Valuable Classic Novels That Have Endured the Test of Time

Do you have a favorite classic novel? Read on to find more timeless classics that are just as relevant today as the day they were released.

Book Culture Classics Fiction Recommendations
3 books covers including To Kill A Mockingbird, The Color Purple, and Little Women against background showing an open book and drink against ruffed sheet and woman's hand.

The twenty-first century has brought a litany of changes to the societal expectations of what makes a book not only entertaining but beneficial to everyone in the Western world. The inclusion of so many races, genders, theologies, classes, and sexualities within mainstream media has led to ideological evolution for many readers. Determining if a book is “good” now includes a determination of whether it is fair, inclusive, honest, and meaningful. This list of classic novels encapsulates incredibly meaningful works of prose that decades of changing political facades and moral ideals have been unable to diminish.

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Quite possibly the most influential book of the 20th century, Lee’s masterpiece, To Kill A Mockingbird, was published in 1960 at the height of the Civil Rights Movement. After centuries of atrocities that littered the tapestry of the American south, Lee won a Pulitzer Prize for her novel, which infuriated many white Americans upon its release. The novel itself is a portrait of the ever-fading “middle-class American South,” according to Lee, and also enlightened the world about the ongoing abuse by the governments in many American states towards black people at the time. 

Drawing of tree against red background.

The book is told from the naïve perspective of nine-year-old Scout, whose father, Atticus Finch is a progressive small-time lawyer who stands up against the system to defend a black man falsely accused of rape. To Kill A Mockingbird addressed racial prejudice and social justice in a way like no other book written in the south ever had before. It is just as relevant in today’s society as an homage to human decency and to the ways in which the progressive ideals of the twentieth century can be improved upon through anti-racism and the ongoing fight against systemic racism. 

The Giver by Lois Lowry 

This dystopian novel, which received the 1994 Newbery Medal, is one designed to encourage the (often juvenile) reader to think for themselves and question the parameters of society that have been established by those who came before them. The Giver is set in a futuristic society where concepts of war and poverty are a thing of the past — a past which all of general society has zero recollection of — and it is up to one man, the keeper of the memories, to hold onto that which came before. The Giver is told from the perspective of Jonas, a twelve-year-old whose job is to learn all of the things his society has forgotten, including pain, suffering, love, and humanity. 

Tree and woods in front and the face of an older man with beard to the back.

In an American society where books are being banned, and more and more frequent government interference in schools is becoming the norm, free thought is being threatened. The Giver today is not just a beautiful classic novel but also a reminder that all humans — especially children — have a right to use a variety of perspectives and information to form their own worldviews. 

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

A coming-of-age novel about the power of sisterhood, the strength of women, and the bonds of family, Little Women is a must-read classic for any generation. A testament to its lasting significance in society is Greta Gerwig’s 2019 adaptation of the movie into a film that garnered six Academy Award nominations and rocked modern readers’ interpretations of Alcott’s semi-autobiographical novel.

Little Women is told from the point of view of Jo March, an aspiring writer and one of four sisters struggling during the financially unstable post-Civil War era. Jo is an unconventional feminist ahead of her time, eager to make a mark on the world outside of being someone’s wife and mother. Her sisters, unlike her, voraciously seek husbands of wealth and status. 

Drawings of plants, flowers, and vines with the faces of four young looking girls interspersed.

This novel was ahead of the Women’s Suffrage Movement by nearly fifty years. Now, over a hundred and fifty years since it was written, women continue to identify with Jo and her sisters. Their love for one another exceeds their love for any man. Their desire to make something of their lives stands up now more than ever when women are being asked not only to be wives and mothers but also to have successful careers, retirement accounts, and financial independence that doesn’t rely on the man they marry. The pressure Jo felt continues to be felt by women throughout the Western world, making this classic as timeless as they come. 

The Perks of Being A Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

The Perks of Being A Wallflower is a modern classic published in 1999, which represented a generation of teenagers before the new millennia who were free from the shackles of technology and whose lives were a kaleidoscope of dreams and angst. The novel is told from the point of view of Charlie, a fifteen-year-old loner who has endured undeniable trauma in his short life but who is infinitely loving and accepting of others.

When Charlie is taken under the wing of the beautiful Sam and her flamboyant step-brother, Patrick, he embraces a world of nineties nirvana, which educates him endlessly. Throughout the book, issues of abuse, drug use, sex, teenage pregnancy and abortion, homosexuality, family trauma, suicidal ideation, and more are addressed. Chbosky doesn’t stray from anything scary or uncomfortable for teenagers but leans into these issues and views them through Charlie’s eyes, allowing him to explore the world around him and come to terms with the good and the evil in it. 

Empty yellow background with small picture of the bottom half of a man in dress pants and dress shoes.

Because of its candor, The Perks of Being a Wallflower now often graces many lists of banned books lists. However, the importance of this story cannot be denied, and it should never be ignored. Future generations of teenagers and their parents can learn the value of open conversation about the many uncomfortable topics within this book. It is important to acknowledge Charlie’s as a story that will be relevant as long as humanity is so achingly human. 

The Color Purple by Alice Walker

The Color Purple is an undeniably extraordinary novel that won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1983 and gave Black Americans a voice in literature on a worldwide platform. The book is from the perspective of Celie, a poor Black girl from Georgia in the early 1900s who is subjected to a litany of abuse and misfortune but finds love in a female jazz singer named Shug Avery. Throughout the story, issues of segregation and oppression, gender roles and relationships, spirituality, and self-worth are raised. 

Drawings of the profiles of two young black women whose heads are resting against one another.

Like many others on this list, The Color Purple has withstood the test of time because of its ability to address human issues that are ever-present in society. A recent musical remake of The Color Purple proves its prevalence in modern society, where gender roles, sexual abuse, and systemic racism are an unfortunate reality of modern life. 

1984 by George Orwell

George Orwell’s cautionary dystopian novel, published in 1949, is a terrifying tale of the power of the world’s governments and how far they would go to break the will of the individual. The book follows Winston Smith, a frustrated and oppressed member of the ruling party of London in the dystopian nation of Oceania. Winston is aware of the level of control of the government and its omniscient leader, Big Brother, who uses spies and an invented language called Newspeak to prevent political rebellion. 

Bright red background with only an eye set against it. The eye also has a red dot.

While seemingly far-fetched in its extremity, 1984 acknowledges the power and reach of governments terrified of political upheaval. With the many turbulent events in America and internationally over the last many years, it is difficult to view Orwell’s work as mere science fiction. Conspiracy theories, propaganda, and threats to the institution of democracy make 1984 a classic novel that is possibly more important than it has ever been before. 

The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton

Another coming-of-age story to grace this list of timeless classics, The Outsiders, is one that very few have not read at some stage of their adolescence. The implementation of “Stay gold, Ponyboy” as words to grace endless arrays of commercial items is a reflection of the universality of Hinton’s amazing novel. 

A young man is shown with greased back hair and leather jacket. His face looks down as light shines upon him.

The Outsiders follows Ponyboy Curtis and his gang of Greasers, who come from the rougher side of their Tulsa, Oklahoma neighborhood. The Greasers’ primary combatants are the socially acceptable rich kids, the Socs, who transform from upstanding citizens one minute into bullying gangs the next. The Outsiders tackles issues of monetary classes and adult ambivalence in ways that no other book has done before or since. The significance of the words “stay gold” goes far beyond quoting the classic Robert Frost poem and signifies the importance of innocence, loyalty, and morality in young people’s lives.

Regardless of their era or message, all these timeless classics have a lasting impact that will keep them on bookshelves for many generations to come. Do you have another favorite classic novel that you feel has endured the test of time? Reach out to let us know which one at Bookstr’s X, Instagram, and Facebook!

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