Top 5 Modern Classics

Oh, boy. If you remember my blog post a few weeks ago, about those things that irk me about book tags, it’s that I hate it when people refer to something as a “modern classic.” Unfortunately for me, Shanah @ Bionic Book Worm has decided to make this the first Top 5 Tuesday tag for September, so I have to put my bias aside for a little while and figure out which books I would want to teach in a classroom someday in place of something like Pride & Prejudice or 1984.

All of these books have been published in the past 15 years, save one, because I figured that’s a nice, round figure for publication that most anyone could agree is in the “modern” era. (As for the one that’s not…well, you’ll see when you get there.) It was actually really difficult to pick books in this time frame, because a lot of books I enjoy are already considered “modern classics,” just because they were written after 1950 (which I guess is considered the “modern” era?). I know To Kill A Mockingbird is somehow considered a modern classic, even though you can read my thoughts on that book here.

Without further ado, here are my top 5 don’t miss books of the 21st century.

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The Book Thief – 2006

Was there ever any doubt for this one? I had to read it twice in high school (once for a creative writing class, and once for an English class), and I fell in love with it the moment I opened it. I even used the prologue as the basis for a soliloquy I did in my theatre class!

I believe this will one day be called a classic for one reason: it humanizes everything. We get to see both sides of the war, mostly from Death’s perspective, but we get a story that’s not explicitly focused on one thing or another. We get to see Liesel grow up, from the scared little girl who wets the bed and begs Hans to read The Gravedigger’s Handbook to a young woman who keeps the Jew in her basement a secret and steals books from Nazi book burnings in the town square.

The Book Thief is a story you can read over and over and still find new things every time you open the cover. If this doesn’t become mandatory reading material in the next several decades, I’m sure there will be riots from somewhere.

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All the Light We Cannot See – 2014

This is another World War II-era novel, but it’s so different from The Book Thief. I reviewed this one on Sunday, and I’ll be reviewing The Book Thief sometime in the upcoming weeks.

Doerr’s novel covers so many emotions. There are not enough words to describe what’s going on in this book. I will say that it forced me to stay up late several nights in a row in order to finish it (in-between working on a paper for one of my many English courses), and I ended up in tears at the end of the book.

This is a book that will force you to search inside of yourself for meaning once you’ve finished it. It won the Pulitzer Prize, for goodness sakes! The least you can do is read this book and witness the intense emotions it brings up.

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The Last Lecture – 2008

This is a non-fiction book, that doesn’t mean it’s not any less important than the others on this list. This is a book I ordered for myself a few years ago as I was going through an incredibly painful breakup.

The life lessons the author imparts are hard-hitting, because you know he’s dead, and you know he knows that he’s dying. Pausch’s slim book really makes you think, and there is something in it for everyone. I know it made me look a little harder at my life, and realize that there’s not enough time in the world for everything I want to do, so I have to pick and choose, but I should always choose well.

This book may not have as big of an impact on you, but I’ll tell you, it put me through the wringer more than once.

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The Redwall Series – 1986 – 2011

Ah, here we go! The book not released in the past 15 years – although technically, the last one was released posthumously in 2011, so it might count.

The Redwall series is a series of loosely-connected books that all deal with Redwall Abbey, a great place of refuge set in Mossflower Woods. There’s a great distinction between the “good” critters of the Abbey – such as otters, mice, hares, badgers, moles, and the like – and the “bad” creatures of the night – among them stoats, weasels, foxes, and more.

I first encountered this series when I was around nine, and found it too plodding to enjoy. Now that I’m older, though, I’ve discovered what I missed throughout my childhood. While some of the books are directly connected to each other, they’re not in any chronological order, but it feels like a treasure hunt when you read about something you’ve encountered in another book, like Martin the Warrior (the founder of the Abbey), or Joseph the Bellmaker, or any of the other numerous characters that inhabit the world.

It’s written for children, but that doesn’t mean it should only be read by them. Ask anyone who read them as a child, and they still fondly remember the books as adults. Heck, I’m 23, and I’ve fallen in love with them and have made it my goal to get the entire series on my shelf. There is a lot of violence and heartache throughout the series, but good usually triumphs over evil, so don’t let that discourage you from reading them.

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Inkheart – 2003

This is one I really struggled on. While I thoroughly enjoyed Inkheart, the other two books in the trilogy – Inkspell and Inkdeath – are not worth your time (in my opinion). The ending of Inkheart is really open – if the author had never written another word, everything would have wrapped up fantastically, and you could imagine everything was going to be okay.

Of course, we all know that’s not how real-life works, and Inkspell and then Inkdeath come along to prove us differently. But enough about them for now.

Inkheart, despite having a slightly-irritating main character (Meggie), tells the story of a bookbinder who has the most extraordinary gift: he can read things right off the page. It’s an ability everyone wishes they could have at some point in time, and the villains, and the way the story is written, really brings out the tale. Is it perfect? Not quite, but it’s much better than the sequels. If you love books in any capacity, you owe it to yourself to read Inkheart. Just stay far, far away from the Brenden Fraiser movie.

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It would have been so easy to put Harry Potter down on this list, but I resisted it for one reason: it’s already a classic. This is a story that people will be fighting for for decades, and as such, there are so many other books that I felt deserved a spot on my list, instead of just repeating HARRY POTTER. So many other lists are going to include the Harry Potter series, after all, so you can rest assured that it’s gotten its due.

There are other books that could’ve been included on this list, but I either felt they were too niche or, while having a great idea were not as well-written as I remembered, once I looked them up to see when they were published.

If you’re looking for an incredibly complete list of 21st Century Classics, look no further than this link.

What are some books you’ve read in the past decade or two that you think belong on a list that everyone must read? Share your thoughts in the comments, or write your own blog post and let me know about it!

As always, keep reading.

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11 thoughts on “Top 5 Modern Classics

  1. Strangely enough, when the words “modern classic” are used to describe a new book that’s being released, I get VERY irritated!!! I think it’s presumptuous for the publisher (or whoever) to automatically assume that something is going to be a classic. Which makes me choosing this as a topic this month so funny! I think that readers and society are really the only people that can determine if something can be a classic. But to say that it will be a classic before it’s released drives me insane!! I’ve had All the Light We Cannot See on my shelf for the longest time. I plan to get to it this winter and I am SO excited!!
    Thanks again for participating! Adding you to the list 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sometimes when people describe things as a classic, or especially when they say “It’s the next [insert popular book here]!”, I get really salty and want to avoid things. In terms of what I’ve listed here, though, I feel like the majority of them are old enough that they have become modern classics. New release books, though? Don’t slap “classic” on there until they’re at least 5-10 years old!

      I gave All the Light to my mom after she finished The Nightingale, and she devoured it as well. She works in a library, and she gives those two as recommendations as often as she can!

      Thanks! I’m looking forward to participating in the others as they come up!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I own three copies of it (bought another copy recently because I misplaced my first one somewhere…ugh). It’s my favorite non-series book (LOTR holds the honor of being my favorite series of books). It took me a long time to come up with these — and the one for next week took me about two hours to write! (I’ve gone ahead and written it because I couldn’t wait!)

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Uhhh…..soo many books here that I haven’t read yet. *nervous sweats* But I about heard a lot about the Inkheart series. And ‘All the Light We Cannot See’ is on my tbr though god knows I close it even before I start reading the first sentence. I don’t know why but there are certain books which, no matter how good they are, you never get around to actually reading them. Oh, well. Maybe this time it’ll be different.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I gave “All the Light” and “The Nightingale” to my mom after I finished reading them, and she loved them both, and recommends them to anybody who comes into the library where she works now. She says she’s never had a negative reaction when people check out the book! I will say that it starts out a little slow, but it does get better as it goes on. You just have to let it get there 🙂

      I’ve read a lot of books. Like A LOT. I have over 500 on my shelves (at least at my last Goodreads count; it says I’ve read 747, and I figure about 220 or so are ones I’ve only read from the library, soo…). I kept track my junior year of high school, and I read about 211 books that year. (My original goal was to read 50 books I’d never read before…blew past that in March, then the goal was 100 books I’d never read before…finished that by November, with a bunch of rereads in between.)

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That’s a LOT of books! 😱 I am trying out a-book-a-day challenge too! Posted about it. It’s difficult but today’s my third day and I am liking it. 😊 Maybe I’ll be able to make till the end of the challenge. I like the idea of reading 30 a month though it’ll be difficult..

        Yeah, I will read All the Light… I want to and I WILL this time. 😊

        Liked by 1 person

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