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!

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4 thoughts on “My Top Ten…Modern Classics (Part II)

  1. You are a genius because ALL these books are absolutely amazing! 🙂 Angela’s Ashes, though, broke my heart while I read it, I remember sobbing like the story would end ME! The only ones I have not read yet, are the Hunger Games series. THANK YOU for NOT including Twilight. Although I enjoyed the series, it was entertaining…not literary genius! lol 😛

    • Hira while I enjoy the Twilight books myself I didn’t want to include them in this list. I tried to think of books that had staying powers for reasons besides everyone being obsessed with vampires. When I look in the long run I didn’t see it having the characteristics to necessarily make it a classic.

      Angela’s Ashes broke my heart too which is why I’m SO glad that I read his second book ‘Tis. Even though that one is rough as well, his life got so much better once in America. If you haven’t read it yet I heartily encourage it!

  2. I’m torn by this list… I know alot of these will go down in history as classics, as they should be, however I have a personal biased on the Dan Brown Robert Langdon books. Those books sparked my interest in reading again and therefore I have to make a case for them. Although technically not a “series” of books like the other collections you’ve mentioned, all of them have caused great debate and controversy in real life due to their very real (but still fictional) connections to actual events. Davinci Code was banned at one point by the Catholic Church because of the subject (that might not be 100% factual, but I remember HUUGE controversy when it came out and jumped to the best-sellers list.) Any fictional novel that causes real people to feel such strong emotions that their protesting it’s legitimacy HAS to be considered a classic.

    I understand the amount of books you had to choose from and only 10 spots to fill, I just feel like Dan Brown’s Robert Langdon books deserves atleast mention in this category. Thoughts?

    • Greg I agree with you that Dan Brown’s books are AWESOME. Yes they cause HUGE controversy whenever a new one is published, but besides that what is their staying power? Yes Langdon is an interesting guy but what makes him as interesting as other famous male “detectives” like Hercule Poirot or Sherlock Holmes? What makes him stand the test of time over Stephen King’s books or Tom Clancy’s?

      Another thing about books that cause controversy – usually it’s because the books are making a social commentary statement. Case in point Huck Finn. The book caused controversy when it was published because it was making statements about the relationship shared between a black man and a white boy.

      While I wish I could add the Brown books to my list, I just couldn’t see what made them special beyond the initial controversy of them. Don’t hate me!

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