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Modern books we think will be classics one day

Which contemporary writers will go down in literary history?

Books that change literature. Books that change us. Books with the characters, the emotional impact or just the sheer quality of writing to endure beyond their time. There’s no single definition of a classic, but you can often recognise one when you read it. So which novels written now will be the classics of the future? Whether you’re planning a post-cryogenic freeze book club or just want something amazing for your present day, these are the books to read now which we think will still be revered in 2222.

Shuggie Bain

by Douglas Stuart

Book cover for Shuggie Bain

This is the deeply moving story of a woman ravaged by addiction, disappointed with a life that has never lived up to her expectations, and her son, exhausted by an adolescence spent trying to be ‘normal’ like other boys, and desperate to help her. The 2020 Booker Prize winner is a story of love, pride and poverty that is both deeply rooted in its 1980s Glasgow setting and certain to resonate across future generations.

Trust

by Hernan Diaz

Book cover for Trust

This literary puzzle set amongst the money and power brokers of 1930s New York is already being described as a new American classic. At its core, the novel asks where the truth of a person, and their story, really resides; a question that is sure to become increasingly relevant as our lives become ever more fractured across 'real' and digital worlds. And while we hope that the quiet mistreatment and erasure of women that runs through Trust will feel less pertinent in years to come, the continuing impact of Tess of the d'Urbervilles or Jane Eyre suggest this may not be the case. 

A Little Life

by Hanya Yanagihara

Book cover for A Little Life

This rave review from The Wall Street Journal perfectly captures what makes Hanya Yanagihara’s characters Willem, JB, Jude and Malcolm, and the grand, dramatic novel that centres around them, future-classic material: ‘One of the pleasures of fiction is how suddenly a brilliant writer can alter the literary landscape. . .Here is an epic study of trauma and friendship written with such intelligence and depth of perception that it will be one of the benchmarks against which all other novels that broach those subjects. . .will be measured.’ 

Annie John

by Jamaica Kincaid

Book cover for Annie John

When Annie turns twelve, everything starts to change. She begins to question the way society works, makes rebellious friends and distances herself from her mother, who is becoming more of a critic than a confidante. This is a coming-of-age narrative with a subversive edge, which uses the title character’s tip into adulthood as a means of disrupting colonial ideas of power and control.

The Four Winds

by Kristin Hannah

Book cover for The Four Winds

Also hailed as a future American classic, Kristin Hannah’s sweeping bestseller offers us a very different perspective on 1930s America from the high-flying New Yorkers in Trust. In drought-riven Depression-era Texas, Elsa must decide whether to fight for the land she loves or travel west to California in search of a better life. A story of survival, hope and the lengths we go to for the people we love.

The Miniaturist

by Jessie Burton

Book cover for The Miniaturist

Like the dolls house at its centre, this book is exquisitely detailed, meticulously put together and has a heart-stopping surprise behind every closed door. Beautifully written and a real page-turner, there’s a lot to love about Jessie Burton’s bestseller, but it’s The Miniaturist’s strong female characters and observations on race and class that are sure to keep it on bookshelves for years to come.

Heaven

by Mieko Kawakami

Book cover for Heaven

Two bullied fourteen-year-olds are brought together by their shared unhappiness, becoming each other’s oases amid the relentless threat of violence and intimidation. This unsettling – nay, horrifying – depiction of the terrors of high school is unflinching yet tender, and deserves to place Kojima and ‘Eyes’ alongside Holden and Carrie in the ranks of famous fictional teenagers.

The Women Could Fly

by Megan Giddings

Book cover for The Women Could Fly

Often mentioned in the same breath as Margaret Atwood, Megan Giddings’ second novel is a work of feminist speculative fiction that speaks to our times and likely to future ones too. A piercing dystopian tale about the unbreakable bond between a young woman and her absent mother, its exploration of female autonomy and power will live long in our collective memory.

Room

by Emma Donoghue

Book cover for Room

For five-year-old Jack, there’s TV and there’s ‘in real’, and ‘in real’ begins and ends with Room, the ten foot by ten foot space where he lives alone with his Ma. It is hard not to experience a visceral, even physical, response to the events of Room, a profoundly upsetting and somehow also wonderful story of maternal love and survival. Featuring one of the most distinctive narrative voices you’ll ever read and one of the most amazing mothers ever written, this is sure to be a literary fixture for future generations.

If you're an Emma Donoghue fan, her latest novel Haven explores a different type of isolation with vivid intensity and her trademark compassion. New to her work? You can read our guide to her books here.