A List Of Modern Classics

The Wind-up Bird Chronicle by Haruki MurakamiCloud Atlas by David Mitchell

Sheila from Bookjourney recently posted a list of new classics, that she’d found on Entertainment Weekly. These are the books that EW finds the best books of 1983 to 2008 – the list is from 2008.

Of course, these types of lists are always so arbitrary (in my eyes) but let’s see how well read I am, if this list is my guidance. I’ve put an “*” in front of the title if it’s a book that I’ve read, and a “*?” if I’m almost certain I’ve read it. I have a long reading history and I just can’t remember everything I’ve read.

1. * The Road , Cormac McCarthy (2006)
2. * Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, J.K. Rowling (2000)
3. Beloved, Toni Morrison (1987)
4. The Liars’ Club, Mary Karr (1995)
5. American Pastoral, Philip Roth (1997)
6. Mystic River, Dennis Lehane (2001)
7. Maus, Art Spiegelman (1986/1991)
8. Selected Stories, Alice Munro (1996)
9. * Cold Mountain, Charles Frazier (1997)
10. * The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Haruki Murakami (1997)
11. Into Thin Air, Jon Krakauer (1997)
12. * Blindness, José Saramago (1998)
13. Watchmen, Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons (1986-87)
14. Black Water, Joyce Carol Oates (1992)
15. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, Dave Eggers (2000)
16. * The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood (1986)
17. Love in the Time of Cholera, Gabriel García Márquez (1988)
18. Rabbit at Rest, John Updike (1990)
19. * On Beauty, Zadie Smith (2005)
20. * Bridget Jones’s Diary, Helen Fielding (1998)
21. On Writing, Stephen King (2000)
22. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Junot Díaz (2007)
23. The Ghost Road, Pat Barker (1996)
24. Lonesome Dove, Larry McMurtry (1985)
25. * The Joy Luck Club, Amy Tan (1989)
26. Neuromancer, William Gibson (1984)
27. *? Possession, A.S. Byatt (1990)
28. Naked, David Sedaris (1997)
29. Bel Canto, Anne Patchett (2001)
30. * Case Histories, Kate Atkinson (2004)
31. The Things They Carried, Tim O’Brien (1990)
32. Parting the Waters, Taylor Branch (1988)
33. The Year of Magical Thinking, Joan Didion (2005)
34. * The Lovely Bones, Alice Sebold (2002)
35. The Line of Beauty, Alan Hollinghurst (2004)
36. *? Angela’s Ashes, Frank McCourt (1996)
37. Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi (2003)
38. Birds of America, Lorrie Moore (1998)
39. Interpreter of Maladies, Jhumpa Lahiri (2000)
40. His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman (1995-2000)
41. The House on Mango Street, Sandra Cisneros (1984)
42. LaBrava, Elmore Leonard (1983)
43. Borrowed Time, Paul Monette (1988)
44. Praying for Sheetrock, Melissa Fay Greene (1991)
45. * Eva Luna, Isabel Allende (1988)
46. Sandman, Neil Gaiman (1988-1996)
47. World’s Fair, E.L. Doctorow (1985)
48. * The Poisonwood Bible, Barbara Kingsolver (1998)
49. Clockers, Richard Price (1992)
50. * The Corrections, Jonathan Franzen (2001)
51. The Journalist and the Murderer, Janet Malcom (1990)
52. Waiting to Exhale, Terry McMillan (1992)
53. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, Michael Chabon (2000)
54. Jimmy Corrigan, Chris Ware (2000)
55. * The Glass Castle, Jeannette Walls (2006)
56. The Night Manager, John le Carré (1993)
57. The Bonfire of the Vanities, Tom Wolfe (1987)
58. * Drop City, TC Boyle (2003)
59. Krik? Krak! Edwidge Danticat (1995)
60. Nickel & Dimed, Barbara Ehrenreich (2001)
61. Money, Martin Amis (1985)
62. Last Train To Memphis, Peter Guralnick (1994)
63. Pastoralia, George Saunders (2000)
64. Underworld, Don DeLillo (1997)
65. The Giver, Lois Lowry (1993)
66. A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again, David Foster Wallace (1997)
67. * The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini (2003)
68. Fun Home, Alison Bechdel (2006)
69. * Secret History, Donna Tartt (1992)
70. * Cloud Atlas, David Mitchell (2004)
71. The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, Ann Fadiman (1997)
72. * The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Mark Haddon (2003)
73. * A Prayer for Owen Meany, John Irving (1989)
74. Friday Night Lights, H.G. Bissinger (1990)
75. Cathedral, Raymond Carver (1983)
76. A Sight for Sore Eyes, Ruth Rendell (1998)
77. * The Remains of the Day, Kazuo Ishiguro (1989)
78. * Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert (2006)
79. The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell (2000)
80. Bright Lights, Big City, Jay McInerney (1984)
81. Backlash, Susan Faludi (1991)
82. * Atonement, Ian McEwan (2002)
83. The Stone Diaries, Carol Shields (1994)
84. * Holes, Louis Sachar (1998)
85. Gilead, Marilynne Robinson (2004)
86. And the Band Played On, Randy Shilts (1987)
87. The Ruins, Scott Smith (2006)
88. High Fidelity, Nick Hornby (1995)
89. Close Range, Annie Proulx (1999)
90. Comfort Me With Apples, Ruth Reichl (2001)
91. Random Family, Adrian Nicole LeBlanc (2003)
92. Presumed Innocent, Scott Turow (1987)
93. * A Thousand Acres, Jane Smiley (1991)
94. * Fast Food Nation, Eric Schlosser (2001)
95. Kaaterskill Falls, Allegra Goodman (1998)
96. * The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown (2003)
97. Jesus’ Son, Denis Johnson (1992)
98. The Predators’ Ball, Connie Bruck (1988)
99. * Practical Magic, Alice Hoffman (1995)
100. America (the Book), Jon Stewart/Daily Show (2004)

(Entertainment Weekly: Originally posted Jun 17, 2008)

I’ve read about 32 of these books. And yes, there were a few that I really think can be called modern classics: The Road (Cormac McCarthy), The Wind-up Bird Chronicle (Haruki Murakami), Blindness (José Saramago). The Handmaid’s Tale (Margaret Atwood), Cloud Atlas (David Mitchell), and The Curious Incident with the Dog in the Nighttime (Mark Haddon). At least those.

How many have your read? Do you agree or disagree with some of these books being marked as “modern classics”?

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About Leeswammes
I'm owner and editor at bookhelpline.com. In my free time, I read and review books on my two blogs, Leeswammes' Blog and De Boekblogger.

26 Responses to A List Of Modern Classics

  1. JoV says:

    I have read 15 of them, but there are some good titles in there and they look something out of my TBR pile. Surely they can’t call Bridget Jones’ Diary or Bel Canto a “classic”???!! (appalled) LOL. 😀

    • Leeswammes says:

      I was wondering that, Jo. Is Bridget Jones a classic? Maybe it was one of the most important books to start off the chick-lit genre, and that’s why it’s a classic.

  2. Uniflame says:

    Let’s just say… not nearly as much as you 😉 And I have no idea what makes a book classify to be a classic anyway… I am not thinking of books in that way.

    I only think in terms of interesting or not 😉

    • Leeswammes says:

      Good for you Uniflame. But you see, reading classics, I should be able to talk books with my great-great-great-grandchildren when I time travel to the future. 😛

  3. Ellie says:

    I’ve never even heard of some of these! Though some of them definitely encapsulate the modern novel, I think. Books like Harry Potter, Bridget Jones and The Da Vinci Code may not be traditional ‘classic’ material, but they’ll be remembered for the way they drew in readers and captured the world’s imagination. Likewise many of the literary favourites that just keep on selling, like the ones you mentioned. It’s a great list – I might have to print it and keep it on one side for future recommendations, since I have so many on my shelves but HAVEN’T TOUCHED THEM YET!
    Ellie (Musings of a Bookshop Girl)

  4. I guess I will need to take this list with me to the book store next time. I have read 0 out of 100 books…lol. It may take me a while, but I want to read at least 1/4 of it.

    • Leeswammes says:

      Only zero, Deborah? 🙂 You might want to read at least a few so you know what other people are talking about when they mention these books. But most importantly, you should enjoy what you read and pick up books that you think you’ll like, not books that are on a list per sé.

  5. Bex says:

    I’ve read about 30 of these and have a couple more (Gilead by Marilynne Robinson springs ro mind) on my shelf. I really liked this list actually, was surprised and excited to see such things as neil gaiman’s Sandman on it!:-)

  6. Nadine Nys says:

    I’ve read only about twelve of these books, but then again, all those lists are so subjective. It looks like a nice list though… Should I keep it for reference? Oh my… What decisions a woman has to make each day! 🙂

  7. Suzanne says:

    It looks like I’ve only read 22 of them but a few of the others are on my to-read list.

    I absolutely loved Bridget Jones’ Diary but I don’t know if I’d consider it a classic — are people going to be reading it 25/50/100 years from now and get enjoyment from it? I think it would become dated, but that is just my opinion.

    • Leeswammes says:

      Yes, I wondered about Bridget Jones too. But if it’s seen as the originator of chick-lit AND chick-lit is still talked about in 50/100 years THEN it may be important in times of history of literature. 🙂 Just making that up, of course!

  8. Col Reads says:

    A classic has to stand the test of time, in my opinion. It’s not so clear to me that many of these will, even though I see that some of them have been influential for some reason. (I’ve read 12 by the way, witha number of others on my TBR — and at least one of them was the subject of a very uncomplimentary review).

    • Leeswammes says:

      Well, Col. I guess these haven’t stand the test of time yet, because not that much time has passed. But these would be expected to stand the test of time, I guess. I also wonder about some of these.

  9. Stujallen says:

    I ve read 33 of them but other not read aren’t modern classics fantasy and chic lit are modern fades be old vogue in twenty years , these list always hard to judge ,lack translation shocking no sebald,grass,clezio bolano ,Mayo and lot modern British lit missing no William Trevor Colm Tobin but happy with 33 ,all the best stu

    • Leeswammes says:

      33 is a decent amount, Stu. And you’d probably no want to read some of them anyway! I agree there are lots missing. Translation? Come on, we have Saramago on the list. Isn’t that enough? 🙂 Strange indeed! Either you take only the English-language books for the list, or you make sure there is a good representation of translated books, too.

  10. Adam says:

    I definitely agree with you about:

    The Road
    Blindness
    The Curious Incident with the Dog in the Nighttime

    And I would add that these definitely fit as well:
    The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay
    The Things They Carried
    The Joy Luck Club
    Possession
    The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

    The only one on the list that I’ve read and am in serious doubt about would be The Da Vinci code, but I could be wrong. I also wonder why Goblet of Fire made the cut, but the other HP books didn’t.

    • Leeswammes says:

      Adam, of the ones you mention I’ve only read The Joy Luck Club. and (possibly) Possession. Classics? I’m not sure.

      Goblet of Fire: Maybe they chose just one HP as a token to represent the whole HP series? I’m not sure I consider this (HP) a classic but like Bridget Jones for chick-lit, HP has done a lot for the YA genre, getting kids to read again. A worthy entry for that, for sure.

  11. Adam says:

    Oops. I just noticed that The Giver and Cathedral are both up there – and they belong as well. 🙂

  12. Completely see your argument for Bridget Jones as a ‘Modern Classic’; as founder of the chick-lit genre, Fielding probably deserves some recognition (Although Dan Brown, not so convinced). I’m a bit biased here as I’m not a big chick-lit fan, but in my eyes ‘classic’ suggests that a book stands the test of time and reflects something of the time it was written.

    Bridget Jones definitely reflect something of society, but whether it stands the test of time, we’ll see ☺

    Missing on the list for me is The Buddha of Suburbia by Hanif Kureshi and The Human Stain by Philip Roth .

    • Leeswammes says:

      Marie, if chick-lit as a genre stands the test of time, then Bridget Jones will still be important in the future too. Otherwise, nah! 🙂

      The books you mention I haven’t read so I can’t say anything about it, unfortunately.

  13. I agree that lists like this can be very arbitrary. And if they’re so recent then we just can’t label them as classic yet, surely? But it’s always fun to count how many you’ve read! I’ve read 22 of these, which is lower than I usually come out on such lists. “Modern” is obviously my blind spot. And I refuse to believe that Dan Brown will stand the test of time but I can definitely get behind many others on the list.

    • Leeswammes says:

      Indeed, Nose. We’ll see about Dan Brown (and a few others). But every now and then, we have to measure ourselves against lists like these and tell ourselves we’re doing fine or could read a few more in a particular genre.

  14. Pingback: Editing, Writing, and Proofing—Oh My! « After the Ecstasy, the Laundry . . .

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