In today’s post I’m going to talk through some modern books that I think will withstand the test of time and become “classics”.
I always find it really hard to define what a “classic” read is, but for me it’s a book that was written many years ago and is just as popular now as it was back then. A classic book is one that will still be as popular in fifty or one hundred years and, despite the fact that society and the world will change in that time, people will still be able to relate to it and get some joy/inspiration from this book. I think a classic book should have some cultural, societal or historical significance that future generations can read to get an idea of what life was like in 2022 (or whenever the book was written).
A classic book also has to be good. This is quite difficult to define because we all have different tastes and a book that I think might be the best I’ve ever read, might not appeal to any of you. Generally, I think a “classic” or “future classic” should be well-received from critics and the general reader HOWEVER, if there’s one thing doing my “Spotlight On:…” series has taught me is that some of the most popular classic books now weren’t popular when they were first released…
Then we also come to the difficult decision of what I should count as a “modern” book. For the sake of this blog post, I’m counting a modern book as anything written from 1980-present.
Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami
I’ve spoken about this book a couple of times as it was one of my favourite reads of 2021.
“Toru, a quiet and preternaturally serious young college student in Tokyo, is devoted to Naoko, a beautiful and introspective young woman, but their mutual passion is marked by the tragic death of their best friend years before. Toru begins to adapt to campus life and the loneliness and isolation he faces there, but Naoko finds the pressures and responsibilities of life unbearable. As she retreats further into her own world, Toru finds himself reaching out to others and drawn to a fiercely independent and sexually liberated young woman.
A magnificent blending of the music, the mood, and the ethos that was the sixties with the story of one college student’s romantic coming of age, Norwegian Wood brilliantly recaptures a young man’s first, hopeless, and heroic love.” (Goodreads)
Murakami writes how I wish I could write – his descriptions of nature and how he intertwines that with human emotions is something so beautiful, yet the book is so dark and depressing. There are elements of light everywhere in the book, but for the majority of the time I felt very sad reading it. There was this constant juxtaposition throughout the whole novel. It is a love story (or at least there are elements of love in the book) but death is constantly lingering. “Death exists, not as the opposite but as a part of life. By living our lives, we nurture death“.
This book made me feel so many things. I felt uncomfortable at points but then again, I don’t read books just to feel comfortable. I like to be shaken up. I didn’t like the characters – they were all incredibly flawed and dysfunctional. I couldn’t understand why certain characters acted the way they did. I think that’s one of the reasons why I enjoyed it so much and why I think it will become a classic; it’s an intriguing, dark, bittersweet exploration of human nature set in the backdrop of 60’s Tokyo.
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
Another one of my favourite books of 2021. The Kite Runner is the book I am most sure will become a classic because of its beautiful storytelling and historical and cultural significance.
“The unforgettable, heartbreaking story of the unlikely friendship between a wealthy boy and the son of his father’s servant, The Kite Runner is a beautifully crafted novel set in a country that is in the process of being destroyed. It is about the power of reading, the price of betrayal, and the possibility of redemption; and an exploration of the power of fathers over sons—their love, their sacrifices, their lies.
A sweeping story of family, love, and friendship told against the devastating backdrop of the history of Afghanistan over the last thirty years.” (Goodreads)
I found this book to be incredibly informative about an area of history that I didn’t know too much about. It made the stories you see in the news seem personal and more intimate; you could actually put a face to the names/numbers of people that this was a reality for (and continues to be a reality for).
A wonderfully moving novel that I truly think will withstand the test of time.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
“Christopher John Francis Boone knows all the countries of the world and their capitals and every prime number up to 7,057. He relates well to animals but has no understanding of human emotions. He cannot stand to be touched. And he detests the color yellow.
This improbable story of Christopher’s quest to investigate the suspicious death of a neighborhood dog makes for one of the most captivating, unusual, and widely heralded novels in recent years.” (Goodreads)
I think this book will become a classic because it offers a story told from a different perspective. It gives us, the reader, a better understanding of developmental disabilities. I hope that in the future, people will read this book and notice the progress that will (hopefully) have been made to understanding people like Christopher.
I completely understand that some people may disagree with me on this book and say that it wasn’t accurate and played up to stereotypes. I agree that it’s a difficult perspective to successfully write from but I think the writer does it in a creative way.
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
I wasn’t sure whether to include this one or not since I would argue that The Handmaid’s Tale has already received “classic” status.
“Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead. She may leave the home of the Commander and his wife once a day to walk to food markets whose signs are now pictures instead of words because women are no longer allowed to read. She must lie on her back once a month and pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, because in an age of declining births, Offred and the other Handmaids are valued only if their ovaries are viable. Offred can remember the years before, when she lived and made love with her husband, Luke; when she played with and protected her daughter; when she had a job, money of her own, and access to knowledge. But all of that is gone now . . .” (Goodreads)
I remember reading The Handmaid’s Tale for the first time and absolutely devouring it. It had me hooked and I was instantly relating it to the “real-world” and how The Handmaid’s Tale could be used as a metaphor for the present day. If you don’t think it has already, I believe The Handmaid’s Tale will join the ranks of the best of dystopian fiction with the likes of 1984 and Brave New World…
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
It must be a couple of years ago since I read this book. I can’t say it was a pleasure to read as the story does focus on the heavy theme of slavery but Colson Whitehead’s writing is fantastic.
“Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. Life is hell for all the slaves, but especially bad for Cora; an outcast even among her fellow Africans, she is coming into womanhood—where even greater pain awaits. When Caesar, a recent arrival from Virginia, tells her about the Underground Railroad, they decide to take a terrifying risk and escape. Matters do not go as planned—Cora kills a young white boy who tries to capture her. Though they manage to find a station and head north, they are being hunted.
In Whitehead’s ingenious conception, the Underground Railroad is no mere metaphor—engineers and conductors operate a secret network of tracks and tunnels beneath the Southern soil. Cora and Caesar’s first stop is South Carolina, in a city that initially seems like a haven. But the city’s placid surface masks an insidious scheme designed for its black denizens. And even worse: Ridgeway, the relentless slave catcher, is close on their heels. Forced to flee again, Cora embarks on a harrowing flight, state by state, seeking true freedom.” (Goodreads)
I think this is an essential book for everyone to read and Colson Whitehead does a great job of bringing history to the now.
Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
I picked this book on a whim a few years ago from my local library. I’d never heard of the book but had vaguely remembered the name of the author from a Booktube video I had watched. I feel like that was one of those moments that were just meant to be, because I ended up absolutely loving this book and taking a lot from it.
“Somewhere in South America, at the home of the country’s vice president, a lavish birthday party is being held in honor of the powerful businessman Mr. Hosokawa. Roxane Coss, opera’s most revered soprano, has mesmerized the international guests with her singing. It is a perfect evening—until a band of gun-wielding terrorists takes the entire party hostage. But what begins as a panicked, life-threatening scenario slowly evolves into something quite different, a moment of great beauty, as terrorists and hostages forge unexpected bonds and people from different continents become compatriots, intimate friends, and lovers.” (Goodreads)
I do tend to enjoy books that take place in one room/one location in a short period of time as this often means there’s a lot of character development and focus (which I personally enjoy in books).
The book is based on real-life historical events. Ann Patchett manages to turn what must have been a horrifying event into something hopeful, mystical, inspirational…
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
I did read this book as a teenager but haven’t re-visited it since. For me, this was a book that I read growing up, I loved it, I took a lot from it and learnt a lot from it, then I felt like I didn’t need it anymore; it had taught me everything it could.
“This haunting novel about the dilemma of passivity vs. passion marks the stunning debut of a provocative new voice in contemporary fiction: The Perks of Being A Wallflower.
This is the story of what it’s like to grow up in high school. More intimate than a diary, Charlie’s letters are singular and unique, hilarious and devastating. We may not know where he lives. We may not know to whom he is writing. All we know is the world he shares. Caught between trying to live his life and trying to run from it puts him on a strange course through uncharted territory. The world of first dates and mixed tapes, family dramas and new friends. The world of sex, drugs, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, when all one requires is that the perfect song on that perfect drive to feel infinite.
Through Charlie, Stephen Chbosky has created a deeply affecting coming-of-age story, a powerful novel that will spirit you back to those wild and poignant roller coaster days known as growing up.” (Goodreads)
I feel like this book has somehwat of a cult following (which may be helped by the success of the film adaptation) but it really is a beautiful book focusing on mental health and coming-of-age. The main character, Charlie, feels like a symbol of adolescence. His character speaks to all those teenagers who feel like they don’t belong, the loneliness you experience growing up, the changes you go through…
Whilst I was doing some research for this blog post, I came across other books that people were saying would definitely become modern classics. People mentioned these books a lot but as I haven’t read them, I didn’t feel comfortable in saying that I thought they would or would not become a classic.
These books were:
Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro (I own this book and hope to read it this month!)
White Teeth by Zadie Smith
The Road by Cormacy McCarthy
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
The Secret History by Donna Tartt
Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
Atonement by Ian McEwan
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
What are your thoughts on my list above? Is there anything you would change/add?
Thanks for reading!
Love, Zoë x