Top Ten Tuesday is an original weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish. I thought this would be a fun way to share a condensed version of potential rambles and thoughts that I have.
This Week’s Theme:
Top Ten Classic Books To Be
Don’t put this letter down.
I’m writing this in 2114. I hope you’re one of the Readers. I don’t know how this found you but enclosed is a list of books that should help in a time of need. I haven’t read any of them but I’m told the text will bend your mind, sharpen your thoughts, and encourage a dialogue that spans a lifetime.
I’ve changed the time-stamp on this letter to 2014. It should give you some time–but hurry, they’re looking for them too. Things have changed since 2000. They started by banning books. Then they removed the previous generation of classics—no one today has heard of Orwell, Austen, or Salinger (actually, I might be glad that Holden may be gone for good). But change is here again. I can’t tell you if they’ve uncovered these titles yet. Without certainty, you have all the time to find them…these stories. All I can say is to keep looking forward, and maybe one day that irrevocable truth will exist in the slightest. Trust in the possibility even if you’re skeptical as hell.
You’ll understand when they’re found.
Kafka on the Shore – Haruki Murakami
Kafka on the Shore, a tour de force of metaphysical reality, is powered by two remarkable characters: a teenage boy, Kafka Tamura, who runs away from home either to escape a gruesome oedipal prophecy or to search for his long-missing mother and sister; and an aging simpleton called Nakata, who never recovered from a wartime affliction and now is drawn toward Kafka for reasons that, like the most basic activities of daily life, he cannot fathom. Their odyssey, as mysterious to them as it is to us, is enriched throughout by vivid accomplices and mesmerizing events. Cats and people carry on conversations, a ghostlike pimp employs a Hegel-quoting prostitute, a forest harbors soldiers apparently unaged since World War II, and rainstorms of fish (and worse) fall from the sky. There is a brutal murder, with the identity of both victim and perpetrator a riddle – yet this, along with everything else, is eventually answered, just as the entwined destinies of Kafka and Nakata are gradually revealed, with one escaping his fate entirely and the other given a fresh start on his own.
The Road – Cormac McCarthy
A father and his son walk alone through burned America. Nothing moves in the ravaged landscape save the ash on the wind. It is cold enough to crack stones, and when the snow falls it is gray. The sky is dark. Their destination is the coast, although they don’t know what, if anything, awaits them there. They have nothing; just a pistol to defend themselves against the lawless bands that stalk the road, the clothes they are wearing, a cart of scavenged food—and each other.
Indian Horse – Richard Wagamese
Saul Indian Horse has hit bottom. His last binge almost killed him, and now he’s a reluctant resident in a treatment centre for alcoholics, surrounded by people he’s sure will never understand him. But Saul wants peace, and he grudgingly comes to see that he’ll find it only through telling his story. With him, readers embark on a journey back through the life he’s led as a northern Ojibway, with all its joys and sorrows.
With compassion and insight, author Richard Wagamese traces through his fictional characters the decline of a culture and a cultural way. For Saul, taken forcibly from the land and his family when he’s sent to residential school, salvation comes for a while through his incredible gifts as a hockey player. But in the harsh realities of 1960s Canada, he battles obdurate racism and the spirit-destroying effects of cultural alienation and displacement.
Looking for Alaska – John Green
Before. Miles “Pudge” Halter’s whole existence has been one big nonevent, and his obsession with famous last words has only made him crave the “Great Perhaps” (François Rabelais, poet) even more. He heads off to the sometimes crazy, possibly unstable, and anything-but-boring world of Culver Creek Boarding School, and his life becomes the opposite of safe. Because down the hall is Alaska Young. The gorgeous, clever, funny, sexy, self-destructive, screwed-up, and utterly fascinating Alaska Young, who is an event unto herself. She pulls Pudge into her world, launches him into the Great Perhaps, and steals his heart.
After. Nothing is ever the same.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane – Neil Gaiman
Sussex, England. A middle-aged man returns to his childhood home to attend a funeral. Although the house he lived in is long gone, he is drawn to the farm at the end of the road, where, when he was seven, he encountered a most remarkable girl, Lettie Hempstock, and her mother and grandmother. He hasn’t thought of Lettie in decades, and yet as he sits by the pond (a pond that she’d claimed was an ocean) behind the ramshackle old farmhouse, the unremembered past comes flooding back. And it is a past too strange, too frightening, too dangerous to have happened to anyone, let alone a small boy.
Forty years earlier, a man committed suicide in a stolen car at this farm at the end of the road. Like a fuse on a firework, his death lit a touchpaper and resonated in unimaginable ways. The darkness was unleashed, something scary and thoroughly incomprehensible to a little boy. And Lettie—magical, comforting, wise beyond her years—promised to protect him, no matter what.
Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon
Barcelona, 1945: A city slowly heals in the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War, and Daniel, an antiquarian book dealer’s son who mourns the loss of his mother, finds solace in a mysterious book entitled The Shadow of the Wind, by one Julián Carax. But when he sets out to find the author’s other works, he makes a shocking discovery: someone has been systematically destroying every copy of every book Carax has written. In fact, Daniel may have the last of Carax’s books in existence. Soon Daniel’s seemingly innocent quest opens a door into one of Barcelona’s darkest secrets–an epic story of murder, madness, and doomed love.
Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood – Marjane Satrapi
Persepolis is Marjane Satrapi’s memoir of growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution. In powerful black-and-white comic strip images, Satrapi tells the story of her life in Tehran from ages six to fourteen, years that saw the overthrow of the Shah’s regime, the triumph of the Islamic Revolution, and the devastating effects of war with Iraq. The intelligent and outspoken only child of committed Marxists and the great-granddaughter of one of Iran’s last emperors, Marjane bears witness to a childhood uniquely entwined with the history of her country.
A Monster Calls – Patrick Ness
The monster showed up after midnight. As they do.
But it isn’t the monster Conor’s been expecting. He’s been expecting the one from his nightmare, the one he’s had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments, the one with the darkness and the wind and the screaming…
This monster is something different, though. Something ancient, something wild. And it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor.
It wants the truth.
The Book Thief – Markus Zusak
It’s just a small story really, about, among other things, a girl, some words, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist-fighter, and quite a lot of thievery.
Set during World War II in Germany, Markus Zusak’s groundbreaking new novel is the story of Liesel Meminger, a foster girl living outside of Munich. Liesel scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist: books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids – as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement before he is marched to Dachau.
The Help – Kathryn Stockett
Twenty-two-year-old Skeeter has just returned home after graduating from Ole Miss. She may have a degree, but it is 1962, Mississippi, and her mother will not be happy till Skeeter has a ring on her finger. Skeeter would normally find solace with her beloved maid Constantine, the woman who raised her, but Constantine has disappeared and no one will tell Skeeter where she has gone.
Aibileen is a black maid, a wise, regal woman raising her seventeenth white child. Something has shifted inside her after the loss of her own son, who died while his bosses looked the other way. She is devoted to the little girl she looks after, though she knows both their hearts may be broken.
Minny, Aibileen’s best friend, is short, fat, and perhaps the sassiest woman in Mississippi. She can cook like nobody’s business, but she can’t mind her tongue, so she’s lost yet another job. Minny finally finds a position working for someone too new to town to know her reputation. But her new boss has secrets of her own.
Seemingly as different from one another as can be, these women will nonetheless come together for a clandestine project that will put them all at risk. And why? Because they are suffocating within the lines that define their town and their times. And sometimes lines are made to be crossed.
The Time Traveler’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger
Audrey Niffenegger’s dazzling debut is the story of Clare, a beautiful, strong-minded art student, and Henry, an adventuresome librarian, who have known each other since Clare was six and Henry was thirty-six, and were married when Clare was twenty-three and Henry thirty-one. Impossible but true, because Henry is one of the first people diagnosed with Chrono-Displacement Disorder: his genetic clock randomly resets and he finds himself misplaced in time, pulled to moments of emotional gravity from his life, past and future. His disappearances are spontaneous and unpredictable, and lend a spectacular urgency to Clare and Henry’s unconventional love story. That their attempt to live normal lives together is threatened by something they can neither prevent nor control makes their story intensely moving and entirely unforgettable.
The Name of the Wind – Patrick Rothfuss
Told in Kvothe’s own voice, this is the tale of the magically gifted young man who grows to be the most notorious wizard his world has ever seen. The intimate narrative of his childhood in a troupe of traveling players, his years spent as a near-feral orphan in a crime-ridden city, his daringly brazen yet successful bid to enter a legendary school of magic, and his life as a fugitive after the murder of a king form a gripping coming-of-age story unrivaled in recent literature. A high-action story written with a poet’s hand, The Name of the Wind is a masterpiece that will transport readers into the body and mind of a wizard.
Classics are time-tested; the value in their stories held up against the wear and tear and continual changes of differing schools of thought in varying socio-economic, political, and cultural arenas. The novelty of any book imprinted on our paths, much like any ecological footprint, is much more than the meaning they hold but in the unique impact created by ordinary perspectives creating tangents in an extraordinary world.
The above selections weren’t meticulously picked by any means. I’m using this post as an avenue to encourage the expansion of all of your libraries and TBRs. I tried to hit on as many cross genres as I could to ensure something for everyone. As suggested in the narrative, I haven’t read these novels but have seen enough positive comments to make a rational judgment (with help from my friend Savindi) to include them into this list.
Do you have any books, published post-2000 that could stand up as classics in a hundred years time—when, ceteris paribus to this narrative–everything pre-2000 has gone to shit and change is happening left right and center?
And as always, I do that hope you enjoyed this read.
25 thoughts on “[Top Ten Tuesday] – #25 – Top Ten Classic Books To Be”
Great post~ From my shelves, I would consider Please Look After Mom by Kyung-Sook Shin to have potential as a classic. Also, Peter and the Starcatcher series for young readers. Nice twist on this meme!
You know me with these topics, always gotta unnecessarily change it up!
Please Look After Mom sounds like a korean drama I’ve seen before (or maybe another english lit that I’ve read before). Derp. Either way, the plot sounds pretty heartfelt and poignant–definitely characteristics of what could make a classic!
It would have been great if you included Harry Potter on your list. I didn’t like The Time Traveler’s Wife much but I have read great things about it, so maybe it could be a classic but I’m not sure. 🙂
my top ten tuesday: http://wp.me/3v5T1
I did think about including Harry Potter! I’m not going to say that it wouldn’t have qualified, but in my mind, I was gearing the choices more toward the standalones (for the most part, at least) as opposed to series simply based on its finality of messages needed pertaining to the spin on my theme.
I mean, I’d be more than happy to hear that HP is a book that you’d think will continue to be making rounds until year 2100 onward but I think with the content spanning 3~4k pages, it would be difficult to select only a few books in the series that sold and truly represented the entirety. Granted that selection be made under the constraints of post 2000, as per in my post, and therefore books 1-3 couldn’t qualify.
I do hope that makes sense!
I love this take on the original prompt – it is definitely interesting to consider which of today’s novels could stand the test of time. I haven’t read all of the books on your list, but I would agree that The Book Thief (haven’t read), The Shadow of the Wind (haven’t read), The Ocean at the End of the Lane (have read), and A Monster Calls (have read) could stand the test of time. Some other books that feel like potential future classics to me (though I haven’t read them yet) are American Gods by Neil Gaiman, Buck by MK Asante, The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker, and The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch. I’m not sure that I could explain why.
Here’s the thing: I was definitely fumbling around between American Gods, Ocean ATEOTL, and Graveyard as a potential Gaiman choice…because let’s be honest, I’m sure you can’t go wrong with anything he’s written (for the most part at least). So you could be absolutely correct in saying that American Gods > Ocean in the future!
Ohhh, I’ve heard wonderful things from Golem and the Jinni as well. Definitely a read I need to consider moving up the TBR eventually.
I’m sure we’ll never know what will truly become a classic in the future. I mean if you look at the early 90’s, the best sellers during that time aren’t even so much relevant (as far as “classic…classics” go at least).
Stop making me cry! You’ve got some of my most tear-inducing books on your list. Great twist on the topic! I love The Road, The Time Travelers Wife, Persepolis… and A Monster Calls just kills me. Sniff.
Books that elicit that kind of response should definitely be a criteria for classics (because let’s be honest, it’s more than just words and text).I hope I don’t turn into a ball of emotions when I dive into some of these in the future!
I totally forgot about The Help! It’s such an important book that touches on so many issues many books shy away from. I think it will be around for years to come.
Oh for sure. Considering that I find that many of the issues The Help delves into is still (unfortunately) relevant in other parts of the world despite adhering to differing cultures and circumstances…it’s definitely a novel that can speak to the masses in times to come.
Definitely! The book almost has a timeless feel to it; in content and in characters.
A really nice and innovative take on the topic indeed 🙂 Sadly, I haven’t read any of these yet but hope to soon !
Thanks, your words are too kind! I hope you do get a chance to discover some of these reads and maybe you’ll agree/disagree with me on whether or not the power, frit, and substance in each novel will hold up in years to come (or 100 years, for that matter).
Lots of books that I do think are destined to be classics. Always happy to see The Help on lists. I do think that book will be a classic in years to come!
“What books will become a classic in years to come” is definitely a difficult question to answer indeed! I think if you look back 100 years to what was popular in sales, many of them aren’t extremely relevant today. The issues in The Help is definitely something that I can still see (unfortunately) taking place in years to come…let alone a hundred years. It’s unfortunate but I’d say history might speak for itself!
For me,a classic is a book whose writing style and/or plot leaves no clue as to the time it was written; we’ve noted this with timeless masterpieces like The Great Gatsby,Anna Karenina,Lord of the Flies,etc
I think all winners and most nominees of prestigious literary awards will be classics in some years to come.Take Never Let Me Go,God of Small Things,or The Luminaries,for example! They are little gems that stand out from the common and commercial works and which,conveniently,will be regarded as the best books of their century.
That’s a great interpretive criteria towards what a classic could be!
Your comment is making me tangent to consider that fact that while nominees andwinners are great and all, it is pretty disheartening that one’s lifes work may not even be relevant in a few several years time. And while such is life, that kind of sucks 😦
I love how eclectic this list is, and you’ve made some great choices, especially Murakami, Ness, and McCarthy. I’m very curious to see what stands the test of time, especially from the last 20 years, as publishing changes and as readers change.
That was definitely the perspective I took to making this list; to diversify what we’ve historically seen as “classics” and broadening that term given our progression as humanity, interests, etc.
I find that the only surefire unfortunate truth in today’s society is that the injection of money to add value to a franchise is an unfortunate thing that may ruin what’s actually potentially literary genius and what’s just superficially a money grab.
YES, YES, YES to The Ocean at the End of the Lane, The Book Thief and John Green!
I’ve only read a few Neil Gaiman novels, but each one is unique, imaginative and inspiring. Somehow his writing transports me back to my childhood and I feel like I’m living in his fantasy world. Truly amazing.
The Book Thief shows a different perspective of WWII, which is incredibly moving. The writing and presentation of the story completely stands alone, and I can easily see it being substituted for other middle grade or high school novels of the same subject matter.
John Green. He’s something special, too. I’ve only read The Fault in our Stars, but I was blown away by his ease of writing, character development and witty dialogue. I’m hoping to read a few of his other novels later this year!
It was pretty difficult to decide on which one of Gaiman’s books could make it (even though i’m pretty sure most of them could make classics in their own way) so I pretty much just blindly picked one (or maybe I just went with it cause it was the most recently published).
That’s an interesting comment you make about the potential for The Book Thief to be used as a learning module. I remember being taught (or maybe it was just supplementary to the unit) about Schindler’s List…so to see another variant to the same picture (I think at least–I’m terrible with world history) is definitely a possibility.
I definitely keep seeing all the rabid fans saying Green’s work to be grand and stuff but I’m just not yet convinced or am interested by each of his books. But hey, the mass of fans is undeniable in pushing the novels to literary (and potential future classical) stardom.
Really interesting idea! ‘Fire Eaters’ by David Almond(2003) is a notable shout. Centres on a boy caught between tradtion and modernity in Newcastle Englan in the backdrop of the Cuban Missile Crisis. It’s very good and will stand the test of time me thinks.
Great to hear your thoughts on what could become a classic. That novel definitely sounds like it speaks to the juxtaposition between fear and hope and could very well be something that readers may need in the future!
Great list, I really want to read The Help AND The Time Travellers Wife AND The Book Thief AND Looking for Alaska! Thing is, I have them all, have had them for a while, I just haven’t gotten round to reading them yet! 😦
Read ALL the books! I’m sure you’ll find time eventually or you could definitely force yourself to read them (well, not really force) but encourage yourself to do so through monthly reading themes or what have you–although I’d find that impossible…it could work for you!