Top Modern Day Classics You Should Teach to Your Lit Class
Old books are great. They’re full of rich history with long-forgotten perspectives, and they can be read in public to intellectually intimidate everyone sitting near you on the bus. It should come as no surprise, then, that old books are often the focus of literature classes. In fact, many lit teachers might be surprised to learn that books are actually still being written every year, and that many of those new books are actually quiet good. If you’re ready to come up from an ocean of Twain and Bronte for a breath of fresh air, you should consider adding these modern classics to your syllabus:
The Road (Cormac McCarthy) – Recognized by the Pulitzer Prize committee and – most importantly – by Oprah Winfrey herself, The Road is Cormac McCarthy’s epic tale of a father and son making their way through a post-apocalyptic wasteland. In the wake of an unknown disaster that turned the world into the set of Mad Max, the boy’s mother has committed suicide, humans have turned to cannibalism and life is universally awful. As they travel south for the winter, the pair face illness, death and unimaginable horrors, all in the quest for survival. Now that we live in a world where predicting the apocalypse has become a worldwide annual hobby and climate scientists constantly remind us that we’re deep-frying our planet back into an uninhabitable wasteland, stories like The Road are extremely relevant. All the age-old literary themes are still in there – love, grief, loss, hope and family – but in a setting that will keep modern readers engaged.
The Hunger Games (Suzanne Collins) – Keeping with the theme of post-apocalyptic horrors, The Hunger Games takes place in the futuristic country of Panem, a fascist future version of North America. As punishment for a failed revolution, the ruling Capitol city demands one male and one female from each of the twelve poverty-stricken districts to participate in a televised fight to the death each year. Katniss Everdeen of the gloomy, coal-mining District 12 becomes her district’s female tribute in the seventy-fourth Hunger Games, and she struggles to survive while putting on an all-important show for the cameras. Although the movie makes the story look like a badly-filmed love story with some child murder on the side, the book is a rich political satire that captures true desperation. Although most students have never been forced to butcher sixteen-year-old strangers in a televised death match, they’ll still be easily able to relate to Katniss’ struggles with family obligation, political powerlessness and the necessity of fabricating a love connection with a boy who once saved your life for the sake of national television.
Life of Pi (Yann Martel) – Now commonly known as “that movie about that Indian boy in that boat with a tiger”, Life of Pi tells the remarkable story of a zookeeper’s son, named after a Parisian swimming pool, who ends up shipwrecked on his way to emigrate to Canada. Trapped in the middle of the ocean with a hyena, a wounded zebra, an orangutan and a tiger named Richard Parker, Pi waxes philosophical about his predicament, his childhood and his eternal love of God. Although there are definite religious themes to the book, it doesn’t preach in favor of any one religion, or even in favor of organized religion at all – instead, the book and its confusing fictitious preface drive home the point that perception of reality is subjective. If you were looking for a book to quickly and effectively confuse a classroom full of literature students, you need to look no further.
Author Bio: Stephanie Casidy is the managing director at Chambers Institute – an ESL school in Sydney, Australia. She studied Juris Doctor at Monash University and holds an MA degree in Biblical Studies.