Meet the top 100: Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Fyodor Dostoyevsky was born in Moscow in 1821, in a poor area of the city. His nanny Alena Frolovna read him stories, fairy tales and sagas from the age of three, establishing his love of literature, and his mother used the Bible to teach him to read and write. Dostoyevsky said that his parents reading him stories at night ignited his imagination, according to Louis Breger in Dostoevsky: The Author As Psychoanalyst.

His childhood had an impact on the content of his writing too. An outcast, the “pale, introverted dreamer,” he wrote about his experiences at a religious boarding school in The Adolescent. And the recurring theme of an older man desiring a younger woman resulted from Dostoyevsky being asked to get help from the father of a young girl who had been raped.

Dostoyevsky was arrested in 1849 for participating in a group that discussed banned books criticizing Tsarist Russia. In prison, he was classified as “one of the most dangerous convicts.” His death sentence was lifted at the last minute and he spent the next decade in a prison camp and in compulsory military service. He later travelled in Europe and had financial problems as a result of a gambling addiction.

In prison, Dostoyevsky was disliked by some due to his xenophobic comments; his Jewish characters are considered negative stereotypes and he expressed negative views of the Ottoman Turks.

Although he started writing in his 20s, his most notable novels – including Crime and Punishment (1866), The Idiot (1869) and The Brothers Karamazov (1880) – were published when he was in his 40s and later. In his writing, Dostoyevsky explored human psychology against the backdrop of a troubled 19th Century Russia, and his works have influenced some notable writers, including Anton Chekhov and Jean-Paul Sartre. His books have been translated into more than 170 languages.

Why is he on the list?

Every author on the list has earned their place through scores assigned to various prizes, sales, reader ratings and expert collections.

  • Books With a Goodreads Average Rating of Over 4.5 and With At Least 100 Ratings
  • Goodreads Best Books Ever
  • The Best 100 Authors
  • Ranker
  • Book Depository
  • Top 100 Works in World Literature
  • Novels and Novelists, A Guide to the World of Fiction
  • For The Love of Books
  • The Greatest Books of All Time
  • 100 Life-Changing Books
  • 100 Greatest novels of all time

Read about Dostoyevsky

Dostoyevsky: His Life And Work by Ronald Hingley

Dostoevsky: The Author as Psychoanalyst by Louis Breger


Image: Wikimedia Commons

Meet the top 100: Doris Lessing

Doris Lessing was born Doris May Tayler in Kermanshah, Iran, in 1919. She attended a convent school in what is now Harare, Zimbabwe, but left at the age of 13 to follow her own educational path. She left home two years later to work as a nursemaid, and she started reading about politics and sociology. She also started writing.

Lessing met her first husband in1937 and they had two children, John and Jean, before their divorce in 1943. Shortly after that she joined the Left Book Club, a publishing group that had a strong left-wing influence in the UK, where she met her second husband, Gottfried Lessing. They had a son, Peter, and divorced in 1949.

After the divorce, she moved to London with Peter, leaving her first two children in South Africa with their father. She became politically outspoken, opposing apartheid and campaigning against nuclear arms; this led to 20 years of secret service surveillance on her.

Lessing’s politics came out in her writing: her early work was influenced by her communist leanings, with her first novel, The Grass Is Singing, following the theme. Over the years she explored psychological themes, innovative structures and feminism in her work.

In all, Lessing published more than 50 novels, many under the pseudonym Jane Somers. When they awarded her the Nobel Prize in 2007, at the age of 88, the Swedish Academy called her “that epicist of the female experience, who with scepticism, fire and visionary power has subjected a divided civilisation to scrutiny.”

Lessing died at home in London in 2013, at the age of 94. In addition to a raft of published work, she left behind a literary archive of some 45 archival boxes at the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, at the University of Texas at Austin, a smaller collection at the University of Tulsa and a personal archive, including 40 years’ worth of diaries, at the University of East Anglia.

Why is she on the list?

Every author on the list has earned their place through scores assigned to various prizes, sales, reader ratings and expert collections.

  • Nobel Prize in Literature
  • Man Booker Prize nomination
  • Man Booker International Prize nomination
  • Top 100 Works in World Literature
  • 100 Greatest novels of all time
  • The 100 best novels written in English

Read about Lessing

Doris Lessing, by Carole Klein and Anna Fields

Doris Lessing: A Biography, by Carole Klein


Image: Garoa, Flickr