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Wondering what book you should read next? You’re sure to find something that sparks your interest among these ten twentieth-century novels. All modern classics, each presents trail-blazing topics and worthwhile insights—worthy additions to any “must-be-read” list!
Ten Novels To Add To Your Bookshelf
Why You Should Read It: A modern American classic, this novel, set in the Deep South during the 1930s, helped propel the discussion of race relations in America. Despite the serious subjects it covers such as rape and racial inequality, the story is not without moments of warmth and humor. The novel’s protagonist, lawyer Atticus Finch, has served as a moral role model ever since.
Why You Should Read It: As Woolf’s groundbreaking foray into high modernism, this novel explores the concepts of time, loss, and human consciousness. To The Lighthouse is written with sparse, lyrical dialogue and almost no action—in fact, the main character’s death is told within parentheses. Rather, the plot is rendered in thoughts, memories, and symbolism over the course of three distinct scenes.
Why You Should Read It: Considered by many to be Fitzgerald’s opus, The Great Gatsby takes the American dream and sets it against the backdrop of the opulent Jazz Age. An American classic, The Great Gatsby is ultimately a cautionary tale about a self-made millionaire who cannot let go of the past or the woman he loves.
Why You Should Read It: A pioneer in the style of stream-of-consciousness, The Sound And The Fury was not immediately successful. It wasn’t until Faulkner’s next two novels were published that The Sound And The Fury achieved critical acclaim. Faulkner’s ability to recreate the patterns of the human mind proved exemplary, and the novel helped Faulkner to be awarded the Nobel Prize in literature.
Why You Should Read It: A collection of seemingly disconnected vignettes, Naked Lunch follows junkie William Lee through several disjointed encounters. The novel’s experimental prose, focus on drug use, and propensity for obscenity made it fodder for an obscenity trial in the mid-twentieth century. The rulings were eventually overturned by the Supreme Court after testimony was given by Allen Ginsberg and Norman Mailer.
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Why You Should Read It: Set in a dystopian future where firemen burn books instead of putting out fires, Fahrenheit 451 examines the dangers of censorship, blindly following the majority, and nuclear war. This novel will reinforce every reader’s love for protecting books and continuing the pursuit of new ideas.
Why You Should Read It: One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest is about a mental ward and its inhabitants. The story serves as a critique of the institutional processes as well as a celebration of humanistic principles. One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest is one of the most challenged novels in American literature, having been contested or banned on at least seven separate occasions.
Why You Should Read It: Heralded by many as one of the greatest achievements in Modernist literature, Ulysses makes use of stream-of-consciousness and experimental prose (using a lexicon of 30,030 words) to deliver the appointments and encounters of an ordinary man on an ordinary day in Dublin. The novel’s pacing, creativity, and skillfully written prose have earned it high praise, including being named number one in the Modern Library’s List of the 100 best English-Language novels of the 20th century.
Why You Should Read It: The second dystopian novel on our list, 1984 tells the story of a corrupt government in the near future that controls its citizens through threat of war and constant surveillance. 1984 explores the dangers of an oppresive government, censorship, and class conflict in a way that is still relevant today.
Why You Should Read It: Also dystopian, this novel examines how advancements in reproductive technology, sleep-learning, psychological manipulation, and classical conditioning can be used to profoundly change and control society. Brave New World explores the dangers of a capitalist society gone horribly awry and poses the question of the future of our own consumer-based society.
The Reading Doesn’t Stop Here
These are just a few of the many culturally significant novels written during the Modernist movement, Post-Modernism, and the contemporary age. Choose one of these unforgettable stories and start reading today!