One Hundred Best Books


With Commentary and an Essay on Books and Reading




John Cowper Powys


This selection of “One hundred best books” is made after a different method and with a different purpose from the selections already in existence. Those apparently are designed to stuff the minds of young persons with an accumulation of “standard learning” calculated to alarm and discourage the boldest. The following list is frankly subjective in its choice; being indeed the selection of one individual, wandering at large and in freedom through these “realms of gold.”

The compiler holds the view that in expressing his own predilection, he is also supplying the need of kindred minds; minds that read purely for the pleasure of reading, and have no sinister wish to transform themselves by that process into what are called “cultivated persons.” The compiler feels that any one who succeeds in reading, with reasonable receptivity, the books in this list, must become, at the end, a person with whom it would be a delight to share that most classic of all pleasurable arts—the art of intelligent conversation.


Books and Reading – an Essay

Books 1 through 10 – David Through Milton (including Shakespeare)

Books 11 through 20 – Browne Through Hauptmann (including Goethe)

Books 21 through 30 – Ibsen to Balzac

Books 31 through 40 – Balzac to D’Annunzio

Books 41 through 50 – D’Annunzio to Gorky (including Dostoyevsky)

Books 51 through 60 – Chekhov to Dickens

Books 61 through 70 – Austen to Hardy (including Henry James)

Books 71 through 80 – Hardy to Pater (including Joseph Conrad)

Books 81 through 90 – Pater to Kipling

Books 91 through 100 – Dodgson to Bennett