The Best Books in Universal Literature

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Literature is one of the most complex forms of art man invented and created, and storytelling is one of our most important characteristics, one that helped us understand the world, pass on teachings from one generation to another and, most of all, it helped us enriched who we are and the world we live in. Ever since those first cave paintings, the humans found it necessary and even pleasant to tell stories; it would help them determine and share what was dangerous with the world around them, but it made time fly easier as well. Although people today complain that culture doesn’t have the importance it used to, people still read and recognize the value of books, and generations of good writers still show up.

Next to our passion for literature lies another quantifying passion, that for hierarchy; we always want to know who the best was in a certain situation, in a certain sport, at a certain challenge. That is why we have created a list of the best books in literature, sort of like a universal guide to the best literary creations that nobody should miss out on. The list is comprised of 100 books, and it was selected by a group of one hundred writers from 54 countries. This initiative of gathering the best books in the world in one list belonged to the Norwegian Book Club, and it took place in 2002. Each writer was allowed to propose a list of ten book titles, and out of them, those that showed up most were introduced to the bigger list.

Although some could argue that the selection was made subjectively, the fact that the same books other lists or authors praised is undeniable, and although literature is subject to taste as well, the fact that certain books are true works of art is also an absolute truth. That being said, the list of the best books in universal literature is made up from 85 books written by men, 11 books written by women and 4 books with unknown authors. And although they are in a top 100, the organizers and those who participated in the event said that all works are equal, and none is more valued than the other. The only exception was Don Quixote by Miguel Cervantes, which was dubbed the best literary work ever written, and not for the first time either.

One of the other best books in literature that features in this list are Dante Aligheri’s The Divine Comedy, a poetical and mystical rendition of the author’s travels through Hell, Purgatory and Heaven. This huge and impressive oeuvre is considered the masterpiece of Italian literature and it helped establish the Tuscan dialect as the standard Italian language. Another book is the inspiring and influential One Thousand and One Nights by an unknown Arab author, or possibly authors, seeing how oral stories are influenced by all those who tell them. This books is the ultimate narrator, flowing from one story to another without disruption, and tackling all subjects and aspects of life.

No great author is missing from this list, and we find authors like Samuel Beckett, Honore de Balzac, Jane Austen, Anton Chekhov, Dostoyevsky, Gustave Flaubert, Knut Hamsun, Ernest Hemingway, Homer, James Joyce, Doris Lessing, Edgar Allan Poe, Shakespeare or Murasaki Shikibu. Those who want to improve their general knowledge and enriched their culture can find the complete list available online, together with a list of all other authors who were considered for the top 100. Reading and writing give continuity and understanding to our lives, which is why we must reserve them an important place in our lives.

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