100BestNovels has compiled the 100 best novels, but just what is a novel?
The Oxford Dictionary defines it as a “fictitious prose tale published as complete book.”, whilst the Encyclopedia Britannica states “an invented prose narrative of considerable length and a certain complexity that deals imaginatively with human experience, usually through a connected sequence of events involving a group of persons in a specific setting. Within its broad framework, the genre of the novel has encompassed an extensive range of types and styles: picaresque, epistolary, Gothic, romantic, realist, historical—to name only some of the more important ones.”
The novel in the modern era usually makes use of a literary prose style, and the development of the prose novel at this time was encouraged by innovations in printing, and the introduction of cheap paper, in the 15th century.
The genre has been described as having “a continuous history of about two thousand years”, with historical roots in Classical Greece and Rome, medieval, early modern romance, and in the tradition of the novella (an Italian word used to describe short stories). The present generic English term was derived from this word in the 18th century. Miguel de Cervantes is frequently cited as the first significant European novelist of the modern era as the first part of Don Quixote was published in 1605.
So are the books on 100BestNovels the definitive list? Well, obviously that is just a matter of opinion.