by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra
In BriefA middle-aged country gent, overwhelmed by obsessively reading fantastical stories of daring knights in shining armour, sets out to reinvent himself in their larger-than-life image. Although widely ridiculed as a lunatic the newly-dubbed 'Don Quixote' ultimately spawns a legend of his own, drawing many of his friends, neighbours, and countrymen into an ever-widening spiral of madness.
Why you should read itBegun as a simple satire on a lowly brand of 16th-century popular fiction, Don Quixote ended up sprawling into a multi-layered mess of a narrative which both anticipated and inspired the relentless self-examination of modern prose authors. Over centuries of combative criticism it has been read variously as a straightforward comic pantomime, a herald of literary realism, and an anarchic ode to the romantic spirit, the only point of general agreement being that it is among the most important books ever written.