15 Classic Novels You've Probably Overlooked — But Definitely Need To Read

With a couple thousand years of literary history behind us, it's only natural for even the most voracious reader to find they've missed one or two grand old books. For the list below, I've picked out 15 overlooked classics you've probably waited too long to read. Get on it, book nerds, because there's no time like the present.

The books on the list below cover a few hundred years of literature, right up to the 1960s, and hail from nations all across the globe, from China to Mexico and everywhere in-between. You may recognize some of the authors on this list as your favorite novelists of yesteryear, such as Virginia Woolf and George Sand, but don't be surprised to find a name you've never heard before lurking among the 15 writers below.

As you might expect, this list is incredibly diverse, both in genre and representation. Among the 15 titles I've picked out for you, you'll find feminist essays, experimental fiction, fairy tales, short stories, and more. There are books in translation as well as titles from beloved English-language authors, and novels from writers of all walks of life.

Check out the 15 overlooked classics I've picked out for you below:

'Flowers in the Mirror' by Ju-chen Li

In this fantasy novel set in 7th-century China, a new empress commands the Fairy of a Hundred Flowers to order all of her flower spirits to bring the world into bloom overnight: a task for which they are severely punished by the gods.

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'The Waves' by Virginia Woolf

Moving between the voices of six POV characters, Virginia Woolf's The Waves tells the story of Percival, a young man who has died in his prime, and how his friends reckon with his absence.

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'Plum Bun' by Jessie Redmon Fauset

Set in early 20th-century New York City, Plum Bun follows Angela, a light-skinned black woman who passes for white, as she attempts to navigate the city's elite art circles and avoid revealing her heritage to her new, white friends.

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'This Sweet Sickness' by Patricia Highsmith

This novel from Strangers on a Train author Patricia Highsmith centers on David, a scientist who, when his ex-girlfriend marries another man, assumes a new identity and builds a double life in the hopes of winning her back.

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'Pinjar: The Skeleton and Other Stories' by Amrita Pritam

Written amidst the turmoil of the Partition of India, Amrita Pritam's Pinjar tells the story of Puro, a Hindu girl abducted by a Muslim neighbor, whose family has a longstanding grievance against hers.

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'The Mandarins' by Simone de Beauvoir

This Prix Goncourt-winning roman à clef weaves its way through the lives of a handful of people in a small existentialist enclave in mid-century France.

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'The Living Is Easy' by Dorothy West

Born into a sharecropping family, Cleo Judson has "married up" to become a member of Boston's black upper-crust, but her ideas on family and childrearing aren't the same as those of her new neighbors.

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'Visa for Avalon' by Bryher

A dystopian novel from an overlooked British writer, Visa for Avalon centers on a small group of adults who must stage a daring escape when their country suddenly closes its borders.

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'Sultana’s Dream' by Rokeya Sakhawat Hussain

In this Indian feminist tale, men must remain secluded indoors while women run the world, ushering in an era of peace and prosperity.

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'Evelina' by Fanny Burney

The eponymous heroine of this 18th-century novel makes her entrance into society, only to find that her upbringing has left her ill-equipped to deal with the social codes followed by her upper-class peers.

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'A Riot of Goldfish' by Kanoko Okamoto

Set in early 20th-century Japan, this slim novel follows a young goldfish breeder who falls hopelessly in love with his patron's daughter and attempts to breed the perfect goldfish in her honor.

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'Grand Hotel' by Vicki Baum

Set in the Berlin of the Weimar Republic, Grand Hotel peeks into the lives of the titular institution's guests, which include an aging ballerina, a dying clerk, and a disfigured World War I veteran.

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'The Diary of Lady Murasaki' by Murasaki Shikibu

The real-life journals of The Tale of Genji author Murasaki Shikibu offer a glimpse into Japanese court life at the turn of the second millennium.

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'Indiana' by George Sand

The first novel George Sand published under her now-famous pseudonym, Indiana centers on the eponymous heroine, who marries a much-older man and later falls in love with their neighbor.

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'Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz: Selected Works' by Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz

The writings of a 17th-century Mexican nun are collected in this 2015 volume, which contains her poems, feminist essays, and more.

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