TOP 10 21ST CENTURY READS THAT TACKLE SERIOUS TOPICS

Where classic literature is concerned, the one irrefutable argument you'll hear time and time again in its defense is that it's their messages, the effortless way in which they tackle serious topics that makes them timeless and ubiquitous. If you think back, you're sure to remember at least one person (if only your Lit teacher) who swears by the classics and simultaneously swears off modern literature for this very reason. Once upon a time, they claim, authors meditated on the most poignant issues that we as humanity face and didn't shy away from difficult (oftentimes controversial) topics of everyday life. Nowadays, the entirety of literature has been reduced to a non-philosophical kind of absurdity, to vulgarity and pointlessness.

Or has it?

Here at The Honest Bookclub, we try to keep up with the current releases. Most of the books we read and review are 21st century reads. And we beg to differ.

So for this top 10 Monday, we have chosen to showcase ten modern-day reads that tackle serious topics well. In our personal and only somewhat biased opinion, these ten reads contain messages equally as powerful as many of the classics, and handle serious topics just as expertly.

As always, beware of spoilers. In revealing the subjects these books tackle, we have been forced - in some instances, that is - to reveal what isn't readily transparent when starting some of those books for the first time (but that which only becomes apparent over time).

And as usual, the list is in no particular order. We like to consider all ten a kind of modern-day classics in their own right.



1. The Fault In Our Stars by John Green

 TFIOS on Goodreads

No list of this type would be complete without "The Fault In Our Stars". Regardless of the state it leaves the reader in, this is indubitably the sort of book that handles a difficult topic with grace. Where the subject of cancer and terminal illnesses is concerned, precious few reads have ever affected the world as deeply and as thoroughly as "The Fault In Our Stars" has. Nor have the young and the old alike been more keen on reading a book which centers around a terminal illness before.



2. Hopeless by Colleen Hoover


If you haven't read anything by Colleen Hoover - why not? She's a fantastic author and her books always have a real meaning or tackle an issue incredibly well which gives us such a fantastic and gripping story. Hopeless is a book that covers an issue of abuse and kidnap, mostly with how she deals with coping after her traumatic past and her need to find out the truth on what really happened to her. Ms Hoover's writing is incredibly touching and the story is realistic and emotional. I highly recommend this book.


3. We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

 We Were Liars on Goodreads

On a microcosmic level, "We Were Liars" tackles a multitude of cosmic issues. In just over 200 pages, E. Lockhart's newest novel brings into sharp relief some of the most poignant issues that our society faces to this day. It explores the gap between the rich and the poor, the entitled and the less-than-entitled. It deconstructs the issue of racism that persists to this day. It explores the epigenetic heritage of the psychological kind, as asks the most fundamental question: are we more than the sum or our parts? Can we overcome what we were raised to be? Can we shake the prejudice, bias and greed that the society as a whole is perpetuating? Can we choose to be better? And what price is there to be paid when putting material values and preconceptions ahead of humanity, love and forgiveness?



4. Easy by Tammara Webber


This book really opened my eyes on how I look after myself when I'm out and about. Would I be able to look after myself? Can I fight back if I got attacked? Probably not. Easy is a story about a girl who deals with an attempted rape and sadly another character does have a worse fate. The author writes incredibly well on how to deal with these issues and taking care of yourself, defending yourself and being strong through a tough time. We get to read about her taking self-defence classes and I think it's incredibly important that girls don't walk the streets alone. If you have no choice - atleast stay alert. She meets a character in this book who is so disappointed in her for texting and walking, basically not paying attention. I think most people do that now as mobiles are a massive part of our daily life and that's not good. You need to be vigilante and take in your surroundings. It could save you life in more ways than one. 
If you read this book, you'll really think again and take care of yourself. The main character is a tough girl, she really gets through a horrific ordeal and that makes her stronger. I hope she inspires other girls. 



5. The Mara Dyer series by Michelle Hodkin

 The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer on Goodreads

As a psychology student, the messages contained in the Mara Dyer series appealed to me on both a personal and a professional level. On the surface, this series tackles the "frailty of the mind" and everything from psychosis to self-harm to PTSD and beyond. Beneath the surface, however, Mara Dyer raises questions still more pertinent and still more troublesome by consequence: it brings to the forefront the stigma and the isolation that comes with mental disorders, as well as the inadequate treatment of the mentally ill that at times seems no better than locking them away in cages and throwing away the key. The lack of proper understanding and an unwillingness to listen are common themes that persist throughout this novel. And while this is a paranormal story, and it does take on supernatural elements, the fact remains that no one really stops to listen to the story that the protagonist is telling. And it raises the question of the treatment of the different in the society of the same.



6. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins



I think most people are familiar with this series. The reason for us putting The Hunger Games into the list - poverty. Katniss and many other characters struggle to make ends meet and a lot of people end up dying at a young age of starvation.  Old age is rare in District 12 and it is also in most countries around the world today. Poverty is a big issue at the moment and reading this series really make us grateful that we have food in our tummies.


7. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

 Thirteen Reasons Why on Goodreads

Told retrospectively in soliloquy form by a girl who committed suicide, Jay Asher's "Thirteen Reasons Why" stands as both a solid reminder and a stern commentary on the faults and oversights of the western schooling system such as we know it. The book reflects on everything from bullying and name-calling to the oftentimes cruel and ever-present social hierarchy in today's high schools (and the way it affects those left "on the margins" of such hierarchies). The book is an accurate and unflinchingly honest depiction of the frailties of a young psyche and the difficulties of fitting in everyone faces at some point in their lives. The leitmotif of struggling to find one's place in cruel and unfriendly surroundings makes this tragic read pervasively and universally relatable.



8. The Perks Of Being A Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky



The Perks Of Being A Wallflower is quite a well-known book now, with it's movie's popularity, most people know what this one's about. Charlie speaks to the reader through letters and it sends us on a journey through his time in high school, all the trails and tribulations. He's a sensitive, innocent and naive boy who deals with issues ranging from sex, drugs, friends and family. It's a relatable book for anyone who's going through the same problems for a person his age and it also has some beautiful and insightful words. I don't know many people who don't like this book at all, so that's bound to prove what a great and intriguing story this is.



9. The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold


 The Lovely Bones on Goodreads

Alice Sebold's "The Lovely Bones" centers around the themes of the loss of a child, the grief that comes with it, and an attempt to make sense of the senseless. The author employs magical realism to convey the aftershocks of a family following the loss of their young daughter to a brutal murder. Told from the point of view of the deceased daughter as she keeps vigil over her grieving family as they attempt to find closure, the story is a gut-wrenching portrayal of senseless violence, devastating loss and an attempt to find closure many of us face (hopefully on a less dramatic scale) at some point in our lives.



10. The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling

 Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix on Goodreads

Before you exclaim over the inclusion of a story about a teenage wizard in a school of magic on this list, hear us out. Gradually and steadily, over the course of seven books, the Harry Potter series covers all but every serious topic an individual faces in their lifetime, and then some. Apart from the ever-relevant dilemmas and uncertainties that come with finding one's place in the world as a teenager and discovering one's inner strength, J.K. Rowling's series also delves into far deeper and infinitely darker places of the human experience. From a child growing up unwanted in an abusive home to the subjects of war and senseless ethnic cleansing in the latter books, you will find no shortage of deeply relevant and mind-provoking themes throughout the entirety of the series.







And thus, we have presented you with our ten picks for books (and series) which we felt handled difficult subjects with the grace and maturity that such subjects warrant. There has been no shortage of gripping, powerful stories in the books we've come across over the years. We have been taught more lessons than we can count, and probably far more than we're consciously aware of. We've laughed and cried, we've sat in thought and we've discussed these themes endlessly among ourselves. 

What we have also been taught by each of these reads is that it's not the genre or the target age group that makes a story any more or less powerful or ubiquitously transformative. As equally as any of the classics, a modern-day middle-grade fantasy story can carry in and between its lines the power to change us (and, if you like to generalize, the power to change the world through us). A New Adult book can be every bit as relevant (and as powerful) as a century-old prize-winning piece of literature.

In the end, it's not about the genre you're reading. It's about the story.
And in the end, it's not about who is doing the reading. It's about how.





What books/stories have moved you deeply, given you pause or made you reevaluate some of what you've learned (or taken for granted)? What are the reads you feel have taught you powerful lessons? If any come to mind, please share them with us. We'd love to hear about the ways books have impacted others, and we'd love to know which are some of the books you'd choose for your own list of this kind. Do you agree with our own picks? Do you disagree? Leave a comment below or feel free to find us on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook to discuss.

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TOP 10 21ST CENTURY READS THAT TACKLE SERIOUS TOPICS
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