10 Most Influential Classic Novels of Our Time

The most influential classic novels of our time each initiated a trend that changed the literary scene from then on. Remove any of these classic novels, and a hole would be formed in literature as we know it. This isn’t to say that the most influential classic novels necessarily changed our material or even spiritual world. Only that every one of them changed part of our culture, art, and storytelling, affecting later classic novels and oftentimes starting a whole new genre. So here they are, the most influential classic novels of our time.

10 Most Influential Classic Novels: #1. ATLAS SHRUGGED

One of the most influential classic novels of all times, regardless of borders, culture or age, is Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. Said to be the second most influential book after the bible in a survey of readers, Atlas Shrugged tells the story of a world in which the men of the mind go on strike. Their purpose is simple. No longer will they agree to give their toil, their passions, their knowledge to their life’s work, only to be taxed the heaviest, treated as exploiters or play things of greedy politicians. In this influential classic novel, author Ayn Rand shows the consequences of an economy corrupted by pressure groups, lobbyist and politicians who bandy favors for votes. Sadly, it is in many ways an economy similar to that of the United States today. For rational readers, Atlas Shrugged will prove the most influential novel they will ever read, and one that will educate them in philosophy, politics and economics, while engaging their minds and hearts in a complex symphony of story-telling, passions and life-and-death battles.

10 Most Influential Classic Novels: #2. LES MISERABLES

One of the most influential classic novels in the 19th Century was Les Miserables by French novelist, Victor Hugo. Set during the period of the French Revolution, this sweeping, 1,500 page novel explores the wretched poor in France, the unjust judicial system, and the hopeless existence of the multitude, which gave rise to the revolt. As with all Hugo novels, the characters are larger than life, the story is riveting, and the scenes of dialogue are breathtaking; while the main characters that dramatize the themes of the novel are each giants of literature, from Jean Val Jean to his nemesis Javert. Made into countless movies, as well as the famous Broadway musical, Les Miserables is sold in countless abridged editions, kids versions, and worldwide translations. It is considered by many to be the greatest novel of the 19th Century, a time in which the greatest classic novels were being written.

See also  The Life and Times of Michael Alig Told in Popular Culture: Party Monster and Disco Bloodbath Tell Part of the Story

10 Most Influential Classic Novels: #3. THE LORD OF THE RINGS

One of the most influential classic novels in fantasy is the Lord of the Rings trilogy by J.R.R Tolkien. Initially written as a single volume, the sweeping tale of earth’s battle against the dark, conquering forces of Mordor mirrors the battle of WWII, in which reason, science and freedom were under mortal peril from the dark forces of the Third Reich. Considered by many to be the father of fantasy literature, J.R.R. Tolkien was an Oxford don, who shared his work with a group of literati, among them C.S. Lewis, the author of the famous Narnia Chronicles, and A.E. Housemen, the legendary poet. The prelude to the Lord of the Rings trilogy, the short novel, TheHobbit, had been made into several cartoons, while the trilogy itself was recently brought to life in the acclaimed movies directed by Peter Jackson. Many artists have created the worlds of J.R.R. Tolkien on canvas, John Howe being one of the most famous. And many art collections can be found in book stores and online, bringing the Hobbits, elves, dwarfs and many other lands, people and languages to life.

10 Most Influential Classic Novels: #4. ANNA KARENINA

One of the most socially influential classic novels of its time was Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy. Setting out to prove the primacy of social order over individual passions, Anna Karenina tells the story of a woman who dares to seek happiness in defiance of societies mores. Slowly sacrificing all her values, Anna Karenina is left to realize that without society one’s personal dreams, even if realized, turn sour. Standing in direct contrast with the American spirit that placed individual happiness and its possible attainment at the heart of adventure stories, this powerful classic novel sought to prove the opposite, as did another famous novel of this period, Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert. Anna Karenina has been made into countless films and is still being revived regularly, captivating audiences with its tragic love story.

10 Most Influential Classic Novels: #5. LADY OF THE CAMELLIAS

One of the most artistically influential classic novels of its time is Lady of the Camellias by Alexandre Dumas, fils, the son of the famous author of the Count of Monte Cristo, The Man in the Iron Mask and The Three Musketeers. It is the heart-rending love story of a courtesan who turns her back on her lover, returning to being a whore only to convince him that she no longer cares for him-and thereby save him from a ruinous marriage that would have made her the happiest of women. The captivating premise was first depicted in a famous novel of its day, Manon Lescaut, and was then brought to literary perfection in Lady of the Camellias. The famous composer, Verdi, immortalized the story in his stunning opera, LaTraviata.Lady of the Camellias has been put to music in a ballet, and on the stage and silver screen, with the role of its heroine played by the greatest actresses of the day.

See also  Future Film Adaptations of Arthur C. Clarke's Last Two Books in the 2001 Series

10 Most Influential Classic Novels: #6. A TALE OF TWO CITIES

One of the most literarily influential classic novels is A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. Its opening line is perhaps the most famous in literature: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness…” Holding up a mirror to France during its revolution and England, across the English Channel, the author explores the politics of his day and the most crucial philosophical questions which set so many social upheavals into motion. This comparison is immortalized in the form of two men, almost twins in appearance, though so different in character-only to extol the dark twin in the end. For in him Dickens brings his moral statement to its denouement, as the one twin dies to save his better self and ends the novel with some of the most famous last lines in literature: “It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to, than I have ever known.” A Tale of Two Cities has been dramatized in films and is still one of the most popular classic novel.

10 Most Influential Classic Novels: #7. THE WOMAN IN WHITE

One of the most influential classic novels for the mystery genre is The Woman in White, by Wilkie Collins. A contemporary of Charles Dickens, Wilkie Collins was the father of the mystery novel, a tale that weaves clues into its makeup, slowly culminating in the solution of a mystery. Highly melodramatic and often the portrayer of strong female characters, Wilkie Collins weaves the story of two sisters, the one delicate and pretty, the other strong and indomitable. And as the shadow of a terrible mystery falls over them, the strength of the elder sister carries them through psychological terrors and physical perils. Though almost forgotten today, The Woman in White was a sensational best-seller in its day, so much so that Wilkie Collins asked that the epigram “Author of the Woman in White” be carved on his gravestone.

10 Most Influential Classic Novels: #8. SHERLOCK HOLMES

See also  Themes from "Wuthering Heights"

The most influential classic novels for the detective genre are by far the Sherlock Holmes short stories and novels by Arthur Conan Doyle. No other literary character is so easily recognized as the famous detective by his coat and hat. Preceding his time in criminal psychology, forensic science, and deductive reasoning applied to crime solving, the stories of Arthur Conan Doyle influenced the field of crime detection in real life as well as literature. The Sherlock Holmes mysteries have been dramatized in films and plays worldwide, and the name “Sherlock” has even found its way into the vernacular as an aphorism for extreme perspicacity.

10 Most Influential Classic Novels: #9. PRIDE AND PREJUDICE

One of the most influential classic novels for the romance genre is Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austin. At a time when Walter Scott’s epic novels were the best-selling novels of the day, Jane Austin’s novels, set in the parlors of England’s gentry, set a new tone in literature. Simple every day existence was shown to form the backdrop for ordinary acts of greatness that may combine to form a good man. No longer was a hero measured by his ability to kill his foe, but his steadfast loyalty, love, and continued acts of kindness. Pride and Prejudice set the tone for future romance novels, creating a witty female character through whose eyes the mystery of the reticent, dark stranger is slowly unveiled. Of Jane Austen’s novels, Pride and Prejudice was made into the most films and is still one of the most popular influential classic novels of all time.

10 Most Influential Classic Novels: #10. WUTHERING HEIGHTS

One of the most influential classic novels for the romance genre, gothic genre and the psychological novels is Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. A novel written well before its time and by an astonishingly young novelist, Wuthering Heights depicts a man of untamed evil, which nonetheless has captivated readers with his passionate, unquenchable love for a single woman. An epitome of undying love, the character of Heathcliff has served as a model for future romance heroes. While the gothic setting of the secluded house on the wild moors, has been influential in gothic novels (as was Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte). Wuthering Heights has been translated into many languages and dramatized in films across the world.