Don Quixote became one of the greatest novels of all time even though Cervantes intended it to just be a bit of a joke about the over-the-top romanticism of his time.
The foolish knight was a touchstone of impractical idealism, but he is now largely perceived as a symbol of nobility. It's difficult to dislike Quixote because everyone else in the story seems insane and he is so sincere. Starting as simply a Spanish country gentleman, he is addicted to reading about books of chivalry. He does not sleep much, however, and it soon dries his brain up and makes him go mad.
He constructs a suit of armor in his house and he finds a dilapidated old nag to become his horse. He claims at that point that he will be known as Don Quixote rather than his given name of Alonso Quejana.
Before taking off to roam the world to right wrongs, he chooses country girl Aldonza - who is well-known for her method of salting pork - as his great love. His first stop on the road is an inn that he imagines to be an enchanted castle.
Back home, several men decide they will chase Quixote to cure him of his madness. They also burn his books. The men capture him and beat him up. Quixote returns home and finds a barber name Sancho to become his squire.
In the presence of others, Quixote usually embarks on long-winded dissertations that his listeners find either hilarious or annoying. After countless adventures, the pair returns home. They learn later that a best-selling book has been written about their adventures.
As Quixote dies at the end, he denounces the books he had read. Finally settling on a belief that nonsensical stories are a bad thing, he appears to be sane.
It's one of the best endings of a book ever, and is perhaps history's most hilarious adventure story.
***** out of *****