This week’s Top 5 Wednesday was a little harder for me. The topic is Future Classics: What books do you think will stand the test of time. It really made me step back and ask myself, “What makes a book a classic?” and “What do classic books have in common?”
Britannica defines “classic literature” as: a term “used for the literature of any language in a period notable for the excellence and enduring quality of its writers’ works.” And while this definition seems to fit it, I don’t think it quite captures the essence of classic literature. They tend to have common themes that remark on the social or political climate at the time, and resonate with readers of not only their time, but with future generations. It can be polarizing. It can be difficult to read. It can break away from standard writing conventions. This is an extremely powerful designation for a book! It almost makes me nervous to even suggest a book for this list. It also makes me blissfully aware of how few “quality” books I read that have a deeper, almost visceral, connection to the current state of the world.
I think it’s also hard to decide on books for this list because there are just so many books out there now. In fact, if you look at the numbers, book publishing is increasing at a near exponential rate and in the United States, this can be largely attributed to self-publishing. In fact, the number of books published per year in the USA over the last 10 years has nearly tripled!! That is soooo many books. As a reader, this is great, but in the long run, how do we sort out and find the long lasting, game changing works?
And with that long-winded introduction, let’s get to the five books I chose. I used a couple of criteria for my decisions. 1) I had to have read the book 2) it had to have been published in 1990 or more recent (that way I couldn’t cheat about which ones might withstand time) and 3) either: I had to feel like it will be read for generations to come or it changed the genre in some fashion
Here we go!
1. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
Or in general the Harry Potter series. I picked this one to top the list because it essentially defined a generation, and anyone who thinks it’s going to go away, ever, is seriously misguided.
2. Life of Pi by Yann Martel
I remember being so entirely shocked by this book. The themes of perspective and emphasis on how everything revolves around storytelling left me nearly breathless by the end. The universal emotional rawness of this one is why I would consider it a future classic.
3. A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin
This is one of the cases where I am putting a book on the list not because I think it is a paradigm of the genre, but more to the fact that it has changed the genre of epic fantasy and marked a shift in the storytelling and world-building away from the more traditional Tolkien-esque style to something more visceral.
4. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami
You were just waiting to see how long it would take to get to Murakami, weren’t you? As his work falls squarely in post-modernism, it easily encompasses many of the characteristics that define classic literature.
5. The Giver by Lois Lowry
Picking a fifth book to add to this list proved quite difficult for me, but I finally settled on The Giver. Even though it is YA, and set in a dystopian future, I feel this one delves deeper in to the human psyche than others. Thinking about it, I feel a re-read is in order in order to fully grasp all the meaning.
Phew! Do you agree? Or have different books you would add to this list? I would love to hear them, and in the meantime am going to go find books that I probably should have been reading that actually mean something.