Jump to content


Modern Era must reads

Recommended Posts

I need to complete 1/2 credit of history/literature for my 9th grader.

I'm looking for the must reads from this era, don't want to miss the goodies.

I've been looking over the Veritas Press catalog and Sonlight, I also have Biblioplan and TruthQuest for this time period but just having a hard time pulling out a plan for the rest of the year.


I'm thinking of : Uncle Tom's Cabin, Pride & Prejudice, Old Man & the Sea,

1984 (or should I wait on this one?).

We've done Animal Farm and will be reading Frankenstein & Dr. Jekyll later in the year.



Link to comment
Share on other sites

Here's a list of 20th Century authors from the Britannica "Great Books, Imaginative Literature," collection:


Virginia Woolf

Franz Kafka

D. H. Lawrence

T. S. Eliot

Eugene O'Neill

F. Scott Sitzgerald

William Faulkner

Bertolt Brecht

Ernest Hemingway

George Orwell

Samuel Beckett

Henry James

Bernard Shaw

Joseph Conrad

Anton Chekhov

Luigi Pirandello

Marcel Proust

Willa Cather

Thomas Mann

James Joyce



Link to comment
Share on other sites

Steinbeck: "In Dubious Battle" and "The Moon is Down", about the depression and WWII, respectively.


Cather: "Oh Pioneers"


Rollvaag: "Giants in the Earth"


(These last two are about the pioneer era)


Friedan: "The Feminine Mystique"


(Second wave feminism was kicked off by this book, published during the late 60's or early 70's. Non-fiction)


Lewis: "That Hideous Strength", about the modern movements toward 'rational' and 'lifeless' and buerocratic behavior and government.


Smiley: "Moo", modern life--a hilarious sendup.


Austen: "Pride and Prejudice"

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Mann has a few things that are quite accessible to younger audience - such as "Tonio Kroger" or "The Holy Sinner". I think Mann is better approached, though, with "The Death in Venice" or "The Magic Mountain".

Kafka is usually a good choice, "The Trial" or "The Metamorphosis"; the latter one is really super-short and suitable for a short course.

Hesse is good too for that age group, pretty much anything.

I like Canetti's memoirs, but he might be a bit too obscure for a general high school course.

I'm not overly fond of Brecht, but "The Caucasian Chalk Circle" is quite good, though "Mother Courage" is usually studied.


Pirandello has a few good novels, such as "The Late Mattia Pascal" or "One, None and One Hundred Thousand". He also has some wonderful plays. My kids also like Calvino and Eco.


I wouldn't necessarily go with Proust at that age, but Camus is one of the good and typical choices, whether "The Stranger" or "The Plague". I also recommend Sartre's short stories and plays.


Regarding Russians, you might wish to check out Bulgakov, "Master and Margarita". I also like (and my eldest does) a few things by Andrei Makine, but he's not really known, and it's classified as French literature anyway. Brodsky's "Watermark" is nice too, my kids love it.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Modern is hard, isn't it?


We're going through the same question and plan to focus mostly on dystopic literature this year. We already read Animal Farm all together (the little kids just enjoyed it as a story).


Just FYI, you probably wouldn't want to read That Hideous Strength without reading Out of the Silent Planet first. That Hideous is the 3rd in Lewis' Space Trilogy, and I don't think it would stand well alone.


I definitely second Austen and Lewis and Cather as well as Metamorphosis by Kafka. It is immensely weird but very good. It would probably be enjoyed by a young man who would, to paraphrase Andrew Pudewa, rather be building forts.


Some other suggestions:

Brave New World (less vile and perhaps more true than 1984, though both are good)

The Isle of Dr. Moreau

Anything by Mark Twain, though it's right on the cusp of modern. Tale of Two Cities is particularly wonderful, though a rather difficult read especially for Twain.

Same deal with Melville, though it took my 14-year-old the better part of a semester to slog her way through Moby-Dick. A good guide is necessary for this book, I think. A new one that may be hard to find is Seascape-Soulscape: Moby-Dick by Gene Curtsinger.


How about some of the plays and novels of Victor Hugo, particularly Les Miserables? Even though the subject matter predates what would reasonably be considered modern, I think it was written in the 1840s or 1850s, and it shows distinctly the difference between the hideous French revolution and the far more just American revolution. His plays are also very good. He himself transitioned from being in favor of a monarch to being in favor of the republic.


Another one I think I'll have them read is Out of Africa.


How about The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck?


It's funny, though, the difference between enjoying something for oneself and reading it with one's children in mind. In the second case, it seems a lot more necessary to think about the innocence even of my teens. For that reason, I think we'll skip 1984, and I'll have to go through Out of Africa and The Good Earth before handing them over. It has been far too many years.

Edited by Cabertmom
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


  • Create New...