Dream of the Red Chamber, by Cao Xueqin, follows the travails of a pubescent boy. Somehow, through the spats, crushes and rivalries of a handful of teenagers, the great questions of the human condition are broached.
Sappho sang of desire, passion and love – mostly directed towards women. As new fragments of her work are found, a fuller picture of her is emerging, but she remains the most mysterious of ancient poets.
Leo Tolstoy's Anna Karenina is often acclaimed as the best novel ever written. The enthralling narrative explores love and family through intertwining plot lines, with Anna and her desire at the centre.
The gates to hell in Dante Alighieri's Divine Comedy tell us to "abandon all hope, yet who enter here". Despite its unfunny premise, 'La Commedia' ends well, with its protagonist Dante reaching heaven.
The story of the Odyssey is a quintessential quest that relates to the passage through life and the importance of love, family and home. Odysseus's adventures have influenced everyone from Batman to Bob Dylan.
The Melling sisters — like Alcott’s March sisters and Austen’s Bennetts — are four girls who become women during the course of Robin Klein's trilogy of novels. The Sky in Silver Lace is the most bittersweet of the three.
Hunter S Thompson's 1971 book is a torpedo ride through some of the strangest scenes in American fact, or fiction. It's about greed, the souring of '60s idealism, the failings of journalism and much more.
The tale of a married woman who joins her lover in Paris, The Beauties and Furies is a modernist classic. Like Joyce's Ulysses, the action is concentrated in one city, but dreams are nightmarish in this city of night, not light.
There are calls for Ovid's Metamorphoses to be taught with a trigger warning. This 15-book epic is a rollercoaster of a read, with moments of both delicious joy and abject depravity. Like much great art, it was not created to please.
Family feuds, love affairs, empire writing back to the motherland - the medieval Icelandic saga have it all. Though less known than other classics of European literature they richly deserve a place among the best.
Herodotus' Histories has it all: tales of war, eyewitness travel writing, notes on flora and fauna and accounts of fantastic creatures such as winged snakes. His stories share a common humanity that speaks to us, 2500 years on.