The Greatest Books of All Time

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This list represents a comprehensive and trusted collection of the greatest books in literature. Developed through a specialized algorithm, it brings together 200 'best of' book lists to form a definitive guide to the world's most acclaimed literary works. For those interested in how these books are chosen, additional details about the selection process can be found on the rankings page .

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1. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Cover of 'One Hundred Years of Solitude' by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

This novel is a multi-generational saga that focuses on the Buendía family, who founded the fictional town of Macondo. It explores themes of love, loss, family, and the cyclical nature of history. The story is filled with magical realism, blending the supernatural with the ordinary, as it chronicles the family's experiences, including civil war, marriages, births, and deaths. The book is renowned for its narrative style and its exploration of solitude, fate, and the inevitability of repetition in history.

2. Ulysses by James Joyce

Cover of 'Ulysses' by James Joyce

Set in Dublin, the novel follows a day in the life of Leopold Bloom, an advertising salesman, as he navigates the city. The narrative, heavily influenced by Homer's Odyssey, explores themes of identity, heroism, and the complexities of everyday life. It is renowned for its stream-of-consciousness style and complex structure, making it a challenging but rewarding read.

3. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Cover of 'The Great Gatsby' by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Set in the summer of 1922, the novel follows the life of a young and mysterious millionaire, his extravagant lifestyle in Long Island, and his obsessive love for a beautiful former debutante. As the story unfolds, the millionaire's dark secrets and the corrupt reality of the American dream during the Jazz Age are revealed. The narrative is a critique of the hedonistic excess and moral decay of the era, ultimately leading to tragic consequences.

4. In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust

Cover of 'In Search of Lost Time' by Marcel Proust

This renowned novel is a sweeping exploration of memory, love, art, and the passage of time, told through the narrator's recollections of his childhood and experiences into adulthood in the late 19th and early 20th century aristocratic France. The narrative is notable for its lengthy and intricate involuntary memory episodes, the most famous being the "madeleine episode". It explores the themes of time, space and memory, but also raises questions about the nature of art and literature, and the complex relationships between love, sexuality, and possession.

5. Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes

Cover of 'Don Quixote' by Miguel de Cervantes

This classic novel follows the adventures of a man who, driven mad by reading too many chivalric romances, decides to become a knight-errant and roam the world righting wrongs under the name Don Quixote. Accompanied by his loyal squire, Sancho Panza, he battles windmills he believes to be giants and champions the virtuous lady Dulcinea, who is in reality a simple peasant girl. The book is a richly layered critique of the popular literature of Cervantes' time and a profound exploration of reality and illusion, madness and sanity.

6. The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger

Cover of 'The Catcher in the Rye' by J. D. Salinger

The novel follows the story of a teenager named Holden Caulfield, who has just been expelled from his prep school. The narrative unfolds over the course of three days, during which Holden experiences various forms of alienation and his mental state continues to unravel. He criticizes the adult world as "phony" and struggles with his own transition into adulthood. The book is a profound exploration of teenage rebellion, alienation, and the loss of innocence.

7. Moby Dick by Herman Melville

Cover of 'Moby Dick' by Herman Melville

The novel is a detailed narrative of a vengeful sea captain's obsessive quest to hunt down a giant white sperm whale that bit off his leg. The captain's relentless pursuit, despite the warnings and concerns of his crew, leads them on a dangerous journey across the seas. The story is a complex exploration of good and evil, obsession, and the nature of reality, filled with rich descriptions of whaling and the sea.

8. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky

Cover of 'Crime and Punishment' by Fyodor Dostoevsky

A young, impoverished former student in Saint Petersburg, Russia, formulates a plan to kill an unscrupulous pawnbroker to redistribute her wealth among the needy. However, after carrying out the act, he is consumed by guilt and paranoia, leading to a psychological battle within himself. As he grapples with his actions, he also navigates complex relationships with a variety of characters, including a virtuous prostitute, his sister, and a relentless detective. The narrative explores themes of morality, redemption, and the psychological impacts of crime.

9. Nineteen Eighty Four by George Orwell

Cover of 'Nineteen Eighty Four' by George Orwell

Set in a dystopian future, the novel presents a society under the total control of a totalitarian regime, led by the omnipresent Big Brother. The protagonist, a low-ranking member of 'the Party', begins to question the regime and falls in love with a woman, an act of rebellion in a world where independent thought, dissent, and love are prohibited. The novel explores themes of surveillance, censorship, and the manipulation of truth.

10. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

Cover of 'War and Peace' by Leo Tolstoy

Set in the backdrop of the Napoleonic era, the novel presents a panorama of Russian society and its descent into the chaos of war. It follows the interconnected lives of five aristocratic families, their struggles, romances, and personal journeys through the tumultuous period of history. The narrative explores themes of love, war, and the meaning of life, as it weaves together historical events with the personal stories of its characters.

11. Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

Cover of 'Wuthering Heights' by Emily Brontë

This classic novel is a tale of love, revenge and social class set in the Yorkshire moors. It revolves around the intense, complex relationship between Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff, an orphan adopted by Catherine's father. Despite their deep affection for each other, Catherine marries Edgar Linton, a wealthy neighbor, leading Heathcliff to seek revenge on the two families. The story unfolds over two generations, reflecting the consequences of their choices and the destructive power of obsessive love.

12. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

Cover of 'Alice's Adventures in Wonderland' by Lewis Carroll

This novel follows the story of a young girl named Alice who falls down a rabbit hole into a fantastical world full of peculiar creatures and bizarre experiences. As she navigates through this strange land, she encounters a series of nonsensical events, including a tea party with a Mad Hatter, a pool of tears, and a trial over stolen tarts. The book is renowned for its playful use of language, logic, and its exploration of the boundaries of reality.

13. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Cover of 'Pride and Prejudice' by Jane Austen

Set in early 19th-century England, this classic novel revolves around the lives of the Bennet family, particularly the five unmarried daughters. The narrative explores themes of manners, upbringing, morality, education, and marriage within the society of the landed gentry. It follows the romantic entanglements of Elizabeth Bennet, the second eldest daughter, who is intelligent, lively, and quick-witted, and her tumultuous relationship with the proud, wealthy, and seemingly aloof Mr. Darcy. Their story unfolds as they navigate societal expectations, personal misunderstandings, and their own pride and prejudice.

14. The Bible by Christian Church

Cover of 'The Bible' by Christian Church

This religious text is a compilation of 66 books divided into the Old and New Testaments, forming the central narrative for Christianity. It encompasses a variety of genres, including historical accounts, poetry, prophecy, and teaching, telling the story of God's relationship with humanity, from creation to the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and the early Christian church. It is considered by believers to be divinely inspired and serves as a guide for faith and practice.

15. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

Cover of 'Lolita' by Vladimir Nabokov

The novel tells the story of Humbert Humbert, a man with a disturbing obsession for young girls, or "nymphets" as he calls them. His obsession leads him to engage in a manipulative and destructive relationship with his 12-year-old stepdaughter, Lolita. The narrative is a controversial exploration of manipulation, obsession, and unreliable narration, as Humbert attempts to justify his actions and feelings throughout the story.

16. The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri

Cover of 'The Divine Comedy' by Dante Alighieri

In this epic poem, the protagonist embarks on an extraordinary journey through Hell (Inferno), Purgatory (Purgatorio), and Paradise (Paradiso). Guided by the ancient Roman poet Virgil and his beloved Beatrice, he encounters various historical and mythological figures in each realm, witnessing the eternal consequences of earthly sins and virtues. The journey serves as an allegory for the soul's progression towards God, offering profound insights into the nature of good and evil, free will, and divine justice.

17. The Odyssey by Homer

Cover of 'The Odyssey' by Homer

This epic poem follows the Greek hero Odysseus on his journey home after the fall of Troy. It takes Odysseus ten years to reach Ithaca after the ten-year Trojan War. Along the way, he encounters many obstacles including mythical creatures, divine beings, and natural disasters. Meanwhile, back in Ithaca, his wife Penelope and son Telemachus fend off suitors vying for Penelope's hand in marriage, believing Odysseus to be dead. The story concludes with Odysseus's return, his slaughter of the suitors, and his reunion with his family.

18. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

Cover of 'The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn' by Mark Twain

The novel follows the journey of a young boy named Huckleberry Finn and a runaway slave named Jim as they travel down the Mississippi River on a raft. Set in the American South before the Civil War, the story explores themes of friendship, freedom, and the hypocrisy of society. Through various adventures and encounters with a host of colorful characters, Huck grapples with his personal values, often clashing with the societal norms of the time.

19. The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky

Cover of 'The Brothers Karamazov' by Fyodor Dostoevsky

This classic novel explores the complex, passionate, and troubled relationship between four brothers and their father in 19th century Russia. The narrative delves into the themes of faith, doubt, morality, and redemption, as each brother grapples with personal dilemmas and family conflicts. The story culminates in a dramatic trial following a murder, which serves as a microcosm of the moral and philosophical struggles faced by each character, and by extension, humanity itself.

20. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Cover of 'To Kill a Mockingbird' by Harper Lee

Set in the racially charged South during the Depression, the novel follows a young girl and her older brother as they navigate their small town's societal norms and prejudices. Their father, a lawyer, is appointed to defend a black man falsely accused of raping a white woman, forcing the children to confront the harsh realities of racism and injustice. The story explores themes of morality, innocence, and the loss of innocence through the eyes of the young protagonists.

21. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

Cover of 'Heart of Darkness' by Joseph Conrad

This classic novel follows the journey of a seaman who travels up the Congo River into the African interior to meet a mysterious ivory trader. Throughout his journey, he encounters the harsh realities of imperialism, the brutal treatment of native Africans, and the depths of human cruelty and madness. The protagonist's journey into the 'heart of darkness' serves as both a physical exploration of the African continent and a metaphorical exploration into the depths of human nature.

22. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

Cover of 'Anna Karenina' by Leo Tolstoy

Set in 19th-century Russia, this novel revolves around the life of Anna Karenina, a high-society woman who, dissatisfied with her loveless marriage, embarks on a passionate affair with a charming officer named Count Vronsky. This scandalous affair leads to her social downfall, while parallel to this, the novel also explores the rural life and struggles of Levin, a landowner who seeks the meaning of life and true happiness. The book explores themes such as love, marriage, fidelity, societal norms, and the human quest for happiness.

23. Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert

Cover of 'Madame Bovary' by Gustave Flaubert

Madame Bovary is a tragic novel about a young woman, Emma Bovary, who is married to a dull, but kind-hearted doctor. Dissatisfied with her life, she embarks on a series of extramarital affairs and indulges in a luxurious lifestyle in an attempt to escape the banalities and emptiness of provincial life. Her desire for passion and excitement leads her down a path of financial ruin and despair, ultimately resulting in a tragic end.

24. The Iliad by Homer

Cover of 'The Iliad' by Homer

This epic poem focuses on the final weeks of the Trojan War, a conflict between the city of Troy and the Greek city-states. The story explores themes of war, honor, wrath, and divine intervention, with a particular focus on the Greek hero Achilles, whose anger and refusal to fight have devastating consequences. The narrative also delves into the lives of the gods, their relationships with humans, and their influence on the course of events.

25. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

Cover of 'Catch-22' by Joseph Heller

The book is a satirical critique of military bureaucracy and the illogical nature of war, set during World War II. The story follows a U.S. Army Air Forces B-25 bombardier stationed in Italy, who is trying to maintain his sanity while fulfilling his service requirements so that he can go home. The novel explores the absurdity of war and military life through the experiences of the protagonist, who discovers that a bureaucratic rule, the "Catch-22", makes it impossible for him to escape his dangerous situation. The more he tries to avoid his military assignments, the deeper he gets sucked into the irrational world of military rule.

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A composite image of some of the books of the century

The 100 best books of the 21st century

Dazzling debut novels, searing polemics, the history of humanity and trailblazing memoirs ... Read our pick of the best books since 2000

  • Read an interview with the author of our No 1 book
  • Read Ali Smith on Autumn
  • Read David Mitchell on Cloud Atlas

I Feel Bad About My Neck

By nora ephron (2006).

Perhaps better known for her screenwriting ( Silkwood , When Harry Met Sally , Heartburn ), Ephron’s brand of smart theatrical humour is on best display in her essays. Confiding and self-deprecating, she has a way of always managing to sound like your best friend – even when writing about her apartment on New York’s Upper West Side. This wildly enjoyable collection includes her droll observations about ageing, vanity – and a scorching appraisal of Bill Clinton. Read the review

Broken Glass

By alain mabanckou (2005), translated by helen stevenson (2009).

The Congolese writer says he was “trying to break the French language” with Broken Glass – a black comedy told by a disgraced teacher without much in the way of full stops or paragraph breaks. As Mabanckou’s unreliable narrator munches his “bicycle chicken” and drinks his red wine, it becomes clear he has the history of Congo-Brazzaville and the whole of French literature in his sights. Read the review

Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara in the 2011 film adaptation of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

By stieg larsson (2005), translated by steven t murray (2008).

Radical journalist Mikael Blomkvist forms an unlikely alliance with troubled young hacker Lisbeth Salander as they follow a trail of murder and malfeasance connected with one of Sweden’s most powerful families in the first novel of the bestselling Millennium trilogy. The high-level intrigue beguiled millions of readers, brought “Scandi noir” to prominence and inspired innumerable copycats. Read the review

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

By jk rowling (2000).

A generation grew up on Rowling’s all-conquering magical fantasies, but countless adults have also been enthralled by her immersive world. Book four, the first of the doorstoppers, marks the point where the series really takes off. The Triwizard Tournament provides pace and tension, and Rowling makes her boy wizard look death in the eye for the first time. Read the review

A Little Life

By hanya yanagihara (2015).

This operatically harrowing American gay melodrama became an unlikely bestseller, and one of the most divisive novels of the century so far. One man’s life is blighted by abuse and its aftermath, but also illuminated by love and friendship. Some readers wept all night, some condemned it as titillating and exploitative, but no one could deny its power. Read the review

Chronicles: Volume One

By bob dylan (2004).

Dylan’s reticence about his personal life is a central part of the singer-songwriter’s brand, so the gaps and omissions in this memoir come as no surprise. The result is both sharp and dreamy, sliding in and out of different phases of Dylan’s career but rooted in his earliest days as a Woody Guthrie wannabe in New York City. Fans are still waiting for volume two. Read the review

Bob Dylan in New York, 1963.

The Tipping Point

By malcolm gladwell (2000).

The New Yorker staff writer examines phenomena from shoe sales to crime rates through the lens of epidemiology, reaching his own tipping point, when he became a rock-star intellectual and unleashed a wave of quirky studies of contemporary society. Two decades on, Gladwell is often accused of oversimplification and cherry picking, but his idiosyncratic bestsellers have helped shape 21st-century culture. Read the review

by Nicola Barker (2007)

British fiction’s most anarchic author is as prolific as she is playful, but this freewheeling, visionary epic set around the Thames Gateway is her magnum opus. Barker brings her customary linguistic invention and wild humour to a tale about history’s hold on the present, as contemporary Ashford is haunted by the spirit of a medieval jester. Read the review

The Siege by Helen Dunmore

by Helen Dunmore (2001)

The Levin family battle against starvation in this novel set during the German siege of Leningrad. Anna digs tank traps and dodges patrols as she scavenges for wood, but the hand of history is hard to escape. Read the review

Light by M John Harrison

by M John Harrison (2002)

One of the most underrated prose writers demonstrates the literary firepower of science fiction at its best. Three narrative strands – spanning far-future space opera, contemporary unease and virtual-reality pastiche – are braided together for a breathtaking metaphysical voyage in pursuit of the mystery at the heart of reality. Read the review

by Jenny Erpenbeck (2008), translated by Susan Bernofsky (2010)

A grand house by a lake in the east of Germany is both the setting and main character of Erpenbeck’s third novel. The turbulent waves of 20th-century history crash over it as the house is sold by a Jewish family fleeing the Third Reich, requisitioned by the Russian army, reclaimed by exiles returning from Siberia, and sold again. Read the review

by Lorna Sage (2000)

A Whitbread prizewinning memoir, full of perfectly chosen phrases, that is one of the best accounts of family dysfunction ever written. Sage grew up with her grandparents, who hated each other: he was a drunken philandering vicar; his wife, having found his diaries, blackmailed him and lived in another part of the house. The author gets unwittingly pregnant at 16, yet the story has a happy ending. Read the review

Noughts & Crosses

By malorie blackman (2001).

Set in an alternative Britain, this groundbreaking piece of young adult fiction sees black people, called the Crosses, hold all the power and influence, while the noughts – white people – are marginalised and segregated. The former children’s laureate’s series is a crucial work for explaining racism to young readers.

Priestdaddy

By patricia lockwood (2017).

This may not be the only account of living in a religious household in the American midwest (in her youth, the author joined a group called God’s Gang, where they spoke in tongues), but it is surely the funniest. The author started out as the “poet laureate of Twitter”; her language is brilliant, and she has a completely original mind. Read the review

A telling description of modern power … Yanis Varoufakis.

Adults in the Room

By yanis varoufakis (2017).

This memoir by the leather-jacketed economist of the six months he spent as Greece’s finance minister in 2015 at a time of economic and political crisis has been described as “one of the best political memoirs ever written”. He comes up against the IMF, the European institutions, Wall Street, billionaires and media owners and is told how the system works – as a result, his book is a telling description of modern power. Read the review

The God Delusion

By richard dawkins (2006).

A key text in the days when the “New Atheism” was much talked about, The God Delusion is a hard-hitting attack on religion, full of Dawkins’s confidence that faith produces fanatics and all arguments for God are ridiculous. What the evolutionary biologist lacks in philosophical sophistication, he makes up for in passion, and the book sold in huge numbers. Read the review

The Cost of Living

By deborah levy (2018).

Dazzling memoir … Deborah Levy.

“Chaos is supposed to be what we most fear but I have come to believe it might be what we most want ... ” The second part of Levy’s “living memoir”, in which she leaves her marriage, is a fascinating companion piece to her deep yet playful novels. Feminism, mythology and the daily grind come together for a book that combines emotion and intellect to dazzling effect. Read the review

Tell Me How It Ends

By valeria luiselli (2016), translated by luiselli with lizzie davis (2017).

As the hysteria over immigration to the US began to build in 2015, the Mexican novelist volunteered to work as an interpreter in New York’s federal immigration court. In this powerful series of essays she tells the poignant stories of the children she met, situating them in the wider context of the troubled relationship between the Americas. Read the review

by Neil Gaiman (2002)

From the Sandman comics to his fantasy epic American Gods to Twitter, Gaiman towers over the world of books. But this perfectly achieved children’s novella, in which a plucky young girl enters a parallel world where her “Other Mother” is a spooky copy of her real-life mum, with buttons for eyes, might be his finest hour: a properly scary modern myth which cuts right to the heart of childhood fears and desires. Read the review

by Jim Crace (2013)

Crace is fascinated by the moment when one era gives way to another. Here, it is the enclosure of the commons, a fulcrum of English history, that drives his story of dispossession and displacement. Set in a village without a name, the narrative dramatises what it’s like to see the world you know come to an end, in a severance of the connection between people and land that has deep relevance for our time of climate crisis and forced migration. Read the review

Amy Adams in Arrival, the 2015 film based on a short story by Ted Chiang.

Stories of Your Life and Others

By ted chiang (2002).

Melancholic and transcendent, Chiang’s eight, high-concept sci-fi stories exploring the nature of language, maths, religion and physics racked up numerous awards and a wider audience when ‘Story of Your Life’ was adapted into the 2016 film Arrival . Read the review

The Spirit Level

By richard wilkinson and kate pickett (2009).

An eye-opening study, based on overwhelming evidence, which revealed that among rich countries, the “more equal societies almost always do better” for all. Growth matters less than inequality, the authors argued: whether the issue is life expectancy, infant mortality, crime rates, obesity, literacy or recycling, the Scandinavian countries, say, will always win out over, say, the UK. Read the review

NK Jemisin explores urgent questions of power in The Fifth Season.

The Fifth Season

By nk jemisin (2015).

Jemisin became the first African American author to win the best novel category at the Hugo awards for her first book in the Broken Earth trilogy. In her intricate and richly imagined far future universe, the world is ending, ripped apart by relentless earthquakes and volcanoes. Against this apocalyptic backdrop she explores urgent questions of power and enslavement through the eyes of three women. “As this genre finally acknowledges that the dreams of the marginalised matter and that all of us have a future,” she said in her acceptance speech, “so will go the world. (Soon, I hope.)”

Signs Preceding the End of the World

By yuri herrera (2009), translated by lisa dillman (2015).

Makina sets off from her village in Mexico with a package from a local gangster and a message for her brother, who has been gone for three years. The story of her crossing to the US examines the blurring of boundaries, the commingling of languages and the blending of identities that complicate the idea of an eventual return. Read the review

Thinking, Fast and Slow

By daniel kahneman (2011).

The Nobel laureate’s unexpected bestseller, on the minutiae of decision-making, divides the brain into two. System One makes judgments quickly, intuitively and automatically, as when a batsman decides whether to cut or pull. System Two is slow, calculated and deliberate, like long division. But psychologist Kahneman argues that, although System Two thinks it is in control, many of our decisions are really made by System One. Read the review

Spoor, the film adaptation of  Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead.

Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead

By olga tokarczuk (2009), translated by antonia lloyd-jones (2018).

In this existential eco-thriller, a William Blake-obsessed eccentric investigates the murders of men and animals in a remote Polish village. More accessible and focused than Flights , the novel that won Tokarczuk the Man International Booker prize, it is no less profound in its examination of how atavistic male impulses, emboldened by the new rightwing politics of Europe, are endangering people, communities and nature itself. Read the review

Days Without End

By sebastian barry (2016).

In this savagely beautiful novel set during the Indian wars and American civil war, a young Irish boy flees famine-struck Sligo for Missouri. There he finds lifelong companionship with another emigrant, and they join the army on its brutal journey west, laying waste to Indian settlements. Viscerally focused and intense, yet imbued with the grandeur of the landscape, the book explores love, gender and survival with a rare, luminous power. Read the review

Nothing to Envy by Barbara Demick

Nothing to Envy

By barbara demick (2009).

Los Angeles Times journalist Barbara Demick interviewed around 100 North Korean defectors for this propulsive work of narrative non-fiction, but she focuses on just six, all from the north-eastern city of Chongjin – closed to foreigners and less media-ready than Pyongyang. North Korea is revealed to be rife with poverty, corruption and violence but populated by resilient people with a remarkable ability to see past the propaganda all around them. Read the review

The Age of Surveillance Capitalism

By shoshana zuboff (2019).

An agenda-setting book that is devastating about the extent to which big tech sets out to manipulate us for profit. Not simply another expression of the “techlash”, Zuboff’s ambitious study identifies a new form of capitalism, one involving the monitoring and shaping of our behaviour, often without our knowledge, with profound implications for democracy. “Once we searched Google, but now Google searches us.” Read the review

Jimmy Corrigan- tThe Smartest Kid on Earth

Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth

By chris ware (2000).

At the time when Ware won the Guardian first book award, no graphic novel had previously won a generalist literary prize. Emotional and artistic complexity are perfectly poised in this account of a listless 36-year-old office dogsbody who is thrown into an existential crisis by an encounter with his estranged dad. Read the review

Judi Dench, left, and Cate Blanchett in the 2006 film adaptation of Notes on a Scandal.

Notes on a Scandal

By zoë heller (2003).

Sheba, a middle-aged teacher at a London comprehensive, begins an affair with her 15-year-old student - but we hear about it from a fellow teacher, the needy Barbara, whose obsessive nature drives the narrative. With shades of Patricia Highsmith, this teasing investigation into sex, class and loneliness is a dark marvel. Read the review

The Infatuations

By javier marías (2011), translated by margaret jull costa (2013).

The Spanish master examines chance, love and death in the story of an apparently random killing that gradually reveals hidden depths. Marías constructs an elegant murder mystery from his trademark labyrinthine sentences, but this investigation is in pursuit of much meatier questions than whodunnit. Read the review

Rachel Weisz and Ralph Fiennes in the 2005 film adaptation of  The Constant Gardener.

The Constant Gardener

By john le carré (2001).

The master of the cold war thriller turned his attention to the new world order in this chilling investigation into the corruption powering big pharma in Africa. Based on the case of a rogue antibiotics trial that killed and maimed children in Nigeria in the 1990s, it has all the dash and authority of his earlier novels while precisely and presciently anatomising the dangers of a rampant neo-imperialist capitalism. Read the review

The Silence of the Girls

By pat barker (2018).

If the western literary canon is founded on Homer, then it is founded on women’s silence. Barker’s extraordinary intervention, in which she replays the events of the Iliad from the point of view of the enslaved Trojan women, chimed with both the #MeToo movement and a wider drive to foreground suppressed voices. In a world still at war, it has chilling contemporary resonance. Read the review

Seven Brief Lessons on Physics

By carlo rovelli (2014).

A theoretical physicist opens a window on to the great questions of the universe with this 96-page overview of modern physics. Rovelli’s keen insight and striking metaphors make this the best introduction to subjects including relativity, quantum mechanics, cosmology, elementary particles and entropy outside of a course in advanced physics. Read the review

Ben Affleck in the 2014 film adaptation of Gone Girl.

by Gillian Flynn (2012)

The deliciously dark US crime thriller that launched a thousand imitators and took the concept of the unreliable narrator to new heights. A woman disappears: we think we know whodunit, but we’re wrong. Flynn’s stylishly written portrait of a toxic marriage set against a backdrop of social and economic insecurity combines psychological depth with sheer unputdownable flair. Read the review

by Stephen King (2000)

Written after a near-fatal accident, this combination of memoir and masterclass by fiction’s most successful modern storyteller showcases the blunt, casual brilliance of King at his best. As well as being genuinely useful, it’s a fascinating chronicle of literary persistence, and of a lifelong love affair with language and narrative. Read the review

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

By rebecca skloot (2010).

Henrietta Lacks was a black American who died in agony of cancer in a “coloured” hospital ward in 1951. Her cells, taken without her knowledge during a biopsy, went on to change medical history, being used around the world to develop countless drugs. Skloot skilfully tells the extraordinary scientific story, but in this book the voices of the Lacks children are crucial – they have struggled desperately even as billions have been made from their mother’s “HeLa” cells. Read the review

Benedict Cumberbatch in the TV adaptation of Edward St Aubyn’s Patrick Melrose novels.

Mother’s Milk

By edward st aubyn (2006).

The fourth of the autobiographical Patrick Melrose novels finds the wealthy protagonist – whose flight from atrocious memories of child abuse into drug abuse was the focus of the first books – beginning to grope after redemption. Elegant wit and subtle psychology lift grim subject matter into seductive brilliance. Read the review

This House of Grief

By helen garner (2014).

A man drives his three sons into a deep pond and swims out, leaving them to drown. But was it an accident? This 2005 tragedy caught the attention of one of Australia’s greatest living writers. Garner puts herself centre stage in an account of Robert Farquharson’s trial that combines forensic detail and rich humanity. Read the review

A mesmerising tapestry of the River Dart’s mutterings … Alice Oswald.

by Alice Oswald (2002)

This book-length poem is a mesmerising tapestry of “the river’s mutterings”, based on three years of recording conversations with people who live and work on the River Dart in Devon. From swimmers to sewage workers, boatbuilders to bailiffs, salmon fishers to ferryman, the voices are varied and vividly brought to life. Read the review

The Beauty of the Husband

By anne carson (2002).

One of Canada’s most celebrated poets examines love and desire in a collection that describes itself as “a fictional essay in 39 tangos”. Carson charts the course of a doomed marriage in loose-limbed lines that follow the switchbacks of thought and feeling from first meeting through multiple infidelities to arrive at eventual divorce.

by Tony Judt (2005)

This grand survey of Europe since 1945 begins with the devastation left behind by the second world war and offers a panoramic narrative of the cold war from its beginnings to the collapse of the Soviet bloc – a part of which Judt witnessed firsthand in Czechoslovakia’s velvet revolution. A very complex story is told with page-turning urgency and what may now be read as nostalgic faith in “the European idea”. Read the review

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay

By michael chabon (2000).

A love story to the golden age of comics in New York, Chabon’s Pulitzer-winner features two Jewish cousins, one smuggled out of occupied Prague, who create an anti-fascist comic book superhero called The Escapist. Their own adventures are as exciting and highly coloured as the ones they write and draw in this generous, open-hearted, deeply lovable rollercoaster of a book. Read the review

Robert Macfarlane’s Underland (Hamish Hamilton).

by Robert Macfarlane (2019)

A beautifully written and profound book, which takes the form of a series of (often hair-raising and claustrophobic) voyages underground – from the fjords of the Arctic to the Parisian catacombs. Trips below the surface inspire reflections on “deep” geological time and raise urgent questions about the human impact on planet Earth. Read the review

The Omnivore’s Dilemma

By michael pollan (2006).

An entertaining and highly influential book from the writer best known for his advice: “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.” The author follows four meals on their journey from field to plate – including one from McDonald’s and a locally sourced organic feast. Pollan is a skilled, amusing storyteller and The Omnivore’s Dilemma changed both food writing and the way we see food. Read the review

Mary Beard, whose slim manifesto Women & Power became an instant feminist classic.

Women & Power

By mary beard (2017).

Based on Beard’s lectures on women’s voices and how they have been silenced, Women and Power was an enormous publishing success in the “ #MeToo ”’ year 2017. An exploration of misogyny, the origins of “gendered speech” in the classical era and the problems the male world has with strong women, this slim manifesto became an instant feminist classic. Read the review

True History of the Kelly Gang

By peter carey (2000).

Carey’s second Booker winner is an irresistible tour de force of literary ventriloquism: the supposed autobiography of 19th-century Australian outlaw and “wild colonial boy” Ned Kelly, inspired by a fragment of Kelly’s own prose and written as a glorious rush of semi-punctuated vernacular storytelling. Mythic and tender by turns, these are tall tales from a lost frontier. Read the review

Small Island

By andrea levy (2004).

Pitted against a backdrop of prejudice, this London-set novel is told by four protagonists – Hortense and Gilbert, Jamaican migrants, and a stereotypically English couple, Queenie and Bernard. These varied perspectives, illuminated by love and loyalty, combine to create a thoughtful mosaic depicting the complex beginnings of Britain’s multicultural society. Read the review

The 2015 film adaptation of Brooklyn.

by Colm Tóibín (2009)

Tóibín’s sixth novel is set in the 1950s, when more than 400,000 people left Ireland, and considers the emotional and existential impact of emigration on one young woman. Eilis makes a life for herself in New York, but is drawn back by the possibilities of the life she has lost at home. A universal story of love, endurance and missed chances, made radiant through Tóibín’s measured prose and tender understatement. Read the review

Oryx and Crake

By margaret atwood (2003).

In the first book in her dystopian MaddAddam trilogy, the Booker winner speculates about the havoc science can wreak on the world. The big warning here – don’t trust corporations to run the planet – is blaring louder and louder as the century progresses. Read the review

Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?

By jeanette winterson (2011).

The title is the question Winterson’s adoptive mother asked as she threw her daughter out, aged 16, for having a girlfriend. The autobiographical story behind Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit , and the trials of Winterson’s later life, is urgent, wise and moving. Read the review

Night Watch

By terry pratchett (2002).

Pratchett’s mighty Discworld series is a high point in modern fiction: a parody of fantasy literature that deepened and darkened over the decades to create incisive satires of our own world. The 29th book, focusing on unlikely heroes, displays all his fierce intelligence, anger and wild humour, in a story that’s moral, humane – and hilarious. Read the review

The 2008 film adaptation of Persepolis.

by Marjane Satrapi (2000-2003), translated by Mattias Ripa (2003-2004)

Satrapi’s autobiographical graphic novel follows her coming-of-age in the lead up to and during the Iranian revolution. In this riotous memoir, Satrapi focuses on one young life to reveal a hidden history.

Human Chain

By seamus heaney (2010).

The Nobel laureate tends to the fragments of memory and loss with moving precision in his final poetry collection. A book of elegies and echoes, these poems are infused with a haunting sense of pathos, with a line often left hanging to suspend the reader in longing and regret. Read the review

Levels of Life

By julian barnes (2013).

The British novelist combines fiction and non-fiction to form a searing essay on grief and love for his late wife, the literary agent Pat Kavanagh. Barnes divides the book into three parts with disparate themes – 19th-century ballooning, photography and marriage. Their convergence is wonderfully achieved. Read the review

Hope in the Dark

By rebecca solnit (2004).

Writing against “the tremendous despair at the height of the Bush administration’s powers and the outset of the war in Iraq”, the US thinker finds optimism in political activism and its ability to change the world. The book ranges widely from the fall of the Berlin wall to the Zapatista uprising in Mexico, to the invention of Viagra. Read the review

Claudia Rankine confronts the history of racism in the US.

Citizen: An American Lyric

By claudia rankine (2014).

From the slow emergency response in the black suburbs destroyed by hurricane Katrina to a mother trying to move her daughter away from a black passenger on a plane, the poet’s award-winning prose work confronts the history of racism in the US and asks: regardless of their actual status, who truly gets to be a citizen? Read the review

by Michael Lewis (2010)

The author of The Big Short has made a career out of rendering the most opaque subject matter entertaining and comprehensible: Moneyball tells the story of how geeks outsmarted jocks to revolutionise baseball using maths. But you do not need to know or care about the sport, because – as with all Lewis’s best writing – it’s all about how the story is told. Read the review

James McAvoy in the film adaptation of Atonement.

by Ian McEwan (2001)

There are echoes of DH Lawrence and EM Forster in McEwan’s finely tuned dissection of memory and guilt. The fates of three young people are altered by a young girl’s lie at the close of a sweltering day on a country estate in 1935. Lifelong remorse, the horror of war and devastating twists are to follow in an elegant, deeply felt meditation on the power of love and art. Read the review

The Year of Magical Thinking

By joan didion (2005).

With cold, clear, precise prose, Didion gives an account of the year her husband, the writer John Gregory Dunne, collapsed from a fatal heart attack in their home. Her devastating examination of grief and widowhood changed the nature of writing about bereavement. Read the review

White Teeth

By zadie smith (2000).

Set around the unlikely bond between two wartime friends, Smith’s debut brilliantly captures Britain’s multicultural spirit, and offers a compelling insight into immigrant family life.

The Line of Beauty

By alan hollinghurst (2004).

Oxford graduate Nick Guest has the questionable good fortune of moving into the grand west London home of a rising Tory MP. Thatcher-era degeneracy is lavishly displayed as Nick falls in love with the son of a supermarket magnate, and the novel records how Aids began to poison gay life in London. In peerless prose, Hollinghurst captures something close to the spirit of an age. Read the review

The Green Road

By anne enright (2015).

A reunion dominates the Irish novelist’s family drama, but the individual stories of the five members of the Madigan clan – the matriarch, Rosaleen, and her children, Dan, Emmet, Constance and Hanna, who escape and are bound to return – are beautifully held in balance. When the Madigans do finally come together halfway through the book, Enright masterfully reminds us of the weight of history and family. Read the review

Martin Amis recalls his ‘velvet-suited, snakeskin-booted’ youth.

by Martin Amis (2000)

Known for the firecracker phrases and broad satires of his fiction, Amis presented a much warmer face in his memoir. His life is haunted by the disappearance of his cousin Lucy, who is revealed 20 years later to have been murdered by Fred West. But Amis also has much fun recollecting his “velvet-suited, snakeskin-booted” youth, and paints a moving portrait of his father’s comic gusto as old age reduces him to a kind of “anti-Kingsley”. Read the review

The Hare with Amber Eyes

By edmund de waal (2010).

In this exquisite family memoir, the ceramicist explains how he came to inherit a collection of 264 netsuke – small Japanese ornaments – from his great-uncle. The unlikely survival of the netsuke entails De Waal telling a story that moves from Paris to Austria under the Nazis to Japan, and he beautifully conjures a sense of place. The book doubles as a set of profound reflections on objects and what they mean to us. Read the review

Outline by Rachel Cusk

Outline by Rachel

Cusk (2014).

This startling work of autofiction, which signalled a new direction for Cusk, follows an author teaching a creative writing course over one hot summer in Athens. She leads storytelling exercises. She meets other writers for dinner. She hears from other people about relationships, ambition, solitude, intimacy and “the disgust that exists indelibly between men and women”. The end result is sublime. Read the review

Fun Home by Alison Bechdel

by Alison Bechdel (2006)

The American cartoonist’s darkly humorous memoir tells the story of how her closeted gay father killed himself a few months after she came out as a lesbian. This pioneering work, which later became a musical, helped shape the modern genre of “graphic memoir”, combining detailed and beautiful panels with remarkable emotional depth. Read the review

The Emperor of All Maladies

By siddhartha mukherjee (2010).

“Normal cells are identically normal; malignant cells become unhappily malignant in unique ways.” In adapting the opening lines of Anna Karenina , Mukherjee sets out the breathtaking ambition of his study of cancer: not only to share the knowledge of a practising oncologist but to take his readers on a literary and historical journey. Read the review

The Argonauts

By maggie nelson (2015).

An electrifying memoir that captured a moment in thinking about gender, and also changed the world of books. The story, told in fragments, is of Nelson’s pregnancy, which unfolds at the same time as her partner, the artist Harry Dodge, is beginning testosterone injections: “the summer of our changing bodies”. Strikingly honest, originally written, with a galaxy of intellectual reference points, it is essentially a love story; one that seems to make a new way of living possible. Read the review

The Underground Railroad

By colson whitehead (2016).

A thrilling, genre-bending tale of escape from slavery in the American deep south, this Pulitzer prize-winner combines extraordinary prose and uncomfortable truths. Two slaves flee their masters using the underground railroad, the network of abolitionists who helped slaves out of the south, wonderfully reimagined by Whitehead as a steampunk vision of a literal train. Read the review

Uncomfortable truths … Colson Whitehead.

A Death in the Family

By karl ove knausgaard (2009), translated by don bartlett (2012).

The first instalment of Knausgaard’s relentlessly self-examining six-volume series My Struggle revolves around the life and death of his alcoholic father. Whether or not you regard him as the Proust of memoir, his compulsive honesty created a new benchmark for autofiction. Read the review

by Carol Ann Duffy (2005)

A moving, book-length poem from the UK’s first female poet laureate, Rapture won the TS Eliot prize in 2005. From falling in love to betrayal and separation, Duffy reimagines romance with refreshing originality. Read the review

Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage

By alice munro (2001).

Canada’s observant and humane short story writer, who won the Nobel in 2013, is at her best in this collection. A housekeeper’s fate is changed by the pranks of her employer’s teenager daughter; an incorrigible flirt gracefully accepts his wife’s new romance in her care home. No character acts as at first expected in Munro’s stories, which are attuned to the tiniest shifts in perception. Read the review

Capital in the Twenty First Century

By thomas piketty (2013), translated by arthur goldhammer (2014).

The beautifully written product of 15 years of research, Capital made its author an intellectual star – the modern Marx – and opened readers’ eyes to how neoliberalism produces vastly increased inequalities. Full of data, theories and historical analysis, its message is clear, and prophetic: unless governments increase tax, the new and grotesque wealth levels of the rich will encourage political instability. Read the review

Sally Rooney focuses on the uncertainty of millennial life.

Normal People

By sally rooney (2018).

Rooney’s second novel, a love story between two clever and damaged young people coming of age in contemporary Ireland, confirmed her status as a literary superstar. Her focus is on the dislocation and uncertainty of millennial life, but her elegant prose has universal appeal. Read the review

A Visit from The Goon Squad

By jennifer egan (2011).

Inspired by both Proust and The Sopranos , Egan’s Pulitzer-winning comedy follows several characters in and around the US music industry, but is really a book about memory and kinship, time and narrative, continuity and disconnection. Read the review

The Noonday Demon

By andrew solomon (2001).

Emerging from Solomon’s own painful experience, this “anatomy” of depression examines its many faces – plus its science, sociology and treatment. The book’s combination of honesty, scholarly rigour and poetry made it a benchmark in literary memoir and understanding of mental health. Read the review

Tenth of December

By george saunders (2013).

This warm yet biting collection of short stories by the Booker-winning American author will restore your faith in humanity. No matter how weird the setting – a futuristic prison lab, a middle-class home where human lawn ornaments are employed as a status symbol – in these surreal satires of post-crash life Saunders reminds us of the meaning we find in small moments. Read the review

Chart-topping history of humanity … Yuval Noah Harari.

by Yuval Noah Harari (2011), translated by Harari with John Purcell and Haim Watzman (2014)

In his Olympian history of humanity, Harari documents the numerous revolutions Homo sapiens has undergone over the last 70,000 years: from new leaps in cognitive reasoning to agriculture, science and industry, the era of information and the possibilities of biotechnology. Harari’s scope may be too wide for some, but this engaging work topped the charts and made millions marvel. Read the review

Life After Life

By kate atkinson (2013).

Atkinson examines family, history and the power of fiction as she tells the story of a woman born in 1910 – and then tells it again, and again, and again. Ursula Todd’s multiple lives see her strangled at birth, drowned on a Cornish beach, trapped in an awful marriage and visiting Adolf Hitler at Berchtesgaden. But this dizzying fictional construction is grounded by such emotional intelligence that her heroine’s struggles always feel painfully, joyously real. Read the review

A stage adaptation of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night‑Time

By mark haddon (2003).

Fifteen-year-old Christopher John Francis Boone becomes absorbed in the mystery of a dog’s demise, meticulously investigating through diagrams, timetables, maps and maths problems. Haddon’s fascinating portrayal of an unconventional mind was a crossover hit with both adults and children and was adapted into a very successful stage play. Read the review

The Shock Doctrine

By naomi klein (2007).

In this urgent examination of free-market fundamentalism, Klein argues – with accompanying reportage – that the social breakdowns witnessed during decades of neoliberal economic policies are not accidental, but in fact integral to the functioning of the free market, which relies on disaster and human suffering to function. Read the review

Viggo Mortensen and Kodi Smit-McPhee in The Road, based on Cormac McCarthy’s novel.

by Cormac McCarthy (2006)

A father and his young son, “each the other’s world entire”, trawl across the ruins of post-apocalyptic America in this terrifying but tender story told with biblical conviction. The slide into savagery as civilisation collapses is harrowing material, but McCarthy’s metaphysical efforts to imagine a cold dark universe where the light of humanity is winking out are what make the novel such a powerful ecological warning. Read the review

The Corrections

By jonathan franzen (2001).

The members of one ordinarily unhappy American family struggle to adjust to the shifting axes of their worlds over the final decades of the 20th century. Franzen’s move into realism reaped huge literary rewards: exploring both domestic and national conflict, this family saga is clever, funny and outrageously readable. Read the review

The Sixth Extinction

By elizabeth kolbert (2014).

The science journalist examines with clarity and memorable detail the current crisis of plant and animal loss caused by human civilisation (over the past half billion years, there have been five mass extinctions on Earth; we are causing another). Kolbert considers both ecosystems – the Great Barrier Reef, the Amazon rainforest – and the lives of some extinct and soon-to-be extinct creatures including the Sumatran rhino and “the most beautiful bird in the world”, the black-faced honeycreeper of Maui. Read the review

Sensuous love story … Sarah Waters.

Fingersmith

By sarah waters (2002).

Moving from the underworld dens of Victorian London to the boudoirs of country house gothic, and hingeing on the seduction of an heiress, Waters’s third novel is a drippingly atmospheric thriller, a smart study of innocence and experience, and a sensuous lesbian love story – with a plot twist to make the reader gasp. Read the review

Nickel and Dimed

By barbara ehrenreich (2001).

In this modern classic of reportage, Ehrenreich chronicled her attempts to live on the minimum wage in three American states. Working first as a waitress, then a cleaner and a nursing home aide, she still struggled to survive, and the stories of her co-workers are shocking. The US economy as she experienced it is full of routine humiliation, with demands as high as the rewards are low. Two decades on, this still reads like urgent news. Read the review

The Plot Against America

By philip roth (2004).

What if aviator Charles Lindbergh, who once called Hitler “a great man”, had won the US presidency in a landslide victory and signed a treaty with Nazi Germany? Paranoid yet plausible, Roth’s alternative-world novel is only more relevant in the age of Trump. Read the review

My Brilliant Friend

By elena ferrante (2011), translated by ann goldstein (2012).

Powerfully intimate and unashamedly domestic, the first in Ferrante’s Neapolitan series established her as a literary sensation. This and the three novels that followed documented the ways misogyny and violence could determine lives, as well as the history of Italy in the late 20th century.

Half of a Yellow Sun

By chimamanda ngozi adichie (2006).

When Nigerian author Adichie was growing up, the Biafran war “hovered over everything”. Her sweeping, evocative novel, which won the Orange prize, charts the political and personal struggles of those caught up in the conflict and explores the brutal legacy of colonialism in Africa. Read the review

Cloud Atlas

Cloud Atlas

David mitchell (2004).

The epic that made Mitchell’s name is a Russian doll of a book, nesting stories within stories and spanning centuries and genres with aplomb. From a 19th-century seafarer to a tale from beyond the end of civilisation, via 1970s nuclear intrigue and the testimony of a future clone, these dizzying narratives are delicately interlinked, highlighting the echoes and recurrences of the vast human symphony. Read the review

by Ali Smith (2016)

Smith began writing her Seasonal Quartet, a still-ongoing experiment in quickfire publishing, against the background of the EU referendum. The resulting “first Brexit novel” isn’t just a snapshot of a newly divided Britain, but a dazzling exploration into love and art, time and dreams, life and death, all done with her customary invention and wit. Read the review

A meditation on what it means to be a black American today … Ta-Nehisi Coates.

Between the World and Me

By ta-nehisi coates (2015).

Coates’s impassioned meditation on what it means to be a black American today made him one of the country’s most important intellectuals and writers. Having grown up the son of a former Black Panther on the violent streets of Baltimore, he has a voice that is challenging but also poetic. Between the World and Me takes the form of a letter to his teenage son, and ranges from the daily reality of racial injustice and police violence to the history of slavery and the civil war: white people, he writes, will never remember “the scale of theft that enriched them”. Read the review

The Amber Spyglass

By philip pullman (2000).

Children’s fiction came of age when the final part of Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy became the first book for younger readers to win the Whitbread book of the year award. Pullman has brought imaginative fire and storytelling bravado to the weightiest of subjects: religion, free will, totalitarian structures and the human drive to learn, rebel and grow. Here Asriel’s struggle against the Authority reaches its climax, Lyra and Will journey to the Land of the Dead, and Mary investigates the mysterious elementary particles that lend their name to his current trilogy: The Book of Dust. The Hollywood-fuelled commercial success achieved by JK Rowling may have eluded Pullman so far, but his sophisticated reworking of Paradise Lost helped adult readers throw off any embarrassment at enjoying fiction written for children – and publishing has never looked back. Read the review

by WG Sebald (2001), translated by Anthea Bell (2001)

Sebald died in a car crash in 2001, but his genre-defying mix of fact and fiction, keen sense of the moral weight of history and interleaving of inner and outer journeys have had a huge influence on the contemporary literary landscape. His final work, the typically allusive life story of one man, charts the Jewish disapora and lost 20th century with heartbreaking power. Read the review

From left:  Keira Knightley, Carey Mulligan and Andrew Garfield in the 2010 film adaptation of Never Let Me Go.

Never Let Me Go

By kazuo ishiguro (2005).

From his 1989 Booker winner The Remains of the Day to 2015’s The Buried Giant , Nobel laureate Ishiguro writes profound, puzzling allegories about history, nationalism and the individual’s place in a world that is always beyond our understanding. His sixth novel, a love triangle set among human clones in an alternative 1990s England, brings exquisite understatement to its exploration of mortality, loss and what it means to be human. Read the review

Secondhand Time

By svetlana alexievich (2013), translated by bela shayevich (2016).

The Belarusian Nobel laureate recorded thousands of hours of testimony from ordinary people to create this oral history of the Soviet Union and its end. Writers, waiters, doctors, soldiers, former Kremlin apparatchiks, gulag survivors: all are given space to tell their stories, share their anger and betrayal, and voice their worries about the transition to capitalism. An unforgettable book, which is both an act of catharsis and a profound demonstration of empathy.

by Marilynne Robinson (2004)

Robinson’s meditative, deeply philosophical novel is told through letters written by elderly preacher John Ames in the 1950s to his young son who, when he finally reaches an adulthood his father won’t see, will at least have this posthumous one-sided conversation: “While you read this, I am imperishable, somehow more alive than I have ever been.” This is a book about legacy, a record of a pocket of America that will never return, a reminder of the heartbreaking, ephemeral beauty that can be found in everyday life. As Ames concludes, to his son and himself: “There are a thousand thousand reasons to live this life, every one of them sufficient.” Read the review

Hilary Mantel captures ‘a sense of history listening and talking to itself’.

by Hilary Mantel (2009)

Mantel had been publishing for a quarter century before the project that made her a phenomenon, set to be concluded with the third part of the trilogy, The Mirror and the Light , next March. To read her story of the rise of Thomas Cromwell at the Tudor court, detailing the making of a new England and the self-creation of a new kind of man, is to step into the stream of her irresistibly authoritative present tense and find oneself looking out from behind her hero’s eyes. The surface details are sensuously, vividly immediate, the language as fresh as new paint; but her exploration of power, fate and fortune is also deeply considered and constantly in dialogue with our own era, as we are shaped and created by the past. In this book we have, as she intended, “a sense of history listening and talking to itself”. Read the review

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The 100 Best Classic Books to Read

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Blog – Posted on Wednesday, Oct 13

The 100 best classic books to read.

The 100 Best Classic Books to Read

Ever been caught up in a conversation about books and felt yourself cringe over your literary blind spots? Classic literature can be intimidating, but getting acquainted with the canon isn't just a form of torture cooked up by your high school English teacher: instead, an appreciation for the classics will help you see everything that's come since in a different light, and pick up on allusions that you'll begin to notice everywhere. Above all, they're just great reads — they've stood the test of time for a reason!

If you've always wanted to tackle the classics but never knew quite where to begin, we've got you covered. We've hand-selected 100 classic books to read, written by authors spanning continents and millennia. From love stories to murder mysteries, nonfiction to fantasy, there's something for everybody.

1. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez

This milestone Spanish novel may as well be titled 100 Years on Everyone’s Must-Read List — it’s just a titan in the world literature canon. We could go on about its remarkable narrative technique, beguiling voice, and sprawling cast of characters spanning seven generations. Its famous first line may be all that’s needed to win you over: “Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.”

2. The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton

Newland Archer, one of 1900s New York’s most eligible bachelors, has been looking for a traditional wife, and May Welland seems just the girl — that is until Newland meets entirely unsuitable Ellen Olenska. He must now choose between the two women — and between old money prestige and a value that runs deeper than social etiquette.

3. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

This allegorical tale, often recommended as a self-help book , follows young shepherd Santiago as he journeys to Egypt searching for a hidden treasure. A parable telling readers that the universe can help them realize their dreams if they only focus their energy on them, Coelho’s short novel has endured the test of time and remains a bestseller today.

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4 . All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque

Erich Maria Remarque’s wartime classic broke ground with its unflinching look at the human cost of war through the eyes of German soldiers in the Great War. With a lauded 1930 film adaptation (only the third to win Best Picture at the Oscars), All Quiet on the Western Front remains as powerful and relevant as ever.

5 . American Indian Stories, Legends, and Other Writings by Zitkála-Šá

Zitkála-Šá’s stories invite readers into the world of Sioux settlement, sharing childhood memories, legends, and folktales, and a memoir account of the Native American author ’s transition into Western culture when she left home. Told in beautiful, fluid language, this is a must-read book.

The World's Bestselling Mystery \'Ten . . .\' Ten strangers are lured to an isolated island mansion off the Devon coast by a mysterious \'U.N. Owen.\' \'Nine . . .\' At dinner a recorded message accuses each of them in turn of having a guilty secret, and by the end of the night one of the guests is dead. \'Eight . . .\' Stranded by a violent storm, and haunted by a nursery rhyme counting down one by one . . . one by one they begin to die. \'Seven . . .\' Who among them is the killer and will any of them survive?

6 . And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

First, there were ten who arrived on the island. Strangers to one another, they shared one similarity: they had all murdered in the past. And when people begin dropping like flies, they realize that they are the ones being murdered now. An example of a mystery novel done right, this timeless classic was penned by none other than the Queen of Mystery herself .

7 . Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

Tolstoy’s celebrated novel narrates the whirlwind tale of Anna Karenina. She’s married to dull civil servant Alexei Karenin when she meets Count Vronsky, a man who changes her life forever. But an affair doesn’t come without a moral cost, and Anna’s life is soon anything but blissful.

8 . The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

Sylvia Plath’s only novel follows the young, ambitious Esther Greenwood, who falls into a depression after a directionless summer, culminating in a suicide attempt. But even as Esther survives and receives treatment, she continues wondering about her purpose and role in society — leading to much larger questions about existential fulfillment. Poetically written and stunningly authentic, The Bell Jar continues to resonate with countless readers today.

9. Beloved by Toni Morrison

Many books are said to have helped shape the world — but only a few can really stake that claim. Toni Morrison’s Beloved is one of them. One of the great literary luminaries of our time, her best-known novel is the searingly powerful story of Sethe, who was born a slave in Kentucky. Though she’s since escaped to Ohio, she is haunted by her dead baby, whose tombstone is engraved with one word: Beloved .

10 . The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories by Angela Carter

Before the recent fad of feminist retellings of fairy tales, there was The Bloody Chamber . But Angela Carter’s retold tales, including twisted versions of Little Red Riding Hood and Beauty and the Beast, are more than just feminist: they’re original, darkly irreverent, and fiercely independent. This classic book is exactly what you’d expect from the author who inspired contemporary masters like Neil Gaiman, Sarah Waters, and Margaret Atwood.

11. Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote

Though the title evokes Audrey Hepburn, this novella came first — and the literary Holly Golightly is a very different creature from the 'good-time girl' who falls for George Peppard. Clever and chameleonic, she crafts her persona to fit others’ expectations, chasing her own American Dream while letting men think they can have it with her… only to slip through their fingers. A fascinating character study and a triumph of Capote’s wit and humanity.

12. Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh

Set in the opulent inter-war era in England, Brideshead Revisited chronicles the increasingly complex relationship between Oxford student Charles Ryder, his university chum Sebastian, whose noble family they visit at their grand seat of Brideshead. A lush, nostalgic, and passionate rendering of a bygone era of English aristocracy.

13. A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking

Welcome to Theoretical Physics 101. If it sounds daunting, you aren’t alone, and Stephen Hawking does a beautiful job guiding layperson readers through complex subjects. If you’re keen to learn more about such enigmas as black holes, relativity theory, quantum mechanics, and time itself, this is a perfect first taste.

14. The Call of the Wild (Reader's Library Classics) by Jack London

London's American classic is the bildungsroman of Buck: a St. Bernard/Scotch Collie mix who must adapt to life as a sled dog after a domesticated upbringing. Thrown into a harsh new reality, he must trust his instincts to survive. When he falls into the hands of a wise, experienced outdoorsman, will he become loyal to his new master or finally answer the call of the wild?

15. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

Salinger’s angsty coming-of-age tale is an English class cornerstone for a good reason. The story follows Holden Caulfield, a 17-year-old boy fed up with prep school “phonies.” Escaping to New York in search of authenticity, he soon discovers that the city is a microcosm of the society he hates. Relentlessly cynical yet profoundly moving, The Catcher in the Rye will strike a chord not just with Holden’s fellow teens but with earnest thinkers of all ages.

16. A Christmas Carol (Bantam Classics) by Charles Dickens

If you’re not acquainted with Dickens , then his evergreen Christmastime classic is the perfect introduction. Not only is it one of his best-loved works, but it’s also a slim 104 pages — a true yuletide miracle from an author with a tendency towards the tome! This short length means it’s the perfect book with which to cozy up in winter, just when you want to feel that warm holiday glow.

17. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

En route to his wedding, merchant sailor Edmond Dantès is shockingly accused of treason and thrown in prison without cause. There, he learns the secret location of a great fortune — knowledge that incites him to escape his grim fortress and take revenge on his accusers. With peerlessly propulsive prose, Dumas spins an epic tale of retribution, jealousy, and suffering that deserves every page he gives it.

18. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

A masterclass in character development , the very title of Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment is essentially an idiom for 'epic literature.' It centers around Raskolnikov, an unremarkable man who randomly murders someone after convincing himself that his motives are lofty enough to justify his actions. It turns out that it’s never that simple, and his conscience begins to call to him more and more.

19. Dangerous Liaisons by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos

The inspiration for the seminal 90s teen drama Cruel Intentions , Laclos's epistolary classic is a heady pre-revolutionary cocktail of sex and scandal that paints a damning portrait of high society. Laclos expertly plays with form and structure, composing a riveting narrative of letters passed between the Marquise de Merteuil and the Vicomte de Valmont — aristocratic former lovers who get in over their heads when they start playing with people's hearts. 

20. The Death of Artemio Cruz by Carlos Fuentes

In this highly atmospheric book, Fuentes draws the reader in with hypnotic, visceral descriptions of the final hours of its title character: a multifaceted tycoon, revolutionary, lover, and politician. As with many classic books, death here symbolizes corruption — yet it’s also impossible to ignore as a physical reality. As well as being a powerful statement on mortality, it's a moving history of the Mexican Revolution and a landmark in Latin-American literature .

21. Diary of a Madman, and other stories by Lu Xun

This collection is a modern Chinese classic containing chilling, satirical stories illustrating a time of great social upheaval. With tales that ask questions about what constitutes an individual's life, ordinary citizens' everyday experiences blend with enduring feudal values, ghosts, death, and even a touch of cannibalism.

22. Samuel Pepys The Diaries by Samuel Pepys

Best known for his recording the Great Fire of London, Samuel Pepys was a man whose writings have provided modern historians with one of the greatest insights into 17th-century living. The greatest hits of his diary include eyewitness accounts of the restoration of the monarchy and the Great Plague. The timelessness of this book, however, is owed to the richness of Pepys's day-to-day drama, which he records in unsparing, lively detail.

23 . A Doll's House and Other Plays (Penguin Classics) by Henrik Ibsen

Ibsen’s A Doll’s House is a powerful play starring the seemingly frivolous housewife Nora. Her husband, Torvald, considers her to be a silly “bird” of a companion, but in reality, she’s got a much firmer grasp on the hard facts of their domestic life than he does. Readers will celebrate as she finds the voice to speak her true thoughts.

24. Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes

Entranced by tales of chivalry, a minor nobleman reinvents himself as a knight. He travels the land jousting giants and delivering justice — though, in reality, he’s tilting at windmills and fighting friars. And while Don Quixote lives out a fantasy in his head, an imposter puts it to the page, further blurring the line between fiction and reality. Considered by many to be the first modern novel, Don Quixote is undoubtedly the work of a master storyteller.

25. The Dream of The Red Chamber by Cao Xueqin

A treasured classic of Chinese literature, Dream of the Red Chamber is a rich, sprawling text that explores the darkest corners of high society during the Qing Dynasty. Focusing on two branches of a fading aristocratic clan, it details the lives of almost forty major characters, including Jia Baoyu, the heir apparent whose romantic notions may threaten the family's future.

26. Dune by Frank Herbert

A dazzling epic science fiction classic, Dune created a now-immortalized interstellar society featuring a conflict between various noble families. On the desert planet of Arrakis, House Atreides controls the production of a high-demand drug known as "the spice". As political conflicts mount and spice-related revelations occur, young heir Paul Atreides must push himself to the absolute limit to save his planet and his loved ones.

27. The Fellowship of the Ring by J. R. R. Tolkien

Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy became the blueprint for countless fantasy series , and this first installment is its epic start. In The Fellowship of the Ring, we meet Frodo Baggins and his troupe of loyal friends, all of whom embark on a fateful mission: to destroy the One Ring and its awful powers forever.

28. The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan

Betty Friedan’s disruptive feminist text sheds light on the midcentury dissatisfaction of homemakers across America. Her case studies of unhappy women relegated to the domestic sphere, striving for careers and identities beyond the home, cut deep even now — and in retrospect, were a clear catalyst for second-wave feminism in the United States.

29. Frankenstein by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley

Shelley’s hugely influential classic recounts the tragic tale of Victor Frankenstein: a scientist who mistakenly engineers a violent monster. When Victor abandons his creation, the monster escapes and threatens to kill Victor’s family — unless he’s given a mate. Facing tremendous moral pressure, Victor must choose: foster a new race to possibly destroy humanity, or be responsible for the deaths of everyone he’s ever loved?

30. Giovanni's Room by James Baldwin

A defining entry in the LGBTQ+ canon , Giovanni’s Room relates one man’s struggle with his sexuality, as well as the broader consequences of the toxic patriarchy. After David, our narrator, has traveled to France to find himself, he begins a relationship with messy, magnetic Giovanni — the perfect foil to David’s safe, dull girlfriend. As more trouble arises, David agonizes over who he is, what he wants, and whether it is even possible to obtain it in this world.

31. The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing

This inventive meta novel is the first of Lessing’s “inner space” works, dealing with ideas of mental and societal breakdown. It revolves around writer Anna Wulf, who hopes to combine the notebooks about her life into one grand narrative. But despite her creative strides, Anna has irreparably fragmented herself — and working to re-synthesize her different sides eventually drives her mad.

32. Goodbye To All That by Robert Graves

Few people possess enough raw material to pen a memoir at the age of 34. Robert Graves — having already lived through the First World War and the seismic shifts it sparked in English society and sensibilities — peppers his sober account of social and personal turmoil with moments of surprising levity. Graves would later go on to write I, Claudius, a novel of the Roman Empire that is considered one of the greatest books ever written.

33. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

Following one Oklahoma family’s journey out of the Dust Bowl in search of a better life in California, Steinbeck’s classic is a vivid snapshot of Depression-era America, and about as devastating as it gets. Both tragic and awe-inspiring, The Grapes of Wrath is widely considered to be Steinbeck's best book and a front-runner for the title of The Great American Novel.

34. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

When talking of the Great American Novel, you cannot help but mention this work by F. Scott Fitzgerald. More than just a champagne-soaked story of love, betrayal, and murder, The Great Gatsby has a lot to say about class, identity, and belonging if you scratch its surface. You probably read this classic book in high school, but a return visit to West Egg is more than justified.

35. The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers

Meet John Singer, a deaf and nonverbal man who sits in the same café every day. Here, in the deep American South of the 1930s, John meets an assortment of people and acts as the silent, kind keeper of their stories — right up until an unforgettable ending that will blow you away. It’s hard to believe McCullers was only 23 when she penned this Southern gothic classic.

36. The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon

An epic work that befits its lengthy title, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire chronicles thirteen centuries of Roman rule. It chronicles its leaders, conflicts, and the events that led to its collapse— an outcome that Gibbon lays at the feet of Christianity. This work is an ambitious feat at over six volumes, though one that Gibbon pulls off with great panache.

37. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

Arthur Dent is an Englishman, an enjoyer of tea — and the only person to survive the destruction of the Earth. Accompanied by an alien author, Dent must now venture into the intergalactic bypass to figure out what’s going on. Though by no means the first comedic genre book, Douglas Adams’s masterpiece certainly popularized the idea that science fiction doesn't have to be earnest and straight-faced.

38. The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Arthur Conan Doyle’s world-famous detective needs no introduction. Mythologized in film and television many times over by now, this mystery of a diabolical hound roaming the moors in Devon is perhaps Sherlock Holmes’s most famous adventure.

39. The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende

Few first-time novelists have had the kind of impact and success enjoyed by Isabel Allende with her triumphant debut. Found at the top of pretty much every list of ‘best sweeping family sagas,’ The House of the Spirits chronicles the tumultuous history of the Trueba family, entwining the personal, the political, and the magical.

40. How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie

A perennial personal development staple, How to Win Friends and Influence People has been flying off the shelves since its release in 1936. Full of tried-and-true tips for garnering favor in both professional and personal settings, you’ll want to read the classic book that launched the entire self-help industry.

41. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

From a small Southern town to San Francisco, this landmark memoir covers Maya Angelou’s childhood years growing up in the United States, facing daily prejudice, racism, and sexism. Yet what shines the brightest on every page is Maya Angelou’s voice — which made the book an instant classic in 1969 and has endured to this day.

42. I, Robot by Isaac Asimov

You don’t have to be a sci-fi buff (or a Will Smith fan) to understand I, Robot’s iconic status. But if you are one, you’ll know the impact Isaac Asimov’s short story collection has had on subsequent generations of writers. Razor-sharp and thought-provoking, these tales of robotic sentience are still deeply relevant today.

43. If This Is a Man by Primo Levi

Spare, unflinching, and horrifying, If This Is a Ma n is Italian-Jewish writer Primo Levi’s autobiographical account of life under fascism and his detention in Auschwitz. It serves as an invaluable historical document and a powerful insight into the atrocities of war, making for a challenging but essential read.

44. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

From Ellison’s exceptional writing to his affecting portrayal of Black existence in America, Invisible Man is a true masterpiece. The book’s unnamed narrator describes experiences ranging from frustrating to nightmarish, reflecting on the “invisibility” of being seen only as one’s racial identity. Weaving in threads of Marxist theory and political unrest, this National Book Award winner remains a radical, brilliant must-read for the 21st century.

45. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

Like a dark, sparkling jewel passed down through generations, Charlotte Brontë’s exquisite Gothic romance continues to be revered and reimagined more than 170 years after its publication. Its endurance is largely thanks to the intensely passionate and turbulent relationship between headstrong heroine Jane and the mysterious Mr. Rochester — a romance that is strikingly modern in its sexual politics.

46. The Journey to the West by Wu Cheng'en

Journey to the West is an episodic Chinese novel published anonymously in the 16th century and attributed to Wu Cheng’en. Today, this beloved text — a rollicking fantasy about a mischievous, shape-shifting monkey god and his fallen immortal friends — is the source text for children’s stories, films, and comics. But this classic book is also an insightful comic satire and a monument of literature comparable to The Canterbury Tales or Don Quixote.

47. Kindred by Octavia E. Butler

A science fiction novel by one of the genre's greats, Kindred asks the toughest “what if” question there is: What if a modern black woman was transported back in time to antebellum Maryland? Octavia Butler sugarcoats nothing in this incisive, time-traveling inquisition into race and racism during one of the most horrifying periods in American history.

49. The Lonely Londoners by Samuel Selvon

The Lonely Londoners occupies a unique historical position as one of the earliest accounts of the Black working-class in 20th-century Britain. Selvon delves into the lives of immigrants from the West Indies, most of whom feel disillusioned and listless in London. But with its singular slice-of-life style and humor, The Lonely Londoners is hardly a tragic novel — only an unflinchingly honest one.

50. Lord of the Flies by William Golding

Another high school English classic, Lord of the Flies recounts the fate of a group of young British boys stranded on a desert island. Though they initially attempt to band together, rising tensions and paranoia lead to in-fighting and, eventually, terrible violence. The result is a dark cautionary tale against our own primitive brutality — with the haunting implication that it's closer to the surface than we'd like to think.

51. Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert

Flaubert’s heroine Emma Bovary is the young wife of a provincial doctor who escapes her banal existence by devouring romance novels. But when Emma decides she remains unfulfilled, she starts seeking romantic affairs of her own — all of which fail to meet her expectations or rescue her from her mounting debt. Though Flaubert’s novel caused a moral outcry on publication, its portrayal of a married woman’s affair was so realistic, many women believed they were the model for his heroine.

52. The Man Who Would Be King by Rudyard Kipling

This short novella tells the story of two British men visiting India while the country is a British colony. Swindlers and cheats, the men trick their way to Kafiristan, a remote region where one of them comes to be revered as king. A cautionary tale warning against letting things go to your head, this funny and absurd read has also been made into a classic film starring Michael Caine and Sean Connery.

53. Middlemarch by George Eliot

Subtitled A Study of Provincial Life , this novel concerns itself with the ordinary lives of individuals in the fictional town of Middlemarch in the early 19th century. Hailed for its depiction of a time of significant social change, it also stands out for its gleaming idealism, as well as endless generosity and compassion towards the follies of humanity.

54. Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie

Born in the first hour of India’s independence, Saleem Sinai is gifted with the power of telepathy and an extraordinary sense of smell. He soon discovers that there are 1,001 others with similar abilities — people who can help Saleem build a new India. The winner of the Booker prize in 1981, Salman Rushdie’s groundbreaking novel is a triumphant achievement of magical realism .

55. Moby-Dick by Herman Melville

Moby-Dick is more than the story of a boy on-board a whaling ship, more than an ode to marine lore and legend, and even more than a metaphysical allegory for the struggle between good and evil. Herman Melville’s “Great American Novel” is a masterful study of faith, obsession, and delusion — and a profound social commentary born from his lifelong meditation on America. The result will fill you with wonder and awe.

56. My Antonia by Willa Cather

Willa Cather’s celebrated classic about life on the prairie, My Ántonia tells the nostalgic story of Jim and Ántonia, childhood friends and neighbors in rural Nebraska. As well as charting the passage of time and the making of America, it’s a book that fills readers with wonder and a warm feeling of familiarity.

57. The Name Of The Rose by Umberto Eco

Originally published in Italian, The Name of the Rose is one of the bestselling books of all time — and for good reason. Umberto Eco plots a wild ride from start to finish: an intelligent murder mystery that combines theology, semiotics, empiricism, biblical analysis, and layers of metanarratives that create a brilliant labyrinth of a book.

58. The Nether World by George Gissing

A masterpiece of realism, The Nether World forces the reader to spend time with the type of marginalized people routinely left out of fiction: the working class of late 19th century London, a group whose many problems are intertwined with money. Idealistic in its pessimism, this fantastic novel insists that life is much more demanding than fiction lets show.

59. Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell

George Orwell’s story of a heavily surveilled dystopian state was heralded as prescient and left a lasting impact on popular culture and language (“Room 101”, “Big Brother,” and “Doublethink” were all born in its pages, to name a few). Just read it, if only to recognize its references, which you’ll begin to notice everywhere .

60. North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell

Uprooted from the South, a pastor's daughter, Margaret Hale, finds herself living in an industrial town in England's North. She encounters the suffering of the local mill workers and the mill owner John Thornton — and two very different passions ignite. In North and South, Elizabeth Gaskell fuses personal feeling with social concern, creating in the process a heroine that feels original and strikingly modern.

61. The Odyssey by Homer

This timeless classic has the heart-racing thrills of an adventure story and the psychological drama of an intricate family saga. After ten years fighting in a thankless war, Odysseus begins the long journey home to Ithaca — where his wife Penelope struggles to hold off a horde of suitors. But with men and gods standing in their way, will Odysseus and Penelope ever be reunited?

62. The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

Ernest Hemingway ’s career culminated with The Old Man and the Sea, the last book he published in his lifetime. This ocean-deep novella has a deceptively simple premise — an aging fisherman ventures out into the Gulf Stream determined to break his unlucky streak. What follows is a battle that’s small in scale but epic in feeling, rendered in Hemingway’s famously spare prose.

63. On The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin

Questioning the idea of a Creator — and therefore challenging the beliefs of most of the Western world — in The Origin of Species , Darwin explored a theory of evolution based on laws of natural selection. Not only is this text still considered a groundbreaking scientific work, but the ideas it puts forward remain fundamental to modern biology. And it’s totally readable to boot!

64. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey

The subjective nature of “sanity,” institutional oppression, and rejection of authority are just a few of the issues tackled in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest . The rebellious Randle McMurphy is this story’s de facto hero, and his clashes with the notorious Nurse Ratched have not only inspired a host of spin-offs but arguably a whole movement of fiction related to mental health.

65. One Thousand and One Nights by Anonymous

Embittered by his first wife’s infidelity, King Shahryar takes a new bride every night and beheads her in the morning — until Scheherazade, his latest bride, learns to use her imagination to stave off death. In this collection of Arabic folk tales, the quick-witted storyteller Scheherazade demonstrates the power of a good cliffhanger — on both the king and the reader!

66. Orientalism by Edward W. Said

An intelligent critique of the way the Western world perceives the East, Orientalism argues that the West’s racist, oppressive, and backward representation of the Eastern world is tied to imperialism. Published in 1978, Edward Said’s transformative text changed academic discourse forever.

67. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Thanks to the wit and wisdom of Jane Austen, the love story of Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy (pioneers of the enemies-to-lovers trope) is not merely a regency romance but a playful commentary on class, wealth, and the search for self-knowledge in a world governed by strict etiquette. Light, bright, and flawlessly crafted, Pride and Prejudice is an Austen classic you’re guaranteed to love.

68. The Princesse de Clèves by Madame de Lafayette

Often called the first modern novel from France, The Princesse de Cleves is an account of love, anguish, and their inherent inseparability: an all-too-familiar story, despite the 16th-century setting. Though the plot is simple — an unrequited love, unspoken until it’s not — Madame de Lafayette pours onto the pages a moving and profound analysis of the fragile human heart.

69. The Reader by Bernhard Schlink

The Reader is set in postwar Germany, a society still living in the shadow of the Holocaust. The book begins with an older woman’s relationship with a minor, though it isn’t even the most shocking thing that happens in this novel. Concerned with disconnection and apathy, Schlink’s book grapples with the guilty weight of the past without flinching from the horror of the present.

70. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.” Du Maurier’s slow-burning mystery has been sending a chill down readers’ spines for decades, earning its place in the horror hall of fame. It’s required reading for any fan of the genre, but reader beware: this gorgeously gothic novel will keep you up at night.

71. A Room of One's Own by Virginia Woolf

A mainstay of feminist literature , A Room of One’s Own experimentally blends fiction and fact to drill down into the role of women in literature as both subjects and creatives. Part critical theory, part rallying cry, this slender book still packs a powerful punch.

72. Season of Migration to the North by Tayeb Salih

Described by Edward Said as one of the great novels in the oeuvre of Arabic books, Season of Migration to the North is the revolutionary narrative of two men struggling to re-discover their Sudanese identities following the impact of British colonialism. Some compare it to Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness , but it stands tall in its own right.

73. The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir

A foundational feminist text , Simone de Beauvoir's treatise The Second Sex marked a watershed moment in feminist history and gender theory. It rewards the efforts of those willing to traverse its nearly 1,000 pages with eye-opening truths about gender, oppression, and otherness.

74. The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins

How do genes work? And what does that mean for our chances of survival? Often cited as one of the most influential science books of all time, Richard Dawkins’ The Selfish Gene seeks to answer these pressing questions and more. It also touts the dubious glory of introducing the word “meme” into the public consciousness. 

75. The Shining by Stephen King

Jack Torrance is the new off-season caretaker at the Overlook Hotel. Providing his family with a home and him with enough time to write, it’s the perfect job, but for one tiny problem: the hotel may be haunted. And it’s only going to get worse once winter sets in. If you only read one horror book in your lifetime, you could do much worse than Stephen King’s The Shining .

76. Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse

The story of a man casting off his worldly possessions in the pursuit of self-discovery and enlightenment, Siddhartha may seem intimidatingly philosophical at first glance. In reality, though, Herman Hesse’s German-language classic is surprisingly accessible, and as page-turning and readable as it is spiritually enlightening.

77. The Sorrows Of Young Werther by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

A defining work in early Romanticism that influenced the likes of Mary Shelley and Thomas Mann, The Sorrows of Young Werther is an epistolary novel that tells of a young writer infatuated with someone else’s betrothed. Drawing heavily on his own experience of ill-fated love, as well as the death of his good friend, Goethe makes the pages hum with angst and repressed desire.

78. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson

Dr. Jekyll’s attempt to indulge in his vices transforms him into the horrific Mr. Hyde. The more Jekyll yields to his urges, the more powerful Hyde becomes until even Jekyll can’t control him. The result is a thrilling story of supernatural horror and a potent allegory that warns against giving in to one’s dark side.

79. The Stranger by Albert Camus

The Stranger opens with Meursault, our hero, learning of the death of his mother. His reaction to the news is put under intense scrutiny from those around him. The reader is led in a strange dance of absurdism and existentialism that sees Meursault confront something even crueler than mortality: society’s expectations.

80. A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth by Vikram Seth

Recently adapted into a hit drama by the BBC, A Suitable Boy is one of the newer books on our list but has already landed classic status. At nearly 1,500 pages long, the story of 19-year-old Lata's attempts to resist her family's efforts to marry her off to "a suitable boy" is astonishing in its execution and eye-opening look at class, religion, and gendered expectations in mid-century India.

81. The Tale of Genji by Murasaki Shikibu

The Tale of Genji follows the romantic and political misadventures of a young official born to one of the emperor’s consorts. With no place in the line of succession, Genji makes his way through life using his good looks and charm — but these gifts ultimately bring him more sorrow than joy. Elegant and immersive, this captivating classic is often touted as the first in-depth character study.

82. Tess of the D'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy

Set against sweeping landscapes and wind-torn fields, Tess of the D’Urbervilles focuses on the life of young Tess Durbeyfield, who, by her family’s great poverty, is forced to claim kinship with the wealthy D’Urberville family. What follows is a devastating tragedy, as Tess meets harsher and harsher treatment at the hands of men.

83. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

After being caught kissing down-and-out Johnny Taylor, sixteen-year-old Janie is promptly married off to an older man. Following her journey through adolescence, adulthood, and a string of unsatisfying marriages with unblinking honesty, Their Eyes Were Watching God is one of the seminal masterpieces of African American literature .

84. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

Chinua Achebe’s magnum opus follows Okonkwo, an Igbo man whose sole aim is to rise above his father’s weak legacy. Okonkwo is strong and fearless, but his obsession with masculinity leads him to violently dominate others — until he goes too far one day. The following events form an unparalleled tragedy, made all the more gripping by rich details of pre-colonial Igbo culture and timeless questions about tradition and honor.

85. Thousand Cranes by Yasunari Kawabata

When a young man meets his late father’s mistress at a tea ceremony, he succumbs to a desire that is both transgressive and overpowering. While the tragic consequences of their love affair unfold, Kawabata delicately guides us through a world of passion, regret, and exquisite beauty. No wonder Thousand Cranes helped him land a Nobel Prize.

86. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

This unforgettable classic centers on race relations and justice in the Depression-era South. Narrated by our protagonist as an adult, it looks back to her childhood when her father defended a Black man falsely accused of rape. She muses on what their small town’s reactions to the trial taught her about prejudice and morality. Despite the heavy subject matter, Scout’s warm, insightful voice makes To Kill a Mockingbird a joy to read; no wonder it’s often cited as the Great American Novel.

87. The Trial by Franz Kafka

The Trial begins with a bank cashier, Josef K., accused of an unspecified crime and told to await a court summons. Josef attempts to figure out what he has “done” but is met only with chaos and despair, and his sanity continues to fray as he goes through this maddening ordeal.

88. The Turn of the Screw by Henry James

Henry James’ brilliance arguably reached a pinnacle with The Turn of the Screw , a Gothic novella about a governess who cares for two children in the estate of Bly. She grows convinced that the grounds are haunted by ghosts — but are they, really?

89. Twelve Years a Slave by Solomon Northup

Steve McQueen’s Oscar-winning adaptation recently drew renewed attention to this vital work by Solomon Northup, a memoir that takes a well-deserved place on every complete list of classic books. As a free and educated man kidnapped and sold into slavery, Northup was able to write an extraordinarily full account of life on a cotton plantation that exposes the brutal truth from the uniquely cutting viewpoint of both an outsider and a victim.

90. Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne

This classic sci-fi book features the original Nemo — not, regrettably, an adorable clownfish, but the captain of a submarine called Nautilus. Captain Nemo, his crew, and three scientists go on a fantastical journey in the shadowy depths of the sea. From underwater forests to walking the seafloor and finding Atlantis, this is no ordinary adventure.

91. Ulysses by James Joyce

Though it’s a long book, Ulysses traces the progress of a single day in the life of Irishman Leopold Bloom and his acquaintances. A groundbreaking modernist work, this novel is characterized by innovative literary experimentation and a stream-of-consciousness flow that winds elusively along the streets of Dublin.

92. Under the Net by Iris Murdoch

Iris Murdoch’s best-known novel is much like its protagonist: brimming with equal parts charisma and chaos. Down-and-out writer Jake Donaghue is the man of the hour, and the reader charts him all over London as he runs into increasingly odd characters and situations.

93. Untouchable by Mulk Raj Anand

Untouchable follows a day in the life of Bakha, a sweeper and toilet cleaner who is rendered “untouchable” under India’s rigid caste system. Only 166 pages long, Anand presents a powerful case study of injustice and the oppressive systems that perpetuate it.

94. A Vindication of the Rights of Woman by Mary Wollstonecraft

A commanding manifesto by author-activist Mary Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman birthed the tenets of modern feminist thought. Defying the commonly held notion that women were naturally inferior to men, it argued that a lack of education for women fostered inequality. One to pick up if you want to feel good about how far gender equality has come — or if you want to fuel your fire for the distance yet to be traveled.

95. The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells

Two worlds must do epic battle: humankind and Martians. And only one can survive. This seminal science fiction work caused widespread panic in 1938 when its radio adaptation—narrated and directed by Orson Welles—made people across the United States think that an actual alien invasion was taking place right outside their front doors.

96. Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys

Are you tired of being told to read Jane Eyre ? Then we suggest you pick up Wide Sargasso Sea : the feminist prequel written by Jean Rhys in 1966. Rhys reshapes the Bronte classic forever by writing from Bertha Mason’s point of view: no longer the madwoman in the attic, but a Jamaican caught in a patriarchal society from which she cannot escape.

97. Wizard of the Crow by Ngugi wa Thiong'o

This book takes its reader to a fictional African nation called the Free Republic of Aburiria and brings a postcolonial edge to folk storytelling. Featuring tricksters, lovers, and magical elements, Wizard of the Crow is a hilarious satire of autocracy and an experimental feat that cleverly incorporates oral traditions into its grand vision.

98. Women, Race & Class by Angela Davis

Women, Race, and Class is a must-read for anyone who wants to know about the intersectionality of the abolitionist and women’s suffrage movements. Civil rights activist Angela Davis unpacks white feminism, sexism, and racism in clear, incisive prose as she makes a resounding call for equality.

99. Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

Amid a terrible snowstorm, a man takes shelter at Wuthering Heights, where he learns the story of the manor’s former inhabitants: Catherine and Heathcliff. Set against the bleak and feral backdrop of the Yorkshire Moors, it’s a story of impossible desire, cruel betrayal, and bitter vengeance that rages with as much life and power as the fierce winds outside.

100. The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

One of the early feminist triumphs, The Yellow Wallpaper is the famous short story chronicling the slow breakdown of a woman imprisoned in a room with (spoiler alert) yellow wallpaper—presumably to cure her “temporary nervous depression.” Highly recommended, especially since it’s only a 10-minute read.

Still hungry for more classic reads? Check out our picks for the best books of all time . If you'd like to try something a little more contemporary, we've got you covered with our favorite novels of the 21st century .

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The 100 Must-Read Books of 2021

The fiction, nonfiction and poetry that shifted our perspectives, uncovered essential truths and encouraged us forward Annabel Gutterman, Cady Lang, Arianna Rebolini and Lucas Wittmann

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1000 Years of Joys and Sorrows

Acts of desperation, afterparties, aftershocks, all that she carried, all the frequent troubles of our days, america on fire, beautiful world, where are you, the book of form and emptiness, call us what we carry, the chosen and the beautiful, chronicles from the land of the happiest people on earth, cloud cuckoo land, the code breaker, the committed, the copenhagen trilogy, covered with night, crying in h mart, dear senthuran, detransition, baby, empire of pain, everyone knows your mother is a witch, the family roe, the final girl support group, finding the mother tree, four thousand weeks, the free world, great circle, harlem shuffle, hell of a book, how the word is passed, invisible child, the kissing bug, klara and the sun, the life of the mind, the lincoln highway, a little devil in america, the loneliest americans, the love songs of w.e.b. du bois, malibu rising, the man who lived underground, mike nichols: a life, milk blood heat, my darling from the lions, my monticello, my year abroad, no one is talking about this, oh william, on juneteenth, one friday in april, one last stop, orwell's roses, the other black girl, our country friends, a passage north, pilgrim bell, poet warrior, the promise, the prophets, razorblade tears, real estate, the removed, remote control, the rib king, second place, seeing ghosts, somebody's daughter, something new under the sun, the sum of us, the sunflower cast a spell to save us from the void, the sweetness of water, a swim in a pond in the rain, tastes like war, there’s no such thing as an easy job, under a white sky, until proven safe, while we were dating, white magic, who is maud dixon, who they was, who will pay reparations on my soul, you got anything stronger, you're history.

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The Ultimate Best Books of 2023 List

Reading all the lists so you don’t have to since 2017.

The end of the year is approaching, the universe is expanding, and the internet is updating—right now, it is mostly updating its Best Of lists. Therefore, per Literary Hub tradition , I will now present to you the Ultimate List, otherwise known as the List of Lists—in which I read all the Best Of lists and count which books are recommended most.

This year, I sorted through 62 lists from 48 publications, which yielded a total of 1,132 books. (I can only say: yikes.) 94 of those books made it onto 5 or more lists, and I have collated these for you here, in descending order of frequency.

20 lists: James McBride, The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store

19 lists: Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah, Chain-Gang All-Stars David Grann, The Wager Zadie Smith, The Fraud

16 lists: Jonathan Eig, King: A Life

15 lists: Eleanor Catton, Birnam Wood R.F. Kuang, Yellowface Rebecca Makkai, I Have Some Questions For You Ann Patchett, Tom Lake Safiya Sinclair, How to Say Babylon Jesmyn Ward, Let Us Descend

14 lists: Mariana Enriquez, tr. Megan McDowell, Our Share of Night Paul Murray, The Bee Sting

13 lists: S.A. Cosby, All the Sinners Bleed Naomi Klein, Doppelganger: A Trip Into the Mirror World Catherine Lacey, Biography of X

12 lists: Claire Dederer, Monsters: A Fan’s Dilemma Deepti Kapoor, Age of Vice Victor LaValle, Lone Women

11 lists: Emma Cline, The Guest Daniel Mason, North Woods Justin Torres, Blackouts Abraham Verghese, The Covenant of Water Colson Whitehead, Crook Manifesto

10 lists: Matthew Desmond, Poverty, By America Lauren Groff, The Vaster Wilds Kelly Link, White Cat, Black Dog: Stories Jonathan Rosen, The Best Minds: A Story of Friendship, Madness, and the Tragedy of Good Intentions C Pam Zhang, Land of Milk and Honey

9 lists: Darrin Bell, The Talk Timothy Egan, A Fever in the Heartland: The Ku Klux Klan’s Plot to Take Over America, and the Woman Who Stopped Them Alice McDermott, Absolution Ann Napolitano, Hello Beautiful John Valliant, Fire Weather: A True Story from a Hotter World

8 lists: Jen Beagin, Big Swiss Jamel Brinkley, Witness Nicole Chung, A Living Remedy: A Memoir Anne Enright, The Wren, The Wren Jenny Erpenbeck, tr. Michael Hofmann, Kairos Tania James, Loot Jessica Knoll, Bright Young Women Hilary Leichter, Terrace Story Christina Sharpe, Ordinary Notes Maggie Smith, You Could Make This Place Beautiful Héctor Tobar, Our Migrant Souls: A Meditation on Race and the Meanings and Myths of “Latino” Ilyon Woo, Master Slave Husband Wife: An Epic Journey from Slavery to Freedom

7 lists: Daniel Clowes, Monica Michael Finkel, The Art Thief: A True Story of Love, Crime, and a Dangerous Obsession Homer, tr. Emily Wilson, The Iliad Benjamin Labatut, The MANIAC Dennis Lehane, Small Mercies Elliot Page, Pageboy: A Memoir

6 lists: Sebastian Barry, Old God’s Time Gary J. Bass, Judgment at Tokyo: World War II on Trial and the Making of Modern Asia Ned Blackhawk, The Rediscovery of America: Native Peoples and the Unmaking of U.S. History Tania Branigan, Red Memory: The Afterlives of China’s Cultural Revolution Tananarive Due, The Reformatory Teju Cole, Tremor Tessa Hadley, After the Funeral and Other Stories Isabella Hammad, Enter Ghost Rachel Heng, The Great Reclamation Tahir Hamut Izgil, Waiting to Be Arrested at Night: A Uyghur Poet’s Memoir of China’s Genocide Angie Kim, Happiness Falls Deborah Levy, August Blue Yiyun Li, Wednesday’s Child: Stories Lorrie Moore, I Am Homeless If This is Not My Home Donovan X. Ramsey, When Crack Was King: A People’s History of a Misunderstood Era Britney Spears, The Woman in Me Barbra Streisand, My Name is Barbra Alice Winn, In Memoriam Yepoka Yeebo, Anansi’s Gold: The Man Who Looted the West, Outfoxed Washington, and Swindled the World

5 lists: Naomi Alderman, The Future Anne Berest, tr. Tina Kover, The Postcard Cat Bohannon, Eve: How the Female Body Drove 200 Million Years of Human Evolution Tom Crewe, The New Life Patricia Engel, The Faraway World Patricia Evangelista, Some People Need Killing: A Memoir of Murder in My Country Anna Funder, Wifedom: Mrs. Orwell’s Invisible Life Cristina Rivera Garza, Liliana’s Invincible Summer: A Sister’s Search for Justice Paul Harding, This Other Eden Mick Herron, The Secret Hours Nathan Hill, Wellness Lydia Kiesling, Mobility Jhumpa Lahiri, tr. Jhumpa Lahiri and Todd Portnowitz, Roman Stories Andrew Leland, The Country of the Blind: A Memoir at the End of Sight Ayana Mathis, The Unsettled Marie NDiaye, tr. Jordan Stump, Vengeance Is Mine Mark O’Connell, A Thread of Violence: A Story of Truth, Invention, and Murder Caroline O’Donoghue, The Rachel Incident Ed Park, Same Bed Different Dreams Salman Rushdie, Victory City Jillian Tamaki and Mariko Tamaki, Roaming Brandon Taylor, The Late Americans Paul Yoon, The Hive and the Honey

List of Lists Surveyed:

The New Yorker’s The Best Books of 2023 (The Essentials) • The New York Times’s 100 Notable Books of 2023 and 10 Best Books of 2023 • TIME’s The 100 Must-Read Books of 2023 • The Atlantic’s The Books That Made Us Think the Most This Year • Publishers Weekly’s Best Books 2023 • The Wall Street Journal’s The 10 Best Books of 2023 • The Los Angeles Times’s 13 Best Novels (And 2 Best Short Story Collections) of 2023 • The Washington Post ‘s 50 Notable Works of Fiction and 50 Notable Works of Nonfiction and 10 Best Books of 2023 • Vulture’s The Best Books of 2023 • Slate’s The 10 Best Books of 2023 (Laura Miller) and The 10 Best Books of 2023 (Dan Kois) • Electric Literature’s Best Novels of 2023 , Best Nonfiction of 2023 , and Best Short Story Collections of 2023 •  The Economist’s  Best Books of 2023 • Vanity Fair’s 20 Favorite Books of 2023 • Esquire’s The 20 Best Books of 2023 • Oprah Daily’s The Best Books of 2023 • Den of Geek’s Best Books of 2023 • Amazon’s Top 20 Books of the Year • Book Riot’s Best Books of 2023 •  Chicago Tribune’s  10 Best Books for 2023 • Inside Hook’s The 10 Best Books of 2023 • The Guardian’s Best Books of 2023 • Powell’s Books’ Best Books of 2023: Fiction and Best Books of 2023: Nonfiction •  Real Simple’s  60 Best Books of 2023 •  Good Housekeeping’s  The Must-Read Books of 2023 • AIR MAIL’s 12 Best Books of 2023 • The New York Public Library’s Best Books for Adults 2023 •  The Boston Globe’s  55 Books We Loved in 2023 • Book Soup’s Best Books of 2023 • The Chicago Review of Books’ Best Books We Read in 2023 • The California Review of Books’ 10 Best Books of 2023 • The Globe and Mail’s The Globe 100: The Best Books of 2023 • Tattered Cover’s Books of the Year 2023 • ELLE’s Editors Share the Books They Loved Best in 2023 • The New Statesman’s 20 Best Books of 2023 •  Harper’s Bazaar’s  The 45 Best New Books of 2023 You Won’t Put Down • The Chicago Public Library’s Favorite Books of 2023 and Top 10 Books of 2023 • BookPage’s Best Fiction of 2023 and Best Nonfiction of 2023 and Best Mystery & Suspense of 2023 and Best Romance of 2023 and Best SFF & Horror of 2023 and 10 Best Books of 2023 • Shelf Awareness’s Best Adult Books of 2023 • Kirkus Reviews’ Best Fiction Books of the Year and Best Nonfiction Books of the Year • Library Journal’s Best Books 2023 •  The Telegraph’s  50 Best Books of 2023 • The Conversation’s Best Books of 2023 •  The New York Post’s Best Books of 2023 • PEOPLE’s Top 10 Books of 2023 • Foreign Affairs’ The Best of Books 2023 • Town & Country’s The Best Books of 2023 • The Independent’s 25 Best Books of the Year • and of course, Literary Hub’s The 38 Best Books We Read in 2023 .

Emily Temple

Emily Temple

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Valentine's Day

Looking for love you'll find it in 2024 in these 10 romance novels.

Kalyani Saxena

Covers of 10 romance books for 2024.

Who says romance is reserved for Valentine's Day? Love stories are a treat to be savored year-round. To give you a head start in planning your 2024 reading, here's a list of 10 excellent romance novels (I've read them all!) publishing from now into early summer.

Cover of Bride

Bride by Ali Hazelwood ( Feb. 6)

Bride is Ali Hazelwood as you've always known and loved her – with a paranormal twist. The story follows Misery Lark (iconic name, I know) a vampyre who is suddenly married to the ruthless, probably brutish but also kind of hot werewolf Lowe Moreland in a peacekeeping alliance. Misery must make a life in a hostile territory while trying not to make out with her new husband – who may not trust her but can't seem to keep his eyes off her.

This book is as sexy as it is fun. It's a departure from Hazelwood's more conventional contemporary romances but brings in all the staples of her best work. There's found family, a love interest that's gruff yet obsessed, and most crucially a slow burning tension that lingers in every scene like a scent you just can't shake (there's a significant amount of smelling in this book but I promise it works). Fair warning: If you're primarily a contemporary romance reader, it's worth knowing that a werewolf and vampyre hooking up is going to look pretty unconventional. You may want to brace yourself for some of the knotty, ahem, I mean naughty elements to the romance once the steam really gets going.

Perfect for: Readers who love a little interspecies romance. We know you're out there!

Cover of At First Spite

At First Spite by Oliva Dade (Feb. 13)

At First Spite is a story for all the petty readers out there. Athena Greydon moves into the narrow spite house she bought with her ex-fiancé Johnny as a last resort. When she finds out her new neighbor is Matthew – Johnny's judgemental older brother who convinced him to end the engagement – she decides it might be time for some payback. But Matthew is handsome, kind, and seems genuinely remorseful for his role in blowing up her life. And when her mental health starts to slip, he's there too.

This book, despite its playful revenge premise, has one of the most careful and serious depictions of depression and grief that I've seen in a romance novel. It's thoughtful, sobering and real . Dade reminds us that love is more than attraction and butterflies – it's showing up for someone every day even when they're at their lowest.

Perfect for: Readers who crave a story with a plus-sized heroine and understand the inherent romance of someone cleaning your glasses for you. Swoon!

Cover of Sense. Lies and Sensibility

Sex, Lies and Sensibility by Nikki Payne (Feb. 13)

Sex, Lies, and Sensibilit y brings all the romance of Jane Austen's classic tale to a crumbling beach property in Maine. Nora Dash's world is turned upside down when she finds out (at her father's funeral) that she and her sister are really her dad's second secret family. Now Nora's only hope at an inheritance is schlepping off to rural Maine and restoring a dilapidated beach house her father once bought. But in order to do so, she'll have to team up with Ennis "Bear" Freeman, an Abenaki tour guide, who needs the money to protect his community's river from unscrupulous developers.

You want drama? This book gives drama. The emotional twists and turns of this story are as big a part of Nora and Bear's romance as Maine's beautiful landscape. Both characters are trying to outrun their pasts (literally – the duo are former track stars) while denying the emotional tether that grows between them. It's awkward, sweet, and very hot at the same time. And it's especially refreshing to see an interracial romance where both characters come from marginalized backgrounds (Nora is Black and Bear is Indigenous). Their identities are more than window dressing and bring a unique depth to their banter and ultimate romantic connection.

Perfect for: Readers who wish Jane Austen was just a little thirstier.

Cover of How to End a Love Story

How to End A Love Story by Yulin Kuang ( April 9)

By all marks, Helen Zhang and Grant Shepard are virtual strangers. But 13 years ago, Grant was involved in the accident that killed Helen's sister Michelle. When the two meet again, it's in a Hollywood writers room where Grant is part of the team adapting Helen's books for TV. Their interactions are charged – with the bitter resentment of past trauma and a surprising spark that it's best they pretend doesn't exist.

Whew! If that sounds like a heavy premise for a romance, you'd be right. But Yulin Kuang (who is adapting and directing Emily Henry's Beach Read for film) makes it work with a raw believability. Helen's journey in particular is wrenching – as she struggles with the expectations heaped on her as a daughter of immigrants and her growing feelings for Grant. Kuang doesn't shy away from the unpleasantness of the premise but rather weaves it into the core of what connects Helen and Grant. Their story is one of healing and forgiveness with all the ugly cracks and personal setbacks that entails. And the sheer yearning and impossibility of their situation will wreck you in the best possible way.

Perfect for: Readers who enjoy a truly stomach churning level of angst with a side dish of sexual tension.

Cover of Funny Story

Funny Story by Emily Henry ( April 23)

The book begins with Daphne, whose perfect fiancé has just dumped her for his longtime childhood friend Petra. Left with no other option, Daphne moves in with Miles, Petra's ex-boyfriend, who is in the pits of break-up misery himself. The duo decide to make the most of the summer by exploring the town together – with the added side benefit of making their exes jealous along the way. But what happens when your ex's new fiancé's ex is actually lovely and kisses like a man starved? Well, that's a funny story.

It takes very little time for most readers to get sucked into an Emily Henry novel but Funny Story is guaranteed to break records. It's Henry at her absolute best – romantic, melancholic, and so full of heart. By chapter 2, you'll be ready to throw hands for Daphne. And Miles is so magnetically charming, you'll be tongue tied in four chapters or less. That's Emily Henry's speciality – snagging you in and emotionally entangling you with the characters until you're half sick in love yourself.

Perfect for: Readers who see a disaster of a man sobbing to Bridget Jones's Diary and think "I could fix him."

Cover of The Paradise Problem

The Paradise Problem by Christina Lauren (May 14)

When Anna Green and grocery-store heir Liam "West" Weston were in college they got married for some free housing and then happily went their separate ways. But five years later, Liam needs to bring his fake wife to a destination wedding to secure his inheritance. Anna agrees to tag along and pretend to be in love – for a cut of the money. After all, it's no hardship to fake a relationship with your gorgeous (legal) husband. Right? As long as they keep their emotions out of the picture, it'll be smooth sailing. Right?

The Paradise Problem is the kind of book you take on vacation and read in one singular sitting at the beach. It's a complete trope-fest in the best possible way. You're looking for fake dating? We've got it! And what about marriage of convenience? That's the fun twist! Opposites attract? Fear not, we've got that too! It's not a complete reinvention of any one of those tropes, but rather a delightful execution of a winning formula (any romance reader worth their salt knows magic happens when you combine fake dating with a destination wedding).

Perfect for: Readers who want a little flavor of Succession-esque family politics in their romance.

Cover of Birding With Benefits

Birding with Benefits by Sarah T. Dubb ( June 4)

Who says romance is only for bright-eyed, bushy-tailed 20-somethings? In Birding with Benefits, Celeste, a 42-year-old divorcée, ends up entangled with John, a quiet and sensitive local birder. John is in urgent need of a partner for this year's birding competition and after a comedy of errors (in which Celeste thinks John needs a fake romantic partner), the two become teammates. Celeste doesn't know the first thing about birds but as she spends hours learning from John in Arizona's gorgeous wilderness, she starts to develop a soft spot for the hobby and...her gorgeous teacher.

This romance is so soft and gentle. It's a story about two mature adults who are polar opposites and yet kindred spirits. The passion John and Celeste find for one another while cataloging Arizona's birdlife is warm and steady. And although they've got a few emotional obstacles to work through before a happy ending, it's worth tuning in to see how these birds of a feather find their way to each other.

Perfect for: Readers who like birds and have an affinity for men who work in wood shops.

Cover of Under Your Spell

Under Your Spell by Laura Wood ( June 25)

As the daughter of a legendary rockstar (and even more legendary womanizer), Clementine Monroe wants nothing to do with musicians or their drama. But as luck would have it (or the strange Breakup Spell her sister cast) the man she just had a hot one-night stand with is actually Theo Eliott, world-famous rock star. And to make matters worse, Clemmie's new job calls for her to spend the next six weeks stuck in a house with Theo. Will the two be able to stay away from each other long enough for Theo to finish his album?

Under Your Spell is as enchanting as the name implies. It's both humorous and sweet – with a really compelling cast of characters. Clemmie is an adorably sensible disaster. She thinks she's in control but really she's a mess who would rather avoid any risk than open herself up to heartbreak. Relatable. Theo is a rockstar but really a boy obsessed. I'm afraid he doesn't know how to do anything except win hearts. And Clemmie's sisters – Lil and Serena bring a warm girl power (non-ironic) energy to the whole production. You'll be spellbound with this one.

Perfect for: Readers who may or may not have read One Direction fanfiction in their youth. No judgment!

Cover of Ne'er Duke Well

Ne'er Duke Well by Alexandra Vasti ( July 23)

In Ne'er Duke Well, Peter Kent, a reluctant and scandalous duke must find a way to rehabilitate his reputation if he wants to gain custody of his half siblings. He teams up with Lady Selina, society's most polished debutante. But Selina has a small secret – she runs an erotic library for women. And though she'd rather set Peter up with a wife of impeccable reputation and no life-ruining secrets – the sparks that fly between the two of them are undeniable.

Ne'er Duke Well is a historical romance with the energy of a Parks & Recreation episode. Like the iconic sitcom, the characters in this are all so darn loveable, you can almost see the twinkle in their eyes. There's witty banter and an endlessly supportive love interest (Peter Kent is a regency-era Ben Wyatt). And you've got this comforting feeling that even when things seem unsalvageable, everything will be okay. It's the kind of romance you want to wrap around yourself like a blanket – low conflict with maximum warm and fuzzy feelings.

Perfect for: Readers who love golden retriever heroes and enjoy romances with a focus on family.

Cover of The Ornithologist's Field Guide to Love

The Ornithologist's Field Guide to Love by India Holton ( July 23)

The Ornithologist's Field Guide to Love follows Beth Pickering, a perfectly polite professor who must team up with her maybe villainous (definitely sexy) academic rival Devon Lockley to capture a magical bird and win the ultimate prize – tenure.

This book is so riotously clever it almost defies description. It's like an alchemy of romantic elements held in perfect harmony. India Holton infuses the story with wry wit and meta inside jokes. Every sentence is positively vibrating with the kind of charm that will have you pressing your lips together with laughter. And yet amid all the outrageous and camp fun, Holton also succeeds in building a genuine love story – between two people who have kept the world at a distance for years but somehow find a home within each other And if that doesn't sell you, then you should at least know this book has one of the funniest twists on the "one bed" trope I've read in a long time.

Perfect for: Readers who think every good romance should include at least one ridiculous bit.

Still hungry for more books? Here are three more titles I haven't read yet but am excited to tear into:

  • King of Sloth by Anna Huang (April 30)
  • Not Another Love Song by Julie Soto (July 16)
  • If I Stopped Haunting You by Colby Wilkins (Oct. 15)

Kalyani Saxena is an associate producer at Here & Now. She's a voracious romance reader in perpetual search for the perfect execution of the enemies-to-lovers trope.

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10 Must-Read Books By Black Authors Using Fantasy to Explore Black Imagination

We've rounded up the best fantasy books by black authors whose tales will transport you to new worlds of magic, mystery, dragons and more..

The outsized impact Fantasy has had on literature is often minimized because so many people view this genre as escapist fiction. But historically, authors have used Fantasy not only to entertain but also to comment on issues and injustices society avoided engaging with, and today, many talented Black authors are turning to Fantasy to shatter seemingly impossible-to-break-through glass ceilings, drive awareness of unchecked injustice and shine a light on revelatory Black storytelling.

SEE ALSO: The Best Books to Cozy Up With When You’re Feeling Romantic

Why Fantasy? Because the genre can do something other forms of storytelling often can’t: reshape reality entirely, for better or for worse, to showcase the best and the ugliest truths about us all. Black History Month is a great time to restock your shelf with books by Black authors who are telling fantastical tales inspired by true events and otherworldly stories with wild Star-Wars-meets-the-Authurian-legend vibes. It’s also a great time to acknowledge that the best books in the genre are increasingly being penned by diverse voices. There’s a lot to love in this list of ten amazing books that use Fantasy to explore Black imagination.

Legendborn by Tracy Deonn

A book cover featuring a woman with red light swiling around her wrist

Legendborn is one of the most stunning books of recent years. Bree Matthews enters a secret society she discovers is connected to her mother’s mysterious death. They are the Legendborn, the exalted heirs of King Arthur’s knights who fight demons in the contemporary South. Members keep the famous tales of King Arthur alive but also exemplify the institutional racism of historical and modern-day America. This is a complicated tale of grief and Black girlhood but one that’s so full of what readers of Young Adult Fantasy find so appealing: secret societies, intense romantic moments in between demon fights, brooding goth boys and shocking family secrets. Deonn’s fresh take on the genre has been much needed.

I Feed Her to the Beast and the Beast Is Me by Jamison Shea

A book cover featuring a woman floating in water

Jamison Shea’s Young Adult novel is a fantastical read focused on Black girl excellence in a racist institution—it’s also one of the best books of 2023 . Laure Mesny, a talented ballerina in the cutthroat world of Parisian ballet, is continuously overlooked for top positions. She’s ready to go to such extreme lengths to reach her ambitions that she makes a deal with a river of blood, and her monstrous instincts pull her down into a grim underworld in this book that’s both perfectly disturbing and spectacularly cathartic.

Within These Wicked Walls by Lauren Blackwood

A book cover featuring a woman with braided hair looking outward

If you’re looking to read more gothics by Black authors, Lauren Blackwood’s Young Adult novel is a perfect book to add to your list. Within These Wicked Walls is an Ethiopian re-imagining of Jane Eyre with an exorcist in the titular protagonist’s role. Andromeda is hired to cleanse the household of ghostly manifestations and finds herself drawn toward Magnus Rochester, who is as interested in her as she is in him.

The Deep by Rivers Solomon

A book cover featuring the words THE DEEP

The Deep , written by the author of An Unkindness of Ghosts , is ostensibly about the African slave women tossed overboard during the Middle Passage but in this short read, they are immortalized as mermaids in a mesmerizing underwater society. Originally a Hugo Award-nominated song by Daveed Diggs’ band, Clipping, this brilliant story tells the story of Yetu, who holds the memories of her people to keep the painful archives of their ancestors from disappearing. But keeping that trauma with her continuously proves traumatic. It’s a smart story that uses Fantasy to unpack the nuances of modern survival and generational trauma.

Kindred by Octavia Butler

A book cover featuring a close up of a woman looking down

Remembered as one of Science Fiction’s most iconic and canonical authors, Octavia Butler’s Kindred should be on every American’s shelf. Butler originally wrote Kindred as a response to the minimization of slavery and its impact. It’s an insightful, emotionally packed story about a Black woman facing the everyday horrors of her female ancestors. Dana is transported to the Antebellum South to the home of Rufus, the heir of the plantation where her ancestors were enslaved. Every time Dana is transported back in time, the closer she grows to knowing her ancestors and the difficult, complicated realities of their lives.

The Unbroken by C.L. Clark

A book cover featuring a woman with her arms outstretched

A story of colonialism, The Unbroken was inspired by France’s brutal colonization of North Africa. Touraine, stolen as a child to be groomed as a soldier of the empire, breaks off from what is expected of her and joins the rebellion. Luca, a princess who takes a liking to her, brings Touraine into her plot against her uncle. Together, they live lives of allyship, revenge, political maneuvering and romance. C.L. Clark’s debut Fantasy novel is perfect for fans of military fiction—this book adds a complex perspective-driven layer that enriches the usual narrative.

Ring Shout by P. Djeli Clark

A book cover featuring black gloves

In Ring Shout, or, Hunting Ku Kluxes in the End Times , P. Djeli Clark puts a demonic twist on the rise of the Klan after the release of 1915’s Birth of a Nation . Across America, the Klan spreads fear as part of a plan to bring Hell to Earth. Maryse Boudreaux, a Harlem Hellfighter , hunts the Klan’s demons and then sends them back to Hell. With fascinating worldbuilding and strong characterization, Clark uses Fantasy paired with African American folklore to comment on real historical events that had a long-lasting impact on the U.S.

The Rage of Dragons by Evan Winter

A book cover featuring a dragon skull

Evan Winter’s debut novel, The Rage of Dragons , is a coming-of-rage tale for anyone who has been searching for a beautifully told, Africa-inspired Dragon Fantasy. The Emehi, who have the power to call dragons, have been stuck in a centuries-long war. Tau, enraged at the loss of a loved one, becomes a warrior intent on taking revenge on his enemy.

A Song Below Water by Bethany C. Morrow

A book cover featuring two women underwater

Tavia is a siren forced to keep her identity hidden in a society threatened by her kind. By her side is Effie, who is bent on escaping her own traumatic past in a city (a magical version of Portland, Oregon) that is buzzing about a siren murder trial. The girls try to live their lives as normally as they possibly can given this terrifying news. But when the murderer goes free, Tavia reveals her identity at the worst possible moment. A Song Below Water is Young Adult Fantasy set in a world where Black girls get to be mermaids, embrace Black girlhood and fight for justice in the same breath.

Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky by Kwame Mbalia

A book cover featuring two people, one shorter and younger and one older and taller

Tristan Strong is mourning the loss of his friend after a catastrophic bus accident. When he’s sent to Alabama to live with his grandparents, a strange creature takes his friend Eddie’s journal and pulls them both into a world inspired by African-American folklore. With John Henry and Brer Rabbit, Tristan is determined to find a way back home—but he’ll have to barter with the famed trickster god of West African mythology, Anansi. Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky is a middle-grade Fantasy story that emphasizes the importance of children hearing the tales of their ancestors and knowing where their families come from.

10 Must-Read Books By Black Authors Using Fantasy to Explore Black Imagination

  • SEE ALSO : ‘Suncoast’ Is Another Mediocre Coming-of-Age Movie That Makes Too Many Wrong Choices

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4 things a doctor who's written best-selling books about aging does daily in the hope of living longer

  • Our lifestyle choices are the biggest indicator of how long we will live, a doctor said. 
  • Dr. Michael Greger shared the four things he does daily in to boost his longevity. 
  • Greger mostly eats plant-based whole foods and exercises daily. 

Insider Today

Dr. Michael Greger has written four New York Times bestsellers on the subject of longevity and healthy living. 

He’s dedicated his career to studying how nutrition and lifestyle factors can increase lifespan and shares his findings in his books and charity, Nutritionfacts.org

Greger then applies his findings to his own life, he told Business Insider, and is a huge advocate of life-lengthening habits, such as eating a healthy diet and staying active .

Greger shared four things he tries to do daily to live the longest, healthiest life possible. 

Eat berries, cruciferous vegetables, and flax seeds 

“The most important thing we can do is we can follow the Blue Zones example and center our diets around whole plant foods,” Greger said.

Blue Zones are small regions — such as Loma Linda, California — where the population lives around 10 years longer than the country’s average.

People in Blue Zones tend to eat a diet high in fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and seeds and low in refined sugar, animal products, and ultra-processed foods . The Blue Zone diet is similar to the Mediterranean diet, which is widely considered the healthiest way to eat .

“Basically real food that grows out of the ground,” Greger said.

Greger primarily, but not exclusively, eats plants. “I certainly try not to be a hypocrite and try to eat the diet that I recommend to everybody,” he said. 

More specifically, he tries to eat berries and cruciferous vegetables daily. He often blends these into a smoothie that he sips throughout the day. 

Breakfast, meanwhile, will typically be oats with cherries, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, and cocoa powder.

“For kind of a morning-time chocolate-covered cherry sensation,” he joked.

Cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower, contain nutrients such as sulforaphane, a compound that can neutralize toxins and reduce inflammation, while berries are rich in antioxidants, which help fight cell damage, Greger said on his YouTube channel. 

Greger also eats one tablespoon of ground flax seeds every day because they contain high quantities of lignans, which are linked to a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. He sprinkles this on his oats or adds it to a smoothie. 

Use a treadmill desk 

Being sedentary, or sitting 10 or more hours a day, is linked to a higher risk of dying early, while an active lifestyle is known to have a huge range of health benefits, from improving heart health to reducing the risk of cancer . 

Whenever Greger works from home, he walks all day on a treadmill desk set to two to three miles per hour. He estimated that he walks around 14 miles a day. 

“That keeps me from being sedentary, but it doesn't really give me exercise per se,” he said. 

Get his heart rate up 

Greger makes sure that he gets his heart rate up every day in some way, aiming to do 90 minutes of moderate or 40 minutes of vigorous exercise. 

But he was on the road for a speaking tour when he spoke to BI and is the first to admit that maintaining healthy habits can be tough when you’re traveling. So he works with what he has available. 

“This new apartment I have by the airport is on the 18th floor, so I try to jog up 18 floors every day,” he said. 

He also packs a resistance band and does burpees if the place where he’s staying doesn’t have enough stairs. 

Eat calories earlier in the day 

Eating earlier rather than later is thought to be beneficial for health and longevity because of how our circadian rhythm works, Greger said. 

The exact same number of calories eaten in the evening causes less of a blood sugar spike in the morning, and we absorb fewer triglycerides, the fat the body converts unused calories into, he said. 

In a 2022 review of studies involving 485 adults, researchers found that participants who consumed most of their calories earlier in the day lost more weight than those who did the opposite despite eating a similar amount overall.

They also saw bigger improvements in their blood sugar and cholesterol levels.

“If you're going to eat any kind of junk, you eat it in the morning because the body's better able to handle it,” he said.

literature best book

Watch: Here are heart healthy foods to help you live a longer life — and which ones to dial back on

literature best book

  • Main content

The New York Times Best Sellers - February 25, 2024

Authoritatively ranked lists of books sold in the united states, sorted by format and genre..

This copy is for your personal, noncommercial use only.

  • Combined Print & E-Book Fiction

THE WOMEN by Kristin Hannah

New this week

by Kristin Hannah

In 1965, a nursing student follows her brother to serve during the Vietnam War and returns to a divided America.

  • Apple Books
  • Barnes and Noble
  • Books-A-Million

THE TEACHER by Frieda McFadden

THE TEACHER

by Frieda McFadden

A math teacher at Caseham High suspects there is more going on behind a scandal involving a teacher and a student.

HOUSE OF FLAME AND SHADOW by Sarah J. Maas

2 weeks on the list

HOUSE OF FLAME AND SHADOW

by Sarah J. Maas

The third book in the Crescent City series. Bryce wants to return home while Hunt is trapped in Asteri's dungeons.

BRIDE by Ali Hazelwood

by Ali Hazelwood

Issues of trust arise when an alliance is made between a Vampyre named Misery Lark and a Were named Lowe Moreland.

FOURTH WING by Rebecca Yarros

41 weeks on the list

FOURTH WING

by Rebecca Yarros

Violet Sorrengail is urged by the commanding general, who also is her mother, to become a candidate for the elite dragon riders.

  • Combined Print & E-Book Nonfiction

KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON by David Grann

115 weeks on the list

KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON

by David Grann

The story of a murder spree in 1920s Oklahoma that targeted Osage Indians, whose lands contained oil.

THE BODY KEEPS THE SCORE by Bessel van der Kolk

180 weeks on the list

THE BODY KEEPS THE SCORE

by Bessel van der Kolk

How trauma affects the body and mind, and innovative treatments for recovery.

THE WAGER by David Grann

42 weeks on the list

The survivors of a shipwrecked British vessel on a secret mission during an imperial war with Spain have different accounts of events.

THE BOYS IN THE BOAT by Daniel James Brown

131 weeks on the list

THE BOYS IN THE BOAT

by Daniel James Brown

The story of the American rowers who pursued gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games; the basis of the film.

MEDGAR & MYRLIE by Joy-Ann Reid

MEDGAR & MYRLIE

by Joy-Ann Reid

The MSNBC host details how the wife of the civil rights leader Medgar Evers carried forward their legacy after his assassination in 1963.

  • Hardcover Fiction

40 weeks on the list

IRON FLAME by Rebecca Yarros

14 weeks on the list

The second book in the Empyrean series. Violet Sorrengail’s next round of training might require her to betray the man she loves.

THE HEAVEN & EARTH GROCERY STORE by James McBride

25 weeks on the list

THE HEAVEN & EARTH GROCERY STORE

by James McBride

Secrets held by the residents of a dilapidated neighborhood come to life when a skeleton is found at the bottom of a well.

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  • Hardcover Nonfiction

OUTLIVE by Peter Attia with Bill Gifford

46 weeks on the list

by Peter Attia with Bill Gifford

A look at recent scientific research on aging and longevity.

OATH AND HONOR by Liz Cheney

10 weeks on the list

OATH AND HONOR

by Liz Cheney

The former congresswoman from Wyoming recounts how she helped lead the Select Committee to Investigate the Jan. 6. Attack on the United States Capitol.

THE WOMAN IN ME by Britney Spears

16 weeks on the list

THE WOMAN IN ME

by Britney Spears

The Grammy Award-winning pop star details her personal and professional experiences, including the years she spent under a conservatorship overseen by her father.

  • Paperback Trade Fiction

THE HOUSEMAID by Freida McFadden

THE HOUSEMAID

by Freida McFadden

Troubles surface when a woman looking to make a fresh start takes a job in the home of the Winchesters.

ICEBREAKER by Hannah Grace

52 weeks on the list

by Hannah Grace

Anastasia might need the help of the captain of a college hockey team to get on the Olympic figure skating team.

TWISTED LOVE by Ana Huang

35 weeks on the list

TWISTED LOVE

by Ana Huang

The first book in the Twisted series. Secrets emerge when Ava explores things with her brother’s best friend.

  • Paperback Nonfiction

277 weeks on the list

154 weeks on the list

The story of a murder spree in 1920s Oklahoma that targeted Osage Indians, whose lands contained oil. The fledgling F.B.I. intervened, ineffectively.

153 weeks on the list

CASTE by Isabel Wilkerson

by Isabel Wilkerson

The Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist examines aspects of caste systems across civilizations and reveals a rigid hierarchy in America today.

EVERYTHING I KNOW ABOUT LOVE by Dolly Alderton

34 weeks on the list

EVERYTHING I KNOW ABOUT LOVE

by Dolly Alderton

The British journalist shares stories and observations; the basis of the TV series.

  • Advice, How-To & Miscellaneous

ATOMIC HABITS by James Clear

220 weeks on the list

ATOMIC HABITS

by James Clear

THE CREATIVE ACT by Rick Rubin with Neil Strauss

56 weeks on the list

THE CREATIVE ACT

by Rick Rubin with Neil Strauss

HOW TO KNOW A PERSON by David Brooks

HOW TO KNOW A PERSON

by David Brooks

DEAR BLACK GIRLS by A'ja Wilson

DEAR BLACK GIRLS

by A'ja Wilson

THE SUBTLE ART OF NOT GIVING A F*CK by Mark Manson

320 weeks on the list

THE SUBTLE ART OF NOT GIVING A F*CK

by Mark Manson

  • Children’s Middle Grade Hardcover

HEROES by Alan Gratz

by Alan Gratz

The friends Frank and Stanley give a vivid account of the Pearl Harbor attack.

WONKA by Sibéal Pounder

8 weeks on the list

by Sibéal Pounder

The movie novelization and prequel to "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," written by Roald Dahl.

WONDER by R.J. Palacio

430 weeks on the list

by R.J. Palacio

A boy with a facial deformity starts school.

REFUGEE by Alan Gratz

249 weeks on the list

Three children in three different conflicts look for safe haven.

THE SUN AND THE STAR by Rick Riordan and Mark Oshiro

THE SUN AND THE STAR

by Rick Riordan and Mark Oshiro

The demigods Will and Nico embark on a dangerous journey to the Underworld to rescue an old friend.

  • Children’s Picture Books

LITTLE BLUE TRUCK'S VALENTINE by Alice Schertle. Illustrated by Jill McElmurry

27 weeks on the list

LITTLE BLUE TRUCK'S VALENTINE

by Alice Schertle. Illustrated by Jill McElmurry

Little Blue Truck delivers Valentine's Day cards to all his farm animal friends.

LOVE FROM THE VERY HUNGRY CATERPILLAR by Eric Carle

55 weeks on the list

LOVE FROM THE VERY HUNGRY CATERPILLAR

by Eric Carle

A ravenous insect returns with its appetite intact.

LOVE FROM BLUEY by Suzy Brumm

7 weeks on the list

LOVE FROM BLUEY

by Suzy Brumm

The love between parents and their children.

HOW TO CATCH A LOVEOSAURUS by Alice Walstead. Illustrated by Andy Elkerton

12 weeks on the list

HOW TO CATCH A LOVEOSAURUS

by Alice Walstead. Illustrated by Andy Elkerton

The Catch Club Kids attempt to catch a dinosaur that wants to spread love and kindness.

LOVE FROM THE CRAYONS by Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers

24 weeks on the list

LOVE FROM THE CRAYONS

by Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers

The Crayons show the colors of love.

  • Children’s Series

PERCY JACKSON & THE OLYMPIANS by Rick Riordan

711 weeks on the list

PERCY JACKSON & THE OLYMPIANS

by Rick Riordan

A boy battles mythological monsters.

DIARY OF A WIMPY KID written and illustrated by Jeff Kinney

778 weeks on the list

DIARY OF A WIMPY KID

written and illustrated by Jeff Kinney

The travails and challenges of adolescence.

HARRY POTTER by J.K. Rowling

777 weeks on the list

HARRY POTTER

by J.K. Rowling

A wizard hones his conjuring skills in the service of fighting evil.

THE HUNGER GAMES by Suzanne Collins

314 weeks on the list

THE HUNGER GAMES

by Suzanne Collins

In a dystopia, a girl fights for survival on live TV.

A GOOD GIRL'S GUIDE TO MURDER by Holly Jackson

124 weeks on the list

A GOOD GIRL'S GUIDE TO MURDER

by Holly Jackson

Pippa Fitz-Amobi solves murderous crimes.

  • Young Adult Hardcover

DIVINE RIVALS by Rebecca Ross

DIVINE RIVALS

by Rebecca Ross

Two young rival journalists find love through a magical connection.

RUTHLESS VOWS by Rebecca Ross

RUTHLESS VOWS

In the sequel to "Divine Rivals," Roman and Iris will risk their hearts and futures to change the tides of the war.

POWERLESS by Lauren Roberts

by Lauren Roberts

Forbidden love is in the air when Paedyn, an Ordinary, and Kai, an Elite, become romantically involved.

MURTAGH by Christopher Paolini

by Christopher Paolini

Murtagh and his dragon, Thorn, must find and outwit a mysterious witch.

NIGHTBANE by Alex Aster

by Alex Aster

In this sequel to "Lightlark," Isla must chose between her two powerful lovers.

Weekly Best Sellers Lists

Monthly best sellers lists.

how to do introduction to essay

How to write an introduction.

Matt Ellis

An introduction for an essay or research paper is the first paragraph, which explains the topic and prepares the reader for the rest of the work. Because it’s responsible for both the reader’s first impression and setting the stage for the rest of the work, the introduction paragraph is arguably the most important paragraph in the work. 

Knowing how to write an introduction paragraph is a great skill, not just for writers, but for students and researchers as well. Here, we explain everything you need to know to write the best introduction, such as what to include and a step-by-step process, with some introduction paragraph examples. 

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What is an introduction?

Your introduction is a way of preparing your reader for your paper. As the first paragraph of your writing , it makes the first impression and sets the reader’s expectations for tone, voice, and writing style. More importantly, your introduction provides the necessary background for your reader to understand your paper’s purpose and key points. 

The introduction is also a way to engage and captivate your reader. An interesting, thought-provoking, or generally entertaining introduction makes your reader excited to keep reading—and an eager reader is an attentive reader.  

What to include in an introduction

Introductions generally follow the writing style of the author and the format for the type of paper—for example, opening with a joke is appropriate for some essays, but not research papers . However, no matter what your writing style is or what kind of paper you’re writing, a good introduction includes at least three parts: 

  • A hook to capture the reader’s attention
  • Background for context
  • A clearly defined thesis statement or main point of your paper

How to write a hook

The hook refers to anything that grabs (or “hooks”) your reader’s attention and makes them interested. This could be a mystery, such as posing a question and only answering it at the end of your paper. Or it could be a shocking statistic, something that makes your reader rethink what they thought they knew and become curious for more information. 

Hooks can be even more creative. Some papers start with an analogy or parable to present complicated topics in a way that someone with little experience can understand. Likewise, many writers opt to use personal anecdotes to show a more human side and spark an emotional connection with the reader. 

When all else fails, you can use a poignant quote. If you’re having trouble putting your thoughts into words, maybe one of the great minds from history has already said it well. 

You can read all about how to write a hook here, including more detailed instructions and examples. 

How to add background information

Not every paper requires background knowledge, but sometimes your reader needs to catch up or understand the context before you make your original points. 

If you’re writing about something factual, such as a scientific or historical paper, you may need to provide a small lesson on the basics. For example, if you’re writing about the conflict between ancient Egypt and Nubia, you might want to establish the time period and where each party was located geographically. 

Just don’t give too much away in the introduction. In general, introductions should be short. If your topic requires extensive background to understand, it’s best to dedicate a few paragraphs to this after the introduction. 

How to write a thesis statement

Every good introduction needs a thesis statement , a sentence that plainly and concisely explains the main topic. Thesis statements are often just a brief summary of your entire paper, including your argument or point of view for personal essays. For example, if your paper is about whether viewing violent cartoons impacts real-life violence, your thesis statement could be: 

Despite the rhetoric and finger-pointing, no evidence has connected live-action role-play violence with real-world violence, but there is plenty of evidence for exoneration, as I explain here.  

Learning to write a good thesis statement is an essential writing skill, both in college and the world of work, so it’s worth taking the time to learn. The rule of thumb for thesis statements is not to give everything away all at once. Thesis statements, and more broadly introductions, should be short and to the point, so save the details for the rest of the paper. 

How to write an introduction paragraph in 6 steps

1 decide on the overall tone and formality of your paper.

Often what you’re writing determines the style: The guidelines for how to write an introduction for a report are different from those for how to write an English essay introduction. Even the different types of essays have their own limitations; for example, slang might be acceptable for a personal essay, but not a serious argumentative essay. 

Don’t force yourself to write in a style that’s uncomfortable to you. If you’re not good at making jokes, you don’t need to. As long as your writing is interesting and your points are clear, your readers won’t mind.  

2 Write your thesis statement 

At the beginning of writing a paper, even before writing the research paper outline , you should know what your thesis is. If you haven’t already, now is the time to put that thesis into words by writing your thesis statement. 

Thesis statements are just one sentence, but they are usually the most important sentence in your entire work. When your thesis is clearly defined, your readers will often use it as an anchor to understand the rest of the writing. 

The key to writing a good thesis statement is knowing what to ignore. Your thesis statement should be an overview, not an outline. Save the details, evidence, and personal opinions for the body of the paper. 

If you’re still having trouble, ask yourself how you’d explain this topic to a child. When you’re forced to use small words and simplify complex ideas, your writing comes across more clearly and is easier to understand. This technique also helps you know which details are necessary up front and which can wait until later .

3 Consider what background information your reader needs 

Don’t take your own experience for granted. By this point in the writing process , you’ve probably already finished your research, which means you’re somewhat of an expert on the topic. Think back to what it was like before you learned: What did you wish you had known then? 

Even if your topic is abstract, such as an ethical debate, consider including some context on the debate itself. How long has the ethical debate been happening? Was there a specific event that started it? Information like this can help set the scene so your reader doesn’t feel like they’re missing something. 

4 Think of a good hook

Writing a hook can be the most difficult part of writing an introduction because it calls for some creativity. While the rest of your paper might be presenting fact after fact, the hook in your introduction often requires creating something from nothing. 

Luckily, there are already plenty of tried-and-true strategies for how to start an essay . If you’re not feeling very creative, you can use a method that’s already been proven effective. 

Just remember that the best hooks create an emotional connection—which emotion is up to you and your topic. 

5 Write a rough draft of your introduction without pressure

It’s normal to clam up when writing a rough draft of your introduction. After all, the introduction always comes first, so it’s the first thing you write when you finally begin. 

As explained in our guide to writing a rough draft , the best advice is not to pressure yourself. It’s OK to write something that’s messy—that’s what makes this draft rough . The idea here is to get words on paper that make your point. They don’t have to be the perfect words; that’s what revisions are for. 

At the beginning, just worry about saying what needs to be said. Get down your hook and thesis statement, and background information if necessary, without worrying about how it sounds. You’ll be able to fix the problems later.

6 Revise your introduction after you’ve written your whole paper.

We recommend finishing the first draft of your entire paper before revising the introduction. You may make some changes in your paper’s structure when writing the first draft, and those changes should be reflected in the introduction.

After the first draft, it’s easier to focus on minutiae like word choice and sentence structure, not to mention finding spelling and grammar mistakes.

Introduction for an essay example

While other kids’ memories of circuses are happy and fun, what I recall most from my first time at a circus was feeling sorry for the animals—I can still remember the sadness in their eyes. [HOOK] Although animal rights in the circus have come a long way, their treatment of animals even under the new laws is still cruelty plain and simple. [BACKGROUND] The way circuses abuse animals needs to be abolished immediately, and we need to entirely rethink the way we use animals for entertainment. [THESIS STATEMENT]  

Introduction for a research paper example

What would happen to humanity if everyone just stopped having babies? [HOOK] Although more endemic in some places than others, the global decline in birth rates has become a major issue since the end of the pandemic. [BACKGROUND] My research here shows not only that birth rates are declining all over the world, but also that unless the threats are addressed, these drastic declines will only get worse. [THESIS STATEMENT] 

Introduction FAQs

An introduction is the first paragraph in an essay or research paper. It prepares the reader for what follows. 

What’s the purpose of an introduction?

The goal of the introduction is to both provide the necessary context for the topic so the reader can follow along and also create an emotional connection so the reader wants to keep reading. 

What should an introduction include?

An introduction should include three things: a hook to interest the reader, some background on the topic so the reader can understand it, and a thesis statement that clearly and quickly summarizes your main point. 

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The introduction to an academic essay will generally present an analytical question or problem and then offer an answer to that question (the thesis).

Your introduction is also your opportunity to explain to your readers what your essay is about and why they should be interested in reading it. You don’t have to “hook” your readers with a dramatic promise (every other discussion of the topic you’re writing about is completely wrong!) or an exciting fact (the moon can reach 127 degrees Celsius!). Instead, you should use your introduction to explain to your readers why your essay is going to be interesting to read. To do this, you’ll need to frame the question or problem that you’re writing about and explain why this question or problem is important. If you make a convincing case for why your question or problem is worth solving, your readers will be interested in reading on.

While some of the conventions for writing an introduction vary by discipline, a strong introduction for any paper will contain some common elements. You can see these common elements in the sample introductions on this page . In general, your introductions should contain the following elements:

  • Orienting Information When you’re writing an essay, it’s helpful to think about what your reader needs to know in order to follow your argument. Your introduction should include enough information so that readers can understand the context for your thesis. For example, if you are analyzing someone else’s argument, you will need to identify that argument and possibly summarize its key points. If you are joining a scholarly conversation about education reform, you will need to provide context for this conversation before explaining what your essay adds to the discussion. But you don’t necessarily have to summarize your sources in detail in your introduction; that information may fit in better later in your essay. When you’re deciding how much context or background information to provide, it can be helpful to think about that information in relation to your thesis. You don’t have to tell readers everything they will need to know to understand your entire essay right away. You just need to give them enough information to be able to understand and appreciate your thesis. For some assignments, you’ll be able to assume that your audience has also read the sources you are analyzing. But even in those cases, you should still offer enough information for readers to know which parts of a source you are talking about. When you’re writing a paper based on your own research, you will need to provide more context about the sources you’re going to discuss. If you’re not sure how much you can assume your audience knows, you should consult your instructor.

An explanation of what’s at stake in your essay, or why anyone would need to read an essay that argues this thesis You will know why your essay is worth writing if you are trying to answer a question that doesn’t have an obvious answer; to propose a solution to a problem without one obvious solution; or to point out something that others may not have noticed that changes the way we consider a phenomenon, source, or idea. In all of these cases, you will be trying to understand something that you think is valuable to understand. But it’s not enough that you know why your essay is worth reading; you also need to explain to your readers why they should care about reading an essay that argues your thesis.

  • Your thesis This is what you’re arguing in your essay.  

Tips for writing introductions  

  • If you are writing in a new discipline, you should always make sure to ask about conventions and expectations for introductions, just as you would for any other aspect of the essay. For example, while it may be acceptable to write a two-paragraph (or longer) introduction for your papers in some courses, instructors in other disciplines, such as those in some Government courses, may expect a shorter introduction that includes a preview of the argument that will follow .  
  • In some disciplines (Government, Economics, and others), it’s common to offer an overview in the introduction of what points you will make in your essay. In other disciplines, you will not be expected to provide this overview in your introduction.  
  • Avoid writing a very general opening sentence. While it may be true that “Since the dawn of time, people have been telling love stories,” it won’t help you explain what’s interesting about your topic.  
  • Avoid writing a “funnel” introduction in which you begin with a very broad statement about a topic and move to a narrow statement about that topic. Broad generalizations about a topic will not add to your readers’ understanding of your specific essay topic.  
  • Avoid beginning with a dictionary definition of a term or concept you will be writing about. If the concept is complicated or unfamiliar to your readers, you will need to define it in detail later in your essay. If it’s not complicated, you can assume your readers already know the definition.  
  • Avoid offering too much detail in your introduction that a reader could better understand later in the paper.
  • Tips for Reading an Assignment Prompt
  • Asking Analytical Questions
  • What Do Introductions Across the Disciplines Have in Common?
  • Anatomy of a Body Paragraph
  • Transitions
  • Tips for Organizing Your Essay
  • Counterargument
  • Conclusions
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How to write an essay: Introduction

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The Introduction

An in troduction generally does three things. The first part is usually a general comment that shows the reader why the topic is important, gets their interest, and leads them into the topic. It isn’t actually part of your argument. The next part of the introduction is the thesis statement . This is your response to the question; your final answer. It is probably the most important part of the introduction. Finally, the introduction tells the reader what they can expect in the essay body. This is where you briefly outline your arguments .

Here is an example of the introduction to the question - Discuss how media can influence children. Use specific examples to support your view.

Example of an introduction

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The Writing Center • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

What this handout is about.

This handout will explain the functions of introductions, offer strategies for creating effective introductions, and provide some examples of less effective introductions to avoid.

The role of introductions

Introductions and conclusions can be the most difficult parts of papers to write. Usually when you sit down to respond to an assignment, you have at least some sense of what you want to say in the body of your paper. You might have chosen a few examples you want to use or have an idea that will help you answer the main question of your assignment; these sections, therefore, may not be as hard to write. And it’s fine to write them first! But in your final draft, these middle parts of the paper can’t just come out of thin air; they need to be introduced and concluded in a way that makes sense to your reader.

Your introduction and conclusion act as bridges that transport your readers from their own lives into the “place” of your analysis. If your readers pick up your paper about education in the autobiography of Frederick Douglass, for example, they need a transition to help them leave behind the world of Chapel Hill, television, e-mail, and The Daily Tar Heel and to help them temporarily enter the world of nineteenth-century American slavery. By providing an introduction that helps your readers make a transition between their own world and the issues you will be writing about, you give your readers the tools they need to get into your topic and care about what you are saying. Similarly, once you’ve hooked your readers with the introduction and offered evidence to prove your thesis, your conclusion can provide a bridge to help your readers make the transition back to their daily lives. (See our handout on conclusions .)

Note that what constitutes a good introduction may vary widely based on the kind of paper you are writing and the academic discipline in which you are writing it. If you are uncertain what kind of introduction is expected, ask your instructor.

Why bother writing a good introduction?

You never get a second chance to make a first impression. The opening paragraph of your paper will provide your readers with their initial impressions of your argument, your writing style, and the overall quality of your work. A vague, disorganized, error-filled, off-the-wall, or boring introduction will probably create a negative impression. On the other hand, a concise, engaging, and well-written introduction will start your readers off thinking highly of you, your analytical skills, your writing, and your paper.

Your introduction is an important road map for the rest of your paper. Your introduction conveys a lot of information to your readers. You can let them know what your topic is, why it is important, and how you plan to proceed with your discussion. In many academic disciplines, your introduction should contain a thesis that will assert your main argument. Your introduction should also give the reader a sense of the kinds of information you will use to make that argument and the general organization of the paragraphs and pages that will follow. After reading your introduction, your readers should not have any major surprises in store when they read the main body of your paper.

Ideally, your introduction will make your readers want to read your paper. The introduction should capture your readers’ interest, making them want to read the rest of your paper. Opening with a compelling story, an interesting question, or a vivid example can get your readers to see why your topic matters and serve as an invitation for them to join you for an engaging intellectual conversation (remember, though, that these strategies may not be suitable for all papers and disciplines).

Strategies for writing an effective introduction

Start by thinking about the question (or questions) you are trying to answer. Your entire essay will be a response to this question, and your introduction is the first step toward that end. Your direct answer to the assigned question will be your thesis, and your thesis will likely be included in your introduction, so it is a good idea to use the question as a jumping off point. Imagine that you are assigned the following question:

Drawing on the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass , discuss the relationship between education and slavery in 19th-century America. Consider the following: How did white control of education reinforce slavery? How did Douglass and other enslaved African Americans view education while they endured slavery? And what role did education play in the acquisition of freedom? Most importantly, consider the degree to which education was or was not a major force for social change with regard to slavery.

You will probably refer back to your assignment extensively as you prepare your complete essay, and the prompt itself can also give you some clues about how to approach the introduction. Notice that it starts with a broad statement and then narrows to focus on specific questions from the book. One strategy might be to use a similar model in your own introduction—start off with a big picture sentence or two and then focus in on the details of your argument about Douglass. Of course, a different approach could also be very successful, but looking at the way the professor set up the question can sometimes give you some ideas for how you might answer it. (See our handout on understanding assignments for additional information on the hidden clues in assignments.)

Decide how general or broad your opening should be. Keep in mind that even a “big picture” opening needs to be clearly related to your topic; an opening sentence that said “Human beings, more than any other creatures on earth, are capable of learning” would be too broad for our sample assignment about slavery and education. If you have ever used Google Maps or similar programs, that experience can provide a helpful way of thinking about how broad your opening should be. Imagine that you’re researching Chapel Hill. If what you want to find out is whether Chapel Hill is at roughly the same latitude as Rome, it might make sense to hit that little “minus” sign on the online map until it has zoomed all the way out and you can see the whole globe. If you’re trying to figure out how to get from Chapel Hill to Wrightsville Beach, it might make more sense to zoom in to the level where you can see most of North Carolina (but not the rest of the world, or even the rest of the United States). And if you are looking for the intersection of Ridge Road and Manning Drive so that you can find the Writing Center’s main office, you may need to zoom all the way in. The question you are asking determines how “broad” your view should be. In the sample assignment above, the questions are probably at the “state” or “city” level of generality. When writing, you need to place your ideas in context—but that context doesn’t generally have to be as big as the whole galaxy!

Try writing your introduction last. You may think that you have to write your introduction first, but that isn’t necessarily true, and it isn’t always the most effective way to craft a good introduction. You may find that you don’t know precisely what you are going to argue at the beginning of the writing process. It is perfectly fine to start out thinking that you want to argue a particular point but wind up arguing something slightly or even dramatically different by the time you’ve written most of the paper. The writing process can be an important way to organize your ideas, think through complicated issues, refine your thoughts, and develop a sophisticated argument. However, an introduction written at the beginning of that discovery process will not necessarily reflect what you wind up with at the end. You will need to revise your paper to make sure that the introduction, all of the evidence, and the conclusion reflect the argument you intend. Sometimes it’s easiest to just write up all of your evidence first and then write the introduction last—that way you can be sure that the introduction will match the body of the paper.

Don’t be afraid to write a tentative introduction first and then change it later. Some people find that they need to write some kind of introduction in order to get the writing process started. That’s fine, but if you are one of those people, be sure to return to your initial introduction later and rewrite if necessary.

Open with something that will draw readers in. Consider these options (remembering that they may not be suitable for all kinds of papers):

  • an intriguing example —for example, Douglass writes about a mistress who initially teaches him but then ceases her instruction as she learns more about slavery.
  • a provocative quotation that is closely related to your argument —for example, Douglass writes that “education and slavery were incompatible with each other.” (Quotes from famous people, inspirational quotes, etc. may not work well for an academic paper; in this example, the quote is from the author himself.)
  • a puzzling scenario —for example, Frederick Douglass says of slaves that “[N]othing has been left undone to cripple their intellects, darken their minds, debase their moral nature, obliterate all traces of their relationship to mankind; and yet how wonderfully they have sustained the mighty load of a most frightful bondage, under which they have been groaning for centuries!” Douglass clearly asserts that slave owners went to great lengths to destroy the mental capacities of slaves, yet his own life story proves that these efforts could be unsuccessful.
  • a vivid and perhaps unexpected anecdote —for example, “Learning about slavery in the American history course at Frederick Douglass High School, students studied the work slaves did, the impact of slavery on their families, and the rules that governed their lives. We didn’t discuss education, however, until one student, Mary, raised her hand and asked, ‘But when did they go to school?’ That modern high school students could not conceive of an American childhood devoid of formal education speaks volumes about the centrality of education to American youth today and also suggests the significance of the deprivation of education in past generations.”
  • a thought-provoking question —for example, given all of the freedoms that were denied enslaved individuals in the American South, why does Frederick Douglass focus his attentions so squarely on education and literacy?

Pay special attention to your first sentence. Start off on the right foot with your readers by making sure that the first sentence actually says something useful and that it does so in an interesting and polished way.

How to evaluate your introduction draft

Ask a friend to read your introduction and then tell you what he or she expects the paper will discuss, what kinds of evidence the paper will use, and what the tone of the paper will be. If your friend is able to predict the rest of your paper accurately, you probably have a good introduction.

Five kinds of less effective introductions

1. The placeholder introduction. When you don’t have much to say on a given topic, it is easy to create this kind of introduction. Essentially, this kind of weaker introduction contains several sentences that are vague and don’t really say much. They exist just to take up the “introduction space” in your paper. If you had something more effective to say, you would probably say it, but in the meantime this paragraph is just a place holder.

Example: Slavery was one of the greatest tragedies in American history. There were many different aspects of slavery. Each created different kinds of problems for enslaved people.

2. The restated question introduction. Restating the question can sometimes be an effective strategy, but it can be easy to stop at JUST restating the question instead of offering a more specific, interesting introduction to your paper. The professor or teaching assistant wrote your question and will be reading many essays in response to it—he or she does not need to read a whole paragraph that simply restates the question.

Example: The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass discusses the relationship between education and slavery in 19th century America, showing how white control of education reinforced slavery and how Douglass and other enslaved African Americans viewed education while they endured. Moreover, the book discusses the role that education played in the acquisition of freedom. Education was a major force for social change with regard to slavery.

3. The Webster’s Dictionary introduction. This introduction begins by giving the dictionary definition of one or more of the words in the assigned question. Anyone can look a word up in the dictionary and copy down what Webster says. If you want to open with a discussion of an important term, it may be far more interesting for you (and your reader) if you develop your own definition of the term in the specific context of your class and assignment. You may also be able to use a definition from one of the sources you’ve been reading for class. Also recognize that the dictionary is also not a particularly authoritative work—it doesn’t take into account the context of your course and doesn’t offer particularly detailed information. If you feel that you must seek out an authority, try to find one that is very relevant and specific. Perhaps a quotation from a source reading might prove better? Dictionary introductions are also ineffective simply because they are so overused. Instructors may see a great many papers that begin in this way, greatly decreasing the dramatic impact that any one of those papers will have.

Example: Webster’s dictionary defines slavery as “the state of being a slave,” as “the practice of owning slaves,” and as “a condition of hard work and subjection.”

4. The “dawn of man” introduction. This kind of introduction generally makes broad, sweeping statements about the relevance of this topic since the beginning of time, throughout the world, etc. It is usually very general (similar to the placeholder introduction) and fails to connect to the thesis. It may employ cliches—the phrases “the dawn of man” and “throughout human history” are examples, and it’s hard to imagine a time when starting with one of these would work. Instructors often find them extremely annoying.

Example: Since the dawn of man, slavery has been a problem in human history.

5. The book report introduction. This introduction is what you had to do for your elementary school book reports. It gives the name and author of the book you are writing about, tells what the book is about, and offers other basic facts about the book. You might resort to this sort of introduction when you are trying to fill space because it’s a familiar, comfortable format. It is ineffective because it offers details that your reader probably already knows and that are irrelevant to the thesis.

Example: Frederick Douglass wrote his autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave , in the 1840s. It was published in 1986 by Penguin Books. In it, he tells the story of his life.

And now for the conclusion…

Writing an effective introduction can be tough. Try playing around with several different options and choose the one that ends up sounding best to you!

Just as your introduction helps readers make the transition to your topic, your conclusion needs to help them return to their daily lives–but with a lasting sense of how what they have just read is useful or meaningful. Check out our handout on  conclusions for tips on ending your paper as effectively as you began it!

Works consulted

We consulted these works while writing this handout. This is not a comprehensive list of resources on the handout’s topic, and we encourage you to do your own research to find additional publications. Please do not use this list as a model for the format of your own reference list, as it may not match the citation style you are using. For guidance on formatting citations, please see the UNC Libraries citation tutorial . We revise these tips periodically and welcome feedback.

Douglass, Frederick. 1995. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, Written by Himself . New York: Dover.

You may reproduce it for non-commercial use if you use the entire handout and attribute the source: The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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Essay writing: Introductions

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“A relevant and coherent beginning is perhaps your best single guarantee that the essay as a whole will achieve its object.” Gordon Taylor, A Student's Writing Guide

Your introduction is the first thing your marker will read and should be approximately 10% of your word count. Within the first minute they should know if your essay is going to be a good one or not. An introduction has several components but the most important of these are the last two we give here. You need to show the reader what your position is and how you are going to argue the case to get there so that the essay becomes your answer to the question rather than just an answer.

What an introduction should include:

  • A little basic background about the key subject area (just enough to put your essay into context, no more or you'll bore the reader).
  • Explanation of how you are defining any key terms . Confusion on this could be your undoing.
  • A road-map of how your essay will answer the question. What is your overall argument and how will you develop it?
  • A confirmation of your position .

Background information

It is good to start with a statement that fixes your essay topic and focus in a wider context so that the reader is sure of where they are within the field. This is a very small part of the introduction though - do not fall into the trap of writing a whole paragraph that is nothing but background information.

Beware though, this only has to be a little bit wider, not completely universal. That is, do not start with something like "In the whole field of nursing...." or "Since man could write, he has always...". Instead, simply situate the area that you are writing about within a slightly bigger area. For example, you could start with a general statement about a topic, outlining some key issues but explain that your essay will focus on only one. Here is an example:

The ability to communicate effectively and compassionately is a key skill within nursing. Communication is about more than being able to speak confidently and clearly, it is about effective listening (Singh, 2019), the use of gesture, body language and tone (Adebe et al., 2016) and the ability to tailor language and messaging to particular situations (Smith & Jones, 2015). This essay will explore the importance of non-verbal communication ...

The example introduction at the bottom of this page also starts with similar, short background information.

Prehistoric man with the caption "Since the dawn of man..."

Defining key terms

This does not mean quoting dictionary definitions - we all have access to dictionary.com with a click or two. There are many words we use in academic work that can have multiple or nuanced definitions. You have to write about how you are defining any potentially ambiguous terms in relation to  your  essay topic. This is really important for your reader, as it will inform them how you are using such words in the context of your essay and prevent confusion or misunderstanding.

Student deciding if 'superpower' relates to the USA and China or Superman and Spider-man

Stating your case (road mapping)

The main thing an introduction will do is...introduce your essay! That means you need to tell the reader what your conclusion is and how you will get there.

There is no need to worry about *SPOILER ALERTS* - this is not a detective novel you can give away the ending! Sorry, but building up suspense is just going to irritate the reader rather than eventually satisfy. Simply outline how your main arguments (give them in order) lead to your conclusion. In American essay guides you will see something described as the ‘thesis statement’ - although we don't use this terminology in the UK, it is still necessary to state in your introduction what the over-arching argument of your essay will be. Think of it as the mega-argument , to distinguish it from the mini-arguments you make in each paragraph. Look at the example introduction at the bottom of this page which includes both of these elements.

Car on a road to a place called 'Conclusion'

Confirming your position

To some extent, this is covered in your roadmap (above), but it is so important, it deserves some additional attention here. Setting out your position is an essential component of all essays. Brick et al. (2016:143) even suggest

"The purpose of an essay is to present a clear position and defend it"

It is, however, very difficult to defend a position if you have not made it clear in the first place. This is where your introduction comes in. In stating your position, you are ultimately outlining the answer to the question. You can then make the rest of your essay about providing the evidence that supports your answer. As such, if you make your position clear, you will find all subsequent paragraphs in your essay easier to write and join together. As you have already told your reader where the essay is going, you can be explicit in how each paragraph contributes to your mega-argument.

In establishing your position and defending it, you are ultimately engaging in scholarly debate. This is because your positions are supported by academic evidence and analysis. It is in your analysis of the academic evidence that should lead your reader to understand your position. Once again - this is only possible if your introduction has explained your position in the first place.

student standing on a cross holding a sign saying "my position"

An example introduction

(Essay title = Evaluate the role of stories as pedagogical tools in higher education)

Stories have been an essential communication technique for thousands of years and although teachers and parents still think they are important for educating younger children, they have been restricted to the role of entertainment for most of us since our teenage years. This essay will claim that stories make ideal pedagogical tools, whatever the age of the student, due to their unique position in cultural and cognitive development. To argue this, it will consider three main areas: firstly, the prevalence of stories across time and cultures and how the similarity of story structure suggests an inherent understanding of their form which could be of use to academics teaching multicultural cohorts when organising lecture material; secondly, the power of stories to enable listeners to personally relate to the content and how this increases the likelihood of changing thoughts, behaviours and decisions - a concept that has not gone unnoticed in some fields, both professional and academic; and finally, the way that different areas of the brain are activated when reading, listening to or watching a story unfold, which suggests that both understanding and ease of recall, two key components of learning, are both likely to be increased . Each of these alone could make a reasoned argument for including more stories within higher education teaching – taken together, this argument is even more compelling.

Key:   Background information (scene setting)   Stating the case (r oad map)    Confirming a position (in two places). Note in this introduction there was no need to define key terms.

Brick, J., Herke, M., and Wong, D., (2016) Academic Culture, A students guide to studying at university, 3rd edition. Victoria, Australia: Palgrave Macmillan.

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It’s the roadmap to your essay, it’s the forecast for your argument, it’s...your introduction paragraph, and writing one can feel pretty intimidating. The introduction paragraph is a part of just about every kind of academic writing , from persuasive essays to research papers. But that doesn’t mean writing one is easy!

If trying to write an intro paragraph makes you feel like a Muggle trying to do magic, trust us: you aren’t alone. But there are some tips and tricks that can make the process easier—and that’s where we come in. 

In this article, we’re going to explain how to write a captivating intro paragraph by covering the following info:  

  • A discussion of what an introduction paragraph is and its purpose in an essay
  • An overview of the most effective introduction paragraph format, with explanations of the three main parts of an intro paragraph
  • An analysis of real intro paragraph examples, with a discussion of what works and what doesn’t
  • A list of four top tips on how to write an introduction paragraph

Are you ready? Let’s begin!

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What Is an Introduction Paragraph? 

An introduction paragraph is the first paragraph of an essay , paper, or other type of academic writing. Argumentative essays , book reports, research papers, and even personal  essays are common types of writing that require an introduction paragraph. Whether you’re writing a research paper for a science course or an argumentative essay for English class , you’re going to have to write an intro paragraph. 

So what’s the purpose of an intro paragraph? As a reader’s first impression of your essay, the intro paragraph should introduce the topic of your paper. 

Your introduction will also state any claims, questions, or issues that your paper will focus on. This is commonly known as your paper’s thesis . This condenses the overall point of your paper into one or two short sentences that your reader can come back and reference later.

But intro paragraphs need to do a bit more than just introduce your topic. An intro paragraph is also supposed to grab your reader’s attention. The intro paragraph is your chance to provide just enough info and intrigue to make your reader say, “Hey, this topic sounds interesting. I think I’ll keep reading this essay!” That can help your essay stand out from the crowd.

In most cases, an intro paragraph will be relatively short. A good intro will be clear, brief, purposeful, and focused. While there are some exceptions to this rule, it’s common for intro paragraphs to consist of three to five sentences . 

Effectively introducing your essay’s topic, purpose, and getting your reader invested in your essay sounds like a lot to ask from one little paragraph, huh? In the next section, we’ll demystify the intro paragraph format by breaking it down into its core parts . When you learn how to approach each part of an intro, writing one won’t seem so scary!

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Once you figure out the three parts of an intro paragraph, writing one will be a piece of cake!

The 3 Main Parts of an Intro Paragraph

In general, an intro paragraph is going to have three main parts: a hook, context, and a thesis statement . Each of these pieces of the intro plays a key role in acquainting the reader with the topic and purpose of your essay. 

Below, we’ll explain how to start an introduction paragraph by writing an effective hook, providing context, and crafting a thesis statement. When you put these elements together, you’ll have an intro paragraph that does a great job of making a great first impression on your audience!

Intro Paragraph Part 1: The Hook

When it comes to how to start an introduction paragraph, o ne of the most common approaches is to start with something called a hook. 

What does hook mean here, though? Think of it this way: it’s like when you start a new Netflix series: you look up a few hours (and a few episodes) later and you say, “Whoa. I guess I must be hooked on this show!” 

That’s how the hook is supposed to work in an intro paragrap h: it should get your reader interested enough that they don’t want to press the proverbial “pause” button while they’re reading it . In other words, a hook is designed to grab your reader’s attention and keep them reading your essay! 

This means that the hook comes first in the intro paragraph format—it’ll be the opening sentence of your intro. 

It’s important to realize  that there are many different ways to write a good hook. But generally speaking, hooks must include these two things: what your topic is, and the angle you’re taking on that topic in your essay. 

One approach to writing a hook that works is starting with a general, but interesting, statement on your topic. In this type of hook, you’re trying to provide a broad introduction to your topic and your angle on the topic in an engaging way . 

For example, if you’re writing an essay about the role of the government in the American healthcare system, your hook might look something like this: 

There's a growing movement to require that the federal government provide affordable, effective healthcare for all Americans. 

This hook introduces the essay topic in a broad way (government and healthcare) by presenting a general statement on the topic. But the assumption presented in the hook can also be seen as controversial, which gets readers interested in learning more about what the writer—and the essay—has to say.

In other words, the statement above fulfills the goals of a good hook: it’s intriguing and provides a general introduction to the essay topic.

Intro Paragraph Part 2: Context

Once you’ve provided an attention-grabbing hook, you’ll want to give more context about your essay topic. Context refers to additional details that reveal the specific focus of your paper. So, whereas the hook provides a general introduction to your topic, context starts helping readers understand what exactly you’re going to be writing about

You can include anywhere from one to several sentences of context in your intro, depending on your teacher’s expectations, the length of your paper, and complexity of your topic. In these context-providing sentences, you want to begin narrowing the focus of your intro. You can do this by describing a specific issue or question about your topic that you’ll address in your essay. It also helps readers start to understand why the topic you’re writing about matters and why they should read about it. 

So, what counts as context for an intro paragraph? Context can be any important details or descriptions that provide background on existing perspectives, common cultural attitudes, or a specific situation or controversy relating to your essay topic. The context you include should acquaint your reader with the issues, questions, or events that motivated you to write an essay on your topic...and that your reader should know in order to understand your thesis. 

For instance, if you’re writing an essay analyzing the consequences of sexism in Hollywood, the context you include after your hook might make reference to the #metoo and #timesup movements that have generated public support for victims of sexual harassment. 

The key takeaway here is that context establishes why you’re addressing your topic and what makes it important. It also sets you up for success on the final piece of an intro paragraph: the thesis statement.

Elle Woods' statement offers a specific point of view on the topic of murder...which means it could serve as a pretty decent thesis statement!

Intro Paragraph Part 3: The Thesis

The final key part of how to write an intro paragraph is the thesis statement. The thesis statement is the backbone of your introduction: it conveys your argument or point of view on your topic in a clear, concise, and compelling way . The thesis is usually the last sentence of your intro paragraph. 

Whether it’s making a claim, outlining key points, or stating a hypothesis, your thesis statement will tell your reader exactly what idea(s) are going to be addressed in your essay. A good thesis statement will be clear, straightforward, and highlight the overall point you’re trying to make.

Some instructors also ask students to include an essay map as part of their thesis. An essay map is a section that outlines the major topics a paper will address. So for instance, say you’re writing a paper that argues for the importance of public transport in rural communities. Your thesis and essay map might look like this: 

Having public transport in rural communities helps people improve their economic situation by giving them reliable transportation to their job, reducing the amount of money they spend on gas, and providing new and unionized work .

The underlined section is the essay map because it touches on the three big things the writer will talk about later. It literally maps out the rest of the essay!

So let’s review: Your thesis takes the idea you’ve introduced in your hook and context and wraps it up. Think of it like a television episode: the hook sets the scene by presenting a general statement and/or interesting idea that sucks you in. The context advances the plot by describing the topic in more detail and helping readers understand why the topic is important. And finally, the thesis statement provides the climax by telling the reader what you have to say about the topic. 

The thesis statement is the most important part of the intro. Without it, your reader won’t know what the purpose of your essay is! And for a piece of writing to be effective, it needs to have a clear purpose. Your thesis statement conveys that purpose , so it’s important to put careful thought into writing a clear and compelling thesis statement. 

body_essayfeaturelist

How To Write an Introduction Paragraph: Example and Analysis

Now that we’ve provided an intro paragraph outline and have explained the three key parts of an intro paragraph, let’s take a look at an intro paragraph in action.

To show you how an intro paragraph works, we’ve included a sample introduction paragraph below, followed by an analysis of its strengths and weaknesses.

Example of Introduction Paragraph

While college students in the U.S. are struggling with how to pay for college, there is another surprising demographic that’s affected by the pressure to pay for college: families and parents. In the face of tuition price tags that total more than $100,000 (as a low estimate), families must make difficult decisions about how to save for their children’s college education. Charting a feasible path to saving for college is further complicated by the FAFSA’s estimates for an “Expected Family Contribution”—an amount of money that is rarely feasible for most American families. Due to these challenging financial circumstances and cultural pressure to give one’s children the best possible chance of success in adulthood, many families are going into serious debt to pay for their children’s college education. The U.S. government should move toward bearing more of the financial burden of college education. 

Example of Introduction Paragraph: Analysis

Before we dive into analyzing the strengths and weaknesses of this example intro paragraph, let’s establish the essay topic. The sample intro indicates that t he essay topic will focus on one specific issue: who should cover the cost of college education in the U.S., and why. Both the hook and the context help us identify the topic, while the thesis in the last sentence tells us why this topic matters to the writer—they think the U.S. Government needs to help finance college education. This is also the writer’s argument, which they’ll cover in the body of their essay. 

Now that we’ve identified the essay topic presented in the sample intro, let’s dig into some analysis. To pin down its strengths and weaknesses, we’re going to use the following three questions to guide our example of introduction paragraph analysis: 

  • Does this intro provide an attention-grabbing opening sentence that conveys the essay topic? 
  • Does this intro provide relevant, engaging context about the essay topic? 
  • Does this intro provide a thesis statement that establishes the writer’s point of view on the topic and what specific aspects of the issue the essay will address? 

Now, let’s use the questions above to analyze the strengths and weaknesses of this sample intro paragraph. 

Does the Intro Have a Good Hook? 

First, the intro starts out with an attention-grabbing hook . The writer starts by presenting  an assumption (that the U.S. federal government bears most of the financial burden of college education), which makes the topic relatable to a wide audience of readers. Also note that the hook relates to the general topic of the essay, which is the high cost of college education. 

The hook then takes a surprising turn by presenting a counterclaim : that American families, rather than students, feel the true burden of paying for college. Some readers will have a strong emotional reaction to this provocative counterclaim, which will make them want to keep reading! As such, this intro provides an effective opening sentence that conveys the essay topic. 

Does the Intro Give Context?

T he second, third, and fourth sentences of the intro provide contextual details that reveal the specific focus of the writer’s paper . Remember: the context helps readers start to zoom in on what the paper will focus on, and what aspect of the general topic (college costs) will be discussed later on. 

The context in this intro reveals the intent and direction of the paper by explaining why the issue of families financing college is important. In other words, the context helps readers understand why this issue matters , and what aspects of this issue will be addressed in the paper.  

To provide effective context, the writer refers to issues (the exorbitant cost of college and high levels of family debt) that have received a lot of recent scholarly and media attention. These sentences of context also elaborate on the interesting perspective included in the hook: that American families are most affected by college costs.

Does the Intro Have a Thesis? 

Finally, this intro provides a thesis statement that conveys the writer’s point of view on the issue of financing college education. This writer believes that the U.S. government should do more to pay for students’ college educations. 

However, the thesis statement doesn’t give us any details about why the writer has made this claim or why this will help American families . There isn’t an essay map that helps readers understand what points the writer will make in the essay.

To revise this thesis statement so that it establishes the specific aspects of the topic that the essay will address, the writer could add the following to the beginning of the thesis statement:

The U.S. government should take on more of the financial burden of college education because other countries have shown this can improve education rates while reducing levels of familial poverty.

Check out the new section in bold. Not only does it clarify that the writer is talking about the pressure put on families, it touches on the big topics the writer will address in the paper: improving education rates and reduction of poverty. So not only do we have a clearer argumentative statement in this thesis, we also have an essay map!  

So, let’s recap our analysis. This sample intro paragraph does an effective job of providing an engaging hook and relatable, interesting context, but the thesis statement needs some work ! As you write your own intro paragraphs, you might consider using the questions above to evaluate and revise your work. Doing this will help ensure you’ve covered all of your bases and written an intro that your readers will find interesting!

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4 Tips for How To Write an Introduction Paragraph

Now that we’ve gone over an example of introduction paragraph analysis, let’s talk about how to write an introduction paragraph of your own. Keep reading for four tips for writing a successful intro paragraph for any essay. 

Tip 1: Analyze Your Essay Prompt

If you’re having trouble with how to start an introduction paragraph, analyze your essay prompt! Most teachers give you some kind of assignment sheet, formal instructions, or prompt to set the expectations for an essay they’ve assigned, right? Those instructions can help guide you as you write your intro paragraph!

Because they’ll be reading and responding to your essay, you want to make sure you meet your teacher’s expectations for an intro paragraph . For instance, if they’ve provided specific instructions about how long the intro should be or where the thesis statement should be located, be sure to follow them!

The type of paper you’re writing can give you clues as to how to approach your intro as well. If you’re writing a research paper, your professor might expect you to provide a research question or state a hypothesis in your intro. If you’re writing an argumentative essay, you’ll need to make sure your intro overviews the context surrounding your argument and your thesis statement includes a clear, defensible claim. 

Using the parameters set out by your instructor and assignment sheet can put some easy-to-follow boundaries in place for things like your intro’s length, structure, and content. Following these guidelines can free you up to focus on other aspects of your intro... like coming up with an exciting hook and conveying your point of view on your topic!

Tip 2: Narrow Your Topic

You can’t write an intro paragraph without first identifying your topic. To make your intro as effective as possible, you need to define the parameters of your topic clearly—and you need to be specific. 

For example, let’s say you want to write about college football. “NCAA football” is too broad of a topic for a paper. There is a lot to talk about in terms of college football! It would be tough to write an intro paragraph that’s focused, purposeful, and engaging on this topic. In fact, if you did try to address this whole topic, you’d probably end up writing a book!

Instead, you should narrow broad topics to  identify a specific question, claim, or issue pertaining to some aspect of NCAA football for your intro to be effective. So, for instance, you could frame your topic as, “How can college professors better support NCAA football players in academics?” This focused topic pertaining to NCAA football would give you a more manageable angle to discuss in your paper.

So before you think about writing your intro, ask yourself: Is my essay topic specific, focused, and logical? Does it convey an issue or question that I can explore over the course of several pages? Once you’ve established a good topic, you’ll have the foundation you need to write an effective intro paragraph . 

body-stack-of-textbooks-red

Once you've figured out your topic, it's time to hit the books!

Tip 3: Do Your Research

This tip is tightly intertwined with the one above, and it’s crucial to writing a good intro: do your research! And, guess what? This tip applies to all papers—even ones that aren’t technically research papers. 

Here’s why you need to do some research: getting the lay of the land on what others have said about your topic—whether that’s scholars and researchers or the mass media— will help you narrow your topic, write an engaging hook, and provide relatable context. 

You don't want to sit down to write your intro without a solid understanding of the different perspectives on your topic. Whether those are the perspectives of experts or the general public, these points of view will help you write your intro in a way that is intriguing and compelling for your audience of readers. 

Tip 4: Write Multiple Drafts

Some say to write your intro first; others say write it last. The truth is, there isn’t a right or wrong time to write your intro—but you do need to have enough time to write multiple drafts . 

Oftentimes, your professor will ask you to write multiple drafts of your paper, which gives you a built-in way to make sure you revise your intro. Another approach you could take is to write out a rough draft of your intro before you begin writing your essay, then revise it multiple times as you draft out your paper. 

Here’s why this approach can work: as you write your paper, you’ll probably come up with new insights on your topic that you didn’t have right from the start. You can use these “light bulb” moments to reevaluate your intro and make revisions that keep it in line with your developing essay draft. 

Once you’ve written your entire essay, consider going back and revising your intro again . You can ask yourself these questions as you evaluate your intro: 

  • Is my hook still relevant to the way I’ve approached the topic in my essay?
  • Do I provide enough appropriate context to introduce my essay? 
  • Now that my essay is written, does my thesis statement still accurately reflect the point of view that I present in my essay?

Using these questions as a guide and putting your intro through multiple revisions will help ensure that you’ve written the best intro for the final draft of your essay. Also, revising your writing is always a good thing to do—and this applies to your intro, too!

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What's Next?

Your college essays also need great intro paragraphs. Here’s a guide that focuses on how to write the perfect intro for your admissions essays. 

Of course, the intro is just one part of your college essay . This article will teach you how to write a college essay that makes admissions counselors sit up and take notice. 

Are you trying to write an analytical essay? Our step-by-step guide can help you knock it out of the park.

Need more help with this topic? Check out Tutorbase!

Our vetted tutor database includes a range of experienced educators who can help you polish an essay for English or explain how derivatives work for Calculus. You can use dozens of filters and search criteria to find the perfect person for your needs.

Connect With a Tutor Now

Ashley Sufflé Robinson has a Ph.D. in 19th Century English Literature. As a content writer for PrepScholar, Ashley is passionate about giving college-bound students the in-depth information they need to get into the school of their dreams.

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How to Write an Essay Introduction

Last Updated: August 2, 2023 Fact Checked

This article was co-authored by Jake Adams and by wikiHow staff writer, Jennifer Mueller, JD . Jake Adams is an academic tutor and the owner of Simplifi EDU, a Santa Monica, California based online tutoring business offering learning resources and online tutors for academic subjects K-College, SAT & ACT prep, and college admissions applications. With over 14 years of professional tutoring experience, Jake is dedicated to providing his clients the very best online tutoring experience and access to a network of excellent undergraduate and graduate-level tutors from top colleges all over the nation. Jake holds a BS in International Business and Marketing from Pepperdine University. There are 12 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been fact-checked, ensuring the accuracy of any cited facts and confirming the authority of its sources. This article has been viewed 4,223,515 times.

The introduction of your essay serves two important purposes. First, it gets your reader interested in the topic and encourages them to read what you have to say about it. Second, it gives your reader a roadmap of what you're going to say and the overarching point you're going to make – your thesis statement. A powerful introduction grabs your reader's attention and keeps them reading.

Sample Essay Hooks & Introductions

how to do introduction to essay

Hooking Your Reader

Step 1 Identify your audience.

  • If you're writing a paper for a class, don't automatically assume your instructor is your audience. If you write directly to your instructor, you'll end up glossing over some information that is necessary to show that you properly understand the subject of your essay.
  • It can be helpful to reverse-engineer your audience based on the subject matter of your essay. For example, if you're writing an essay about a women's health issue for a women's studies class, you might identify your audience as young women within the age range most affected by the issue.

Step 2 Use the element of surprise.

  • For this hook to be effective, your fact needs to be sufficiently surprising. If you're not sure, test it on a few friends. If they react by expressing shock or surprise, you know you've got something good.
  • Use a fact or statistic that sets up your essay, not something you'll be using as evidence to prove your thesis statement. Facts or statistics that demonstrate why your topic is important (or should be important) to your audience typically make good hooks.

Step 3 Tug at your reader's heart-strings.

  • For example, if you were writing an essay proposing a change to drunk driving laws, you might open with a story of how the life of a victim was changed forever after they were hit by a drunk driver.

Step 4 Offer a relevant example or anecdote.

  • For example, if you're writing an essay about a public figure, you might include an anecdote about an odd personal habit that cleverly relates back to your thesis statement.
  • Particularly with less formal papers or personal essays, humorous anecdotes can be particularly effective hooks.

Step 5 Ask a thought-provoking question.

  • For example: "What would you do if you could play God for a day? That's exactly what the leaders of the tiny island nation of Guam tried to answer."
  • If your essay prompt was a question, don't just repeat it in your paper. Make sure to come up with your own intriguing question.

Step 6 Avoid clichés and generalizations.

  • Broad, sweeping generalizations may ring false with some readers and alienate them from the start. For example, "everyone wants someone to love" would alienate someone who identified as aromantic or asexual.

Creating Your Context

Step 1 Relate your hook to a larger topic.

  • Use an appropriate transitional word or phrase, such as "however" or "similarly," to move from your specific anecdote back out to a broader scope.
  • For example, if you related a story about one individual, but your essay isn't about them, you can relate the hook back to the larger topic with a sentence like "Tommy wasn't alone, however. There were more than 200,000 dockworkers affected by that union strike."

Step 2 Provide necessary background information.

  • For example, if your thesis relates to how blackface was used as a means of enforcing racial segregation, your introduction would describe what blackface performances were, and where and when they occurred.
  • If you are writing an argumentative paper, make sure to explain both sides of the argument in a neutral or objective manner.

Step 3 Define key terms for the purposes of your essay.

  • Definitions would be particularly important if your essay is discussing a scientific topic, where some scientific terminology might not be understood by the average layperson.
  • Definitions also come in handy in legal or political essays, where a term may have different meanings depending on the context in which they are used.

Step 4 Move from the general to the specific.

  • If you're using 2 or 3 sentences to describe the context for your thesis, try to make each sentence a bit more specific than the one before it. Draw your reader in gradually.
  • For example, if you're writing an essay about drunk driving fatalities, you might start with an anecdote about a particular victim. Then you could provide national statistics, then narrow it down further to statistics for a particular gender or age group.

Presenting Your Thesis

Step 1 Make your point.

  • For example, a thesis for an essay on blackface performance might be "Because of its humiliating and demoralizing effect on African American slaves, blackface was used less as a comedy routine and more as a way of enforcing racial segregation."
  • Be assertive and confident in your writing. Avoid including fluff such as "In this essay, I will attempt to show...." Instead, dive right in and make your claim, bold and proud.
  • Your outline should be specific, unique, and provable. Through your essay, you'll make points that will show that your thesis statement is true – or at least persuade your readers that it's most likely true.

Step 2 Describe how you're going to prove your point.

  • If you've created an outline for your essay, this sentence is essentially the main subjects of each paragraph of the body of your essay.
  • For example, if you're writing an essay about the unification of Italy, you might list 3 obstacles to unification. In the body of your essay, you would discuss details about how each of those obstacles was addressed or overcome.
  • Instead of just listing all of your supporting points, sum them up by stating "how" or "why" your thesis is true. For example, instead of saying, "Phones should be banned from classrooms because they distract students, promote cheating, and make too much noise," you might say "Phones should be banned from classrooms because they act as an obstacle to learning."

Step 3 Transition smoothly into the body of your essay.

  • To figure out if you need a transition sentence, read the introduction and the first paragraph out loud. If you find yourself pausing or stumbling between the paragraphs, work in a transition to make the move smoother.
  • You can also have friends or family members read your easy. If they feel it's choppy or jumps from the introduction into the essay, see what you can do to smooth it out.

Bringing It All Together

Step 1 Read essays by other writers in your discipline.

  • If you're writing your essay for a class assignment, ask your instructor for examples of well-written essays that you can look at. Take note of conventions that are commonly used by writers in that discipline.
  • Make a brief outline of the essay based on the information presented in the introduction. Then look at that outline as you read the essay to see how the essay follows it to prove the writer's thesis statement.

Step 2 Keep your introduction short and simple.

  • For shorter essays under 1,000 words, keep your introduction to 1 paragraph, between 100 and 200 words.
  • Always follow your instructor's guidelines for length. These rules can vary at times based on genre or form of writing.

Step 3 Write your introduction after you write your essay.

  • As you write your essay, you may want to jot down things you want to include in your introduction. For example, you may realize that you're using a particular term that you need to define in your introduction.

Step 4 Revise your introduction to fit your essay.

  • Delete any filler or unnecessary language. Given the shortness of the introduction, every sentence should be essential to your reader's understanding of your essay.

Step 5 Structure your introduction effectively.

  • The first sentence or two should be your hook, designed to grab your reader's attention and get them interested in reading your essay.
  • The next couple of sentences create a bridge between your hook and the overall topic of the rest of your essay.
  • End your introduction with your thesis statement and a list of the points you will make in your essay to support or prove your thesis statement.

Expert Q&A

Jake Adams

Video . By using this service, some information may be shared with YouTube.

  • If you are answering or responding to an assigned question, make sure you've interpreted the question correctly. The quality of your writing is irrelevant if your essay doesn't answer the question. Thanks Helpful 7 Not Helpful 1
  • Have friends or family members read your essay and provide you with feedback. If you're writing for a class, you might want to exchange essays with another classmate and give each other feedback on your work. Thanks Helpful 3 Not Helpful 1

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  • ↑ https://writingcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/audience/
  • ↑ http://advice.writing.utoronto.ca/planning/intros-and-conclusions/
  • ↑ https://www.grammarly.com/blog/how-to-write-an-introduction/
  • ↑ https://www.esu.edu/writing-studio/guides/hook.cfm
  • ↑ https://writingcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/introductions/
  • ↑ https://writingcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/cliches/
  • ↑ Jake Adams. Academic Tutor & Test Prep Specialist. Expert Interview. 20 May 2020.
  • ↑ https://library.sacredheart.edu/c.php?g=29803&p=185917
  • ↑ https://writingcenter.uagc.edu/introductions-conclusions
  • ↑ https://lsa.umich.edu/sweetland/undergraduates/writing-guides/how-do-i-write-an-intro--conclusion----body-paragraph.html
  • ↑ https://writingcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/transitions/
  • ↑ https://advice.writing.utoronto.ca/planning/intros-and-conclusions/

About This Article

Jake Adams

Start your introduction with a relevant story, fact, or quote that will engage readers. Then, add 2-3 sentences of background information to give your essay context, and include important dates, locations, or historical moments where applicable. Finally, include your thesis statement, which is a specific, arguable, and provable statement that answers a question about your essay topic. For example, your thesis might read: "In the modern age, online dating apps like Tinder provide a wider variety of romantic options than young people have ever had before." For more tips and examples on how to craft your thesis and put your introduction together, read on! Did this summary help you? Yes No

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how to do introduction to essay

Awesome Guide on How to Write an Essay Introduction

how to do introduction to essay

'I'd like to recall the day I nearly burned myself in flames in my automobile while going 250 mph and escaping the police'. – Thankfully, we don't have a story like that to relate to, but we bet we piqued your interest.

That's what we refer to as an efficient hook. Fundamentally, it's an attention-grabbing first sentence that piques an audience's interest and encourages them to keep reading. While writing an essay, a strong hook in essay introductions is essential.

Delve into the article if you're wondering how to start an essay with a strong introduction. This is the ultimate guide for writing the parts of a introduction paragraph from our custom dissertation writing service to engage your readers.

Introduction Definition

The introduction paragraph, to put it simply, is the first section of an essay. Thus, when reading your essay, the reader will notice it right away. What is the goal of an opening paragraph? There are two things that an excellent introduction achieves. It initially informs the reader on the subject of your work; in other words, it should describe the essay's topic and provide some background information for its main point. It must also spark readers' interest and persuade them to read the remainder of your article.

To provide you with essay writing services , we only need your paper requirements to create a plagiarism-free paper on time.

How Long Should an Introduction Be

Typically, there are no strict restrictions on how long an opening paragraph should be. Professional essay writers often shape the size of it with the paper's total length in mind. For instance, if you wonder how to make introduction in essay with five paragraphs, keep your introductory sentence brief and fit it inside a single section. But, if you're writing a longer paper, let's say one that's 40 pages, your introduction could need many paragraphs or even be pages long.

Although there are no specific requirements, seasoned writers advise that your introduction paragraph should account for 8% to 9% of your essay's overall word length.

And, if you place an order on our coursework writing services , we will certainly comply with your introduction length requirements.

What Makes a Good Introduction

All of the following criteria should be fulfilled by a strong opening sentence:

  • Start your introduction on an essay with a catchy sentence that draws the reader in.
  • It needs to include baseline information about your subject.
  • This should give readers a sense of the main argument(s) that your essay will address.
  • It must include all necessary information on the setting, locations, and chronological events.
  • By the end of your introduction, make a precise remark that serves as your essay's thesis.

What Are the 3 Parts of an Introduction Paragraph

So, what should be in a introduction paragraph? The introduction format essay has three sections: a hook, connections, and a thesis statement. Let's examine each component in more depth.

What Are the 3 Parts of an Introduction Paragraph

Part 1: Essay Hook

A hook is among the most effective parts of a introduction paragraph to start an essay. A strong hook will always engage the reader in only one sentence. In other words, it is a selling point.

Let's now address the query, 'how to make an essay introduction hook interesting?'. Well, to create a powerful hook, you can employ a variety of techniques:

  • A shocking fact
  • An anecdote 
  • A short summary

And here is what to avoid when using a hook:

  • Dictionary definitions
  • Generalizations
  • Sweeping statements that include words like 'everywhere,' 'always,' etc.

Once you've established a strong hook, you should give a general outline of your major point and some background information on the subject of your paper. If you're unsure how to write an introduction opening, the ideal approach is to describe your issue briefly before directing readers to particular areas. Simply put, you need to give some context before gradually getting more specific with your opinions.

The 5 Types of Hooks for Writing

Apart from the strategies mentioned above, there are even more types of hooks that can be used:

  • A Common Misconception — a good trick, to begin with, to claim that something your readers believe in is false.

Example: 'Although many falsely believe that people working from home are less productive – employees who get such work-life benefits generally work harder.'

  • Statistics — Statistical facts may provide a great hook for argumentative essays and serious subjects focusing on statistics.

Example: 'A recent study showed that people who are satisfied with their work-life balance work 21% harder and are 33% more likely to stay at the same company.'

  • Personal Story — sometimes, personal stories can be an appropriate hook, but only if they fit into a few brief sentences (for example, in narrative essays).

Example: 'When I had my first work-from-home experience, I suddenly realized the importance of having a good work-life balance; I saw plenty of the benefits it can provide.'

  • Scenes — this type of hook requires making the readers imagine the things you are writing about. It is most suitable when used in descriptive and narrative essays.

Example: 'Imagine you could have as much free time as you wish by working or studying from home—and spend more time with your loved ones.'

  • Thesis Statement — when unsure how to do an essay introduction, some writers start directly with their thesis statement. The main trick here is that there is no trick.

Example: 'I strongly believe there is a direct correlation between a healthy work-life balance and productivity in school or at work.'

Part 2: Connections

Give readers a clearer sense of what you will discuss throughout your article once you have given a hook and relevant background information about your essay topic. Briefly mentioning your main points in the same sequence in which you will address them in your body paragraphs can help your readers progressively arrive at your thesis statement.

In this section of your introduction, you should primarily address the following questions:

You may make sure that you are giving your readers all the information they need to understand the subject of your essay by responding to each of these questions in two to three lines. Be careful to make these statements brief and to the point, though.

Your main goal is gradually moving from general to specific facts about your subject or thesis statement. Visualize your introduction as an upside-down triangle to simplify the essay writing process. The attention-grabbing element is at the top of this triangle, followed by a more detailed description of the subject and concluding with a highly precise claim. Here is some quick advice on how to use the 'upside-down triangle' structure to compose an essay introduction:

  • Ensure that each subsequent line in your introduction is more focused and precise. This simple method will help you progressively introduce the main material of your piece to your audience.
  • Consider that you are writing a paper on the value of maintaining a healthy work-life balance. In this situation, you may start with a query like, 'Have you ever considered how a healthy work-life balance can affect other areas of your life?' or a similar hook. Next, you could proceed by giving broad factual information. Finally, you could focus your topic on fitting your thesis statement.

Part 3: The Thesis Statement

If you're unsure of the ideal method to create an introduction, you should be particularly attentive to how you phrase your thesis statement.

The thesis of your work is, without a doubt, the most crucial section. Given that the thesis statement of your piece serves as the foundation for the entire essay, it must be presented in the introduction. A thesis statement provides readers with a brief summary of the article's key point. Your main assertion is what you'll be defending or disputing in the body of your essay. An effective thesis statement is often one sentence long, accurate, exact, unambiguous, and focused. Your thesis should often be provided at the end of your introduction.

Here is an example thesis statement for an essay about the value of a proper work-life balance to help you gain a better understanding of what a good thesis should be:

Thesis Statement Example: 'Creating flexible and pleasant work schedules for employees can help them have a better work-life balance while also increasing overall performance.'

Catchy Introductions for Different Essay Types

Although opening paragraphs typically have a fixed form, their language may vary. In terms of academic essays, students are often expected to produce four primary intro to essay examples. They include articles that are analytical, argumentative, personal, and narrative. It is assumed that different information should appear in these beginning paragraphs since the goals of each sort of essay change. A thorough overview of the various paper kinds is provided below, along with some good essay introduction samples from our argumentative essay writers:

Narrative Introduction

  • The writer of a narrative essay must convey a story in this style of writing. Such essays communicate a story, which distinguishes them from other essay types in a big way.
  • Such a paper's hook will often be an enticing glimpse into a specific scene that only loosely links to the thesis statement. Additionally, when writing such an essay, a writer should ensure that every claim included in the introduction relates to some important moments that have significantly impacted the story's outcome.
  • The thesis in narrative writing is usually the theme or main lesson learned from the story.
Narrative introduction example: 'My phone rang, and my mother told me that Dad had suffered a heart attack. I suddenly experienced a sense of being lifted out from under me by this immaculately carpeted flooring. After making it through, Dad left me with a sizable collection of lessons. Here are three principles that I know dad would have wanted me to uphold...'

Still Can't Think of a Perfect Intro?

When assigned to write an essay, students end up with a ton of questions, including 'How to structure an essay?', 'How to choose a good topic?'. Here at EssayPro, we employ only the best essay writers who are committed to students’ success.

Analytical Introduction

  • Analytical essay introduction format is another popular type. In contrast to a narrative paper, an analytical paper seeks to explore an idea and educate the reader about a topic.
  • Three important facts that support the analytical premise should be included in the middle section of the introduction.
  • A well-researched and well-thought-out claim will form a wonderful thesis because the main goal of this paper is to study the topic and educate readers. It's crucial to remember that this assertion shouldn't initially have any real weight. Although it will still be theoretical, it has to be articulated practically.
Analytical introduction example: “... Hence even though presidents, CEOs, and generals still have their daily schedules full of economic crises and military conflicts, on the cosmic scale of history humankind can lift its eyes up and start looking towards new horizons. If we bring famine, plague, and war under control, what will replace them at the top of the human agenda? Like firefighters in a world without fire, so humankind in the twenty-first century needs to ask itself an unprecedented question: what are we going to do with ourselves? What will demand our attention and ingenuity in a healthy, prosperous, and harmonious world? In a healthy, prosperous, and harmonious world, what will demand our attention and ingenuity? This question becomes doubly urgent given the immense new powers that biotechnology and information technology are providing us with. What will we do with all that power? ...” Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow, Yuval Noah Harari

Persuasive Introduction

  • To persuade readers of anything is the sole goal of persuasive essay writing. This may be accomplished using persuasive strategies like ethos, pathos, and logos.
  • A hook statement for this paper may be anything from a fascinating fact to even comedy. You can use whatever technique you choose. The most crucial advice is to ensure your hook is in line with your thesis and that it can bolster further justifications.
  • Generally speaking, a persuasive essay must include three supporting facts. Hence, to gradually lead readers to the major topic of your paper, add a quick summary of your three arguments in your introduction.
  • Last, the thesis statement should be the main claim you will be disputing in this paper. It should be a brief, carefully thought-out, and confident statement of your essay's major argument.
Persuasive introduction example: 'Recycling waste helps to protect the climate. Besides cleaning the environment, it uses waste materials to create valuable items. Recycling initiatives must be running all around the world. ...'

Personal Introduction

  • The final sort of academic writing that students frequently encounter is a personal essay. In principle, this essay style is creative nonfiction and requires the author to reflect on personal experiences. The goals of such a paper may be to convey a story, discuss the lessons that certain incidents have taught you, etc. This type of writing is unique since it is the most personal.
  • Whatever topic you choose can serve as the hook for such an essay. A pertinent remark, query, joke, or fact about the primary plot or anything else will be acceptable. The backdrop of your narrative should then be briefly explained after that. Lastly, a thesis statement can describe the impact of particular experiences on you and what you learned.
Personal introduction example: 'My parents always pushed me to excel in school and pursue new interests like playing the saxophone and other instruments. I felt obligated to lead my life in a way that met their standards. Success was always expected on the route they had set out for me. Yet eight years after my parents' separation, this course was diverted when my dad relocated to California...'

Tips for Writing a Winning Introduction Paragraph

You now understand how to do introduction and have specific intro example for essays to help you get going. Let's quickly examine what you should and shouldn't do during the writing process.

  • Keep the assignment's purpose in mind when you write your introduction, and ensure it complies with your instructor's requirements.
  • Use a compelling and relevant hook to grab the reader's attention immediately.
  • Make sure your readers understand your perspective to make it apparent.
  • If necessary, establish key terms related to your subject.
  • Show off your expertise on the subject.
  • Provide a symbolic road map to help readers understand what you discuss throughout the post.
  • Be brief; it's recommended that your introduction make up no more than 8 to 9 percent of the entire text (for example, 200 words for a 2500 words essay).
  • Construct a strong thesis statement.
  • Create some intrigue.
  • Make sure there is a clear and smooth transition from your introduction to the body of your piece.
  • If you're looking for a custom writer , request assistance from the EssayPro team. We know how to write a term paper along with many other types of essays.

Don'ts

  • Provide too much background information.
  • Use sentences that are off-topic or unnecessary.
  • Make your opening paragraph excessively long.
  • Keep some information a secret and reveal it later in conclusion.
  • Employ overused phrases or generalizations.
  • Using quotation marks excessively

Now that you know what is in the introduction of an essay, we recommend reading the information on how to critique an article to gain more academic insight.

If you are still struggling with that, keep in mind that you can always send us your request to get professional assistance from our law essay writing service .

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  • A good essay introduction sets up the rest of your paper and grabs your reader's attention.
  • All introductions should include a hook, a thesis, and an organizational plan.
  • Knowing the rhetorical situation can help you write an effective introduction and thesis.

The computer screen remains blank, and my mind freezes every time I return to my philosophy 201 assignment: "Discuss the ethics of stealing." I know I'll need a great introduction for my paper, but where should I start? What should I include?

Writing a college essay shouldn't be scary, but getting started can often feel overwhelming and even intimidating at times. If you divide the essay-writing process into clearly defined steps, though, you'll find that it's a relatively straightforward process.

This might come as a surprise, but introductions are often crafted last, after you've written the main content of your essay. Even expert essayists expect to have to reframe their claims and essay organization as they write the bodies of their essays.

This article will go over how to write an effective college essay introduction and set you on the path to producing excellent and engaging papers.

General Guidelines for Writing an Essay Introduction

Before you begin writing your essay, read the instructions carefully to determine the assignment's expectations. You should also take some time to determine the essay's genre and what kind of thesis statement it requires. For example, will you have to make a strong argument for something using evidence? Or will you just need to explain a theory or concept?

Once you've done this, you can start to draft a very rough introduction to act as a general guide for the rest of your essay.

As you conduct research and work on your rough introduction, review what you know about the subject to start developing a thesis statement, i.e., the essay's main driving claim. Don't worry about sticking to this exactly — your thesis will likely change slightly with the more research and writing you do.

Basic Steps for Writing an Essay Introduction

  • Determine the essay's genre and what type of thesis it requires
  • Write a rough introduction
  • Come up with a rough thesis statement
  • Use your introduction to lay out how your essay will be organized
  • Adapt your thesis and organizational plan as needed as you write your essay
  • Add a hook to your introduction
  • Edit and proofread

Next, come up with one or two potential organizational plans. You'll want to have a clear idea of the topics your essay will discuss to prove your thesis statement, as well as the order in which these points will appear.

As you write your essay, return to your rough introduction so you can adapt your thesis and organizational plan to reflect any alterations you might have made as you researched and wrote the body of your essay. It's recommended that you allow the content of your paper to influence your rough thesis; a more developed thesis will lead to a stronger essay.

Once you've finished writing your essay, return to your introduction to polish it off. Add a hook — something that captures the reader's attention — to engage your reader and make your paper more compelling. Finally, don't forget to proofread your entire essay, including your introduction, before submitting it.

The Rhetorical Situation and Why It's Useful

The term "rhetorical situation" refers to the relationship the writer wishes to strike with their reader. Understanding the rhetorical situation is key because it should undergird your essay. To have mastery over this relationship, the writer must understand their message or text, its purpose, and the setting in which they're writing.

The usual defaults for college writing are that the writer is a budding scholar in the field (you) and the reader is an established expert (e.g., your professor), unless the assignment expressly states otherwise.

Understanding the rhetorical situation is key because it should undergird your essay.

The message or text (your claim and the essay) will vary with each assignment. The purpose (why the essay is important) is normally to improve your knowledge and skills, and the setting (the context in which you're writing) is the field of study.

In the case of my philosophy 201 essay prompt, "Discuss the ethics of stealing," the target reader is someone who understands the process of philosophizing about moral dilemmas. The writer could be the real me or a different persona, so long as my arguments are consistent with one another.

The message of this essay is how our society functions or how it could or should function. The purpose is to demonstrate to my professor my understanding of how ethics and ethical thought work. Finally, the setting is college-level thinking and philosophizing. Knowing this information equips me to construct a successful introduction and thesis.

The 3 Major Types of College Essays

Before drafting your introduction, you should figure out what type of essay you've been assigned and the skills this paper is meant to evaluate. There are several kinds of essays, but most fall into one of three major categories: report, exploratory, or argumentative.

  • Check Circle Summary: Requires you to extract and condense content from a larger piece of writing
  • Check Circle Lab Report/Lesson Plan: Shows whether you are informed about the protocols that are required by your discipline and whether you can follow them appropriately
  • Check Circle Descriptive: Requires you to convey evocative ideas about a topic and choose the most effective vocabularies for them

Exploratory Essay

  • Check Circle Exploratory: Requires you to explore a topic in depth and examine possibilities without necessarily taking a position
  • Check Circle Analytical: Determines whether you're able to perceive patterns, understand symbols and symbolism, and recognize allusions to arrive at a justifiable conclusion
  • Check Circle Explanatory: Highlights your ability to explain something in a precise and direct way, choose relevant information, and organize this information in an easy-to-follow manner

Argumentative Essay

  • Check Circle Expository: Adds debate to the exploratory paper and reveals whether you're able to choose effective and relevant information, logically organize and develop this information, pick a side, and offer justification for your choice
  • Check Circle Position: Determines whether you're able to select a position many may disagree with, successfully present your opinion, argue for it using solid evidence, and convince the reader your position is better than the other option
  • Check Circle Argument: Adds research to the expository essay and shows whether you're able to defend a claim, offer convincing evidence to support your claim, and acknowledge and dispel potential counterarguments

Writing Your Essay's Thesis Statement

Armed with the knowledge of what kind of essay you must write, you can now start to draft your thesis statement and determine the organization for the body of your essay. The thesis answers the following question for readers: "What will this essay prove?" The organizational plan explains how and in what order the essay will prove this claim.

Generally speaking, the thesis statement should appear near the end of your introduction. As for organizing your essay, try to lay out in the introduction the main points you'll be discussing in the order in which they'll appear in the body of your paper. This will facilitate not only your writing process but also your audience's reading experience.

Get more tips on how to write an effective thesis statement in our complete guide.

Why Every Essay Needs a Hook

All that remains now is grabbing your reader's attention. A strong introduction builds affinity with the reader and eases them into your essay.

The hook is the first thing (after the title, of course) your audience will read. It's a small scrap of informal writing that's relevant to your topic and that your reader will recognize easily. It has one foot in the real world, where the reader is, and the other in your essay, and works by convincing the reader to shift from one foot to the other willingly.

For your hook, you can tell a story, crack a joke, or quote something from a book or movie. Mention an anecdote or an incident from sports, recite lyrics or poetry, refer to history, or remark on a controversy. Use pop, high, or low culture. It can be personal or universal. Just remember to insert a clear transition between your hook and your thesis statement.

Here's an example of a good essay introduction with a memorable hook:

Perhaps when you were a child, your parents, like mine, urged you to share your toys or clothes with your younger sibling. And perhaps, like me, you thought it was extremely unfair because you were older. Yet it seems as if the seventh-century civilization of XXX knew what your parents and mine were trying to teach us: that sharing ensures survival much better than the exploitation of weaker or lower classes.

The hook here is the first two sentences about shared childhood, and part of the third sentence. Note the repeated use of the second-person pronouns "you" and "your." Its function is to build camaraderie between the reader and the writer. The writer further solidifies this connection with the first-person pronouns "me" and "us."

The hook also reminds the reader of simpler, happy times. The final sentence begins as the transition from childhood and sharing to the essay's main argument: how sharing was critical to the survival of the XXX civilization. After the colon, the introduction drops the hook entirely and becomes a full-fledged thesis statement.

The Value of Writing a Stellar Essay Introduction

Go back to the beginning of this article and look for the hook, the transition, the thesis statement, and how I establish the rhetorical situation. Consider as well the genre of this article and how I set up the organization of it.

Seasoned academic writers know a strong introduction can go a long way toward producing an effective and compelling paper. No matter what you choose to write about, you should always follow these basic rules. Not only will you earn better grades on your essays, but you'll also become a more efficient and confident writer.

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Strategies for writing a compelling thesis statement, how to write a body paragraph for a college essay.

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How to write an Essay Introduction (5-Step Formula)

How to write an Essay Introduction

One of my friends – a high-up professor in an English university – told me he can tell the grade a student will get within the first 90 seconds of reading a paper.

This makes the introduction the most important paragraph in your whole paper.

The introduction orients your reader to how well you understand academic writing, your skills in critical thinking, your ability to write professionally with minimal errors, and the depth of knowledge you have on the topic.

All in one fantastic paragraph! No pressure.

No wonder introductions are so difficult to write. If you’re like me, you find that you can sit and stare at a blank page as the moments tick by. You’re just not sure how to write an introduction!

After reading the top 30 online articles on how to write an essay introduction, I synthesized the five most common steps that universities give on how to write an introduction.

The five steps I am going to introduce to you in this paragraph are from my I.N.T.R.O. method. The intro method provides an easy-to-use acronym for how to write an introduction that the top universities recommend.

The INTRO method’s steps are:

  • [I] Interest: Provide an opening sentence that shows why the topic is of interest to everyday human beings
  • [N] Notify: Notify the reader of background or contextual information
  • [T] Translate: Translate the essay topic or question by paraphrasing it
  • [R] Report: Report on your position or argument
  • [O] Outline: Provide an outline of the essay structure

Below, I go through each step one by one. Each step is designed to be written in order, although you may feel free to mix them up after you’ve written each sentence to make it feel and read just the way you like.

Use the INTRO method as a guide for how to write an introduction and get words down on paper. As I often argue on this website, just writing something is often the hardest part .

You may also find that some essay introductions work better without one or more of these 5 steps. That is okay, too. Use these 5 steps as advice on points to include in an introduction and adjust them as you need. You may find in your specific area of study you need to add or remove other sentences. Play around with your introduction until you feel comfortable with it.

So don’t be too hard on yourself: have a go at a draft of your introduction with no pressure to use it in the end. You’ll find by the time you’ve written these five sentences you’ll have the creative juices flowing and a compelling introduction will be down on paper in no time.

1. Interest

Provide an opening sentence that shows why the topic is interesting to everyday human beings

Nearly every source on how to write an introduction that I found online recommended that your first sentence be an engaging ‘hook’ . Most sources highlight that the ‘hook’ sentence should draw in the reader’s interest in order to make your piece stand out.

The marker wants to see if you understand why this topic is of interest is in the first place. They want to see if you ‘get it’ from the very start.

I also recommend that you view the hook as an opportunity to show why the topic is interesting to everyday human beings . This makes it relevant to your reader.

To show you understand why the topic is of interest in the first place, aim to do one of the following things:

  • Show what makes the topic worth discussing. Your ‘Interest’ sentence might help show why someone should care about the topic. Will it affect our livelihoods? Will it harm us? Make our work lives easier? The more relatable this point is to real human lives, the better.
  • Highlight the single most interesting point in the essay. You might notice that you have already pointed out this interesting ‘hook’ somewhere in your essay. Find that interesting, relatable point and make it the opening sentence of your introduction.
  • Use an interesting fact or figure to show the topic’s importance. Percentages or real numbers about how many people are or would be impacted by the issue help to show the topic’s importance. This will create reader interest with a ‘wow’ factor.
  • Show how the essay topic is relevant to today’s world. If you’re struggling to identify this interesting ‘hook’, go onto google and find news reports related to your topic. How has the topic made it into the news recently? The news report will help you to brainstorm why this topic is of interest to the everyday lives of real human beings.

However, do not overstate the issue. You should provide a clear, reasonable perspective in this first sentence rather than an over-the-top claim. For example, aim to avoid hyperbolic or overly emotional phrases:

To find out more about retracting over-the-top emotion and hyperbole, we have put together a guide on academic language that you may like to read.

To summarize, I recommend that your first step in how to write an introduction is to write a ‘hook’ sentence that focuses on why the topic is interesting to everyday human beings . Use sober, clear facts about the importance of the topic to real human lives to get yourself started.

Read Also: My Suggested Best Words to Start a Paragraph
Notify the reader of background or contextual information

Nearly every source I found also recommended that you provide brief ‘background’ or ‘contextual’ information.

‘Background’ or ‘contextual’ information shows your depth of knowledge and understanding of the topic.

Here are some examples of ‘context’ for a few topics:

Hopefully, you can see here that giving ‘context’ is a way of showing that you have a really strong or deep knowledge of the history or background story of the topic. This is your chance to differentiate your depth of knowledge from other students. A sentence or two giving some of this context also helps to show off your knowledge right from the start.

Most sources recommend only providing one or two sentences of background information. This will help you to show off your knowledge without stealing content from the body of your essay. The body of the essay will add depth and detail to your points in the introduction, so feel free to leave out examples and explanations beyond your engaging sentence or two: you will have time in the body of the essay to elaborate.

3. Translate

Translate the essay topic or question

This point was mentioned by more than half the websites I found giving advice on how to write an introduction.

Many universities recommend re-stating the essay topic or question in your own words. This helps your marker to see that you understand the topic and are directly addressing it.

Here are some examples of essay questions and ways you can re-state the essay question in your introduction:

Something to keep in mind is that you do not want to appear to be re-stating the essay question simply to take up extra words. We call this ‘padding’. An example of padding is when a student drops the essay question in as a question, word-for-word:

  • How can knowledge about history help us to improve our lives in the future? This is the question that will be answered in this essay.
  • This essay will answer the question “What is the lasting impact of European Colonisation in the 21 st Century?”

Do not drop the essay question into the introduction without paraphrasing or surrounding explanation. If you do this, your marker will think you’re just trying to add words to the introduction because you’re not sure of anything interesting to say

Report your position or argument

Most essays do not require you to take a stance on an issue.

Essays that do require you to take a stance are called either ‘argumentative essays’ or ‘persuasive essays’.

If you are writing a persuasive essay, you will need to include Step 4: Report. For this step, you’ll need to state where you stand on the issue:

Keep in mind that essays should never leave a reader confused. Essay writing is not like creative writing: your reader must always know what’s going to be said right from the start. When reading to gather information, readers don’t like to be surprised. They want the facts up-front. Therefore, your marker will expect to know what your stance is on the issue right from the introduction onwards.

Provide an outline of the Essay Structure

This last point on how to write an introduction is important and separates average students from top students.

Introductions should always highlight the key points that will be made in an essay. Academic writing should never surprise the reader.

The fact that steps 4 and 5 both highlight that you should orient your marker reinforces the importance of this. Always, always, guide your marker’s reading experience.

Your essay should signpost all key concepts, theories, and main sections that make up your essay. If an important point is made in the essay but not signposted in the introduction, you are likely to confuse your marker. A confused marker very rapidly lowers your mark.

Too often, students fail to outline key points of their essays in the introduction. Make a habit of signposting your key ideas, points, theories, or concepts you will cover in the introduction in order to gain marks.

It is always easier to write this outline once the essay plan is written. You will then be able to gather together the key points that you listed in your essay plan and include them in the introduction.

The outline of the essay structure can only be one or two sentences long. You can state as your last sentence in your introduction:

  • “Firstly, this essay … then, …, and finally …”
  • “The essay opens with …, then, …, and then closes with …”
  • “After exploring …, … and …, this essay will conclude with …”

Try to outline the issues you will cover in order. Providing an orderly outline of your essay is very helpful for your reader.

Now, I know that some people don’t like this method. Let me reassure you with this study from Theresa Thonney in 2016. Thonney examined 600 top-ranking articles in fields including Literature, Music, Environmental Sciences, Nutrition, Inter-Cultural Studies, and more to see how many articles used this method. In other words, she completed a comprehensive study of whether professional, published authors use this method of orientating the reader to the structure of the article.

Thonney found that 100% of top-ranking articles she looked at in the Astronomy field used this method. 98% of articles in Sociology journals used this method. In fact, the field with the lowest amount of authors who use this method is Art, which had 76% of authors use this method. In other words, even the lowest result she found showed that three in every four professional authors use this method.

So, you should too.

Let’s sum point 5 up by reinforcing this very important rule: your marker should always be very clear about what they will read, and in what order, to improve their reading experience.

A short list of things to Avoid in Introductions

I want to conclude this post with an outline of some of the worst things you can do in an introduction. The introduction sets the scene, so you want to make a good impression. You don’t want your marker taking away marks due to one of these top mistakes:

  • Rhetorical Questions.
  • Vague padding.
  • Dictionary definitions.

Sometimes, teachers also recommend avoiding referencing in introductions. I have colleagues who absolutely refuse to let students include references in their introductions. Personally, I think that’s absurd – if a reference is required, include it! However, check with your teacher on their personal preferences here as I know this is a point of contention in faculty lounges.

How to write an introduction

The introduction is important for creating a strong first impression, especially since markers often make up their mind about your grade very early on in the marking process.

Introductions are best written last. That way, you will be able to include all the signposting you need to do (step 5), have a good understanding of the context (step 2), and be more certain about what your stance is on the issue (step 4).

Here’s the five INTRO steps I’d encourage you to use every time:

Once you have written your introduction, it is a good idea to put it away for a few days and then come back to edit it with fresh eyes . Remember that grammar and punctuation are important in the introduction. You want to leave a good impression.

If you have a friend who can read the draft for you and give you tips, or if your teacher has drop-in hours, use them to get some tips on how to write an introduction, what sounds right, want sounds off, and how you might be able to improve your introduction.

Once you have written your introduction, you might want to have a look at our guidance on how to write conclusions in order to end your piece as strongly as you started! People often think conclusions are just like introductions. That’s not true. Conclusions are unique paragraphs, so head over to our guidance on conclusions now to get the support you need on writing the best conclusion you can.

Chris

Chris Drew (PhD)

Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education. [Image Descriptor: Photo of Chris]

  • Chris Drew (PhD) https://helpfulprofessor.com/author/chris-drew-phd/ 41 Important Classroom Expectations (for This School Year)
  • Chris Drew (PhD) https://helpfulprofessor.com/author/chris-drew-phd/ 75 Personality Examples
  • Chris Drew (PhD) https://helpfulprofessor.com/author/chris-drew-phd/ 101 Thesis Statement Examples
  • Chris Drew (PhD) https://helpfulprofessor.com/author/chris-drew-phd/ 10 Critical Theory Examples

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Essay Writing Guide

Writing An Essay Introduction

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A Complete Essay Introduction Writing Guide With Examples

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Published on: Feb 24, 2023

Last updated on: Oct 19, 2023

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Essay introductions are the first impression that your reader will have of your paper. 

You want to draw in your readers with an interesting opening that sets the tone for the rest of your work. So, it's important to make sure they're well-written and engaging. 

In this blog, you will learn how to write an effective introduction to grab your reader’s attention from the very beginning. With the help of tips and examples below, you can craft an incredible essay introduction to set the tone for a powerful paper. 

So let's begin!

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What is an Essay Introduction?

An essay introduction is the first paragraph of your  It provides a roadmap for the rest of your paper and tells the reader what to expect from your work. 

Purpose of the Essay Introduction

The main purpose of an essay introduction is to set the stage for what the reader can expect from your essay. It aims to catch the readers’ interest, provide necessary background information, and introduce them to the central argument.

How To Write An Essay Introduction? 

Now that you know what an introduction is supposed to be, let’s move on to how to write an effective one. 

There are four essential  elements of an effective introduction:

  • Engaging Hook
  • Context and Background Information 
  • Overview of the Main Points and Essay Structure
  • Thesis Statement

Let’s go over them step by step:

Step 1: Start With a Hook 

Start your essay introduction with an interesting hook statement that grabs your readers’ attention. The goal of the hook is to make your reader interested in reading your essay and keep them engaged until the end. 

Hooks can have several different forms; it can be a quote, an anecdote, or an interesting fact. Here are some types of hooks you can use:

  • Anecdote: Share a relevant and interesting story or personal experience related to your topic.
  • Rhetorical Question: Pose a thought-provoking question that encourages readers to think about the subject.
  • Quotation: Begin with a compelling quote from a reputable source or a well-known figure.
  • Surprising Fact or Statistic: Present a surprising or startling piece of information that relates to your topic.
  • Vivid Description: Use descriptive language to paint a vivid picture that draws the reader into your essay.

The key to a successful hook is relevance. Ensure that your hook relates directly to the topic of your essay and sets the stage for what follows. You can also refer to other catchy hook examples for writing a captivating start.

Step 2: Discuss Context Background Information

After grabbing your reader's attention with a hook, it's crucial to provide context and background information about your topic. 

This can include facts, definitions, and historical information. Knowing this information, your reader will be better equipped to understand the rest of your essay.

Depending on your topic, you can include these aspects to establish context:

  • Historical Context: Explain the historical significance or evolution of the topic if relevant.
  • Definitions: Provide a clear definition of key terms or concepts central to your essay.
  • Explain Relevant Developments: Briefly mention important facts or developments related to your topic.
  • Why It Matters: Explain why the topic is important or relevant to your readers or the society at large.

Here's an example:

Step 3: Overview of the Main Points and Essay Structure

Once you've engaged your reader and provided the necessary context, it's time to introduce the topic and overall argument. This part of the introduction serves as a preview of what to expect in the body of the essay. 

You can achieve this by outlining the main points or arguments you will discuss and briefly mentioning the structure of the essay. This helps your reader navigate the content and understand the logical flow of your ideas.

Here's a demonstration of it.

Step 4: Write the Thesis Statement

The last part of the introduction is the thesis statement. The thesis statement is the central point or argument of your essay. It conveys the main idea you will explore and defend in the following paragraphs. 

A well-constructed thesis statement is specifically debatable and provides a road map for the entire essay. The thesis statement is written at the end of the introduction paragraph. 

Here's a thesis statement example:

Now, if we put all these elements together step-by-step, we will have an excellent essay introduction. Here's an example of a strong introduction:

The Essay Introduction Structure

The structure of an essay introduction includes a hook, contextual information, and a thesis statement. In other words, the introduction moves from the general to the specific. 

Essay Introduction Structure

Check out these essay introduction samples that demonstrate the structure of an introduction.

Essay Introduction Outline

Essay Introduction Sample

Essay Introduction Examples

Here are some interesting introduction examples for different types of essays . Read these examples to understand what a powerful start looks like for various kinds of essays.

Argumentative Essay Introduction Example 

An argumentative essay is a genre of academic writing where the author takes a stance on a particular issue, presents arguments to support that stance, and aims to persuade the reader of the validity of their viewpoint.

To write an effective argumentative essay introduction, you should hook the reader's attention, provide context, present your thesis statement, and outline your main arguments.

Here is an example for you to understand how to write an argumentative essay introduction. 

Persuasive Essay Introduction Example

A persuasive essay is a type of academic writing that seeks to convince the reader to adopt a particular point of view or take a specific action. The writing process of a persuasive essay introduction is similar to what is described above.

Below is a perfect example of a persuasive essay introduction. 

Compare and Contrast Essay Introduction Example 

The compare and contrast essay analyzes the similarities and differences between two or more subjects. A compare and contrast essay introduction has to introduce two elements. Otherwise, it has a similar structure to introductions in general. 

The following is a great introduction for a compare and contrast essay that you can refer to. 

Synthesis Essay Introduction Example 

A synthesis essay is a form of writing that challenges you to explore information from multiple sources to form a coherent and original perspective on a given topic. 

Here is a good essay introduction example for a synthesis essay.

Narrative Essay Introduction Example

A narrative essay is a unique form of storytelling that allows writers to share personal experiences, memories, or events in a creative and engaging way. 

The content of narrative essay introductions is a bit different. They require you to set the scene, introduce the protagonist, and present the upcoming conflict. Here is an example:

Expository Essay Introduction Example

An expository essay is a common type of academic writing that aims to provide a clear and concise explanation or analysis of a specific topic, concept, or idea. 

Here’s an example of how you can start an expository essay.

Abortion Essay Introduction Example 

The abortion debate remains one of the most controversial topics in modern society. 

Pro-choice and pro-life advocates have been debating this issue for decades, with no end in sight. Writing an essay on this topic requires thoughtful research and a clear understanding of both sides.

Here's an example of how to write an abortion essay introduction.

Tips for Writing Better Essay Introductions

Crafting an effective essay introduction is an art that can significantly influence how readers engage with your writing. Here are some valuable tips to help you create engaging and impactful introductions.

  • Be Clear and Concise: Keep your introduction clear and concise. Avoid unnecessary jargon or complex language that might confuse your readers. Present your ideas in a straightforward way.
  • State Your Thesis Clearly: Your thesis statement is the core of your introduction. Clearly state your main argument or the purpose of your essay. It should be specific and debatable, giving readers a roadmap of what to expect in the essay.
  • Transition Smoothly: Ensure a smooth transition from your introduction to the body of the essay. Your introduction should provide a logical segue into the main points or arguments you will explore.
  • Avoid Clichés and Overused Phrases: Try to avoid clichés or overused phrases in your introduction. Readers appreciate fresh and original language that piques their interest.
  • Tailor the Introduction to the Essay Type: Consider the type of essay you're writing (e.g., persuasive, expository, narrative) and adapt your introduction accordingly. Each type may require a different approach to engage the reader effectively.
  • Revise and Edit: Don't hesitate to revise and edit your introduction as needed. It's often helpful to write the introduction after completing the rest of the essay, as this allows you to better align it with the content.
  • Consider the Audience: Think about your target audience and their expectations. Tailor your introduction to resonate with your specific readership.
  • Seek Feedback: Before finalizing your introduction, seek feedback from peers, professors, or writing tutors. Fresh perspectives can help you refine your introduction for maximum impact.

Common Mistakes to Avoid in Essay Introductions

Here are some common mistakes that you should avoid to write compelling introductions:

  • Try to avoid writing a vague introduction of irrelevant details about the topic.
  • Do not provide too much information and facts in the introduction. Simply present the topic with sufficient information for the reader’s understanding. 
  • Avoid using informal language or slang terms in the introduction. Essay introductions should be written in formal and academic language. 
  • Do not make assumptions about the reader’s knowledge of the topic. Provide only basic background information to fill any gaps in understanding. 
  • Finally, do not introduce any new information in the introduction. The introduction should only provide an overview of what will be discussed in the essay, not dive into details. 

By avoiding these mistakes, you can ensure that your essay introduction is clear and concise. It will help readers easily understand the topic and follow your argument throughout the paper. 

Moreover, you can watch this video that introduces an easy method and helpful method for writing effective introductions.

To conclude, 

By using the steps and tips discussed above, you can become a skilled essayist who leaves a lasting impression, one introduction at a time. 

Just remember that writing is a process of constant refinement, and your introductions will evolve as your skills grow. So, the next time you sit down to write, take the time to craft it with care, for it holds the promise of what lies ahead. 

However, if you are struggling to make your essay introduction engaging, don’t stress over it. MyPerfectWords.com is here to back you up! 

You can get help from our online essay writing service . Our experienced and skilled writers can provide you with a perfect introduction and write a compelling story from start to finish!

Nova A. (Marketing)

Nova Allison is a Digital Content Strategist with over eight years of experience. Nova has also worked as a technical and scientific writer. She is majorly involved in developing and reviewing online content plans that engage and resonate with audiences. Nova has a passion for writing that engages and informs her readers.

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How To Write An Essay

Essay Introduction

Barbara P

Writing an Essay Introduction - Step by Step Guide

Published on: Dec 26, 2020

Last updated on: Jul 21, 2023

essay introduction

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Many students struggle with writing essay introductions that grab the reader's attention and set the stage for a strong argument.

It's frustrating when your well-researched essay doesn't get the recognition it deserves because your introduction falls flat. You deserve better results for your hard work!

In this guide, you’ll learn how to create engaging essay introductions that leave a lasting impression. From catchy opening lines to clear thesis statements, you'll learn techniques to hook your readers from the very beginning.

So, read on and learn how to write the perfect catchy introduction for your essay.

What is a Good Essay Introduction?

An introduction is good if it gives a clear idea of what an essay is about. It tells the reader what to expect from the type of academic writing you are presenting. 

However, it should strike a balance between being informative and engaging, avoiding excessive detail that may lead to confusion.

A strong introduction is engaging, attractive, and also informative. It’s important to note that an essay introduction paragraph should not be too short or too long.

Remember, the introduction sets the stage for the body of your essay. So, keep it concise and focused while hinting at the critical elements you'll explore in more depth later.

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How to Write an Essay Introduction?

Crafting an effective essay introduction is essential for capturing your reader's attention and setting the tone for your entire piece of writing. To ensure your introduction is engaging and impactful, you can follow an introduction format.

Here is the essay introduction format that will help you write an introduction for your essay easily. 

1. Hook Sentence 

A hook sentence is a must for the introductory part of an essay. It helps to keep the reader engaged in your content and seek the reader’s attention.  It is an attention-grabbing sentence that develops the interest of the reader. It develops the anxiousness of reading the complete essay.

You can use the following as the hook sentence in your essay introduction:

  • A famous quotation
  • An interesting fact
  • An anecdote

All of the above are attention-grabbing things that prove to be perfect for a hook sentence.

Not sure how to create an attention-grabbing hook statement? Check out these hook statement examples to get a better idea!

2. Background Information 

Once you have provided an interesting hook sentence, it's time that you provide a little background information related to your essay topic.

The background information should comprise two or three sentences. The information should include the reason why you chose the topic and what is the expected scope of the topic. 

Also, clarify the theme and nature of your essay. 

3. Thesis Statement 

A thesis statement is a significant element of not just the introduction but also the whole essay. It is a statement that gives an overview of your complete essay. 

It should be written in such a way that the reader can have an idea about the whole purpose of your essay. 

Before you write a thesis statement for your essay, try looking into some thesis statement examples. It will help you write a meaningful statement for your essay. 

A thesis statement is mentioned after the background information and before the last sentence of the introductory paragraph. The last sentence of the introduction is a transitional sentence. 

Need more information on crafting an impactful thesis statement? Read this insightful guide on writing a thesis statement to get started!

4. Transition Sentence 

To end the introduction paragraph in a good way, a transition sentence is used. This sentence helps to relate the introduction to the rest of the essay. 

In such a sentence, we mention a hint about the elements that we will be discussing next.

Check out this list of transition words to write a good transition sentence.

Essay Introduction Template

Essay Introduction Starters

The introduction of your essay plays a crucial role in captivating your readers and setting the tone for the rest of your paper. 

To help you craft an impressive introduction, here are some effective essay introduction phrases that you can use:

  • "In today's society, [topic] has become an increasingly significant issue."
  • "From [historical event] to [current trend], [topic] has shaped our world in numerous ways."
  • "Imagine a world where [scenario]. This is the reality that [topic] addresses."
  • "Have you ever wondered about [question]? In this essay, we will explore the answers and delve into [topic]."
  • "Throughout history, humanity has grappled with the complexities of [topic]."

Here are some more words to start an introduction paragraph with:

  • "Throughout"
  • "In today's"
  • "With the advent of"
  • "In recent years"
  • "From ancient times"

Remember, these words are just tools to help you begin your introduction. Choose the words that best fit your essay topic and the tone you want to set.

To help you get started, here are some examples of different essay types:

Argumentative Essay Introduction Examples

In an argumentative essay, we introduce an argument and support the side that we think is more accurate. Here is a short example of the introduction of a short argumentative essay. 

Reflective Essay Introduction Examples

A writer writes a reflective essay to share a personal real-life experience. It is a very interesting essay type as it allows you to be yourself and speak your heart out.

Here is a well-written example of a reflective essay introduction.

Controversial Essay Introduction Examples

A controversial essay is a type of expository essay. It is written to discuss a topic that has controversy in it. 

Below is a sample abortion essay introduction

Here are some more examples:

Essay introduction body and conclusion

Heritage Day essay introduction

Covid-19 essay introduction body conclusion

Tips for Writing an Essay Introduction

The following are some tips for what you should and should not do to write a good and meaningful essay introduction.

  • Do grab the reader's attention with a captivating opening sentence.
  • Do provide a clear and concise thesis statement that outlines the main argument of your essay.
  • Do give a brief overview of the key points you will discuss in the body paragraphs.
  • Do use relevant and engaging examples or anecdotes to support your introduction.
  • Do consider the tone and style that best suits your essay topic and audience.
  • Do revise and edit your introduction to ensure it flows smoothly with the rest of your essay.
  • Don't use clichés or overused phrases as your opening line.
  • Don't make your introduction overly lengthy or complex .
  • Don't include unnecessary background information that doesn't contribute to the main idea.
  • Don't introduce new information or arguments in the introduction that will be discussed later in the body paragraphs.
  • Don't use informal language or slang unless it aligns with the essay's purpose and audience.
  • Don't forget to proofread your introduction for grammar and spelling errors before finalizing it.

Remember to follow the do's and avoid the don'ts to create an impactful opening that hooks your readers from the start.

Now you know the steps and have the tips and tools to get started on creating your essay’s introduction. However, if you are a beginner, it can be difficult for you to do this task on your own. 

This is what our expert essay writing service is for! We have a team of professional writers who can help you with all your writing assignments. Also, we have a customer support team available 24/7 to assist you. 

Place your order now, and our customer support representative will get back to you right away. Try our essay writer ai today!

Barbara P (Literature, Marketing)

Barbara is a highly educated and qualified author with a Ph.D. in public health from an Ivy League university. She has spent a significant amount of time working in the medical field, conducting a thorough study on a variety of health issues. Her work has been published in several major publications.

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Writing a Research Paper Introduction | Step-by-Step Guide

Published on September 24, 2022 by Jack Caulfield . Revised on March 27, 2023.

Writing a Research Paper Introduction

The introduction to a research paper is where you set up your topic and approach for the reader. It has several key goals:

  • Present your topic and get the reader interested
  • Provide background or summarize existing research
  • Position your own approach
  • Detail your specific research problem and problem statement
  • Give an overview of the paper’s structure

The introduction looks slightly different depending on whether your paper presents the results of original empirical research or constructs an argument by engaging with a variety of sources.

Table of contents

Step 1: introduce your topic, step 2: describe the background, step 3: establish your research problem, step 4: specify your objective(s), step 5: map out your paper, research paper introduction examples, frequently asked questions about the research paper introduction.

The first job of the introduction is to tell the reader what your topic is and why it’s interesting or important. This is generally accomplished with a strong opening hook.

The hook is a striking opening sentence that clearly conveys the relevance of your topic. Think of an interesting fact or statistic, a strong statement, a question, or a brief anecdote that will get the reader wondering about your topic.

For example, the following could be an effective hook for an argumentative paper about the environmental impact of cattle farming:

A more empirical paper investigating the relationship of Instagram use with body image issues in adolescent girls might use the following hook:

Don’t feel that your hook necessarily has to be deeply impressive or creative. Clarity and relevance are still more important than catchiness. The key thing is to guide the reader into your topic and situate your ideas.

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This part of the introduction differs depending on what approach your paper is taking.

In a more argumentative paper, you’ll explore some general background here. In a more empirical paper, this is the place to review previous research and establish how yours fits in.

Argumentative paper: Background information

After you’ve caught your reader’s attention, specify a bit more, providing context and narrowing down your topic.

Provide only the most relevant background information. The introduction isn’t the place to get too in-depth; if more background is essential to your paper, it can appear in the body .

Empirical paper: Describing previous research

For a paper describing original research, you’ll instead provide an overview of the most relevant research that has already been conducted. This is a sort of miniature literature review —a sketch of the current state of research into your topic, boiled down to a few sentences.

This should be informed by genuine engagement with the literature. Your search can be less extensive than in a full literature review, but a clear sense of the relevant research is crucial to inform your own work.

Begin by establishing the kinds of research that have been done, and end with limitations or gaps in the research that you intend to respond to.

The next step is to clarify how your own research fits in and what problem it addresses.

Argumentative paper: Emphasize importance

In an argumentative research paper, you can simply state the problem you intend to discuss, and what is original or important about your argument.

Empirical paper: Relate to the literature

In an empirical research paper, try to lead into the problem on the basis of your discussion of the literature. Think in terms of these questions:

  • What research gap is your work intended to fill?
  • What limitations in previous work does it address?
  • What contribution to knowledge does it make?

You can make the connection between your problem and the existing research using phrases like the following.

Now you’ll get into the specifics of what you intend to find out or express in your research paper.

The way you frame your research objectives varies. An argumentative paper presents a thesis statement, while an empirical paper generally poses a research question (sometimes with a hypothesis as to the answer).

Argumentative paper: Thesis statement

The thesis statement expresses the position that the rest of the paper will present evidence and arguments for. It can be presented in one or two sentences, and should state your position clearly and directly, without providing specific arguments for it at this point.

Empirical paper: Research question and hypothesis

The research question is the question you want to answer in an empirical research paper.

Present your research question clearly and directly, with a minimum of discussion at this point. The rest of the paper will be taken up with discussing and investigating this question; here you just need to express it.

A research question can be framed either directly or indirectly.

  • This study set out to answer the following question: What effects does daily use of Instagram have on the prevalence of body image issues among adolescent girls?
  • We investigated the effects of daily Instagram use on the prevalence of body image issues among adolescent girls.

If your research involved testing hypotheses , these should be stated along with your research question. They are usually presented in the past tense, since the hypothesis will already have been tested by the time you are writing up your paper.

For example, the following hypothesis might respond to the research question above:

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how to do introduction to essay

The final part of the introduction is often dedicated to a brief overview of the rest of the paper.

In a paper structured using the standard scientific “introduction, methods, results, discussion” format, this isn’t always necessary. But if your paper is structured in a less predictable way, it’s important to describe the shape of it for the reader.

If included, the overview should be concise, direct, and written in the present tense.

  • This paper will first discuss several examples of survey-based research into adolescent social media use, then will go on to …
  • This paper first discusses several examples of survey-based research into adolescent social media use, then goes on to …

Full examples of research paper introductions are shown in the tabs below: one for an argumentative paper, the other for an empirical paper.

  • Argumentative paper
  • Empirical paper

Are cows responsible for climate change? A recent study (RIVM, 2019) shows that cattle farmers account for two thirds of agricultural nitrogen emissions in the Netherlands. These emissions result from nitrogen in manure, which can degrade into ammonia and enter the atmosphere. The study’s calculations show that agriculture is the main source of nitrogen pollution, accounting for 46% of the country’s total emissions. By comparison, road traffic and households are responsible for 6.1% each, the industrial sector for 1%. While efforts are being made to mitigate these emissions, policymakers are reluctant to reckon with the scale of the problem. The approach presented here is a radical one, but commensurate with the issue. This paper argues that the Dutch government must stimulate and subsidize livestock farmers, especially cattle farmers, to transition to sustainable vegetable farming. It first establishes the inadequacy of current mitigation measures, then discusses the various advantages of the results proposed, and finally addresses potential objections to the plan on economic grounds.

The rise of social media has been accompanied by a sharp increase in the prevalence of body image issues among women and girls. This correlation has received significant academic attention: Various empirical studies have been conducted into Facebook usage among adolescent girls (Tiggermann & Slater, 2013; Meier & Gray, 2014). These studies have consistently found that the visual and interactive aspects of the platform have the greatest influence on body image issues. Despite this, highly visual social media (HVSM) such as Instagram have yet to be robustly researched. This paper sets out to address this research gap. We investigated the effects of daily Instagram use on the prevalence of body image issues among adolescent girls. It was hypothesized that daily Instagram use would be associated with an increase in body image concerns and a decrease in self-esteem ratings.

The introduction of a research paper includes several key elements:

  • A hook to catch the reader’s interest
  • Relevant background on the topic
  • Details of your research problem

and your problem statement

  • A thesis statement or research question
  • Sometimes an overview of the paper

Don’t feel that you have to write the introduction first. The introduction is often one of the last parts of the research paper you’ll write, along with the conclusion.

This is because it can be easier to introduce your paper once you’ve already written the body ; you may not have the clearest idea of your arguments until you’ve written them, and things can change during the writing process .

The way you present your research problem in your introduction varies depending on the nature of your research paper . A research paper that presents a sustained argument will usually encapsulate this argument in a thesis statement .

A research paper designed to present the results of empirical research tends to present a research question that it seeks to answer. It may also include a hypothesis —a prediction that will be confirmed or disproved by your research.

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How to punctuate quotations in an essay

Do you know which book these quotations come from?

  • "We’ve got to have rules and obey them. After all we’re not savages."
  • "I will live in the past, present and the future."
  • "I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is man with a gun in his hand."

Show answer Hide answer

  • Lord of the Flies.
  • A Christmas Carol.
  • To Kill A Mockingbird.

Introduction to punctuating quotations in an essay

A quotation is a phrase taken directly from a text or speech .

  • In literature essays, the points you make about a text should be supported by short quotations from the text
  • There are different ways of using a quotation within the structure of an essay sentence or paragraph
  • It’s important to  carefully punctuate close punctuate Insert punctuation marks into a text.  your quotations, so that the meaning is clear

In a quotation close quotation A group of words taken from a text or speech and repeated by someone other than the original author or speaker. it’s important to make sure you use the exact words from the original text. In most literature essays, it’s better to use shorter quotations in a precise way rather than write out very long quotations. You can use single inverted commas ‘ ’ or double quotation marks “ ” to punctuate the quotation. Just make sure you stick to the same punctuation mark and don’t swap between the two.

These punctuation marks should contain the words taken from the text:

In   A Christmas Carol  by Charles Dickens the character of Scrooge is described as being "Hard and sharp as flint".

In the example above, "Hard and sharp as flint" is taken directly from the text.

Remember to close the punctuation marks at the end of the quotation. Only use a capital letter in a quotation if one appears in the original text.

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Learn how to use and punctuate quotations in essays

Punctuation inside quotations

Punctuation that appears in the original text should be used in the quotation:

The character of Scrooge is described as "self-contained, and solitary as an oyster."

In this example, the comma and full stop in the phrase "self-contained, and solitary as an oyster." appear in the original text and therefore need to be included with the quotation.

Sometimes a full stop is used outside of the quotation marks, this is because the full stop belongs to the whole sentence, not the original quotation:

In A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens the character of Scrooge is described as being "Hard and sharp as flint".

A group of students with mixed emotions of smiling, concentration and confusion. The caption reads 'test yourself!'

Correctly punctuate the quotation in this sentence.

In an extract from A Christmas Carol, Scrooge is described using the metaphor a tight-fisted hand at the grind-stone which tells the reader that he is a tough boss to work for and he probably doesn’t treat his employees fairly.

In an extract from A Christmas Carol, Scrooge is described using the metaphor " a tight-fisted hand at the grind-stone ," which tells the reader that he is a tough boss to work for and he probably doesn’t treat his employees fairly.

Using quotations in an essay

There are different ways to use a quotation in an essay. For example, you could embed a quotation close embed a quotation Blend a quotation into your own sentence. into your sentence or separate the quotation with a colon close colon A punctuation mark (:) used to introduce a list, a quotation or an explanation. after your point.

Embedding quotations

An effective way to use quotations is to embed them into your argument. Embedding is when the quotation becomes part of your own sentence:

The reader gains a negative impression of Scrooge, who is described as a "tight-fisted" man and an "old sinner".

This method allows you to use quotations in a precise way and select evidence carefully.

Using quotations at the end of a point

Another common method is to use a quotation at the end of a point. A colon must be used before the quotation.

The reader gains a negative impression of Scrooge: "But he was a tight-fisted hand at the grindstone, Scrooge! a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner!"

Place the colons

How to separate a longer quotation.

If a much longer quotation is being used, it is appropriate to separate it from the main essay by leaving a line and indenting the text. Indenting means leaving a gap after the left-hand margin. It is not necessary to use quotation marks if the text is separate from the main essay. You could introduce the quotation like this:

In the beginning of the novel Dickens establishes the details of Scrooge’s character for his reader in a collection of negative verbs and powerful similes.

Below the introductory sentence you would leave a line and then indent close indent To start writing further from the margin that the main part of a text. the quotation.

See it in action

This is how the text currently looks:

In the beginning of the novel Dickens establishes the details of Scrooge’s character for his reader by using a collection of negative verbs and powerful similes.But he was a tight-fisted hand at the grind- stone, Scrooge! a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner! Hard and sharp as flint, from which no steel had ever struck out generous fire; secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster.

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This is how a longer quotation should look:

In the beginning of the novel Dickens establishes the details of Scrooge’s character for his reader by using a collection of negative verbs and powerful similes.

But he was a tight-fisted hand at the grind- stone, Scrooge! a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner! Hard and sharp as flint, from which no steel had ever struck out generous fire; secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster.

  • A line has been missed
  • The quote is indented
  • There are no quotation marks

Using quotations accurately makes your essay more convincing and shows that you are able to use evidence to support your points. You can show that you understand which parts of the text are relevant to the point you are making if you are able to select the key parts.

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Apple launches Journal, a new app to reflect on everyday moments and life’s special events

Two iPhone 15 Pro devices show the Journal app interface.

Capturing Life’s Moments

An iPhone 15 Pro shows the Journal app interface, prompting the user, “Select a Moment & Write.”

Personalized Suggestions and Reflection Prompts

An iPhone 15 Pro shows the Journal app interface, prompting the user, “Select a Moment & Write.”

Keeping Entries Personal and Private

Text of this article

December 11, 2023

Journal, a new iPhone app available today, helps users reflect and practice gratitude through journaling, which has been shown to improve wellbeing. With Journal, users can capture and write about everyday moments and special events in their lives, and include photos, videos, audio recordings, locations, and more to create rich memories. On-device machine learning provides private, personalized suggestions to inspire journal entries, and customizable notifications help users develop their writing habits. With the new Journaling Suggestions API, third-party journaling apps can also suggest moments for users to write about. Journal and the Journaling Suggestions API are available with the release of iOS 17.2.

“We are excited to bring the benefits of journaling to more people,” said Bob Borchers, Apple’s vice president of Worldwide Product Marketing. “Journal makes it easy to preserve rich and powerful memories, and practice gratitude by intelligently curating information that is personal to the user, right from their iPhone. And we’re making it possible for other journaling apps to offer the same personalized suggestions while maintaining the highest level of privacy.”

With Journal, it’s easy to get started by logging a simple text entry, or adding rich details like photos, videos, locations, or audio recordings to add more context. It’s just as easy to add content like a news article, music, or a podcast from other apps by bringing it into the Journal app and writing about it. Users can browse past entries, bookmark them, or filter for details like photos, workouts, places, and more. Scheduled notifications can help make journaling a consistent practice.

Intelligently curated personalized suggestions are designed to help users remember and write about a moment — like new places they’ve visited, photos they’ve taken, songs they’ve played, workouts they’ve completed, and more. Suggestions based on user activity include writing prompts to empower meaningful insights, and daily reflection prompts help users focus on gratitude, kindness, purpose, and more. Users control the type of content that appears in Suggestions and can create a journal entry with the Suggestions they choose.

In addition, developers can use the new Journaling Suggestions API to add personalized journaling suggestions to their apps, prompting users with moments to write about in a privacy-preserving way, so more people can benefit from journaling and the personalized, secure experience only iPhone can deliver.

“The Journal app is an exciting development for us because it introduces the benefits of digital journaling to a wider audience and ushers in a new chapter for the practice,” said Paul Mayne, founder of the journaling app Day One. “We have integrated the Journaling Suggestions API into the Day One app to give our users an even richer experience that puts privacy at the forefront, and we can’t wait for them to try it.”

Journal is built with privacy at its core. When iPhone is locked with a passcode, entries in the Journal app are encrypted. Additionally, users can choose to enable secondary authentication, and lock the Journal app with their device passcode, Face ID, or Touch ID. All Journal entries are end-to-end encrypted when stored in iCloud, so that no one but the user can access them. Journaling suggestions are created on device, and users can choose which suggested moments are shared with the Journal app and added to their Journal entries.

Press Contacts

Tania Olkhovaya

[email protected]

Nadine Haija

Apple Media Helpline

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how to do introduction to essay

Step 1: Hook your reader Step 2: Give background information Step 3: Present your thesis statement Step 4: Map your essay's structure Step 5: Check and revise More examples of essay introductions Other interesting articles Frequently asked questions about the essay introduction Step 1: Hook your reader

One way to start your essay is with a shocking, unexpected, or amusing fact about the topic you're covering. This grabs the reader's attention and makes them want to read further, expecting explanation, context, and/or elaboration on the fact you presented.

An introduction for an essay or research paper is the first paragraph, which explains the topic and prepares the reader for the rest of the work. Because it's responsible for both the reader's first impression and setting the stage for the rest of the work, the introduction paragraph is arguably the most important paragraph in the work.

The introduction to an academic essay will generally present an analytical question or problem and then offer an answer to that question (the thesis). Your introduction is also your opportunity to explain to your readers what your essay is about and why they should be interested in reading it.

A good essay introduction catches the reader's attention immediately, sets up your argument, and tells the reader what to expect. This video will walk you th...

How to write an essay: Introduction The basics on how to write an academic essay for university The Introduction An introduction generally does three things. The first part is usually a general comment that shows the reader why the topic is important, gets their interest, and leads them into the topic. It isn't actually part of your argument.

1. The placeholder introduction. When you don't have much to say on a given topic, it is easy to create this kind of introduction. Essentially, this kind of weaker introduction contains several sentences that are vague and don't really say much. They exist just to take up the "introduction space" in your paper.

The basic structure of an essay always consists of an introduction, a body, and a conclusion. But for many students, the most difficult part of structuring an essay is deciding how to organize information within the body.

An introduction is the opening paragraph of an essay It should briefly introduce the topic and outline your key ideas An introduction might also provide context and try to hook the reader's...

Your introduction is the first thing your marker will read and should be approximately 10% of your word count. Within the first minute they should know if your essay is going to be a good one or not. An introduction has several components but the most important of these are the last two we give here.

An introduction is the first paragraph of your paper. The goal of your introduction is to let your reader know the topic of the paper and what points will be made about the topic. ... Do not summarize the points made in the body of the writing unless you have created a lengthy document (more than 3 or 4 pages). Keep the paragraph short and ...

As a reader's first impression of your essay, the intro paragraph should introduce the topic of your paper. Your introduction will also state any claims, questions, or issues that your paper will focus on. This is commonly known as your paper's thesis.

If you're writing a 10-page paper, your introduction should be approximately 1 page. For shorter essays under 1,000 words, keep your introduction to 1 paragraph, between 100 and 200 words. Always follow your instructor's guidelines for length. These rules can vary at times based on genre or form of writing. 3.

Here are four simple steps for how to write a good introduction: 1. Write a hook The first sentence in your introduction is known as the hook. It's called a hook because it's meant to capture your audience's attention. While you don't want to be informal or colloquial in academic writing, that doesn't confine you to dry language either.

The introduction paragraph, to put it simply, is the first section of an essay. Thus, when reading your essay, the reader will notice it right away. What is the goal of an opening paragraph? There are two things that an excellent introduction achieves.

There's one golden rule for a great introduction: don't give too much away. Your reader shouldn't be able to guess the entire trajectory of the essay after reading the first sentence. A striking or unexpected opening captures the reader's attention, raises questions, and makes them want to keep reading to the end.

Write a rough introduction. Come up with a rough thesis statement. Use your introduction to lay out how your essay will be organized. Adapt your thesis and organizational plan as needed as you write your essay. Add a hook to your introduction. Edit and proofread. Next, come up with one or two potential organizational plans.

There are three parts of an essay introduction: an essay hook, connections, and a thesis statement. Let's analyze their meaning and features. 1. Essay hook. It is the best starter for your introduction, focused on grabbing the audience's attention.

The INTRO method's steps are: [I] Interest: Provide an opening sentence that shows why the topic is of interest to everyday human beings [N] Notify: Notify the reader of background or contextual information [T] Translate: Translate the essay topic or question by paraphrasing it [R] Report: Report on your position or argument

How To Write An Essay Introduction? 3. The Essay Introduction Structure 4. Essay Introduction Examples 5. Tips for Writing Better Essay Introductions What is an Essay Introduction? An essay introduction is the first paragraph of your It provides a roadmap for the rest of your paper and tells the reader what to expect from your work.

In this essay, we will explore the answers and delve into [topic]." "Throughout history, humanity has grappled with the complexities of [topic]." Here are some more words to start an introduction paragraph with: "Throughout". "In today's". "With the advent of". "In recent years". "From ancient times".

Step 1: Introduce your topic Step 2: Describe the background Step 3: Establish your research problem Step 4: Specify your objective (s) Step 5: Map out your paper Research paper introduction examples Frequently asked questions about the research paper introduction Step 1: Introduce your topic

quotation. it's important to make sure you use the exact words from the original text. In most literature essays, it's better to use shorter quotations in a precise way rather than write out ...

Fresh eyes will only improve your writing. Ask classmates and professors to read your personal essay and provide you with feedback. They might see something you missed or have ideas for ways to ...

Journal, a new iPhone app available today, helps users reflect and practice gratitude through journaling, which has been shown to improve wellbeing. With Journal, users can capture and write about everyday moments and special events in their lives, and include photos, videos, audio recordings, locations, and more to create rich memories.

38 likes, 5 comments - nursingwithugwu on January 24, 2023: "More first year content… So I moved to Ottawa for the second half of first year which if I cou..."

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