We’ve all heard of classic literature – the books most of us studied in school, with stories about societies and people very different to the world we live in today, yet full of universal truths.
Modern classics, typically written after WWI, depict our more recent history, one that is much more familiar to most readers. Like the classics, they possess an enduring relevance, often conveying a powerful message about the world we live in, challenging readers to reflect on their own lives, society itself and of course, the more powerful institutions such as church and state.
Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, for example, is a modern classic. Her powerful story, which depicts a totalitarian society in which women are treated as property of the state, shines a light on women’s rights, and the ways in which our so-called ‘progressive’ society is still flawed and can be regressive, especially when corrupted by religious or state dogma.
Books like Atwood’s teach us important life lessons: that literature is and always will be of the utmost importance (The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak), that the decisions we make have repercussions (The Secret History, by Donna Tartt), and that the sustaining power and resilience of the human spirit can achieve extraordinary things (The Power of One, by Bryce Courtenay).
Many of the great modern classics made the Better Reading Top 100 list this year. Take a look at the list below. How many have you read? And are there any modern classics that you think belong on the list?