Today, I somehow came across this list of the most influential fiction novels of the 20th century (Published in the November 1998 issue of Library Journal). I was looking through it out of interest and saw that I have read quite a few of the books, surprisingly!
The list has 150 books on it, so I obviously won't post the whole thing here. But, I will include the first 10 or so, and I encourage you to go check out the rest of them right here. It's super interesting! The next time I have no idea what to read, I'll pick something off the list. There's just something special about reading a book that affected people the way it did.
#1: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
The conscience of a town steeped in prejudice, violence, and hypocrisy is pricked by the stamina and quiet heroism of one man's struggle for justice.
#2: The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
Holden, knowing he is to be expelled from school, decides to leave early. He spends three days in New York City and tells the story of what he did and suffered there.
#3: The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
In ancient times the Rings of Power were crafted by the Elven-smiths, and Sauron, the Dark Lord, forged the One Ring, filling it with his own power so that he could rule all others. But the One Ring was taken from him, and though he sought it throughout Middle-earth, it remained lost to him. The Lord of the Rings tells of the great quest undertaken by Frodo and the Fellowship of the Ring.
#4: Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
A monumental classic considered by many to be not only the greatest love story ever written, but also the greatest Civil War saga.
#5: Beloved by Toni Morrison
Set in rural Ohio several years after the Civil War, this profoundly affecting chronicle of slavery and its aftermath is Toni Morrison's greatest novel, a dazzling achievement, and the most spellbinding reading experience of the decade.
#6: The Color Purple by Alice Walker
This landmark work is Walker's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel that also won the American Book Award and established her as a major voice in modern fiction. The New York Times Book Review hailed it an "intense emotional impact", and the San Francisco Chronicle called it "a work to stand beside literature of any time and place".
#7: Ninteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell
To Winston Smith, a young man who works in the Ministry of Truth (Minitru for short), come two people who transform his life completely. One is Julia, whom he meets after she hands him a slip reading, "I love you." The other is O'Brien, who tells him, "We shall meet in the place where there is no darkness." The way in which Winston is betrayed by the one and, against his own desires and instincts, ultimately betrays the other, makes a story of mounting drama and suspense.
#8: Animal Farm by George Orwell
Farm is a devastating satire of the Soviet Union by the man V. S. Pritchett called "the conscience of his generation". A fable about an uprising of farm animals against their human masters, it illustrates how new tyranny replaces old in the wake of revolutions and power corrupts even the noblest of causes.
#9: Lord of the Flies by William Golding
The classic tale of a group of English school boys who are left stranded on an unpopulated island, and who must confront not only the defects of their society but the defects of their own natures.
#10: Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
Catch-22 is like no other novel we have ever read. It has its own style, its own rationale, its own extraordinary character. It moves back and forth from hilarity to horror. It is outrageously funny and strangely affecting.
So, there we go! Have you read any of these books? Why do you think they are chosen as the most influential? Are there any other books you think should be recognized?
(All images and descriptions are from the Harris County Public Library website.)