Predicting our Modern Classics

by Anne-Charlotte Fabre

We’re dying to know which books of our era will become classic reading one day!

If you have done any level of literary studies, are part of the Book Community, or you just have even the vaguest interest in books, you’ve heard of the classics, and you most likely know them well. From Shakespeare, to Austen, to Hemingway and Fitzgerald, the classics are highly regarded pieces of literature that transcend their time and continue to be relatable and influential today. It’s interesting to think whether people knew those texts would become as important as they are today, and if they did, how could they tell? What books from the 21s century will become classics and be read for centuries onwards? Here’s a small list of our potential modern classics picks!

Normal People by Sally Rooney

Normal People is a ‘either you love it or you hate it’ kind of book, but I loved this, and the reason I think it will become a classic is because of Connell and Marianne’s unconventional relationship. Normal People puts mental illness as a forefront and paints it in a very realistic and honest light without adding a rosy tint over it. For a generation who is very concerned with mental illness and its representation, I think Normal People will become an important text in discussing and normalising mental health struggles. That is not to say that Connell and Marianne’s relationship is to be idolised, rather it’s an example of how two people can help each other even with the world weighing on their backs.

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

A bit of a different one which strays from Coming of Age stories, Never Let Me Go is Ishiguro’s most famous novel and the one that everyone can’t stop going back to. I believe this one will make the classics list because of the themes it touches on: love, life, and death; as well as the controversial opinions and topics it brings to light like eugenics and biopolitics. It’s a book that makes you both think and feel, and that’s exactly what a great piece of literature should do.

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

Arguably one of the most popular books of today, The Song of Achilles encompasses the timelessness of Greek Mythology and the Ancient World, as well as telling a very raw and touching queer love story. Maybe this is a cheat because the Iliad is already a classic piece of literature, but Miller’s refusal to water down Achilles and Patroclus’ love for each other is what gives TSOA a leg-up and makes it all the more poignant! We have yet to see much queer representation in classic literature, so I hope that this one can become one of the front-runners for it.

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

This one might be wishful thinking – I don’t know if it will become a classic, but I certainly think it should for all the discussions that it brings to the table. Little Fires Everywhere touches on issues of family, motherhood, and race with a lot of honesty. None of the characters are that likeable, in my opinion, but they all have very compelling stories and reasons for their actions, and I think this is a book that teaches us to examine every side of a story and person before placing judgement. The central conflict involving the adoption of an abandoned baby and ‘who is her rightful mother’ is especially engaging and I still haven’t quite decided which side I’m on.

The Secret History by Donna Tartt

If you’ve never read anything by Donna Tartt, then you are behind on history because her novels and prose absolutely scream modern classic. For this list I chose The Secret History because it’s the only one that I’ve read in full (The Goldfinch is a chunk!), but I wouldn’t be surprised if all her novels were studied in the future. The Secret History has all the scandal, drama, angst and aesthetics to fit into the world of classic literature, and it would be perfect as it makes brilliant commentary on classics as a whole!

Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo

This is a collection of twelve intertwined short stories about women from all different backgrounds and different times, in which Evaristo talks openly about race issues, sexuality, gender identity, relationships, and various forms of trauma. I loved reading these stories about strong and fierce women and understanding where they come from and why they are the people they have become. It’s a generational story as well, which provides a really unique point of view on the passing down of trauma as well as issues like internalised racism and misogyny.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

To so many, The Perks of Being a Wallflower is already a classic. It’s a YA and Coming of Age staple that you simply cannot miss and it touches on very important themes in very respectful and impactful ways. Charlie’s struggle with teenagehood, high school, and past traumas and mental illness is very relatable and provides visibility for so many young people today. Perks’ message is fundamental and if it isn’t already being studied in schools, it most definitely should be!

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Already a classic of sorts, The Book Thief is one of our time’s most beautiful and moving books with a very original point of view from death during World War 2 Germany! This book is almost 20 years old and I’ve heard about it basically all my life, so it’s very hard to imagine it not becoming a modern classic. It takes the war genre, an already very emotional genre, and somehow manages to generate even more emotional and haunting scenes. Zusak’s prose really is something special and it deserves to live on!

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

Bit of a cheat as I haven’t actually read this one, but based on all the reviews and praise I’ve seen for this book, it deserves to be on this list. Our editor Vic has dubbed Hosseini her new favorite author and has left dazzling reviews for A Thousand Splendid Suns. This one will be one of those classics that force you to think and face the hard truths of the world, much like James Baldwin’s work. It is an important and necessary text about humanity, and it is especially important for people of the Western World to read it. I promise I’ll be picking this up soon, I don’t want to be left behind!

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Another one that I haven’t read (sorry), but again, based on the hype and praise this one is getting, I can’t see why it wouldn’t leave it’s mark on history and go on to become a book people read for years! It might not be the kind of classic you study in school, but it will most definitely become the kind of classic that teenagers will model their whole personalities and aesthetics around in future years!

So these are my picks for the books that I think will someday become classics, fingers crossed I get a few right! Which books do you think will become modern classics one day?

All pictures taken from @sunkissedpages and @readingwithvic on Instagram

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