The Odyssey by Homer
OK, so this one’s technically an epic poem, not a book, but we think it still counts. As an epic poem, The Odyssey was recited, or sung, for years and years before it was written down. It tells the (fictional) story of Ancient Greek war hero Odysseus’s perilous 20-year journey home from the battlefield. He outsmarts a Cyclops, chats with dead people, and endures the repeated wrath of a seriously angry sea god before finally arriving home. The second-oldest known work of Western literature has stood the test of time. The Coen brothers reimagined The Odyssey in the American South in the comedy O Brother, Where Art Thou? starring a young George Clooney. Plus, some of the best scenes in the popular Greek myth-inspired kids’ series Percy Jackson and the Olympians were also inspired by Odysseus’s journey.
The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown
This fictional, but meticulously researched, thriller will make you wish you paid more attention in art class. A murder at the Louvre museum leads symbologist Robert Langdon on a high-stakes treasure hunt through Europe with the police on his tail. It’s got just the right mix of page-turning action and brainteasing historical information. This is one book that (Tom Hanks’s coolness notwithstanding) is way better than its movie adaptation. The Da Vinci Code‘s mind-bending “what if” questions will stay with you long after you put it down.
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Generations of readers have fallen in love with Elizabeth Bennet. Pride and Prejudice‘s delightful heroine chooses to marry for love rather than money and isn’t afraid to put an arrogant suitor in his place. With the novel itself still a staple of many an English class, the story also lives on through its many—and very diverse—spinoffs. These include the true-to-the-novel 2005 film starring Keira Knightley, the rom-com Bridget Jones’s Diary, the fun web series The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, and even the satirical paranormal adaptation Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Here are our other favorite female book characters of all time.