Arthur Conan Doyle was an English novelist born on this day (May 22) in 1859. He was a versatile writer who wrote poetry, historical fiction, and nonfiction. He is best known for creating the detective Sherlock Holmes, one of the most popular and enduring literary characters.
In celebration of this prolific author, we’ve selected five of his best books to share with you.
1. The White Company
The weak man becomes strong when he has nothing, for then only can he feel the wild, mad thrill of despair. The White Company is one of several historical novels Doyle published. It follows a group of dedicated archers, led by chivalrous warrior Sir Nigel Loring, as they travel through England, France, and Spain, battling in the Hundred Years War. Squire Alleyne Edricson accompanies them, and Doyle tells both his coming-of-age story and the love story between him and Sir Nigel’s daughter.
Doyle published this book in 1815, and later, in 1905, he published the prequel, Sir Nigel. He declared “that as a single piece of work, they form the most complete, satisfying, and ambitious thing I have ever done,” so this work rightfully holds a spot on our list of favorites. With themes of chivalry, adventure, and love, there’s something for everyone.
2. The Lost World
Brain, character, soul—only as one sees more of life does one understand how distinct is each.
Doyle also published several science-fiction works, including The Lost World, the first of five novels in the well-known Professor Challenger series. Professor Challenger sets out to recover his reputation by proving his theory that creatures thought to be extinct are actually thriving in the Amazon basin. He is accompanied by a group of explorers and a young reporter, Edward Malone, who is on a journey of his own to prove his love to the woman who rejected him. Doyle created a story filled with suspense and adventure, following the team as they get trapped on a remote plateau and discover everything from dinosaurs to ape-men.
Although this book was published in 1912, it inspired other works popular today. Michael Crichton, who wrote The Lost World, which is part of the Jurassic Park series, said he got the idea for the title from Doyle’s book.
3. The Hound of the Baskervilles
That which is clearly known hath less terror than that which is but hinted at and guessed.
We would certainly be remiss to leave out Sherlock Holmes, who appeared in many of Doyle’s works. The Hound of Baskervilles, widely regarded as one of the greatest crime novels ever written, is set in the eerie moors of Bakersville Hall in England. Following the death of the master of Bakersville Hall, Holmes begins his investigation. and his assistant, Dr. Watson, set out to investigate the legend of a mysterious and supernatural hound. During their investigation, many other mysteries come up, and the truth is eventually revealed in a dramatic way that we’ll let you find out for yourself!
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Doyle published this novel in 1901, and it inspired several television and film adaptations throughout history.
4. The Exploits of Brigadier Gerard
You cannot see the lettuce and the dressing without suspecting a salad.
One of Doyle’s more comedic works was The Exploits of Brigadier Gerard, published in 1896, followed by a second volume, The Adventures of Gerard, in 1903. In these short stories, French brigadier Etienne Gerard’s life as a soldier under Napoleon’s command is shown through different parts of his life, as well as his personal and romantic adventures.
This is a particularly entertaining work of Doyle’s, as he used satire to explore French stereotypes through a vain hero, who thought he was the greatest soldier and lover in all of France!
5. The Maracot Deep
It is only when you touch the higher that you realize how low we may be among the possibilities of creation.The Maracot Deep, published in 1929, was one of Doyle’s final published works before his death in 1930. This science fiction book follows Professor Maracot as he leads an expedition of explorers and scientists to the floor of the Atlantic Ocean. In this novel, Doyle creates a world with the lost race of Atlanteans, technology that allows them to exist at the bottom of the ocean, and threatening sea creatures that climax in a battle of good versus evil.
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