- Mrs Rosie and the Priest
Bawdy tales of pimps, cuckolds, lovers and clever women from the fourteenth-century Florentine masterpiece The Decameron.
- As kingfishers catch fire
Considered unpublishable in his lifetime, the Victorian priest’s groundbreaking, experimental verse on nature’s glory and despair.
- The Saga of Gunnlaug Serpent-tongue
Ranging across Scandinavia, England and Ireland, a Viking-age epic of two poets in doomed pursuit of Helga the Fair.
- On Murder Considered as One of the Fine Arts
The provocative early-nineteenth-century essayist casts a blackly comic eye over the aesthetics of murder through the ages.
- Aphorisms on Love and Hate
The iconoclastic German philosopher’s blazing maxims on revenge, false pity and the drawbacks of marriage.
The radical Victorian art critic’s excoriating defence of dignity and creativity in a world obsessed by money.
- Wailing Ghosts
These delightful miniature tales of macabre hauntings, monsters and magic tricks are Classical China’s greatest stories.
- A Modest Proposal
Swift’s ferocious, landmark eighteenth-century political satire on how to solve a famine in Ireland.
- Three Tang Dynasty Poets
Pastoral, lyrical verse evoking the rural landscapes and peoples of eighth-century China, from three of its finest poets.
- On the Beach at Night Alone
The visionary nineteenth-century American poet celebrates nature and the human spirit in these verses from Leaves of Grass.
- A Cup of Sake Beneath the Cherry Trees
Moonlight, spring blossom, a woman’s hair – a medieval Japanese monk reflects on idle moments and life’s fleeting joys.
- How to Use Your Enemies
A seventeenth-century Spanish priest’s shrewd maxims on using guile and pragmatism to succeed in a dangerous world.
- The Eve of St Agnes
The Romantic poet’s most lyrical, enchanting verse on myth, sensuality, dreams and superstition.
- Woman Much Missed
Moving, elegiac verse set in rural landscapes, penned by the grief-stricken Hardy after his wife’s death.
- Femme Fatale
Four sparkling nineteenth-century tales of Parisian high society and rural life, from the father of the modern short story.
- Travels in the Land of Serpents and Pearls
The intrepid Venetian traveller’s observations of a thirteenth-century India filled with lavish jewels, chaste princes, superstitions and naked armies.
The original biography of the murderous, crazed and incestuous Roman emperor Caligula – who pronounced himself a god.
- Jason and Medea
A heroic tale of love, anguish and the Golden Fleece from the ancient Greek epic Argonautica.
Stevenson’s chilling Victorian gothic novella about decaying aristocracy, vampirism and tormented love.
- The Communist Manifesto
This revolutionary summons to workers transformed the modern world and still shapes millions of lives today.
- Trimalchio’s Feast
A bitingly comic portrait of the vulgar Trimalchio and his debauched, drunken Roman banquet, from the outrageous Latin masterpiece The Satyricon.
- How a Ghastly Story Was Brought to Light by a Common or Garden Butcher’s Dog
Sparkling miniature German fables, sketches and tall tales – including Kafka’s favourite story.
- The Tinder Box
Andersen’s bittersweet fairy tales propelled their troubled author to international fame and revolutionized children’s writing.
- The Gate of the Hundred Sorrows
Opium dens, curses, ghostly tombs – these sinister tales of Imperial India made Kipling’s name as a writer.
- Circles of Hell
A terrifying depiction of sin and eternal damnation from Dante’s Inferno, the medieval epic that revolutionized the Italian language.
- Of Street Piemen
The matchless chronicler of Victorian Londoners observes everything from surprise pie-fillings to a balloon-ride over the city.
- The nightingales are drunk
Spiritual, sensual verses on love, heartbreak and celebrating life’s small pleasures, by the great fourteenth-century Persian poet.
- The Wife of Bath
One of the most famous Canterbury Tales casts a satirical eye over sex and marriage in the Medieval age.
- How We Weep and Laugh at the Same Thing
Glittering essays by the Renaissance master of the form, exploring contradictions in human thoughts and actions.
- The Terrors of the Night
Demonic horrors and spirits dreamt up by the most exuberant, inventive prose writer of Elizabethan England.
- The Tell-Tale Heart
Horrifying tales of mystery, sickening madness and buried bodies by the master of the macabre.
- A Hippo Banquet
The fearless, pioneering Victorian female explorer describes dodging elephants and fighting off a leopard with a stool in Africa.
- The Beautifull Cassandra
Austen’s riotous early stories of drunks, poisoners and prison-breaks, written for her family’s entertainment when she was a teenager.
Chekhov perfected the short story, as shown in these three moving miniature dramas of love, dread and lies.
- Well, they are gone, and here must I remain
Dreamlike, poignant verse on passion, torment and resplendent landscapes from one of the first Romantic poets.
- Sketchy, Doubtful, Incomplete Jottings
The great nineteenth-century German thinker’s musings on self-deceit, superstition, art and ambition.
- The Great Winglebury Duel
Two rollicking tales of scoundrels and ne’er-do-wells from the Sketches by Boz that launched Dickens’s career.
- The Maldive Shark
Dark, nightmarish sea stories and poems inspired by Melville’s adventures around the Pacific in a whaler.
- The Old Nurse’s Story
A ghostly child roams the Northumberland moors, while fairytale characters gather at a strange party, in these two Victorian gothic tales.
- The Steel Flea
An uproarious romp of one-upmanship and drunkenness from the nineteenth-century Russian comic genius.
- The Atheist’s Mass
Two devastating stories of faith and sacrifice from Balzac’s panorama of nineteenth-century French life, La Comédie Humaine.
- The Yellow Wall-Paper
This horrifying, semi-autobiographical feminist story of imprisonment and madness scandalized nineteenth-century society.
- Remember, Body...
Moving, sensual verses on nostalgia and desire by the masterful early twentieth-century Greek poet.
- The Meek One
Based on a St Petersburg news report, Dostoyevsky’s searing tale of a man who drives his wife to suicide.
- A Simple Heart
Flaubert’s most famous short work meditates on the unexamined, futile life of a servant and her beloved parrot.
- The Nose
Russia’s great nineteenth-century satirical absurdist shows what happens when a man wakes up with his nose missing.
- The Great Fire of London
Originally written in code, Pepys’ diary includes his unforgettable eyewitness account of the 1666 Fire.
- The Reckoning
From the great writer of turn-of-the-century New York, two devastating portraits of lonely widowhood and an unconventional marriage.
- The Figure in the Carpet
James’s troubling late-Victorian mystery of an unsolved literary riddle and sudden death has inspired endless speculation.
- Anthem for Doomed Youth
The great First World War poet portrays first-hand the horror, devastation and futility of the trenches.
- My Dearest Father
Entertaining, frank and sharp-tongued letters between the great eighteenth-century composer and his mentor father.
- Socrates’ Defence
Sentenced to death for corrupting the youth of ancient Athens, Socrates, Plato’s teacher, founded western philosophy.
- Goblin Market
The pioneering nineteenth-century poet’s best-known and most darkly imaginative verses on love, death and loss.
- Sindbad the Sailor
Adventures of shipwreck, colossal beasts and fantastical islands from One Thousand and One Nights.
The tragedy of Oedipus’ daughter – a wise, fearless heroine who shuns society’s laws – from the master Greek dramatist.
- The Life of a Stupid Man
Japan’s modernist master explores family, art and the fear of madness in exquisite autobiographical pieces and a short story.
- How Much Land Does A Man Need?
A parable of a Russian peasant’s bargain with the devil – considered by Joyce the world’s greatest story.
- Leonardo da Vinci
‘The first art historian’ explores genius and madness in Leonardo and other celebrated Renaissance artists.
- Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime
Three witty tales featuring dandies, anarchists and a murderous prophecy in London high society.
- The Old Man of the Moon
A moving eighteenth-century account – lost for many decades – of a Chinese official’s all-consuming love for his wife.
- The Dolphins, the Whales and the Gudgeon
Composed by a slave in Greek antiquity, some of the most ancient, sharp-witted and mysterious stories ever told.
- Lips too chilled
Japan’s celebrated Buddhist poet balances the smallness of humanity with nature’s epic drama in these magical seventeenth-century haikus.
- The Night is Darkening Round Me
Brontë’s most passionate, powerful poetry on death, nature’s beauty and the passage of time.
Set in a desolate English port, Conrad’s spare, savage turn-of-the-century story of lives haunted by the sea.
- The Voyage of Sir Francis Drake Around the Whole Globe
The great propagandist for Tudor sea power depicts the voyages of the famed explorers who mapped the world.
- A Pair of Silk Stockings
From Louisiana’s remote bayous to its gilded cities, five startling stories of awakening by one of fin-de-siècle America’s most daring writers.
- It was snowing butterflies
Exotic creatures and unexplored terrains populate Darwin’s account of the Beagle’s momentous voyage.
- The Robber Bridegroom
Drawn from German folklore, dark, fantastical fairy tales of wicked deeds, gruesome punishment and just rewards.
- I Hate and I Love
By turns rapturous, erotic and despairing, this astonishingly modern verse tells of an ancient Roman poet’s all-consuming infatuation with one woman.
- Circe and the Cyclops
Ancient Greek myths from The Odyssey telling of battles with memory-destroying plants, cannibal giants and a beautiful enchantress.
- Il Duro
Sketches of scorched landscapes, peasants and wild spirits from Lawrence’s travels in early twentieth-century Italy.
- Miss Brill
Vanity and creeping loneliness permeate these three short stories by the modern master of the form.
- The Fall of Icarus
Enduring myths of vengeful gods and tragically flawed mortals from ancient Rome’s great poet.
- Come Close
Sensual, sun-soaked verse on love and the gods in ancient Greece, from the poet named ‘the tenth Muse’ by Plato.
- Kasyan from the Beautiful Lands
These haunting accounts of rural Russia and its downtrodden inhabitants helped to abolish serfdom in 1861.
- O Cruel Alexis
Pastoral verse steeped in wit and nostalgia, from one of ancient Rome’s greatest poets.
- A Slip under the Microscope
Two disturbing stories of human conscience and conflicting desires by the pioneer of science fiction.
- The Madness of Cambyses
Weaving factual account with colourful myth, the ‘father of history’ tells of the psychotic Persian king ‒ and his fateful death.
- Speaking of Śiva
Four medieval Hindu saints approach sex and death through riddle and enigma in this mystical, devotional poetry.
- The Dhammapada
Ancient aphorisms on endurance, self-control and perfect joy, widely acknowledged as the Buddha’s own teachings.
- Lady Susan
Glittering with Austen’s subversive young imagination, this wicked early novella features a devious, adulterous anti-heroine.
- The Body Politic
Arguing that a state’s political power should lie with its people, these pieces from The Social Contract inspired the French revolution.
- The World is Full of Foolish Men
Lions, foxes and cicadas expose the foibles of humanity in these sparkling 17th-century tales from France’s greatest fabulist.
- The Sea Raiders
Spellbinding short stories of man-eating squid, magicians and monstrous machines, from the father of science fiction.
One of Rome’s greatest historians recounts the military genius Hannibal crossing the Alps with twenty-one elephants and winning the famed Battle of the Trebbia.
- To Be Read at Dusk
Three chilling ghost stories tell of deadly premonitions, dreams intercepted and spectres bearing silent warnings.
- The Death of Ivan Ilyich
Evoking existential anger, futility and regret, this moving Russian novella emerged from Tolstoy’s own spiritual crisis.
- The Stolen White Elephant
From the father of American literature, four sparkling comic tales of extraordinary animals and parables subverted.
- Tyger, Tyger
From the great visionary and radical genius of the Romantic age, transcendent verse on heaven and hell, innocence and experience.
- Green Tea
From the pioneer of horror fiction, this tale of a clergyman tormented by a demonic creature is one of the greatest Victorian ghost stories.
- The Yellow Book
Stylish fin-de-siècle stories, poems and illustrations from the notorious magazine The Yellow Book, which scandalized the Victorians with its avant-garde decadence.
The searing autobiography of Olaudah Equiano – African slave, sailor and finally a free man – which fuelled the eighteenth-century abolitionist movement.
- A Modern Detective
In these two stories gentleman sleuth C. Auguste Dupin, the first fictional detective, investigates the death of a young girl and the grisly murders in the Rue Morgue.
- The Suffragettes
This is the story of the women who changed the world, told through speeches, pamphlets, posters, newspaper articles and letters.
- How To Be a Medieval Woman
Advice on marriage, foreign travel and much more from the irrepressible Margery Kempe: medieval pilgrim, visionary and creator of the first autobiography.
The crew aboard a ramshackle steamer faces a treacherous storm in this gripping tale, inspired by Conrad’s own time at sea.
- The Nun of Murano
In this outrageous episode from the memoirs of the world’s most infamous seducer, Casanova recalls his amorous exploits in a Venetian convent.
- A terrible beauty is born
By turns joyful and despairing, some of the twentieth century’s greatest verse on fleeting youth, fervent hopes and futile sacrifice.
- The Withered Arm
A jealous lover’s curse and an ingenious party trick feature in these two suspenseful stories set in Hardy’s imaginary Wessex.
Exuberant and ingenious, Lear’s best-loved poems tell of jumblies, quangle wangles and luminous noses.
- The Frogs
This riotous play from ancient Greece’s greatest comic dramatist blends fancy dress, earthy slapstick and political debate.
- Why I Am so Clever
Self-celebrating and self-mocking autobiographical writings from Ecce Homo, the last work iconoclastic German philosopher Nietzsche wrote before his descent into madness.
- Letters to a Young Poet
The poet Rilke’s lyrical and life-changing advice to an aspiring young writer is among the most inspiring expressions of youthful creativity there has ever been.
- Seven Hanged
From their arrest to their final breaths, the last days of seven prisoners condemned to death in Tsarist Russia are described in this visceral, heart-stopping novella.
Written by spy, traveller and pioneering female writer Aphra Benn, this story of an African prince sold into slavery is considered one of the earliest English novels.
- O frabjous day!
Conjuring wily walruses, dancing lobsters, a Jabberwock and a Bandersnatch, Carroll’s fantastical verse gave new words to the English language.
- Trivia: or, the Art of Walking the Streets of London
This joyful poetic satire describes wig thieves, chamberpots, prostitutes and other hazards to be avoided on the teeming streets of eighteenth-century London.
- The Sandman
Stealer of children’s eyes, the sinister Sandman is one of the most famous creations from the dark gothic imagination of German Romantic E. T. A. Hoffmann.
- Love that moves the sun and other stars
Heavenly verse evoking dancing souls and blinding flares from Paradiso – the blazing finale to Dante’s Italian masterpiece The Divine Comedy.
- The Queen of Spades
One of the Russian master’s most popular and chilling stories tells of a young card player whose obsession with winning becomes a terrible curse.
- A Nervous Breakdown
From the supreme artist of the short story, three disturbing tales of supernatural hallucinations, hysterical obsession and moral decay.
- The Book of Tea
This 1906 guide to the beauty of the tea ceremony is both a paean to the art of simplicity, and a wry critique of the West’s view of Japan.
- Is this a dagger which I see before me?
This collection of Shakespeare’s soliloquies, from famous set-pieces to little-known speeches, displays his genius in all its range and richness.
- My life had stood a loaded gun
Electrifying poems of isolation, beauty, death and eternity from a reclusive genius and one of America’s greatest writers.
- Daphnis and Chloe
Two young lovers battle pirates, rivals and their own confused feelings in this tender pastoral romance from ancient Greece.
Mary Shelley’s dark story of a bereaved man’s disturbing passion for his daughter was suppressed by her own father, and not published for over a century.
- The Lifted Veil
In this chilling novella of Victorian horror, George Eliot explores clairvoyance, fate and the possibility of life after death.
- White Nights
Two devastating Russian stories of solitude, unrequited love and depravity from beyond the grave.
- Only Dull People Are Brilliant at Breakfast
Wilde’s celebrated witticisms on the dangers of sincerity, duplicitous biographers, the stupidity of the English – and his own genius.
This playful, witty biography of Elizabeth Barrett Browning's pet spaniel – involving Italian travels and kidnappings – asks what it is to be a dog, and a human.
- Lot No. 249
From the master of the detective story and creator of Sherlock Holmes, the first ever tale to feature a supernatural Egyptian mummy.
- The Rule of Benedict
How do you create a community? How can we work together? How do we stay true to our ideals? For almost fifteen centuries this extraordinary book has provided guidance.
- Rip Van Winkle
From The Catskill Mountains to a medieval chapel, the pioneer of American short stories conjures magical vignettes of nineteenth-century life.
- Anecdotes of the Cynics
What makes us happy? For over 800 years the Cynic philosophers of ancient Greece and Rome argued that the answer lay in a simple, self-sufficient life.
A tense, dramatic account of the Battle of Waterloo – and how a rain shower changed history – from Victor Hugo’s epic novel Les Misérables.
- Stancliffe’s Hotel
These witty, racy vignettes set in Charlotte Brontë’s imaginary kingdom of Angria feature rakish dandies, high-society courtesans and the dashing hero Zamorna.
- The Constitution of the United States
Enshrining the fundamental rights and freedoms of its citizens in law, and curbing the power of those who rule them, the US constitution is one of the most significant documents in the history of democracy.