Nick’s Picks: The Five Greatest Novels of All Time

1. The Once and Future King by T.H. White

This is the very best telling of one of the very best myths. It’s the story of King Arthur, Sir Lancelot, and Guinevere, with everything you might want out of fantasy. But more importantly, T.H. White pulls at the heart strings while teaching you lessons about life, love, and loyalty.


2. Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

Ambitious, brilliantly realized, grand in scope and imagination, Cloud Atlas deals with the big questions only the very best authors have the audacity to take on. Mitchell works in time scales of hundreds of years, to reveal not just the what of a dystopian future but more importantly the how. Through reincarnation, the reader is taken on a journey through six lives and a sextet of novellas, each of which explores themes of power and exploitation. Ultimately, Mitchell extrapolates where unchecked power and rampant consumerism will inevitably lead the human race, and it isn’t a pretty picture.


3. Dune by Frank Herbert

In 1965, long before Star Wars or Star Trek defined the science fiction epic, there was the equally splendorous Dune. Unlike the giants of the genre, Asimov and Clarke, Herbert paved the road for science fiction and fantasy in creating not merely a glimpse of a distant future but a fully realized world set upon tens of thousands of years. The result feels prophetic but exotically remote—as if Nostradamus looked so far forward that any lingering trace of society as we know it becomes nearly unrecognizable.


4. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

As you follow the characters in Steinbeck’s book, you find yourself unwillingly part of their family, raging as they rage, weeping as they weep, despairing as they despair. And yet, despite the enormity of their suffering, The Grapes of Wrath never discourages the reader. Every page is suffused with hope for a better future. Steinbeck manages this feat by creating characters easy to feel compassion for. They are proud, as familiar as friends, and their struggle is as noble as any quest in any adventure.


5. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

That scientific discoveries can have terrible, unintended consequences has been popularized by countless movies, TV shows, and novels, but in 1818, long before the atom bomb fell on Hiroshima, Frankenstein raised the issue of tinkering with nature. Shelley’s novel is so much more than a cautionary tale, however; it can be read in multiple levels, as a drama, a love story, an adventure, a morality play, and a social commentary. Though in some ways conventional in today’s world, Frankenstein remains brilliant for its gripping narrative and heartfelt characters and will continue to stand the test of time well into the future.

4 thoughts on “Nick’s Picks: The Five Greatest Novels of All Time

  1. I think these are great picks for a list of this kind, Nick. I feel the possible inspiration of Steinbeck's realism and grit in the first chapters of 'ENYA – particularly the scene, with the prostitute.

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  2. Very astute of you, Mel. Like all writers, I'll admit that my writing is heavily influenced by my reading. “The Grapes of Wrath” especially has had an influence on “Ages of Aenya” with regard to poverty and social inequality. In “Wrath”, farmers from Oklahoma suffer severe poverty and hunger after the severe drought of the 1920's. When they reach California, they are ostracized for their low social standing. In similar fashion, the Ilmarin starve due to drought, and are ostracized when they reach civilization, or more specifically in the case of Xandr and Thelana, the city of Hedonia. The primitive warriors from “Dune”, called Fremen, also inspired the Ilmar. Of course, the Ilmar are unique in that they are not only poor, but oblivious to the concept of clothing and nakedness. Lastly, Dr. Frankenstein's mad obsession with death echoes Emma's father, Mathias, and his golem creation, Grimosse.

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