacks a connection with reality: everyone assumes that past times were better, even if there is a complete lack of knowledge on the historical context. This is due to an idealized vision of the past, which not only works to safeguard memory, but also secures bonds through nostalgia.

Do you know the classics or the authors that forever marked the literary world? Discover the main works of authors born before the twentieth century and take the necessary tools to make an informed critique of current literature. Build bridges between the present and those great classics who forged the canon or represent the inevitable ruptures with literature’s previous traditions:


The Epic of Gilgamesh (c.2000-2500 BCE)

The Iliad (6th century BC) - Homer

Oedipus Rex (4th century BC) - Sophocles

Lysistrata (4th century BC) - Aristophanes

The Art of Love (1st centruty BC) - Ovid

Aeneid (1st century BC) - Virgil

The Divine Comedy (1313) - Dante Alighieri

Decameron (1353) - Giovani Boccaccio

The Prince (1513) - Niccolò Machiavelli

The Life of Lazarillo de Tormes and His Fortunes and Adversities (1554) - Anonymous


Romeo and Juliet (1597) - William Shakespeare

Don Quixote de la Mancha (1605) - Miguel de Cervantes

The Suspicious Truth (1619) - Juan Ruiz de Alarcón

Fuenteovejuna (1619) - Lope de Vega

Life Is Dream (1635) - Pedro Calderón de la Barca

Respuesta a Sor Filotea de la Cruz (1691) - Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz

The Rape of the Lock (1712) - Alexander Pope

Robinson Crusoe (1719) - Daniel Defoe

Gulliver's Travels (1726) - Jonathan Swift

Tom Jones (1749) - Henry Fielding


Candide (1759) - Voltaire

Justine, or The Misfortunes of Virtue (1791) - Marquis de Sade

Rameau's Nephew (1805) - Denis Diderot

Faust (1808) - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Pride and Prejudice (1813) - Jane Austen

Frankenstein (1818) - Mary Shelley

Oliver Twist (1837) - Charles Dickens

The Count of Monte Cristo (1844) - Alejandro Dumas

Wuthering Heights (1847) - Charlotte Brontë

Moby Dick (1851) - Herman Melville


“Song of Myself" (1855) - Walt Whitman

Madame Bovary (1856) - Gustave Flaubert

The Flowers of Evil (1857) - Charles Baudelaire

Les Miserables (1862) - Victor Hugo

"The Kiss" (1863) - Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer

The Adventures of Alice in Wonderland (1865) - Lewis Carroll

War and Peace (1869) - Leo Tolstoy

A Season in Hell (1873) - Arthur Rimbaud

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884) - Mark Twain

Crime and Punishment (1886) - Fyodor Dostoyevsky


Tales of Melpomene (1886) - Antón Chéjov

Blue (1888) - Rubén Darío

The Portrait of Dorian Gray (1890) - Oscar Wilde

The Eleven Thousand Yards (1907) - Guillaume Apollinaire

The Bandits of the Cold River (1891) - Manuel Payno

Santa (1903) - Federico Gamboa

In Search of Lost Time (1913) - Marcel Proust

Los de abajo (1915) - Mariano Azuela

The Immovable Beloved (1922) - Amado Nervo

Steppenwolf (1927) - Herman Hesse

Doña Bárbara (1929) - Rómulo Gallegos


As in other fields of knowledge, women have mostly been excluded because of Western society’s chauvinism. Therefore there will always be amazing literature written by women yet to be discovered and enjoyed.