Classic Books of the Ages

Ryan Holiday asks, What is the ‘classic’ book of the 80s and 90s? Ryan starts by listing the classics from previous eras and decades…

The Scarlet Letter (colonial America)
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (slavery)
The Red Badge of Courage (sometimes for civil war)
The Jungle (turn of the century)
All Quiet on the Western Front (WWI)
The Great Gatsby (20s)
Of Mice and Men (30s)
Catcher in the Rye (50s and 60s)
Fahrenheit 451 (Cold War)

…and goes on to suggest that the classic 80s book is American Psycho and Fight Club for the 90s.

I cannot disagree with American Psycho; the book satires perfectly the 80s yuppie culture which embodies everything the 80s was about. The 90s, however, is a different story: Fight Club is a good and very valid choice, but I would argue that Trainspotting is on par with it for representing 90s UK culture.

Like My Life in Books, I can only suggest The Corrections for the current decade.

Other contenders were:



2 responses to “Classic Books of the Ages”

  1. I like your pick of Trainspotting—even though it is very UK, heroin and HIV were major cultural issues in the US at the same time and I think a lot of it translates well to US life.

    I said yesterday I felt it was hard for me to get the right perspective on those decades to choose books; I have been thinking also that writers don’t yet have the perspective either. The Red Badge of Courage was written thirty years after the end of the Civil War; The Scarlet Letter centuries after the time it portrays. We may be waiting a while for the “real” quintessential 80s and 90s books.

  2. I can’t agree more. What we may all one day class as the defining book of the 80s or 90s has undoubtedly not been written. If it has, I’ll be surprised. For now all we can do is choose from those that are.

    As you say; looking at lists such as this, it’s the exception, not the rule, that books that typify a decade or generation were written during it.