Okay, so I should start out this post saying that this is not a comprehensive list of modern classics I want to read. In fact, I started trying to compile all of them, and it was basically endless. So, with that said, I chose 10 that have been on my list for a while and that I happen to already own. Honestly, it’s a bit random, because I do own more than 10 modern classics I want to read; however, these were the 10 that stood out the most when I thought through them. I hope to create more comprehensive and organized lists going forward, but I wanted to share some of these with everyone now, in hopes that I can get some more great recommendations to add [let me know in comments what you love and think I should read!].
Another Note About “Classics”
I mentioned this in my pre-1900 classics post, but I just want to reiterate here: I’m still not entirely sure who in the big, wide world gets to designate what a “classic” is and why it warrants inclusion on every book index imaginable. I’m using my own limited knowledge to curate my own lists; however, I still want to expand my own knowledge and grow my library as I hear from different people and communities. As always, help me by using the comments to foster conversations about a diverse body of literature and authors that we can all benefit from reading.
In addition, since my last post focused on books published prior to 1900, you might guess this would be post-1900 publications. You would be correct! What I’m calling my “modern classics” [as of right now], are 20th century classics. Down the road, I do hope to create an ongoing 21st century classics list, so be on the look out for that. Now, without further ado, let’s get into the list, which is in no particular order.
The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
A few years ago, I ready Song of Solomon and Beloved by Toni Morrison and loved both. She was such a prolific writer that quickly jumped to the top of my favorites after reading a fraction of her work, and The Bluest Eye has been on my list to read for some time now. Really, all of Toni Morrison’s novels are on this list.
Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
Oh, Holden Caulfield, why have you eluded me so long? Or better yet, why have I avoided you for so long? Salinger’s quintessential work is one that I feel like was an angsty teen rite of passage read that I missed out on. Regardless, perhaps my mid-20s life crisis will appreciate this book?
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
I have read the first chapter of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith at least three times. I just haven’t taken the time to finish it. It’s not that I haven’t enjoyed what I’ve read so far; on the contrary, I have. This book feels like it warrants a particular state of mind that I haven’t quite experienced yet when I’ve picked it up.
East of Eden by John Steinbeck
When I was in high school, I hated Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. I’m convinced I would now have a very different opinion of it, but I despised it then. On the other hand, I loved Of Mice and Men and have since also enjoyed The Moon is Down. I’d like to continue my streak of enjoying Steinbeck with East of Eden (and perhaps even a Grapes of Wrath re-read).
For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway
Much like Steinbeck, I did not enjoy Hemingway in high school. In fact, I hated A Farewell to Arms when I read it in 9th grade, and frankly, Old Man and the Sea didn’t do it for me either. Again, I know I would have a different reaction to reading these now, and perhaps I will. However, a couple years ago, I read The Sun Also Rises and truly loved it, and I’ve since read some more of his short stories that I’ve enjoyed. Giving his best-known work a try is the next *logical* step.
The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende
If you were to see my desk right now, you would see a small stack of books that I have started and never finished [a small faction of the similarly started-but-not-finished books on my shelves]. You would also see The House of Spirits by Isabel Allende in that stack. I was reading this book for a book club [Life’s Library by John Green and Rosianna Halse Rojas] and just… stopped reading it for some reason. It’s very expository, and I think I need to be in a ~whimsical~ mood to pick it back up.
Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann
You know that shelf I mentioned just above, with the started-but-not-finished books on it? Well, Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann graces that shelf with its presence. I don’t really have an excuse for putting this one down other than I just did. I’m still intrigued by it and know it’s one I just need to finish.
Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez is one of those books that I know next to nothing about, but I’m so intrigued by it. If I’m being honest, it’s probably the title that draws me in. Regardless, I saw a copy of this at my local used bookstore and grabbed it immediately, and it’s been sitting on my shelf staring at me ever since.
The Optimist’s Daughter by Eudora Welty
The Optimist’s Daughter by Eudora Welty is another book that I just picked up on a whim at the used bookstore. I know nothing about this title, but I did endure a graduate English class [I was not an English student, just taking a course for fun] where I felt–no, I was–probably the only person who had never read a Welty book. This year, I intend to change that.
The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingslover
Remember when I just said I was the only one in an English class who hadn’t read Welty? Well, insert that feeling here for Kingslover, too. I’d heard of The Poisonwood Bible before and knew generally what it was about, but I had never read it before. Again, I felt left out, so here I am with Kingslover on my list.
Well, that’s it for now. Like I said, there are so, so many more books I could add to this list. At this moment, though, these are the ones calling my name. Please let me know in the comments what books you would add to this list!