Top 10 Essential Non-English Novels You Must Read at Least Once in Your Life

Tags: #ClassicLiterature ,   #Cervantes ,   #Dostoevsky ,   #Boccacio

Scarlett Goldstein

Scarlett Goldstein

Last updated:  2021-04-06 12:15:22

Life is, unfortunately, way too short to read all the books that are worth reading… And that's one of the saddest facts. However, some novels are so mind-blowing you really have to explore them before you die, at least once, and some of them deserve even more! To get to know some awesome novels that weren't written in English but are worth your attention, you can start with these 10 novels that will amaze you!

10. "One Hundred Years of Solitude" by Gabriel García Márquez

Gabriel García Márquez wrote in one of the most beautiful languages in this world

Márquez is the most prominent name in the world of Spanish literature, with two novels that traveled the whole universe! While his tragic love story "Love in the Time of Cholera" is a good option for beginners in the world of classics, since it's easier to understand, his second masterpiece, "One Hundred Years of Solitude," is even more authentic!

With two generations of characters, you'll really get to know 100 years of changes this family experiences. What makes this story different is its magical realism, a technique that makes the narrative a bit harder to follow. However, once you figure it out, you'll see why this brilliant work got a Nobel Prize!

9. “Madame Bovary” by Gustave Flaubert

If any classic was boring to you, this one will entertain you and keep you interested for sure

Imagine getting married and staying trapped in that relationship for ages, saying: "Oh, why, dear God, did I marry him?" That must hurt, or at least "Madame Bovary" shows us so. To escape from the boring life, beautiful Emma embarks on a journey full of affairs and exciting situations that would hopefully make her life more interesting. But is it really that easy?

She left everything just for a little passion and excitement in life. Isn't this lady kind of relatable, anyway? Actually, she's very relatable; let's not lie! However, we hope you know where to draw the line because Madame Bovary obviously didn't… You'll figure out what we mean when you read this book. And you won't regret it!

8. “Don Quixote” by Miguel de Cervantes

Classics can be fun, too, and this one shows you that side!

There aren't many fun adventures among classics since the recurring themes are religion, love and hate, death, and other serious topics. And that's good, of course! However, if you'd rather take a break from that vibe, grab "Don Quixote" and go on a trip with a knight… That at least pretends to be one of them!

The uniqueness of the plot and the expression makes a book incomparable to any other. That's what this classic managed to portray! After all, how many novels involve a friendship so serious and sincere as Quixote's bromance with Sancho Panza? It's effortlessly playful and one of the best you'll ever read, trust us.

7. “The Brothers Karamazov” by Fyodor Dostoevsky

Does evil exist in all of us?

When it comes to Dostoevsky's novels, giving a recommendation is extremely hard, as it depends on your taste and the recurring themes you prefer. Moreover, all of them are so good that we could make a whole list consisting of his works only! Nevertheless, "The Brothers Karamazov" feels like his manifesto, collecting all his ideas!

Dostoevsky influenced philosophers and writers worldwide, and he still continues to shape his reader's opinions on life, death, faith, good and bad, and any other existential themes. You can't wrap this immense novel in one sentence, one genre, or one theme… This one should be read at least twice, to be honest!

6. “The Decameron” by Giovanni Boccaccio

"The Decameron" is a rich read, with as many themes as you can imagine

Of course, the Italian entry on our list is a masterpiece written in the Renaissance era – who did it better in the 14th and 15th centuries than the Italians? Only a few literary works in this world collected as many themes as "The Decameron" did. Yet, the structure seems so basic and easy to follow!

We promise you'll have fun with almost every story the seven ladies and three men tell within the frame story of these 10 people escaping the Black Death, the bubonic plague that created the most fatal pandemic in history. From erotic to tragic tales, you won't be able to decide which one stole your heart!

5. "The Master and Margarita" by Mikhail Bulgakov

This classic is quite different from anything you'll read from Russian literature

How great a book is when the writer works on it for 12 years? The result of Bulgakov's immense talent and wild imagination is this novel, which is one of the greatest you'll ever read. For those who prefer supernatural over realism, "The Master and Margarita" is better than any unearthly story you've read and still as good as any social novel that left a permanent mark on world literature.

"The Master and Margarita" tells the story of a devil visiting the atheistic Soviet Union, and yes, it gets as weird as it sounds! However, the fine line between real and supernatural is constantly there, with a solid dose of dark satire, making it one of the finest combinations of genres ever!

4. “Buddenbrooks” by Thomas Mann

The DW section "100 German Must-Reads" might inspire you to read more of their works

As we're approaching the top of the list, we're coming to more hefty literary works. And this one is hefty not only in its page count but also in the story and the characters! It's one of the German classics you can't avoid, and it's arguably the best social novel of all time.

"Buddenbrooks" portraits the story of a prominent merchant dynasty, with each family member slowly falling apart. If you loved Edgar Allan Poe's gothic short story "The Fall of the House of Usher," you'll read 800 more pages about the same topic! Ironic and clever, with complex sentences of Mann's pretty language, "Buddenbrooks" is a novel you won't ever forget.

3. “Père Goriot” by Honoré de Balzac

Just by looking at the comments, you can see how much love and respect people have for this incredible story

Better known as "Father Goriot," the character that gave this novel a name is one of the biggest hearts ever described in the literature. Honoré de Balzac, the French pioneer of realism, included this one in his magnum opus known as "The Human Comedy." It's the manifesto of realism, and this evergreen book leaves you in awe for its emotion and characters' development.

Goriot is, actually, a father of two young ladies obsessed with prestige, royal titles, and money, so the girls are ashamed of him. The young man he meets in the boarding house, Rastignac, is disgusted by Goriot's daughters' behavior. Nevertheless, the story revolves around his own obsession with getting into the world of the rich Parisian upper class. It's a coming-of-age story, with crime, love, history, and society motifs – it's all about the lessons you need to learn in life!

2. “Anna Karenina” by Leo Tolstoy

There are many movie adaptations, so we guess you've already seen some of them

Russian literature is gold, and if you still didn't get that impression, you should read more of it. For example, you should've already stumbled upon one of the greatest novels ever written in any language – "Anna Karenina!" Love, passion, destruction, dignity, betrayal, and faith are the novel's leading themes, and we didn't even name all of them!

However, make sure you take your time reading this masterpiece because it usually comes in two volumes and over 800 pages! Every page is worth it, though, and the book has so many major characters you'll catch yourself rooting for all of them. After some time, you'll feel like they're real humans because you won't forgive their mistakes easily. A real rollercoaster you shouldn't miss!

1. "The Trial" by Franz Kafka

The podcast focuses especially on the importance of "The Trial" in our society today

Originally written in German, "The Trial" ("Der Prozess") combined one of the most clever structures and plots of all time. It's not a novel you should check at least once, reading it in your teen days and come back to it a few years later when you find out Kafka was telling the truth about our society.

When you're young, you'll be confused about Joseph K. being accused of doing absolutely nothing and committing no crime. However, as the years go by, you'll understand Kafka was drowned in the world of bureaucracy and that he predicted we would live like that in the 21st century as well. He is a writer that never ages, and this story lives forever.

The world of classics outside English is so rich we definitely couldn't collect all of them on a list that involves only ten. Let this be your introduction, and keep searching – maybe some novels we didn't mention are your future favorites. Reading is a journey that lasts a lifetime, so take your time and enjoy!

Do you usually read only the authors that write in English? Do you think translations make a novel lose its original glow? Let us know in the comments section!

Photo: Pixabay


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