Ten (Modern Classic) Books to Keep Your Summer Moving

It's time to revisit books! I've put together a fun list of works from around the world that were published after or during World War I, but before 2000 (That's how I defined "Modern Classic" in my last book post). All of these books are worth the read, though some are more fun than others. Anyway, I hope you enjoy the list and maybe even pick up one of the books! 

1. To Kill A Mockingbird - Harper Lee
I did not wonder where his meteorological predictions came from. They came straight from the Rosetta Stone. 

The parts of Mockingbird that are taught in eighth grade English are probably the most obvious parts of the book and take no real explanations here. For me, the real joy in Mockingbird is Scout's sass-master voice and the way the adult side of Scout Finch tries to open up the trauma and joy of child-Scout. This is one of those books that opens itself up a little more every time you read it. For example, I just realized that there is a literal pissing contest in the first half of the book (if you don't where it is, you haven't read it enough). 

Quick Stats:
DIFFICULTY - Easy, understandable, but there is a whole lot of humor and complexity hidden in the narration. Keep your brain on.
GENRE - Realistic, Coming-of-Age
CANON - American
OVERALL TONE - Reminiscent, Humorous, Innocent
LENGTH - 384 pages
A SERIES? - The sequel is coming out this month. 

2. One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
"Things have a life of their own," the gypsy proclaimed with a harsh accent. "It's simply a matter of waking up their souls."

 One Hundred Years of Solitude stands by itself in genre (magical realism - don't worry, it makes sense when you read the book) and it is masterfully, comically tragic. This book tells the story of the cursed (?) Buendia family and the town they founded, Macondo. Don't try to "figure out" this book on the first read; just luxuriate in it and take everything that happens as literal. One Hundred Years will blow you away; be prepared to finish the book, take a deep breath, and flip back to the beginning to start the whole adventure over again. 

Quick Stats:
DIFFICULTY - Fairly understandable. It's bizarre. Take what comes as what is, and interpret if you want. There's no need to try too hard to interpret. Also, the family tree in the front will save your life.
GENRE - Magical Realism
CANON - Columbian
OVERALL TONE - Matter-of-fact
MOVIE STATUS - No. It would be impossible.
LENGTH - 448 pages
A SERIES? - No. 


3. Anthem - Ayn Rand 
I am done with the monster of "We," the word of serfdom, of plunder, of misery, falsehood and shame.

To be fair, I don't actually like this book very much. Rand's philosophy is humanistic in the worst way. There is a huge part of me that is tempted to write a post dedicated to why Ayn Rand is a bad time. However, her philosophy and writing has been insanely influential. A discussion on modern literature can't fairly leave her out. That being said, Anthem is a little over one hundred pages; Atlas Shrugged is over one thousand. Everything you need to know about Rand's philosophy is in Anthem. You can't get out of reading Ayn Rand, but you can just stick with Anthem. 

Quick Stats:
DIFFICULTY - Easy, other than the weird pronouns.
GENRE - Science Fiction, Dystopian
CANON - American
OVERALL TONE - Political, Self-Important
LENGTH - 105 pages
A SERIES? - No. Thank the Lord. 


4. The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien 
Pay heed to the tales of old wives. It may well be that they alone keep in memory what it was once needful for the wise to know.

As far as modern fantasy is concerned, The Lord of the Rings stands head and shoulders above just about everything else. Tolkien was a historian; his world is filled out and complete. The amazing place that is Middle-Earth feels as real as our own world, and the characters that populate it bring the story to life. One of the most brilliant things about these books is that the world is huge and the story is set on an epic stage, but the work itself is about the small, quiet choices of courage we all make. Ordinary people do the right thing, and thus do the extraordinary. 

Quick Stats:
DIFFICULTY - Get into the world and it will all start making sense. It can be a little confusing, but keep your brain on and it will be fine. 
GENRE - Epic, Fantasy
CANON - British
OVERALL TONE - Epic, Noble
LENGTH - 1008 pages (it's three books)
A SERIES? - Yes, but The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit are the most readable in the series. 


5. The Screwtape Letters - CS Lewis
Prosperity knits a man to the world. He feels that he is 'finding his place in it,' while really it is finding its place in him.

The Screwtape Letters will mess with your head in the best way possible. The book is written as correspondence between a senior demon, Screwtape, and a junior tempter, Wormwood. Screwtape's letters are focused on one thing: the best way to send a soul to Hell. This is the most approachable of Lewis' adult work, and the flipped perspective is at once convicting and clarifying. Even if you are not a person of faith, Lewis' perspective is worth delving into for the artistry and brilliance of it all. 

Quick Stats:
DIFFICULTY - Easy to understand on the surface. You'll want to ponder Screwtape's points; they are worth a little wrestling. 
GENRE - Satire, Religious
CANON - British
OVERALL TONE - Satirical 
LENGTH - 160 pages
A SERIES? - No, but if you like this, try Narnia or even The Great Divorce.  


6. Things Fall Apart - Chinua Achebe 
There is no story that is not true.

The world is a big place, and it's easy to think that your version of it is the real one. It is easy to forget the daily stories of the displaced, or to let national nostalgia replace the real history of a place. No matter what race you are, no matter what creed you belong to, the story of conqueror and conquered is one that needs to be told and remembered a hundred times over. Read Things Fall Apart and remember that everyone - including those we call "statistics" - has a story. 

Quick Stats:
DIFFICULTY - Fairly understandable language; the setting will probably be unfamiliar, so pay attention. 
GENRE - Realistic
CANON - Nigerian
OVERALL TONE - Melancholy
LENGTH - 224 pages
A SERIES? - No. 


7. The Princess Bride - William Goldman
The year that Buttercup was born, the most beautiful woman in the world was a French scullery maid named Annette.

The best thing about The Princess Bride is that it was written. As far as satire, it stands alone. This book is a joy to read and the movie version will not spoil the book. Or vice versa. If you have never picked up a copy of The Princess Bride, you absolutely must. It's a non-option. Sorry (I'm kidding, I'm not sorry). Pirates. Miracles. Revenge. True Love. What more can you ask for? 

Quick Stats:
DIFFICULTY - Easy-peasy and funny as heck if you pay attention. 
GENRE - Satire, Fantasy
CANON - American
OVERALL TONE - Light-Hearted
MOVIE STATUS - Yes, yes, a thousand times yes. Also mandatory for all humans. Still not sorry. 
LENGTH - 512 pages
A SERIES? - No, but there is the beginning of what appears to be a sequel at the back of the book. 


8. The Lord of the Flies - William Golding 
"We did everything adults would do. What went wrong?" 

If you like thinking of children as innocent, and society as healthy, you should not read this book. It depicts the savage decline of a group of British schoolboys who are stranded on a desert island. Even though The Lord of the Flies is not really fun to read, it is worth reading anyway. It is one of those books that is tough to read because of the brutality (although the violence is not terribly graphic). It's an important work. Read it. If you read it in school, read it again. It's worth it. 

Quick Stats:
DIFFICULTY - Pretty straightforward, usually, but watch for symbolism and understated plot points. 
GENRE - Realistic
CANON - British
MOVIE STATUS - Yes, but I haven't seen either version. 
LENGTH - 208 pages
A SERIES? - No. 

9. As I Lay Dying - William Faulkner
My mother is a fish. 

Get your thinking cap, because this book will take a little brainwork. Once you've got the switching narrators figured out, the whole work will open up. The premise is simple: a family takes their dead mother back to her hometown to bury her in the cemetery there. Within that simple premise, you'll find complexity, dark humor, and a whole bunch of wonderful questions, including ones that - maybe - don't need answers. Keep up with the narrators and enjoy the journey for what it is. 

Quick Stats:
DIFFICULTY - Moderate. It takes a minute to figure out, but the major events are clear. Keep focused; the devil is in the details. 
GENRE - Regional, Mock Epic
CANON - American
OVERALL TONE - Narrative, Epic
MOVIE STATUS - Yes. James Franco. 
LENGTH - 256 pages
A SERIES? - No. 

10. My Antonia - Willa Cather
Whatever we had missed, we possessed together the precious, in incommunicable past.

If I'm being honest, I love Americana. I love reflective works that show depth of understanding of the natural world without being for any particular cause. My Antonia is the coming-of-age story of a young man who befriends Antonia, a Bohemian immigrant. There's nothing shocking in this novel, but it captures a place and time with affection and honesty. It's like Little House for grown-ups. What more can I say? 

Quick Stats:
DIFFICULTY - Pretty straightforward. Take your time on the philosophy and reflections. They're practically poetry, but never sappy. 
GENRE - Romantic, Americana
CANON - American
OVERALL TONE - Nostalgic, Bittersweet
MOVIE STATUS - Yes, made for TV, but with a young Neil Patrick Harris. 
LENGTH - 192 pages
A SERIES? - No. 


That's all folks! What should I read this summer? What do you think of these books? Do you want to read one now? Tell me in the comments!