William Golding’s Best 5 Books Ranked 📚

William Golding produced a wealth of books over his vast career, and we have narrowed them down to just the top five.

William Golding

(1911 - 1993), British Novelist

On this list, readers can explore books like ‘Lord of the Flies’ and ‘The Double Tongue’. His novels engage in a wide variety of themes, many of which feature in the five books on this list.

William Golding's Best Books

1. Lord of the Flies

Lord of the Flies is undoubtedly William Golding’s best-selling work and arguably the book that defines his legacy.

It chronicles a group of boys whose plane crashes, leaving them stranded on an island. In the novel, two central characters Ralph and Jack, who represent democracy and autocracy, respectively clash for power as the children on the island struggle to continue their efforts to be rescued while hunting.

While all this is happening, there are murmurs of a beast on the island. While they speculate on who or what the beast is, Simon, discovers through a prophetic conversation that the beast is the innate evil within the boys. His visions are proved to be correct as the rest of the boys beat him to death as their descent into savagery continues.

This dark allegory delves into the suggested true nature of humankind when left without the constraints of society. It is not without its detractors, but you can’t have a book make it onto every “100 books to read before you die” list without it being worth a read. Among all the tension and symbology, there are some beautiful pieces of descriptive writing as Golding brings the island to life.

2. Close Quarters

Following up the first book in the series, Close Quarters adds a romantic slant to the nautical-based trilogy. The book explores the world from the viewpoint of Talbot. The journal format from the first novel is retained but with a notably different tone. The book also follows a more traditional novel format with chapter breaks at dramatic moments rather than just a day-by-day account.

William Golding’s knowledge of the ocean and anything to do with sailing is evident throughout the text, lending it authenticity. This is put into dramatic effect as he details the slow degradation of the ship that Talbot is sailing to Australia. This affects the psyche of the lead protagonist as he wrestles with himself under immense pressure.

The trilogy that the book belongs to was adapted into a BBC drama.

3. The Double Tongue

Golding always had an interest in Greek mythology, so it was no surprise that he eventually wrote a book based on some legendary characters. Unfortunately, the book was never released.

It tells the story of Arieka, a young Pythia, who was the priestess of Apollo. Acting as the oracle, she is eventually rescued from a life of servitude and from her miserable family.

As is common in Golding’s book, there is a message behind the story as it explores the ideas of faith and slavery. The book is held in high esteem by Golding fans because it is his last work. However, some book critics have questioned the lack of characterization, leading to a slightly hollow experience.

4. Pincher Martin

The main character of this novel, Christopher Hadley “Pincher,” finds himself stranded in the ocean after a torpedo hits his ship. He strikes it lucky as he eventually finds the shore. Though relieved at first, he starts to endure hallucinations which lead to him questioning his own existence.

Here, Golding deftly explores the ideas of sanity versus insanity. Once again, he can draw on his own experiences as a naval officer to inform his writing and bring it to life, making for a satisfying read.

The novel has a fascinating twist at the end as we discover that the character never made it to shore and, in fact, died almost instantly, meaning that the struggles that he wrestled with were probably felt because he was facing damnation making the novel an allegory for purgatory or possibly hell.

5. The Inheritors

Golding’s clever concept here is to look at the period when Neanderthals were on the brink of extinction and replaced by modern man.

The novel is clever because it minimizes the differences between the two species, so we feel sorry for the older species. Human beings are presented as god-like creatures who have mastery of tools such as fire which is probably how it felt to ancient man. The novel was Golding’s second effort and was received well by critics.


What else did William Golding write?

Golding wrote other well-known books besides ‘Lord of the Flies’. Other books include: ‘Pincher’ ‘Martin,’ ‘Free Fall,’ and ‘The Pyramid’.

What did William Golding win a Nobel Prize for?

William Golding won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1983. The committee wrote: “for his novels which, with the perspicuity of realistic narrative art and the diversity and universality of myth, illuminate the human condition in the world of today.”

What was Lord of the Flies based on?

It was based on Golding’s experiences as a teacher and a young boy.

Lee-James Bovey
About Lee-James Bovey
Lee-James, a.k.a. LJ, has been a Book Analysis team member since it was first created. During the day, he's an English Teacher. During the night, he provides in-depth analysis and summary of books.
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