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Ten Twentieth-Century Novels You Should Read Right Now


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

Novel: To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

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.



Novel: To The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf

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.


Novel: The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

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.



Novel: The Sound And The Fury by William Faulkner

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


Novel: Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs

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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Novel: Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

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.


Novel: One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kessey

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.



 Novel: Ulysses by James Joyce

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


Novel: 1984 by George Orwell

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. 



 Novel: Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

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!


small_quillQUESTION: What is your favorite novel of the twentieth century?

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5 Responses to Ten Twentieth-Century Novels You Should Read Right Now

  1. Wow, difficult and nearly impossible! Some top tens: Under the Volcano by Lowry, Revolutionary Road by Yates, Catch 22 by Heller, Of Human Bondage by Maugham, Buddenbrooks by Mann, The name of the Rose by Eco, The Sun also Rises by Papa Hemingway, any short stories by Carver, anything by Haruki Murakami, The Big Book of AA (talk about saving lives).

  2. Thank you for the nudge. I missed several on the list and feel I should re-read the others. That should more than fill the next few months. Some of us can use all the help available.


  3. One should try reading books by V. S. Naipaul and these should be mandatory: ‘A House for Mr. Biswas’, ‘A Bend in the River’ and ‘An Enigma of Arrival.’ These are considered masterpieces. Naipaul was at the height of his powers when he wrote these.

  4. To Kill A Mockingbird and 1984 were two of my favorite books. I also loved George Orwell’s Animal Farm. It’s amazing how these books are still relevant to things going on in society even though they were written years ago! Great list!

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