1. Candide, by Voltaire
Widely recognized as one of Western lit’s very first modern satires, Voltaire’s wacky, 1759-published romp takes top honors on this list. An Age of Enlightenment philosopher who was vehemently anti-church and anti-aristocracy, Voltaire slays both in this short-but-sweet novella. Ostensibly the continent-wandering tale of Candide, the illegitimate nephew of a German baron whose unending bad luck forces him into a life of unending roving, the book was actually a very clever—and often uproarious—vehicle for Voltaire’s finely observed criticisms of religion, government, military and, well, most of the other features of 18th-century life: criticisms that still ring true today.
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