Now that I’ve done about 3 months of consistent Top 5 Wednesday posts, I finally feel like I’m getting the hang of how to approach the questions. The topics that I’ve discussed so far always tend to be just a bit outside my comfort zone in a sense, since so many of them are topics that I’ve never really given much thought to. I was actually excited to see this week’s topic since I am a pretty big fan of reading, or at least trying, classics and I’ve always been interested in seeing which trends actually reach that status.
I think the first issue at hand is to decide what it means for a book to be a future classic. It reminded me of a quote I recently saw on a Facebook meme, which said “A classic is a book that has never finished saying what it has to say.” The quote was by Italo Calvino, who I had actually never heard of. Upon doing a bit of research, I discovered that he is a Cuban journalist and author, who has written an entire collection of essays about what makes a book a classic.
Although I haven’t read the book of essays itself, I found a list summarizing his definitions of a classic (found here). The above quote stood out to me most because I think it speaks to the enduring quality of a book that makes it so appealing, even over time. In the same vain, Calvino also talked about how classics are books that people re-read, and have a rich experience of reading it each time. I would also suggest that in order for a book to become a classic, it would have to be fairly widely read and enjoyed. It was actually pretty difficult for me to come up with recent books that I think would fit the bill. As always, I am excluding Harry Potter because it seems the obvious choice, and because I think it’s place as a modern classic has already been pretty firmly cemented. Below are my top 5 choices for future classics.
Top 5 Wednesday is a meme created by Gingerreadslainey on Youtube, and the official GoodReads group with the weekly topics can be found here.
1) The Help by Kathryn Stockett
I mentioned this book fairly recently in my Harry Potters Spells Tag, as a book I thought everyone should know about, which I would say is pretty similar to a potential classic. Books about racism and race relations are quite prevalent at the moment, but I think this is one that is likely to stand the test of time because of the strong writing and compelling characters. The book is set in Mississippi in 1962, and it focuses on several women who come together to put together a book detailing the realities of life for black women who serve white families, including the good and the bad. I originally put off reading this book because of all the hype surrounding it, but as soon as I gave it a chance, I was hooked. The book has already won several awards in the 8 or so years since it was first released, and has received overwhelmingly positive reviews. Although there are many other books that address similar or more current issues of race, I think this book has the most potential to become a classic because it is written in a way that is very accessible and in a way that brings the characters to life.
2) My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult
Although I would love to include many of Jodi Picoult’s books on this list, I think this is the one that is most likely to become a classic due to its popularity and of course the brilliant way it handles such a complex topic. The book is about a teenage girl named Anne who was genetically altered and conceived specifically to be a bone marrow match for her older sister, Kate, who has leukemia. As Anna reaches her teens, she starts to question her role in the family and even initiates a lawsuit to sue for control over her own medical decisions. One of the main reasons I think this book, like so many of Jodi Picoult’s others, may become a classic is because it is so ripe for debate and discussion due to the controversial topic. Although re-reading the book more than once may lose the “shock value” of the twist ending, I think the book could still stand up well to re-reads since at different ages, the reader may empathize with different characters.
3) We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver
This may easily be the most controversial choice on my list, since the book has received such mixed reviews. This book is about the life of a teenage boy named Kevin, the perpetrator of a school massacre, as told by his mother Eva in a series of letters to her husband. The book is a haunting, chilling story that perfectly captures the nature vs. nurture debate — was Kevin born a monster, or did he become that way because of his mother? Many people have criticized this book for the unlikeable characters, especially Eva, and the writing style. I actually really liked the writing style, although I can see where people might say it seems unrealistic for an epistolary format. For me, the main appeal of this book is in the atmosphere and how it left me constantly questioning my own opinions of Kevin and Eva. This book has been very widely read and discussed, even by those who did not enjoy it, and I think it has themes that will resonate for years.
4) The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins
I think there’s a lot to be said for a series that sparks an entire trend in a genre. Although this certainly was not the first YA dystopian, it definitely seemed to be the first of many in recent years. I think this series has the potential to become a classic because it seems to create a dystopian world that somehow seems well within the realm of possibility. In case anyone still does not know, this book is about a world divided into 12 districts which are forced to compete in televised Hunger Games annually as punishment for an attempted rebellion. One male and one female teenager from each district are chosen at random to compete as tributes and forced to fight to the death, leaving only one winner who earns rewards for their district. This was another book that I avoided for a long time because of all the hype, but it was definitely worth reading when I finally gave it a chance! It was very well-written, and I loved how the author created a world that was so scary and yet so real.
5) A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
I actually struggled for a while before adding this to my list. I had another book in mind, but for some reason, when I sat down to write this post, I had a complete mental block for what that book might be. Instead, this book quickly sprung to mind as one of the most powerful and memorable that I’ve read in recent years. In the 6 years it has been out, it has already won (and been nominated for) multiple awards, and it was a book that I devoured in one sitting, in just a couple of hours. This book is about a young boy named Conor who has been visited by a monster every night since his mother started her treatments for her illness. Although this book seems to be targeted for a younger audience, I think it would be very difficult for them to read, both on an emotional level and in terms of how scary it might be. I think this book has the potential to become a classic because of the impact of the story alone, but at the same time, I’m not completely sure where it would fit in among other classics.