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30 Top Novels that Remain Thought Provoking

Updated on September 5, 2015

Novels that are thought provoking

Novels exist that are thought provoking.
Novels exist that are thought provoking. | Source
Some novels question who we are and how we run our lives.
Some novels question who we are and how we run our lives. | Source
The novels of F. Scott Fitzgerald plugged nicely into the JAZZ age.
The novels of F. Scott Fitzgerald plugged nicely into the JAZZ age. | Source
The Great Gatsby
The Great Gatsby | Source
Red Badge of Courage.
Red Badge of Courage. | Source
All Quiet on the Western Front. During World War One hand grenades were a constant menace to the front line soldier.
All Quiet on the Western Front. During World War One hand grenades were a constant menace to the front line soldier. | Source
Early Science Fiction.
Early Science Fiction. | Source
BIGGLES was a fictional British pilot.
BIGGLES was a fictional British pilot. | Source
The Stainless Steel Rat.
The Stainless Steel Rat. | Source
DRACULA! | Source
The Frankenstein creature.
The Frankenstein creature. | Source
The Story of O.
The Story of O. | Source
During the First World War the Blue Max was the highest award presented to a German pilot.
During the First World War the Blue Max was the highest award presented to a German pilot. | Source
Fahrenheit 451.
Fahrenheit 451. | Source
A Clockwork Orange
A Clockwork Orange | Source
A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court.
A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court. | Source
War of the Worlds.
War of the Worlds. | Source
Brave New World
Brave New World | Source
Zorro! | Source
1984 | Source
1984. | Source
Today when the rights of writers and artists are being challenged by terrorists with guns the warnings in 1984 need to be understood. and heeded.
Today when the rights of writers and artists are being challenged by terrorists with guns the warnings in 1984 need to be understood. and heeded. | Source
Love in the world of political correctness. The novel 1984 was right!
Love in the world of political correctness. The novel 1984 was right! | Source

The Top 30 novels that remain thought Provoking

There have been quite a few novels that have been thought provoking to at least someone. Even the mildest of mystery stories can provoke thought.

Here I endeavor to present novels that have not only been thought provoking around time of their first publication but have also gone on to provoke thought among many readers in subsequent editions. I also mention two novels that, though they have only recently been published, I believe will continue to provoke thought.

1. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

This has been and continues to be a novel much used in high schools and universities as a must read for those interested in writing and good literature. Though this book was not at first received with all the favor it deserved by the public it has since become a classic of the tragedy in novel form.

Like Tender is the Night, another novel by Fitzgerald, it encapsulates the jazz age for the modern reader.

How is it thought provoking? We follow Gatsby as his dream of a life with Daisy slowly disintegrates. Daisy, though beautiful, is hollow and society seems to prefer her that way. She is best viewed from a distance.

The closer Gatsby gets to being truly with Daisy the more pointless the exercise becomes. In the end Gatsby dies for a dream, an illusion of what Daisy might or perhaps should have been. How many of us chase dreams and, when we catch up to them, wish we hadn't?

2. The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane

This is a 19th Century novel that takes the romance out of war. We follow a private in the Union army through his first battle during the American Civil War. It is not a nice, neat engagement with the enemy. There is confusion as well as bloodshed and killing. Death is not always instantaneous.

3. All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque

Set during the First World War and written from the point of view of a young German at the Western Front, this is a great anti-war novel. It might even be the best anti-war novel ever published. From the classroom and the promise of glory on the battlefield to the true horrors of World War One.

4. Make Room! Make Room! by Harry Harrison

This 1966 science fiction masterpiece not only speaks to the present as a warning but also to the future. It deals with the horrors of an overpopulated world.

5. A Woman of Mars by Mary Anne Moore-Bentley

This novel written in 1901 is early Australian science fiction. It remains thought provoking in that it deals with the subjects of overpopulation and the need for women to have a say in how their lives are run. Part of this novel can be found in Australian Science Fiction - an anthology which was edited by Van Ikin in 1982.

6. The Last Stand of the DNA Cowboys by Mick Farren

This may be an unusual choice to place here but it does evoke questions about what the future might be like if we are able to pop ourselves into android bodies once the real ones are no longer functional. Regardless, this is a fun romp and a good read.

7. Biggles the Camels are Coming by Captain W.E. Johns

This may be the best of the Biggles novels written by a man who understood aerial combat and could write about it. His insights into human nature in this book are interesting and I would say will remain of interest to future readers.

8. A Booke of Days by Stephen J. Rivelle

This fictional journal of a crusader during the middle ages has a lot going for it. There are anti-war elements and the question of what any religion could or should demand of its followers also arises.

9. A Stainless Steel Rat is Born by Harry Harrison

This is absurd science fiction at its best. How is it thought provoking? Like good science fiction it addresses current issues but sets everything in another time and place. In the future a restless lad becomes an expert thief, a stainless steel rat. This book is part of an enjoyable and memorable series of novels.

10. Dracula by Bram Stoker

This has become the definitive vampire novel. Anyone who has any interest in horror will sooner or later pick up a copy of this book.

11. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Man steps beyond the bounds of reason and nature to creates life. Why the creature behaves the way it does and how guilty its creator happens to be for his creation is dealt with in some detail.

12. Story of O by Pauline Reage

This novel, which was once widely banned, examines the world of the masochist and the sadist.

13. Wasp by Eric Frank Russell

How do you create paranoia and bring down an alien government? This question is examined in this clever piece of writing.

14. The Blue Max by Jack D. Hunter

Set during the First World War this novel about a German pilot deals with the stresses on pilots during this war. It also deals with the subject of alcoholism.

15. The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris

This is one of the best novels written on the subject of the serial killer and those who hunt the serial killer.

16. Dune by Frank Herbert

A very complex science fiction work in which, in many ways, the notion that power corrupts is played out. There is a spice needed for space travel. It is found on a planet where water is scarce.

17. A Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle

This book introduces the world to the greatest of fictional detectives Sherlock Holmes and many readers to deductive reasoning.

18. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

The name refers to the temperature at which the printed word burns. This book deals with the value of books. In this science fiction novel writing and reading have been banned for everyone's better happiness. The book people, however, do not agree and so become living books.

19. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

This is horror science fiction at its best, youth rebellion at its worse. State attempts at control at its worse. Bleeding hearts at their worse. Grim but very thought provoking. It comes with its own futuristic language but the problems it deals with are the problems of a world that has no time for youth and no time for the very old.

20. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

A novel about a mighty river and a fantastic journey. A powerful anti-racism/anti-slavery work. At one time it was banned in the American south. Today it faces the threat of being banned in some schools in the USA.

21. A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court by Mark Twain

This is the grimmest book written by Twain and the final battle scene and what leads up to it remains highly memorable fiction.

22. The Prince and the Pauper by Mark Twain

Here the difference between royalty and commoner are examined. Birth right versus character.

23. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

Here we discover that there can be good even in the most humble and seemingly worthless of individuals. What does happen when a people go mad for blood? The innocent as well as the guilty of past wrongs suffer.

24. The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy

Before Zorro and Batman there was the Scarlet Pimpernel. Through various disguises he rescued the helpless from the guillotine during the excesses of the French Revolution. A fictional character that has spawned many a fictional character. The message here? Revenge can drive a people mad with blood lust.

25. Twilight Healer by Barbara Custer

First published in 2001, this novel is a more modern view of the vampire and the author uses her knowledge of the healing arts to make this more than just a good read. How are hospitals run today and what pressures are there on hospital personnel? Should more money go into the maintaining of hospitals? These questions and more make the read thought provoking.

26. The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells

One of the best of the early science fiction novels written by Wells. It captures the fear some Englishmen had of invasion at the time it was written. The fear of invasion, in one form or another, remains. There were earlier stories by other authors dealing with possible invasion of England by soldiers from other parts of Europe using modern weaponry.

27. The Last Vampire by T.M. Wright

One human and one vampire remain. Will the vampire feast on the human and if he does won't that be the end of both of them? Thought provoking in its use of the end of the world scenario.

28. Crome Yellow by Aldous Huxley

This is the forerunner to Brave New World. A strange house full of strange people has a man who can see a future that is at once marvelous and also terrifying.

29. 1984 by George Orwell

This is a nightmare future in which history is continually being changed to suit the politics of the day. Big Brother is the symbol of government and he is watching you.Today the story of Robin Hood has recently been re-worked for the purposes of political correctness. In this instance George Orwell's warning has gone unheeded.

30. South of Rio Chama by Lyn McConchie

Published in 2009, this western is said to be the first of its type in ages where the main character is a woman fighting hard to get back her stolen property. She uses brains and gumption.

Well, those are my 30. I could have mentioned authors such as Peter Corris and his Browning series of Australian adventure novels but decided to stick with the 30. Some authors you will be familiar with and some not so familiar. The ones you are not so familiar with I reckon are worth checking out. Other people of course will have other novels they feel are strongly provocative. I should mention that the list is in no particular order. The number reached is the promised 30.

Available through Amazon and Smashwords, Disco Evil: Dead Man's Stand by Rod Marsden. Also Ghost Dance by Rod Marsden.

Also check out my latest novel, Desk Job, which is my salute to the genius of Lewis Carroll.


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    • Rod Marsden profile imageAUTHOR

      Rod Marsden 

      4 years ago from Wollongong, NSW, Australia

      Thanks Rodrigo Lara.

    • profile image

      Rodrigo Lara 

      4 years ago

      Great list. All quiet on the western front is one of the best books I've ever read.

    • Rod Marsden profile imageAUTHOR

      Rod Marsden 

      6 years ago from Wollongong, NSW, Australia

      The Da Vinci Code isn't a bad novel. It is thought provoking. It isn't quite as thought provoking as A Booke of Days or 1984 but, sure, it could have been included here.

    • profile image

      David O'Neill 

      6 years ago

      Seems like a goods list however I was wondering what the general concensus on the book "The Da Vinci Code" is.

      Although its full of nonsense I still think that it's one of the best thought out books of modern times. Although the facts in it may be wrong they are still plentiful and in my own mind quite thought-provoking .

    • Rod Marsden profile imageAUTHOR

      Rod Marsden 

      7 years ago from Wollongong, NSW, Australia

      I am pleased you like my list, Trish. The Blue Max is a far better novel than the movie loosely based on it would indicate. Mind you, the aerial scenes in the film are fantastic. Its just the script that tends to let you down.

      Yes, To Kill a Mockingbird is a very good and thought provoking book.

      Thanks for stopping by.

    • Trish_M profile image

      Tricia Mason 

      7 years ago from The English Midlands

      Hi Rod :)

      Thought-provoking list!

      I read 'The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn' and 'The Prince and the Pauper' (also, I think, 'The Adventures of Tom Sawyer') when I was a child ~ and absolutely loved them!

      I never managed to get into '1984', but loved 'Animal Farm'.

      I haven't read any of the others on the list ~ though I did make a start on 'Dracula' once, many years ago.

      I read a lot of fiction when I was younger, but, since then, I have tended to read more non-fiction.

      I remember my late father being impressed by 'The Blue Max'.

      Another book I haven't read, but which seems to provoke a lot of thought, is 'To Kill a Mockingbird'.

      I am currently reading a book, which is fiction based in fact, and is really aimed at young people. However, it is equally popular with adults ~ 'Private Peaceful'. Definitely thought-provoking.

      I'll have to give your novels some more thought. There are so many books I want to read ~ maybe I'll add some of these to my list. :)

    • Rod Marsden profile imageAUTHOR

      Rod Marsden 

      7 years ago from Wollongong, NSW, Australia

      I know what you mean tony. Some years ago I had a joy flight in a Tiger Moth and it was great. It was the closest thing to being Biggles in real life. And I wasn't a kid when I took the flight. Thanks for stopping by.

    • tonymead60 profile image

      Tony Mead 

      7 years ago from Yorkshire

      I've read a number of you list, I loved the Blue Max, Dracula, huck fin, but most of all Biggles, I so wanted to be him as a kid.


    • Rod Marsden profile imageAUTHOR

      Rod Marsden 

      8 years ago from Wollongong, NSW, Australia

      Arthur Clarke is a good writer.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Childhood's End by Arthur Clarke. One of the best sci-fi books or book I've read.

    • Rod Marsden profile imageAUTHOR

      Rod Marsden 

      8 years ago from Wollongong, NSW, Australia

      When you are right Jane you are right. Thanks for the comment.

    • Jane Bovary profile image

      Jane Bovary 

      8 years ago from The Fatal Shore

      I have to say something about The Great Gatsby, which I didn't actually think I'd like, but as it happens I did..alot. I agree with your summation-the shallow, vapid Daisy seemed to be some sort of illusionary shining star, forever out of reach. Gatsby was more in love with desire than the object of it.


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