Recently, in the UK’s Guardian, five authors attempted to identify the five books—fiction, nonfiction, occasional poetry—that shaped each generation since World War II. How well do their picks match your touchstone books? And are you a cross-generational reader?
Baby Boomers (selected by Blake Morrison): Joseph Heller’s Catch-22, Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, Germaine Greer’s The Female Eunuch, RD Laing’s Knots, and Penelope Leach’s Your Baby & Child. True to my generation, I’ve read a couple of these (first and last).
Gen X (Chris Power, who notes a “tension between earnestness, self-consciousness and cynicism” in these picks): Alex Garland’s The Beach, Helen Fielding’s Bridget Jones’s Diary, Naomi Klein’s non-fiction No Logo, Zadie Smith’s White Teeth, and David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest. Does seeing the movie count?
Millennials (Megan Nolan, whose picks, she said, convey “a sense of cautious, questioning dread.” Great.): Halle Butler’s The New Me, Leslie Jamison’s essay collection, The Empathy Exams, Ling Ma’s Severance, JM Holmes’s How Are You Going to Save Yourself, and Malcolm Harris’s Kids These Days. Hmmmm. Not part of my reading past.
Gen Z (Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé): Chloe Gong’s These Violent Delights (a retelling of Romeo and Juliet), Alice Oseman’s Heartstopper, Kelly Jensen’s anthology of mental health-related essays (Don’t) Call Me Crazy, Aiden Thomas’s Cemetery Boys, and Adam Silvera’s They Both Die at the End.
When time travel deposits you at this last generation, you find books have evolved not only in content, but in form and intent. The last five are, respectively, YA, a graphic novel series, an anthology of essays, a YA paranormal adventure, and “a TikTok sensation.”
Quite obviously, I need to get out more!