What current books (say, published since 2000) do you think people will be reading years and years from now and eventually come to be considered part of the literary canon?
My top choice at the moment would be The Road by Cormac McCarthy. It is brilliantly written, clever, and thought provoking. I think that it will age well, and the writing is just fantastic. My English teacher and I freak out about it on a regular basis. I'd recommend it to anyone (with full disclosure that it can be rather disturbing). Some people I've talked to have been put off by the writing style, mainly the interesting (aka lack of) punctuation in many cases, but I like it because I think that the sparse punctuation and language reflects the subject matter and general feel of the novel.
I'm curious to know which books you feel will stand the test of time and stick around for years to come.
I agree, The Road is pretty harsh, but timeless and an excellent example of the progression of post-apocalyptic literature from the realm of science fiction to the possible/likely. I'm actually using it in my thesis, which is about post-apocalyptic literature.
Non-fiction-wise, I'm a sucker for Jon Krakauer. I think his Everest chronicle, Into Thin Air, is an amazing look at how and why humans push themselves beyond their limits and the costs. Into the Wild is an exploration of idealism about nature and its costs, and Under the Banner of Heaven is an incredible look at the violent side of the fundamentalist Mormon faith. I find his writing to be captivating and his research is impeccable.
Looking at my shelves: I'm re-reading Room by Emma Donoghue (child born to a kidnapped mother being held in captivity; they escape, and how they both adjust to the world outside). We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver (fiction exploring school shootings from the perspective of the mother of a school shooter); Year of Wonders (plague years in England) and March (imagined history of the father from Little Women), both by Geraldine Brooks (March won the Pulitzer).
Any of Mary Roach's hysterical and informative non-fiction science books, especially Stiff (explores death's role in life and various ways that cadaver research can benefit the living).
Lucy Grealy's Autobiography of a Face paired with Ann Patchett's Truth and Beauty.
Alexandra Fuller's memoirs of her and her parents' life in Africa: Don't Lets Go to the Dogs Tonight and Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness.
Nathaniel Philbrick's In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex (the non-fiction basis for Melville's Moby-Dick: all kinds of good stuff like attacking whales, shipwreck, and cannibalism).
David Sedaris's essays are lovely, hysterical, and heart-breaking. I believe that some of them are already appearing in anthologies.
I'm trying to think of books that I not only read again and again, but that have some degree of cultural, literary, or scientific impact.
Jonah 4:4: And the Lord said, "Do you do well to be angry?"
There are SO many post-apocolyptic novels out there right now. It's the thing to read. We've had The Giver and The Last Book in the Universe as core novels for awhile. The Hunger Games is just one of them that really fired up the genre. Its fascinating, but not great writing.
A lot of the kids are reading The Fault is in Our Stars.
I think we won't have the same idea of canon anymore because there is SO much out there. I think a lot of what we should choose to teach as literature should be informative and eye opening, not necessarily the "best" writing, whatever that is.
I'm reading Breaking Through right now. What's so great about it? It's not "wonderful" writing, but what it is is a shocking autobiographical look at how many migrant farm workers live and appreciate what the US has to offer. This is the kind of books that really impact and open the eyes of people.
I think these kinds of novels are where it is. Maybe for older crowds, novels like The Kite Runner.
I agree that it depends on what "canon" means, pure literature, or mostly content, or books that were really not that good but became hyped-up and widely popular etc. and there is a lot out there!
My personal favorites over recent years both for quality of writing and content are The Poisonwood Bible, Ahab's Wife, Molok'ai, The Kite Runner, Night Circus...I'm sure I'm forgetting some that I loved. I'm reading The Invention of Wings right now and really liking it so far.
My personal favorites over recent years both for quality of writing and content are The Poisonwood Bible
Haven't read it yet, but recently bought a copy of this one solely because it made Amazon's list of 100 Books to Read in a Lifetime (for whatever that's worth -- I see The Hunger Games made the list as well and I'm not really sure that one has a lot of Literary Merit, though I did enjoy the story):
OK, guess I should read the Poisonwood Bible...I had it once and never got past the first two pages despite the fact that I loved Barbara Kingsolver's non-fiction book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.
I too have read more Young Adult books recently because I read them with/when my kids are reading them; so of course we are Harry Potter fans and have to agree that that will be read forever...I also like The Hunger Games but agree that the story was better than the writing.
I just finished The Giver today for my younger daughter's book club tomorrow (mother/daughter club) and really enjoyed it up until the ending.
Hmm. Not sure I'll put it in the canonical category quite yet. My older daughter has The Fault is in Our Stars to read soon and I'm a little afraid to read it myself...but if people think it is that great I guess I should.
I would read The Road if it is well-written; many of the post-apocalypse stories aren't that great (from a writing perspective...)
I have The Book Thief on audio CD but was told by my friends that it really isn't a Young Adult book....so we haven't listened to it yet. What do you think?
I'll have to check out the books you all have mentioned that I haven't read yet! There are some that have been brought up that I really want to check out. I totally second Into the Wild, Harry Potter, and The Fault in Our Stars, as well as some of the others that have been brought up. Hunger Games could go either way. The story was really good, I thought, but the writing was kind of "eh". Personally, I kind of feel like the series took a bit of a nose dive after book one. I certainly really enjoyed reading them, I'm just not convinced they have the sticking power some of the other books people have mentioned have.
S1969, The Book Thief is really good. I just read it a month or two ago and I couldn't put it down. It was well written, interesting, and I was very invested in the characters. It is quite sad, but worth a read certainly.