Before the turn of the 21st century, a list of books called the Modern Library Top 100 was published. Critic and scholars identified what they felt were the 100 most important English-language books of the 20th century. For years, I have been intending to tackle this list, and when I was younger I got about 25% of the way through.
However, I was less wise then, and more susceptible to the white patriarchial imposition of what makes a “classic.” I intend to read thee books once again, starting anew, but to view them through the lens of our 21st Century morality. How do these books engage with race, or gender? Do they hold up over time?
To do this, I plan to work through the list by tens, starting from #100 and moving down to #10, before restarting at #99, etc. When a book is part of a series, I will, to reasonable extent, read the series to frame its context. I’ll write a short report on each book, covering my thoughts within this critical lens. These reviews won’t be comprehenive, but I will try to capture the essential elements of the novels. I do not intend to cover every aspect of race, or gender, or immigration, or any other axis. My goal is to try to contextualize contemporary media of the 21st Century with its most familiar kin. Many of these novels are problematic. I’ll talk about that. And, while trying to avoid a bias towards discarding these modern classics out of a default cynicism, I’ll try to evaluate whether these stories do in fact withstand the test of time.
Estimated Reading Time: 2 minutes