Classics Week 4: Modern Classics

As promised in Classics Week 1, here is a post about Modern Classics.

What makes a book a Modern Classic?

In this week’s first post, I defined Modern Classics as books written after WWII. What a crappy definition that was!

The term Modern Classics is still quite a subjective one; some people might consider books to be Modern Classics that other do not. Because most of these books have only been published for a few decades, they haven’t had time to make a permanent mark on the literary canon. You can find lists of Modern Classics on Goodreads based on readers’ classifications but I don’t think it’s the most authoritative source out there.

To me, what makes a Modern Classic is a book that has touched you, influenced who you’ve become and one that you think about regularly. I know this probably sounds really cheesy but I’m French so cheese is my specialty (I apologise for this horrible joke).

I also believe that for a book to be a Modern Classic, it has to have impacted a large amount of people and continue to do so today.

Apart from that, I don’t have much more insight into the question:

What makes a book a Modern Classic for YOU?

Some of my favourite Modern Classics

I’ve already mentioned a few of my favourite Modern Classics in the first post in this series as well as in many other in this blog. However, there can never be too many recommendation so here are five (six because I cheated a bit) books that I consider to be Modern Classics.

  • The Giver – Lois Lowry 

This novel is as old as me. Published in 1993, it tells the story of Jonas, a young boy who lives in a dystopian society where pain has been eradicated and replaced by ‘Sameness’. Jonas is chosen as the future Receiver of Memory and will therefore be the only one aware of how the world was before the adoption of ‘Sameness’.

I read this book when I was around 12 so around Jonas’ age in the story and I couldn’t help but relate to this character. The overall message of this novel is one that still resonates with me today; that pain is necessary to joy and that you can’t hide your feelings away. It’s alright to be sad sometimes and it’s alright to be happy as well but you can’t expect to be happy all the time. Sadness is part of life and you have to accept it.

I often draw the parallel between this novel and the taboo surrounding mental illness. I went through a pretty rough depression after my first year of university and I really wanted to feel normal. However, I soon realised that although feeling depressed is most definitely the hardest thing I’ve ever had to go through, I now appreciate happiness that much more. (Side note: I am not trying to romanticise depression. It sucks really bad. If you’re feeling depressed, please seek help.)

A movie adaptation for The Giver came out not long ago I believe and I’ll definitely be checking it out.

  • The Little Prince (Le Petit Prince) – Antoine de St Exupery

Published in 1943, this French novella is, to put it simply, a masterpiece. It tells the story of a young alien prince who has fallen on Earth. He sees the world with new and innocent eyes and is able to perceive the beauty in the simplest things as well as the absurdities of adults.

I read this book a couple of times and loved it. It’s a sweet tale as well as an enlightening one. This child discovering what adults are like has shaped the way I viewed my transition into adulthood. I believe it is important to retain our childhood vision of life in order not to take things too seriously and appreciate the little moments. Reading this novella will remind you what is essential in life.

This post is getting all kind of cheesy. I’m sorry.

  • The Catcher in the Rye – J.D. Salinger

The Catcher in the Rye, published in 1951, is one of these books that is already an established Modern Classics. It tells the story of Holden Caufield, a troubled teenager struggling to fit in. He leaves school and travels to New York where, for 3 days, he is left to live crazy and inappropriate experiences.

I read this novel just after J.D. Salinger’s death and I fell in love with it, not with Holden Caufield that’s for sure but with his struggles. Although my experience of being a teenager is very different from his, I couldn’t help but relate to his search for identity and a place to belong to. Although I’ve heard many people describing Holden as annoying, I couldn’t help feeling sorry for him and I sometimes wished I could have been a little wilder myself.

I also found the allusion to mental illness at the end of the novel interesting although I would have liked to see it extended further.

  • The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings – J.R.R. Tolkien

So this is where I cheated. I’ve mentioned it many times before but I’m a big Tolkien’s fan. His books are pure genius and I just can’t seem to get enough. His works have turned so many people into fantasy, myself included, and I wouldn’t go back for the world (even if that world was Middle Earth). 

Tolkien’s first fantasy story has just been published and I can’t wait to get my hands (and eyes) on it. Also, I really feel like a Lord of The Rings movie marathon (extended version obviously) so this might have to happen this week-end.

  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl

And the final book in this list and probably one of my favourite books of all time is Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl. I can remember the first time I read this story I was completely amazed by it. I was probably 7 at the time so I had only been reading for two years by then but I just couldn’t put this book down. The story grabbed my attention right away and never let go. Although it’s at times very dark, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is the perfect children book: it’s quirky, it has a great message and there are lots of candies in it. I wouldn’t mind reading it as an adult either.

Bro tip: Do not watch the most recent movie version if you are trying to loose weight; you’ll have failed by the end of the opening credits!

See you tomorrow for the last Classics Week post!




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