As one of the richest cultures in the world with a plethora of ideas and worlds of imagination to offer to readers, European literature deserves to be read with careful love. Here is a list of 10 best books from European Literature to devour. Most of these are classics – mainly from Germany, France, Russia and Portugal – because everyone knows about British classics.
European Literature: 10 Best Books of European Literature –
- The Sorrows of Young Werther by Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe
- The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge by Rainer Maria Rilke
- Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
- Don Quixote by Miguel des Cervantes
- The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
- The Stranger by Albert Camus
- Perfume by Patrick Suskind
- Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
- The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux
- The Book of Disquiet by Fernando Pessoa
The Sorrows of Young Werther by Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe
This German masterpiece by a man whose literature is on the same shelf as Shakespeare follows a young boy called Werther. The story is that, Werther is a passionate yet dissatisfied man in love with his friend’s wife. This moving account of ‘tempestuous’ youth is semi-autobiographical, making it all the more interesting.
The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge by Rainer Maria Rilke
German poet Rilke’s only novel is the account of the suffocations of a man in the vibrant city of Paris. Full of literary wealth, this book has only a loose plot but its richness of character is immense. Young Brigge sees everything through the lens of death, and a city otherwise colourful becomes pallid for him.
Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
This poignant book is about the beautiful and charming Emma Bovary, who is trapped and bored in a banal marriage. Soon she seeks love outside of it, but love remains as elusive as ever. No one ever lives up to the expectations she holds as a voracious reader of romantic books, and her quest for love ends ultimately in disaster.
Don Quixote by Miguel des Cervantes
This Spanish classic is the story of the mad adventures of Don Quixote and literary critics often consider it the world’s first novel. In Quixote’s desire to become a knight, he voyages the world with his companion, Sancho. What unfolds is the romantic account of a young, passionate man’s exploits. It’s not only charming but also full of sagacity.
The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
On the eve of his engagement, the protagonist of Dumas’ masterpiece is wrongfully convicted of a crime he didn’t commit. Spending years in solitary confinement, he returns home as a vengeful man. He is no longer the innocent youth he once was – he is an ambitious man who wants to avenge himself.
The Stranger by Albert Camus
To summarize, this is the story of a man who, through a series of unfortunate coincidences, becomes party to a murder on an Algerian beach. This book has all Camus trademarks – the philosophy, the absurd and sparkling prose. It’s a treat to read, not just because the author is Camus, but also because of the novel’s standalone quality.
Perfume by Patrick Suskind
This is the story of a boy, Jean Baptise Grenouille, who has an extraordinary sense of smell. However, he has no scent himself and desires to create the most perfect and sublime smell of all times. This leads him to his quest of obtaining all necessary ingredients, including that of virgin maidens. His inhumane quest for the perfect scent thus turns him into a murderer.
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Tolstoy’s most famous work follows a woman who falls in love outside of marriage. On the other hand, a young Levin, who prefers the idyllic rural life, falls in love for the first time with an aristocratic girl. What follows is a rich saga of love, desire, loss and pain. With brilliant characters that engage readers, this book is accessible yet a classic.
The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux
This is the story of an orphan girl, Christine, who learns to sing with the help of an opera ghost, Erik. But when he falls in love with her, things get complex.
The Book of Disquiet by Fernando Pessoa
This Portuguese classic is a collection of fragments about life, philosophy and everything in between. With soulful meditations on solitude, this book is a must read in solitude. Because it has no strict plot, it is just a bunch of meanderings into nowhere, rich with literary insight. From the 20th century Portuguese master of heteronyms, this is a classic.
Also Read: 10 Best Romantic Novels of the 19th Century