My Top Ten…Modern Classics (Part II)

As promised yesterday, here is the second half of my top ten books that will become (I hope) modern classics!

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5.) A Separate Peace by John Knowles (Published in 1959)

While on the surface this story seems like just a coming of age tale, it’s actually much  more.  A Separate Peace is credited with helping further the naturalism literary movement, which basically stated that one’s environment, family, and social conditions all come into play in shaping who you are and what you do.  The main character of the novel, Gene, treads down an enormous introspective path of trying to figure out who he is and why he’s led the life he has.  The story is told via flashback as he dwells on events from his teen years at Devon, a prep school.   The story seems to be solely a journey of self discovery, yet deep within the writing are thoughts on war and youth.

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4.) The Hunger Games Series by Suzanne Collins (Published in 2008-2010)

I’ve only recently read these books (literally I just read them over the course of 24hrs this past weekend) but I’m still reeling from their amazing-ness.  The three books in the series are PACKED with heavy themes that while directed at teens, sure do hit at home.  The ideas of governmental control, survival of the fittest, independence, unrequited love, power, sacrifice, interdependence, etc are all present here.  It’s stunning how much is jam-packed into these three novels without seeming overwhelming.  The plot is incredibly gripping, due in large part to the hauntingly realistic and relatable characters.  As we watch our own country fight multiple wars and deal with political infighting, this series hits close to home.

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 3.) The Road by Cormac McCarthy (Published in 2006)

It seems like the most simplistic plot: a man and his son walking down a road in a post-apocalyptic world.  However, it’s much deeper than that.  The Road is truly a character driven novel, with little detail and no tangents to get in the way.  It is a story about relationships: with family, with emotion, with strangers, with our environment, and with ourselves.  McCarthy creates a frightening land where cannibalism is commonplace and hope is scarce, yet the man and his son persevere.  The themes of survivorship and family shine throughout, and the reader is given new hope for a better tomorrow despite the despair of the present.

2.) Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt (Published in 1996)Cover Image 

Frank McCourt’s autobiographical memoir is a rough read in terms of subject matter, but is written so beautifully and elegantly that you look past all the depressing pieces and just see hope.  Telling the story of his childhood in Limerick, Ireland, McCourt sadly but humorously covers every detail of the poor streets of Limerick, from the row of dilapidated houses that he and his siblings were forced to live in, to the various odd jobs he took to earn money for his mother.  This book will always be relevent because even though McCourt and his family faced hardship after hardship, he never lost sight of his hopes and dreams, making this a must-read for adolescents of today and in the future.

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1.) Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe (Published in 1958)

This novel easily makes it into the top five books I’ve ever read.  Set in Africa during times of colonization and religious missionary influence, a local village leader named Okonkwo experiences a fall from power as he refuses to accept any of the influence of the colonials.  An important lesson I learned from this novel is one of perspective.  Just because one thinks what he/she is doing is correct doesn’t always correlate to what is correct for the other party.  This also plays into the theme of the power of change.  Change for the sake of change isn’t always good, and change for the sake of one set of ideals to match your own is often narrow-minded and intractable.  There is a reason why the world is full of individuals with different ideas, personalities, and beliefs.  It is when we begin changing this to make everyone the same that we become some form of a real life dystopian society.

Well readers, what are your thoughts?  What books do you think I’ve missed??  Let me know in the comments below!  Until next time…happy reading!

My Top Ten…Modern Classics (Part I)

I was having a conversation with Todd and Adam the other day about books published in the last 50 years and which ones might be considered classics in 50 years.  Before I go into which books I chose I first had to think about what makes a classic a classic:

  • The ability to draw people in whether through the story or characters.  Classics are classics because we reread them over and over again.  Take Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice, To Kill A Mockingbird, etc; we re-read them continuously even though we know the outcome.
  • Teaching a lesson about life or society.  If a book can teach us a lesson and we learn from it, then that book and lesson will stick with us forever.
  • Relevance in changing times.  A classic is always relevent, despite changing social mores, technology advances, and even changes in language.  A classic continues to tell universal tales and life lessons that always hold true, no matter the circumstances.

Keeping some of those things in mind, here are the top ten books I think will become modern classics

 
Cover Image10.) Cat on a Hot Tin Roof by Tennessee Williams (Published in 1955)

Williams offers the reader of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof tons in terms of themes and lessons to be learned.  He shows what greed and secrets can do to a family that has no trust in each other.  The play is filled with the theme of nihilism and mendacity, questioning whether or not life really does have meaning, and if it does have meaning what is it?  One of the main characters in the play, Big Daddy, is the representation of all of these themes and one more, that of facing death.  The dialogue and events make you really question what life is all about and how we should spend the time we’ve been given.  The above barely touches on the themes, motifs, and symbolism in the play.  It’s a play I’ve read over and over and over and one that I definitely see as a contender for being a modern classic.

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9.) Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons (Published 1986-1987)

Surprised to see a graphic novel on the list?  Don’t be.  A lot of people think that graphic novels have nothing to offer due to small dialogue boxes and lots of illustrations, they’re wrong. Taking place during a time period spanning the 1940’s through the 1960’s, Watchmen offers us a glimpse into an alternate universe, one where superheros help us win wars, develop high-tech science experiments, and help keep the general peace.  The graphic novel has a lot of complex ideas about the deconstruction of the superhero and the existentialist movement.  It attacks the notion of putting all our faith in people we believe are going to save us, without knowing who they really are or what they are really capable of.  It attacks the notion of superheros and why we’re so enthralled by them. 
 
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8.) Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote (Published in 1958)

 
Capote totally changed the world for women with his explosive novella about a woman who was an upscale classy prostitute.  Holly Golightly forever changed how women were looked at and what they were capable.  This novella shows that women could be just as free as men were sexually and that in some cases it actually empowered them.  It also showcased women’s independence from men.  They could have parties, male friends, drink, smoke, and have sex.  Gone was the idea of the stereotypical 1950’s housewife that greeted her husband at the door with a kiss and a cocktail.  Golightly was the epitome of what every women felt she COULD be.  With Capote’s help women everywhere were liberated and on came the sexual revolution of the 1960’s. 
 
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7.) The Harry Potter Series by J.K Rowling (Published in 1997-2007)

 
What can I say about a book that inspired thousands of new readers across the globe?  J. K. Rowling’s story of a young boy who suddenly finds himself in the middle of a magical world in which he is a celebrity.  This boy, Harry Potter, lives in a world that is endless: full of dragons, spells, mystery, and the epic battle between good and evil.  Imagination has no limit, as this work showed everyone around the world that they could escape their own worlds if just for a few hours as they explored Hogwarts and lived vicariously through Harry as he soared through the air on his broomstick.  Rowling’s work is so universal and its themes are so basic at the core of her writing that it truly can be applied to and understood by all.  The spark and uptick in reading that this book created is testament to its status as a stalwart classic novels that will stand the test of time.
 
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6.) Night by Elie Wiesel (Published in 1960)

 
Although the horrors of the Holocaust are now widely known and reflected on in modern media, Wiesel’s gritty retelling of the grueling abuses he endured as a prisoner of Auschwitz and Buchenwald concentration camps was an initial raw and clear look into the horrors of that time.  He is angry, hopeless, insightful, introverted, caring, and many other emotions as he struggles to survive physically and mentally in his tormented state.  Night is written simplistically, with little allegory or metaphor.  The reader simply draws conclusions from Wiesel’s writing, and in its stark state it tells a powerful story of the struggle of the human will to live and overcome obstacles.  Changing the way we learned about the Holocaust, Night paved the way for an outpouring of emotion that had remained unseen as the world struggled to right itself after the horrors Hitler performed.  Not just dry facts in a history book, Wiesel made the pain real because of his memoir.  Like Anne Frank, one could now associate a names and faces with the destruction of the Holocaust.  His work will always be remembered for making the Holocaust personable.
 
Join me tomorrow for my top five choices!!  Until then share your comments below and happy reading!!