10 Modern Classics On The Way to Becoming Classics (2023)

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A “classic” book is one that’s generally seen as outstanding, noteworthy, and impactful in some way. Perhaps it’s a regular in the Top 100 lists or hailed as a must-read, bucket list novel.

But as well as being outstanding pieces of literature, when most people think of “the classics,” they think of older books written at least several decades ago.

But thankfully, fantastic authors never stopped producing groundbreaking works of literature. Even today, novels are being published that will be thought of as “classics” in the future.

But there’s no sense in waiting another 30 or 40 years to read these highly acclaimed books. That’s why I’ve put together this list of my top ten picks for modern classics that are well on their way to becoming absolute, outright classics that will stand the test of time.

Table of Contents

Best Modern Classics

1. White Teeth by Zadie Smith

First Published in 2001

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White Teeth is the debut novel from author Zadie Smith which caused a huge stir in the literature world. Critics were floored by her unique, muti layered style, and the book immediately earned itself a place on the PBS’ Great American Reads list.

The story follows a pair of World War II veterans named Archie Jones and Samad Iqbal. After facing the horrors of the war, they find themselves back in England, living in the rapidly transforming and overwhelming city of London. Both men must now find their way as civilians in a fast-paced and chaotic world.

For Archie, that means a second marriage to Clara Bowden, a 19 year old ex Jehova’s Witness from Jamaica, who bears him a daughter named Irie.

Samad also finds a wife, through an arranged marriage with a woman a fraction of his age. They have twin sons, but the path of fatherhood is a challenging one for Samad, and he leans into his long-forgotten Islamic faith when times get hard.

White Teeth is a beautifully endearing tale of these two men’s struggles and victories in London; a place where the remnants of the great empire clash against fast-paced, modern multiculturalism.

2. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

First Published in 2005

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Never Let Me Go tells the tale of three children, Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy, who attend an exclusive and secluded English boarding school named Hailsham.

On the surface, Hailsham appears to be like any other prestigious boarding school, but as the tale unfolds, we see that there are some unusual rules and practices taking place.

The story follows the children as they grow up over the years, but it’s only after leaving the safe haven of the school that they begin to see the truth about the kind of place that Hailsham really is.

In this unsettling and highly suspenseful story, it’s the children’s shared history and plight that unites them.

British/Japanese author Kazuo Ishiguro won a Nobel Prize in Literature for this outstanding novel of morality, innocence, and the worth of human life.

3. Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

First Published in 2016

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Underground Railroad tells the tale of Cora, a young enslaved woman in the deep American south, and her harrowing battle to find freedom.

Cora was always seen as the outcast, even amongst her fellow slaves. And now that womanhood is on the horizon, things look set to go from bad to worse.

But then, a young slave named Ceasar appears, fresh from a plantation in Virginia. He tells Cora about a mysterious Underground Railroad and asks her to run away with him.

Desperate to escape her painful existence, Cora joins Ceasar on his dangerous mission, but things get off to a terrible start when she’s implicated in a young white boy’s death before they can even escape the plantation grounds.

Now, they’re forced to flee, and there’s a lot of bloodthirsty white persecutors on their tail, all hungry for revenge.

Colson Whitehead won the Pulitzer Prize, the Author C Clarke Award, and the National Book Award with this bestselling modern fantasy novel. Well on its way towards “classic” status, this story is a potent mix of historical fiction and classic fantasy that reminds us of the genuine horrors of the not so distant past.

4. Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

First Published in 2013

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Americanah is the thought-provoking tale of a young Nigerian couple, Ifemelu and Obinze, who leave the military-ruled state of Nigeria and head to the West in search of a better life.

Ifemelu heads to America, where, despite being beautiful and academic, she’s quickly faced with the challenges of what it means to be black in the USA.

Obinze hoped to follow her, but in the aftershock of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, he’s denied a visa.

Instead, he heads to the UK, where he falls into the dangerous world of undocumented immigrants on the gritty streets of London.

For fifteen years, the pair live separate lives in their new countries, but then a twist of fate brings them back together in their native land of Nigeria. Things are different there now; democracy has finally been restored, and they feel a great sense of hope for the future. They begin to fall back in love with each other and the country they once fled.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah documents a couple’s struggles to make it in an unforgiving world. It’s a story of immigration, identity, race, and love that received huge accolades when it was first published in 2014. It’s been hailed as one of America’s best loved novels by PBS Great American Reads.

5. Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami

First Published in 1987

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Toru is devoted to the beautiful and introspective Naoko, but their relationship has never really recovered from the tragic death of their close friend. Naoko becomes increasingly distant, and Toru, a normally studious and measured student by nature, finds himself being pulled in a new direction. He meets a sexually liberated and wildly independent young woman who casts an enticing spell over him.

First published in 1987 for Japanese readers, Norweigian Wood has since become a global bestseller and has been translated into fifty languages. It’s a captivating coming of age story that uses spellbinding imagery to tell a tale of love, sex, and exploration.

6. The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy

First Published in 1997

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Set in 1969 in Kerala, India, The God of Small Things is a heart-wrenching story of two strong-willed children, Esthappen and Rahel, and their devoted yet troubled mother, Ammu.

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When the children’s English cousin Sophie Mol comes to visit, a tragic event shakes their family to its core. What follows is an interconnected tale of illicit love, life-changing tragedy, and profound loss.

Now in adulthood, Esthappen and Rahel must battle to reconcile their scars from the past. Will they find peace, or will they stay swimming in a sea of regret for the rest of their lives?

The God of Small Things is a hugely celebrated debut novel by Indian author Arundhati Roy. It made waves across the literature world, becoming a regular fixture on the New York Times bestsellers list and winning the Man Booker Prize.

7. We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver

First Published in 2003

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Lionel Shriver’s 2003 novel explores the devastating aftermath of a fictional school massacre. The perpetrator is a teenager called Kevin, and now his mother must embark on a dark and unsettling journey to uncover the reasons behind her son’s deadly actions. She grapples with the love she has as a mother, along with feelings of horror, shame, and regret at his heinous crime.

We Need to Talk About Kevin became an instant bestseller at a time in our history when violence and school shootings became a common fixture on the daily news. The novel was an international bestseller and went on to win the 2005 Orange Prize for female authors. It’s also been adapted into a major motion picture.

8. Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler

First Published in 2019

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In a futuristic, dystopian Los Angeles, Lauren and her family are clinging to what little hope they have in a city marred by terror and chaos. They live in the last remaining safe zone, walled off from the destruction around them until a life changing event forces Lauren out into the terrifying city streets.

To add to her challenges, Lauren has hyper-empathy, a condition that is both a blessing and a curse. She’s profoundly sensitive to the plight of others and cannot ignore another human being in pain.

If she and her family are to survive, Lauren must learn to make her voice heard as she battles to protect everything she holds dear.

This eye openingdystopian novelpresents an unsettling future that feels eerily possible in our own tumultuous world of today. It’s a story full of warnings for what the future might hold, but it’s also a story of profound hope and a victorious tale of the power of the human spirit.

9. The Shipping News by Annie Proulx

First Published in 1993

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Quoyle is an ugly, low down newspaper hack whose cheating wife has recently met her just deserts. He’s clinging to his routine when his well-meaning aunt convinces him to abandon his work life and return with her and her daughters to the beautiful coastal region of Newfoundland. Here, in his ancestral home, he tries to rebuild his life.

But it’s no east for Quoyle. Newfoundland is a beautiful yet bitterly cold and isolated place. The few remnants of industry are struggling to survive, and the town suffers from chronic unemployment. But one day, Quoyle gets lucky; he finds a job reporting the shipping new for the local weekly paper.

As the cold nights get even colder, Quoyle and the rest of his remaining family members must each reassess their lives and battle with their long-buried demons.

The Shipping News is a heartwarming, intriguing, and endearing novel about a man who must restart his life all over again in an unfamiliar land. Ann Proulx draws the reader into this intensely addictive book and has us longing for the protagonist to win in his fight for a new life.

It was an instant hit and went on to win the Pulitzer Prize, the US National Book Award, and several other accolades. It was also adapted into a blockbuster movie of the same name.

10. Educated by Tara Westover

First Published in 2018

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Educated is the incredible true story of Tara Westover, the daughter of mountain survivalists from remote Idaho. She spent her childhood deeply isolated from anything or anyone in mainstream society. She never received a sliver of education and couldn’t even comprehend the concept of a classroom or a teacher.

But when one of Tara’s elder brothers does the seemingly impossible and manages to secure a place in a college, it ignites something inside of Tara. She’s desperate to escape her confined and isolated world and is thirsty to learn all the things she’s missed out on so far in life.

She embarks on a truly remarkable journey that takes her across oceans and continents to the world’s most respected universities. Through the power of education, she achieves the unimaginable, yet at the end of it, there’s still a longing for the place she calls home.

This spellbinding memoir tells the heartbreaking true story of one woman’s unbelievable determination despite the incredible odds stacked against her. It received international acclaim and went on to win the PEN/Jean Stein Book Award and Los Angeles Times Book Prize. It was also hailed as one of the Ten Best Books of the Year by the New York Times and made it onto both /Barak Obama’s and Bill Gate’s ultimate books list.

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What is the difference between classics and modern classics? ›

According to most of the writers, the only difference between these two is the gap of centuries. However, some writers believe that modern literature is based on the foundation of classic literature which makes it more impactful.

How do classics become classics? ›

There are plenty of great books, but in order for a book to achieve true classic status, a novel must achieve a level of excellence or enduring cultural relevance that most new books can never obtain.

What are modern classics? ›

What Is a Modern Classic Book? A modern classic book is typically written after World War I, and possibly after World War II. This is because these two events marked the emergence of new ideas and ways of thinking, such as ideologies about gender, race, and class.

How old are modern classics? ›

Sitting somewhere in the middle is an increasingly popular breed of used car: the modern classic. Typically aged between about 10 and 30 years old, these are cars that were good in their day and seem to get better with age.

What are the characteristics of modern classics? ›

Modern classics in literature are like that—smooth-skinned and young, yet with a sense of longevity. But before we define that term, let's start by defining what a work of classic literature is. A classic usually expresses some artistic quality—an expression of life, truth, and beauty.

Why do we need to study modern classics? ›

Classics Provides Perspective

The speed of today's technology means that we're used to things becoming obsolete within a few years, if not months or days. In this context it's all the more important to step back and take a wider perspective.

What are the benefits of modern literature? ›

Modern literature research

It enables us to envisage the future and its possibilities, enriches our understanding of identity, citizenship and culture, inviting us to think imaginatively about these matters and to explore the forms in which they may be communicated.

What makes something a classic? ›

A classic is an outstanding example of a particular style; something of lasting worth or with a timeless quality; of the first or highest quality, class, or rank – something that exemplifies its class. The word can be an adjective (a classic car) or a noun (a classic of English literature).

Why is it called classics? ›

The word classics is derived from the Latin adjective classicus, meaning "belonging to the highest class of citizens." The word was originally used to describe the members of the Patricians, the highest class in ancient Rome.

Why are classics important? ›

Consequently, Classics not only illuminates not only the past, but is entirely relevant to the present. Students who study Classics will increase their analytical and critical thinking skills as they examine and analyze ancient cultures. They will improve their writing and oral communication abilities.

What are the six classics? ›

The Six Confucian Classics are The Book of Changes, The Book of History, The Book of Songs, The Book of Rites, The Book of Music, and The Spring and Autumn Annals.

What are examples of classics? ›

She was wearing a classic dark blue skirt. It's a classic motorbike from the 1940s. Classic also means a perfect or most typical example of something: The show is a classic example of TV made for children.

Is normal people a modern classic? ›

This special hardcover edition of Sally Rooney's modern classic has been specially designed for Faber Members.

What is the 3 most read book in the world? ›

In third place comes The Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse Tung. It has sold over 800 million copies in the past 50 years due to it going viral during the central revolution in China.

What are the 3 most read books? ›

He found that the Bible far outsold any other book, with a whopping 3.9 billion copies sold over the last 50 years. "Quotations from the Works of Mao Tse-tung" came in second with 820 million copies sold, and "Harry Potter" came in third with 400 million copies sold.

What is the number 1 book ever? ›

Having sold more than 600 million copies worldwide. Harry Potter by J. K. Rowling is the best-selling book series in history. The first novel in the series, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, has sold in excess of 120 million copies, making it one of the best-selling books of all time.

Is 25 years considered a classic? ›

Classic vehicles might range in age from 10 to 50+ years old, and the term "classic car" may include vintage, antique, and collector vehicles.

What are the 3 characteristics of modern period? ›

These periods can be characterized by: Rise of the nation state. Growth of tolerance as a political and social belief. Industrialization.

What is the most important characteristic of modern literature? ›

The Main Characteristics of Modern Literature: The characteristics of the Modern Literature can be categorized into Individualism, Experimentation, Symbolism, Absurdity and Formalism.

What modern books will become classics reddit? ›

26 Modern Books That Will Become Classics, According To People On Reddit
  • 'Maus' by Art Spiegelman. ...
  • 'Americanah' by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. ...
  • 'Never Let Me Go' by Kazuo Ishiguro. ...
  • 'Persepolis' by Marjane Satrapi. ...
  • 'Midnight's Children' by Salman Rushdie. ...
  • 'The Name of the Rose' by Umberto Eco. ...
  • 'White Teeth' by Zadie Smith.
May 10, 2018

How does classical literature still affect our modern world? ›

Classical literature also allows us to better understand ourselves. That is why copious reading often leads to greater amounts of empathy—it enables us to better understand the universal aspects of the human experience instead of being always stuck in our own heads.

What are the 10 reasons why literature is important? ›

Top Reasons Why Literature is Important
  • Stress can be relieved by Literature. ...
  • Literature inspires imagination. ...
  • Literature keeps the brain active and healthy. ...
  • Literature helps a person to expand their vocabulary. ...
  • Literature enhances a person's writing skills. ...
  • Communication skills are improved by reading literature.
Jan 17, 2022

Why is modern literature better than classic literature? ›

While the themes of classics are everlasting, their ability to represent a diverse class of English students is limited. Modern novels are often inherently more relatable to us — in their themes, characters, diction and even pace — and thus provide a more accessible, seamless reading experience.

How does literature impact today's society? ›

Literature allows a person to step back in time and learn about life on Earth from the ones who walked before us. We can gather a better understanding of culture and have a greater appreciation of them. We learn through the ways history is recorded, in the forms of manuscripts and through speech itself.

What are the three characteristics of a classic? ›

Quality, Universality, Longevity.

What does being classic mean? ›

: serving as a standard of excellence : of recognized value. classic literary works. a classic case study on hysteria. : traditional, enduring.

What are the Five Classics about? ›

The Five Classics can be described in terms of five visions: metaphysical, political, poetic, social, and historical. The metaphysical vision, expressed in the Yijing (“Classic of Changes”), combines divinatory art with numerological technique and ethical insight.

What is taught in classics? ›

'Classics' refers to the study of the languages, literatures, material culture, and history of the societies of the ancient world, together with their influence on later periods and cultures right up to the present day.

What are classics answer? ›

A classic is a piece of writing, film, or piece of music of high quality that has become a standard against which similar things are judged. ...

What are special qualities of classics *? ›

What is /are special quality/qualities of classics? (a) They affect our mind in a good way (b) They teach us something great and also entertain us. (c) They help us in our spiritual growth (d) All the above.

What types of books are hot right now? ›

Here are some fiction genres that will continue to be popular throughout 2022:
  • Romance. The genre of romance is a popular one, with its readership loyal to the core. ...
  • Children's. ...
  • Thriller: Suspense & Mystery. ...
  • Fantasy and Science Fiction. ...
  • Young Adult. ...
  • Find Your Next Read.
Mar 18, 2022

Which format of books will become popular in future? ›

Print books definitely have a traditional value to it, but eBooks are something which will completely transform the reading and learning experience in the near future.

What book genre is trending now? ›

The bestselling book genre is romance and the most profitable fiction book genre. Religious & inspirational books are the most popular non-fiction genre, whilst thrillers are the most popular audiobooks.

Who decides which books are classics? ›

Christopher Smith defines a classic as "any book that is not a new book, one that merits re-reading, 5, 10, even 100 years or more after its publication." To that point, Entertainment Weekly issued a list of "The New Classics"—100 of the "best reads from 1983 to 2008," which suggests that perhaps the concept of a " ...

What is the number 1 most read book? ›

The Bible. Easily the most read book in the world is the Bible for obvious reasons. It is estimated to have sold over 40 million copies in the last 60 years.

What is the most sold fiction book? ›

25 Best-Selling Books of All-Time
  • #1 – Don Quixote (500 million copies sold) ...
  • #2 – A Tale of Two Cities (200 million copies sold) ...
  • #3 – The Lord of the Rings (150 million copies sold) ...
  • #4 – The Little Prince (142 million copies sold) ...
  • #5 – Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (107 million copies sold)


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