Literature

Must-Read Modern Classics

Excellent Women by Barbara Pym (1952): “Mildred Lathbury is a clergyman’s daughter and a mild-mannered spinster in 1950s England. She is one of those ‘excellent women,’ the smart, supportive, repressed women who men take for granted.

Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison (1952): “For not only does Ralph Ellison’s nightmare journey across the racial divide tell unparalleled truths about the nature of bigotry and its effects on the minds of both victims and perpetrators, it gives us an entirely new model of what a novel can be.

The Crucible by Arthur Miller (1953): “Arthur Miller’s classic play about the witch-hunts and trials in 17th century Salem is a searing portrait of a community engulfed by hysteria.”

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (1953): “The classic dystopian novel of a post-literate future, Fahrenheit 451 stands alongside Orwell’s 1984 and Huxley’s Brave New World as a prophetic account of Western civilization’s enslavement by the media, drugs and conformity.

A Kiss Before Dying by Ira Levin (1953): “Now a modern classic, as gripping in its tautly plotted action as it is penetrating in its exploration of a criminal mind, it tells the shocking tale of a young man who will stop at nothing–not even murder–to get where he wants to go.

Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett (1953): “Vladimir and Estragon wait near a tree, inhabiting a drama spun of their own consciousness. The result is a comical wordplay of poetry, dreamscapes, and nonsense, which has been interpreted as mankind’s inexhaustible search for meaning.

Who Was Changed and Who Was Dead by Barbara Comyns (1954): “This is the story of the Willoweed family and the English village in which they live. It begins mid-flood, ducks swimming in the drawing-room windows, ‘quacking their approval’ as they sail around the room.

A Good Man is Hard to Find by Flannery O’Connor (1955): “This now classic book revealed Flannery O’Connor as one of the most original and provocative writers to emerge from the South. Her apocalyptic vision of life is expressed through grotesque, often comic situations in which the principal character faces a problem of salvation.”

The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith (1955): “Since his debut in 1955, Tom Ripley has evolved into the ultimate bad boy sociopath, influencing countless novelists and filmmakers. In this first novel, we are introduced to suave, handsome Tom Ripley: a young striver, newly arrived in the heady world of Manhattan in the 1950s.

The Fountain Overflows by Rebecca West (1956): “This is an unvarnished but affectionate picture of an extraordinary family, in which a remarkable stylist and powerful intelligence surveys the elusive boundaries of childhood and adulthood, freedom and dependency, the ordinary and the occult.

Night by Elie Wiesel (1956): “Night is Elie Wiesel’s masterpiece, a candid, horrific, and deeply poignant autobiographical account of his survival as a teenager in the Nazi death camps.”

Palace Walk by Naguib Mafouz (1956): “Volume I of the masterful Cairo Trilogy. A national best-seller in both hardcover and paperback, it introduces the engrossing saga of a Muslim family in Cairo during Egypt’s occupation by British forces in the early 1900s.

The Assistant by Bernard Malamud (1957): “Like Malamud’s best stories, this novel unerringly evokes an immigrant world of cramped circumstances and great expectations. Malamud defined the immigrant experience in a way that has proven vital for several generations of writers.

Memories of a Catholic Girlhood by Mary McCarthy (1957): “Blending memories and family myths, Mary McCarthy takes us back to the twenties, when she was orphaned in a world of relations as colourful, potent and mysterious as the Catholic religion.”

On the Road by Jack Kerouac (1957): “On the Road chronicles Jack Kerouac’s years traveling the North American continent with his friend Neal Cassady, ‘a sideburned hero of the snowy West.’ As ‘Sal Paradise’ and ‘Dean Moriarty,’ the two roam the country in a quest for self-knowledge and experience.”

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe (1958): “Things Fall Apart tells two overlapping, intertwining stories, both of which center around Okonkwo, a ‘strong man’ of an Ibo village in Nigeria.”

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson (1959): “It is the story of four seekers who arrive at a notoriously unfriendly pile called Hill House: Dr. Montague, an occult scholar looking for solid evidence of a ‘haunting’; Theodora, his lighthearted assistant; Eleanor, a friendless, fragile young woman well acquainted with poltergeists; and Luke, the future heir of Hill House.

A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry (1959): “Set on Chicago’s South Side, the plot revolves around the divergent dreams and conflicts within three generations of the Younger family: son Walter Lee, his wife Ruth, his sister Beneatha, his son Travis and matriarch Lena, called Mama.”

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (1960): “The unforgettable novel of a childhood in a sleepy Southern town and the crisis of conscience that rocked it, To Kill A Mockingbird became both an instant bestseller and a critical success when it was first published in 1960.

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller: (1961): “At the heart of Catch-22 resides the incomparable, malingering bombardier, Yossarian, a hero endlessly inventive in his schemes to save his skin from the horrible chances of war.

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