“What are Herman Melville’s Best Books?” We looked at all of Melville’s authored bibliography and ranked them against one another to answer that very question!
We took all of the books written by Herman Melville and looked at their Goodreads, Amazon, and LibraryThing scores, ranking them against one another to see which books came out on top. The books are ranked in our list below based on which titles have the highest overall score between all 3 review sites in comparison with all of the other books by the same author. The process isn’t super scientific and in reality, most books aren’t “better” than other books as much as they are just different. That being said, we do enjoy seeing where our favorites landed, and if you aren’t familiar with the author at all, the rankings can help you see what books might be best to start with.
The full ranking chart is also included below the countdown on the bottom of the page.
The Top Book’s Of Herman Melville
1 ) White-Jacket (The World in a Man-of-War)
- Goodreads: 1
- Amazon: 1
- LibraryThing: 7
Considered to be a semi-biographical book, written from Melville’s own personal experiences while returning home to the Atlantic Coast from the South Seas with the American Navy on a man-o’-war vessel. In the note preceding the novel, Melville states, “In the year 1843 I shipped as ‘ordinary seaman’ on board of a United States frigate then lying in a harbor of the Pacific Ocean. After remaining in this frigate for more than a year, I was discharged from the service . . .”
2 ) Moby-Dick (The Whale)
- Goodreads: 7
- Amazon: 2
- LibraryThing: 2
“It is the horrible texture of a fabric that should be woven of ships’ cables and hawsers. A Polar wind blows through it, and birds of prey hover over it.” So Melville wrote of his masterpiece, one of the greatest works of imagination in literary history. In part, Moby-Dick is the story of an eerily compelling madman pursuing an unholy war against a creature as vast and dangerous and unknowable as the sea itself. But more than just a novel of adventure, more than an encyclopaedia of whaling lore and legend, the book can be seen as part of its author’s lifelong meditation on America. Written with wonderfully redemptive humour, Moby-Dick is also a profound inquiry into character, faith, and the nature of perception.
2 ) Redburn: His First Voyage
- Goodreads: 4
- Amazon: 4
- LibraryThing: 3
Wellington Redburn is a fifteen-year-old from the state of New York, with only one dream – to run away to sea. However, when he does fulfil this long-held fantasy, he quickly finds that reality as a cabin boy is far harsher than he ever imagined. Mocked by the crew on board the Highlander for his weakness and bullied by the vicious and merciless sailor Jackson, Wellington must struggle to endure the long journey from New York to Liverpool. But when he does reach England, he is equally horrified by what he finds there: poverty, desperation and moral corruption. Inspired by Melville’s own youthful experiences on board a cargo boat, this is a compelling tale of innocence transformed, through bitter experience, into disillusionment. A fascinating sea journal and coming-of-age tale, Redburn provides a unique insight into the mind of one of America’s greatest novelists.
4 ) Pierre (The Ambiguities)
- Goodreads: 3
- Amazon: 7
- LibraryThing: 4
HarperCollins is proud to present this controversial masterpiece of American literature, now restored to its original form and illuminated with 30 full-color pictures by Maurice Sendak.
5 ) Mardi: And a Voyage Thither
- Goodreads: 9
- Amazon: 5
- LibraryThing: 1
Presented as narratives of his own South Sea experiences, Melville’s first two books had roused incredulity in many readers. Their disbelief, he declared, had been “the main inducement” in altering his plan for his third book, Mardi: and a Voyage Thither (1849). Melville wanted to exploit the “rich poetical material” of Polynesia and also to escape feeling “irked, cramped, & fettered” by a narrative of facts. “I began to feel . . . a longing to plume my pinions for a flight,” he told his English publisher. This scholarly edition aims to present a text as close to the author’s intention as surviving evidence permits. Based on collations of all editions publishing during Melville’s lifetime, it incorporates author corrections and many emendations made by the present editors.
5 ) Typee: A Peep at Polynesian Life
- Goodreads: 5
- Amazon: 2
- LibraryThing: 8
Typee is a fast-moving adventure tale, an autobiographical account of the author’s Polynesian stay, an examination of the nature of good and evil, and a frank exploration of sensuality and exotic ritual. For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,700 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators.
7 ) Israel Potter: His Fifty Years of Exile
- Goodreads: 6
- Amazon: 7
- LibraryThing: 6
Herman Melville’s “Israel Potter” is the Fictionalised tale of a man who really did fight in the American Revolution — a man who lived a life of very real adventure. After fighting in the revolution, he went on to be a part of the newly-established United States Navy, ended up serving as a secret courier for Benjamin Franklin Bits of this are fiction, and may be even more spectacular. . . .
8 ) Omoo: A Narrative of Adventures in the South Seas
- Goodreads: 7
- Amazon: 9
- LibraryThing: 5
Melville’s p Melville’s continuing adventures in the South SeasFollowing the commercial and critical success of Typee, Herman Melville continued his series of South Sea adventure-romances with Omoo. Named after the Polynesian term for a rover, or someone who roams from island to island, Omoo chronicles the tumultuous events aboard a South Sea whaling vessel and is based on Melville’s personal experiences as a crew member on a ship sailing the Pacific. From recruiting among the natives for sailors to handling deserters and even mutiny, Melville gives a first-person account of life as a sailor during the nineteenth century filled with colorful characters and vivid descriptions of the far-flung locales of Polynesia. For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,700 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines.
8 ) The Confidence-Man: His Masquerade
- Goodreads: 2
- Amazon: 10
- LibraryThing: 9
Male, female, deft, fraudulent, constantly shifting: which of the masquerade of passengers on the Mississippi steamboat Fidele is the confidence man? The central motif of Melville’s last and most modern novel can be seen as a symbol of American cultural history.
10 ) Billy Budd, Sailor (An Inside Narrative)
- Goodreads: 10
- Amazon: 6
- LibraryThing: 10
A handsome young sailor is unjustly accused of plotting mutiny in this timeless tale of the sea.
Herman Melville’s Best Books
Herman Melville Review Website Bibliography Rankings
|Billy Budd, Sailor (An Inside Narrative)||10||6||10||10|
|Omoo: A Narrative of Adventures in the South Seas||7||9||5||8|
|The Confidence-Man: His Masquerade||2||10||9||8|
|Israel Potter: His Fifty Years of Exile||6||7||6||7|
|Mardi: And a Voyage Thither||9||5||1||5|
|Typee: A Peep at Polynesian Life||5||2||8||5|
|Pierre; or, The Ambiguities||3||7||4||4|
|Moby-Dick; or, The Whale||7||2||2||2|
|Redburn: His First Voyage||4||4||3||2|
|White-Jacket; or, The World in a Man-of-War||1||1||7||1|