Books

26 Modern Books That Will Become Classics, According To People On Reddit

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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.

'Maus' by Art Spiegelman

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.

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'Americanah' by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

A story of immigration and identity, of race and of love, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's Americanah has already been nominated as one of America's "best-loved novels" by PBS' The Great American Read. When New York City launched its "One Book, One New York" program last year, Americanah was on the shortlist.

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'Never Let Me Go' by Kazuo Ishiguro

A Nobel Prize is a pretty clear indication of a book's "classics" worthiness, and Never Let Me Go, 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.

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'Persepolis' by Marjane Satrapi

Another graphic novel that made the list, Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis tells the story of growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution as a rebellious, passionate, wry and wholly charming teen.

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'Midnight’s Children' by Salman Rushdie

A story of India told through the lens of one extraordinary boy - born at the stroke of midnight on the day of India's independence, Saleem Sinai is telepathically linked to the other 1,000 children who share his exact birth date and time - Midnight's Children won the "Booker of Bookers" in 1993, awarded to the best of the first 25 years of Man Booker Prize winners. Fifteen years later, it won the same award, again.

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'The Name of the Rose' by Umberto Eco

Umberto Eco's first novel, a detective (sorta) novel set in a Franciscan abbey in 1327, The Name of the Rose won the Premio Strega, Italy's most prestigious literary award, and France's Foreign Medici Award. It was also adapted into a 1986 movie starring Sean Connery. And people love that dude.

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'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.

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'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.

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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.

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'Norwegian Wood' by Haruki Murakami

Fan favorite Haruki Murakami's Norwegian Wood 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.

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'The God of Small Things' by Arundhati Roy

The God of Small Things, 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 New York Times best seller), that it kept fans captivated for literal decades, while Roy worked on her second (and equally fantastic) book.

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'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 The Savage Detectives, often powering through the uncharted area of overlap between literature and violence.

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'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___.

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'Runaway' by Alice Munro

All eight of the stories in Runaway 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.

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'Neuromancer' by William Gibson

Several 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.

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'Underground Railroad' by Colson Whitehead

It’s no wonder that The Underground Railroad 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.

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'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.

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'The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay' by Michael Chabon

Another Pulitzer Prize winner, Michael Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay follows two Jewish cousins who create an anti-fascist superhero in the burgeoning comic book industry of World War II-era America.

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'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.

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'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.

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'Homegoing' by Yaa Gyasi

Another novel that deals with the horrors of the Transatlantic slave trade, Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing 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.

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'The Shipping News' by Annie Proulx

Yet another multi-award-winning novel, Annie Proulx’s The Shipping News centers on a reporter who must start his life over in a new country when he loses nearly everything, all at once.

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'The Secret History' by Donna Tartt

Donna Tartt’s The Secret History 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.

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'The Sparrow' by Mary Doria Russell

Redditor 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.

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'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.

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'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.

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