Stories have always been a way for humanity to organize what is happening in society, documenting and capturing the mindset of a group of people at a certain time. Even as generations age and times change, there are certain stories that remain universal and perpetually relevant. They can mirror history's attitude towards gender, race, mental health and a myriad of other issues that are still in the spotlight today. So, here are 7 books that seem real even today, give us a glimpse of our history, and possibly, our future.
1. Fahrenheit 451
The phrase "knowledge is power" has been prevalent in our culture for centuries. Fahrenheit 451 explores a world where books are illegal in an attempt to control the population. In an era of "alternative facts" and "fake news," it is easy to see how this narrative is being used in the political landscape today.
2. The Handmaid's Tale
Even though this novel was written in the 1980s, it can seem shockingly current, and has recently attracted the attention of Hollywood with a new Hulu TV series. The Handmaid's Tale paints a grim dystopian future where women are used simply for the purpose of bearing children, and they are called Handmaids. While discussing her book, Margaret Atwood makes the story even grimmer by saying that she did not write about anything that hasn't happened in our history at some point. If that doesn't make the story important, I don't know what will.
3. The Crucible
Another psychological phenomenon that has been noted for generations is Groupthink, which is when a group becomes so banded together that they suspend logic and deep thought to perpetuate the ideas of the collective. In The Crucible, The Salem Witch Trials turn an entire city mad, wracked with fear and desperation for order and calm. The reader sees the lengths people will go to when affected by Groupthink, which can serve as a reminder to fight this phenomenon today.
4. The Great Gatsby
It's almost the 20s again, and I am excited. Drinking, partying and a lavish lifestyle all come to mind when we think of the roaring 1920s, especially in New York City. In our culture now, almost 100 years later, we all still enjoy the luxurious and the grand, making us very similar to the characters in The Great Gatsby. This is highlighted even more on social media, as we experience FOMO, and compete with each other to see who has the funnest, most adventurous life.
5. The Yellow Wallpaper
Mental health has taken the spotlight recently, with everyone from actors to politicians working to break the stigma of mental illness. It wasn't that long ago, however, that society viewed mental illness in an entirely different light. For mentally ill women, especially, a diagnosis of a mental condition could mean the start of a dreary, terrifying road, as doctors had no idea how to treat these conditions, and usually made them worse. The Yellow Wallpaper is a short story that reveals the inner thoughts of a woman slowly going mad, showing how far we have come, but how deep the stigma is and has always been.
6. The Taming of the Shrew
Going along with the theme of gender and society, there are certain expectations for how women should behave, and what makes an ideal wife. In this Shakespeare comedy, The Taming of the Shrew shows the plight of one man to take an undesirable women, and transform her into a subservient, meek and obedient wife. Even though we have progressed far from these ideals, they give us a glimpse into the place women have held throughout history, and why our expectations of women are what they are.
7. One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest
In addition to how mental illness has affected women, it has also plagued men. This story brings the audience into the world of a mental hospital where a group of men have been admitted for a plethora of conditions. When a healthy man sees how far the group has fallen, he brings them together in solidarity to question the status quo, and work towards freedom and a better life.