There are certain books that feel almost inherently "classic."
To Kill A Mockingbird. Catcher in the Rye. Moby Dick. But do you ever wonder what the world thought when these books first hit shelves? There are books on our shelves right now, being placed lovingly on "New Release" tables by booksellers, that will someday be given their own "classic" stamps. What modern books will become literary classics? And why will we designate them as such?
We're not the only ones who wonder about the future of literary acclaim. There's an ongoing debate on the
Reddit Books page about just this. "What are some contemporary literature books (last 20-30 years) that you think may attain 'classic' status decades in the future?" asked user fabrar. "By classic status I mean the reputation that novels like Crime and Punishment, To Kill a Mockingbird, Les Miserables, Moby Dick, Don Quixote, etc. have attained, i.e. Standing the test of time through decades (sometimes centuries) and used as a standard and as a learning tool in educational institutions."
Many users on the site have continued to argue about which works warrant the figurative "classic" stamp of approval. Graphic novels, novels by women, by people of color, books that charted territory through the Holocaust, through India's independence, through the American South, were all mentioned. It's a deeply diverse list, and it illustrated the fact that the future is bright and it is hopeful and it is filled with a host of new stories.
The inclusion of
Maus, a Holocaust survivor story (and winner of a Pulitzer Prize) sparked a debate about the potential of graphic novels within the "classics" canon. Are they considered literature? Will they ever carry enough clout to compete with tomes like Moby Dick? "I would include novels, poems and plays, so why not a graphic novel?" argued user finding_flora. Click here to buy.
'Americanah' by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
'Never Let Me Go' by Kazuo Ishiguro
A Nobel Prize is a pretty clear indication of a book's "classics" worthiness, and
a haunting work of speculative fiction, wins double for tackling questions of morality and memory, and for forcing us to consider the worth of a human body and the ways we commodify them. Never Let Me Go, Click here to buy.
'Persepolis' by Marjane Satrapi
'Midnight’s Children' by Salman Rushdie
'The Name of the Rose' by Umberto Eco
'White Teeth' by Zadie Smith
Zadie Smith's debut novel introduced the world to Smith's panoramic, multi-layered style, and to an England barreling towards the future in a post-World War II world. It's also on the PBS' The Great American Read nominee list . Click here to buy.
'Sing, Unburied, Sing' by Jesmyn Ward
Winner of the National Book Award, finalist for the Kirkus Prize, finalist for the Andrew Carnegie Medal and a
New York Times Top 10 Best Book of the Year, Jesmyn Ward's latest novel, Sing, Unburied, Sing, which traces a family's saga throughout rural Mississippi, has already racked up a serious resume since its 2017 publication. Click here to buy.
Elena Ferrante's Neapolitan Novels
If you haven't read any of
Elena Ferrante's Neapolitan novels, which chart the fierce female friendship that burns brights in a post-WWII Italy, then you better get to reading - the series is set to be adapted for an HBO series, debuting this upcoming fall. Click here to buy.
'Norwegian Wood' by Haruki Murakami
Haruki Murakami's first hit shelves in Japan, where it sold over four million copies before being translated for an American audience. First love and first moments of hopelessness intersect in this coming-of-age novel. Norwegian Wood Click here to buy.
'The God of Small Things' by Arundhati Roy
Arundhati Roy's debut novel about an affluent Indian family, was so affecting, so searing (it did, after all, win the Man Booker Prize and was a The God of Small Things, New York Times best seller), that it kept fans captivated for literal decades, while Roy worked on her second (and equally fantastic) book. Click here to buy.
'The Savage Detectives' by Roberto Bolaño
Arturo Belano and Ulises Lima, founders of a fringe literary movement, embark on a decades-long, Don Quixote-esque adventure in
often powering through the uncharted area of overlap between literature and violence. The Savage Detectives, Click here to buy.
'Fun Home' by Alison Bechdel
Queer writer and artist Alison Bechdel’s graphic memoir about growing up with her father — a closeted gay man — in their family mortuary is a modern-day classic headed for longterm fame, according to redditor
pp___. Click here to buy.
All eight of the stories in
deal with complicated partnerships. Alice Munro’s award-winning collection of short fiction contains eight stories, three of which follow the same character through her complex personal relationships. Runaway Click here to buy.
'Neuromancer' by William Gibson
redditors took the opportunity to talk about William Gibson’s seminal work of cyberpunk fiction. Neuromancer follows “console cowboy” Henry Case and “street samurai” Molly Millions as they team up to work for Armitage, an underhanded ex-military man, in the near future. Click here to buy.
'Underground Railroad' by Colson Whitehead
It’s no wonder that
came up in the r/Books subreddit discussion. Colson Whitehead’s 2016 speculative novel about a formerly enslaved woman trying to gain her freedom won the Pulitzer Prize, National Book Award, and Arthur C. Clarke Award, among other honors. The Underground Railroad Click here to buy.
'The Sympathizer' by Viet Thanh Nguyen
Viet Thanh Nguyen’s
Pulitzer Prize-winning debut novel centers on a Viet Cong agent working undercover in South Vietnam in 1975. Sent to live in the U.S. — where he himself once attended school — with a number of South Vietnamese soldiers, the protagonist confronts the duality of his existence. Click here to buy.
'The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay' by Michael Chabon
'Interpreter of Maladies' by Jhumpa Lahiri
Jhumpa Lahiri’s Pulitzer Prize-winning short-story collection,
Interpreter of Maladies, was a favorite of redditor IndifferentTalker. The stories in this collection all concern members of the Indian diaspora straddling two cultures and sets of values. Click here to buy.
'Beloved' by Toni Morrison
From the late, great Toni Morrison comes this selection from redditor
Schezzi, who worried that the book’s age would disqualify it from being a “‘modern-day” classic. Beloved centers on Sethe, a formerly enslaved woman whose house is haunted by the spirit of her deceased daughter — a child she killed to spare her the trauma of enslavement. Click here to buy.
Another novel that deals with the horrors of the Transatlantic slave trade, Yaa Gyasi’s
traces the descendents of two sisters — one enslaved, the other the wife of a slave trader — from colonial Africa to the modern-day U.S. Homegoing Click here to buy.
'The Shipping News' by Annie Proulx
Yet another multi-award-winning novel, Annie Proulx’s
centers on a reporter who must start his life over in a new country when he loses nearly everything, all at once. The Shipping News Click here to buy.
'The Secret History' by Donna Tartt
follows a close-knit group of classics students living at an elite New England university — one of whom is murdered by another member of the circle. The Secret History Click here to buy.
'The Sparrow' by Mary Doria Russell
Kinoppio nominated this novel, which follows a Jesuit priest chosen for a linguistic mission to make first contact with an alien race. Mary Doria Russell’s The Sparrow is unlike anything you’ve read before. Click here to buy.
'We Need to Talk About Kevin' by Lionel Shriver
A woman reckons with her son’s deadly legacy in this Orange Prize-winning epistolary novel from Lionel Shriver. Redditor
WarpedLucy put this one on browsers’ radars, and, in a world beset by violence, this recommendation couldn’t be more timely. Click here to buy.
'A Visit from the Goon Squad' by Jennifer Egan
This 2011 novel-in-stories was another top choice for
WarpedLucy. Manhattan Beach author Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad contains 13 stories, each of which may be read as a standalone tale, but which come together to form a larger whole. Click here to buy.