14 Modern Classics To Put On Your Reading List

14 Modern Classics To Put On Your Reading List

If you’re asked to think of a classic novel, the first names to come to mind will probably be Jane Austen, Charles Dickens and other writers from a different time, but there are so many masterful works from more recent years. We’ve selected some of the most celebrated novels from the past 50 years to put straight on your to-read list.

The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy

Roy returned to the literary scene after a two-decade hiatus with last year’s The Ministry of Utmost Happiness, but her 1997 debut remains her best. The God of Small Things is a rich, evocative novel following several generations of a troubled family in Kerala, India, who are torn apart by the laws that dictate “who should be loved, and how”.

The Secret History by Donna Tartt

Part-campus novel, part murder mystery, The Secret History has attracted a devoted cult following since it hit the shelves in 1992. It follows a group of intelligent, eccentric misfits at an elite college who discover a dangerous new way of thinking and living, under the influence of their charismatic classics professor.

Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy

Based on historical events that took place on the Texas-Mexico border in the 1850s, this book traces the fortunes of the Kid, a 14 -year-old Tennessean who stumbles into a world of shocking violence, demonic characters and a stark, forbidding landscape.

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

England, the 1520s. Henry VIII is on the throne, but has no heir. Into this atmosphere of distrust and need comes Thomas Cromwell, the ambitious son of a blacksmith keen to use his shrewd wit to work his way up the court ranks. Wolf Hall was adapted into a stunning BBC drama in 2015, but for true fans there’s nothing like Mantel’s intricate, world-building prose.

The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes

Tony Webster, in his sixties, is someone "who had neither won nor lost, but just let life happen to him". Barnes’ masterpiece is a pensive, restrained reflection on a frustrated real life.

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

Things Fall Apart is the first of three novels in Chinua Achebe's critically acclaimed African Trilogy. It is a game-changing narrative about one warrior’s futile resistance to the decimation of his tribal heritage by British forces. With more than 20m copies sold and translated into 57 languages, this story truly deserves to be recognised as a classic.

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

Narrated by Kathy, now 31, Never Let Me Go dramatises the attempts of she and her closest friends to come to terms with their childhood at the seemingly idyllic Hailsham School and the fate that has always awaited them. A muted, poignant meditation on the fragility and transience of life.

The Colour Purple by Alice Walker

The Colour Purple is a story of the transformation of a young black girl in the American South in the interwar period. Celie suffers immense, horrifying hardship but is sustained through her indefatigable spirit.

Disgrace by JM Coetzee

Disgrace was a Booker prize winner in 1999, making JM Coetzee the first writer to win the trophy twice (first with Life & Times of Michael K). In 2003, he was also awarded the Nobel prize in literature, setting him out as one of the foremost writers of his era. Disgrace is a searing exploration of race relations in post-apartheid South Africa.

The Sea, The Sea by Iris Murdoch

Murdoch is renowned for her intoxicating style and magnified portrayal of the intricacies of human relationships and their betrayals. An actor retires to the coast to escape from his tumultuous love affairs, but unexpectedly bumps into his childhood sweetheart and sets his heart on destroying her marriage.

Beloved by Toni Morrison

Beloved is a story of slavery and racism in the mid-1800s, which has become one of the indisputable classics of the late 20th century. Sethe’s future seemed full of hope when she escapes from Sweet Home to Ohio, but her new identity as a free woman is haunted by her past and the ghost of her lost child.

Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson

Winterson is a connoisseur of love in all its forms. Here, she draws on her childhood in the north of England, raised in an environment of over-zealous religion by her adopted mother, for a tender, innovative work. At sixteen, Jeanette decides to leave the church, her home and her family, for the young woman she loves.

Atonement by Ian McEwan

On the hottest day of the summer of 1935, 13-year-old Briony Tallis sees her sister Cecilia take off her clothes and plunge into the fountain in the garden of their country house. Watching her too is Robbie Turner. By the end of that day, the lives of all three will have been changed for ever.

White Teeth by Zadie Smith

Zadie Smith was a 22-year-old prodigy when her book was first snapped up by a publisher. One of the most talked about fictional debuts ever, White Teeth is a funny, generous, big-hearted novel, adored by critics and readers alike, which marks the start of a glittering career.

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