These books were all published quite a while ago, but they say that what goes around comes around. Or everything old is new again. Or something.
I think these could serve as interesting springboards to discussions of current events:
by George Orwell. This novel, considered a futuristic dystopian when it
was written, is newly relevant. Orwell paints a picture of a society
with constant surveillance, political doublespeak, revisionist history,
and the end of privacy.
Main Street, by Sinclair Lewis.
This story takes place in the World War I era, yet the divide that we
would now call red-state/blue-state is exemplified in this story of a
marriage in a small town. Are we too polarized to ever get along?
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn,
by Betty Smith. I've been considering doing a blog read-along of this
one. It also takes place in the World War I era, yet the economic
struggles of its main characters are part of many families' stories
nowadays. This is also a book with the "strong female characters"
readers look for today.
David Copperfield, Oliver Twist, or A Christmas Carol,
by Charles Dickens. News reports can go on and on about wealth
inequality, the rise of homelessness, and the burden of debt, but I
wonder if any of that has the same impact as the classic scene of Oliver
Twist begging for more gruel in the orphanage. I could have put almost
any Dickens book on this list; he continually brought readers
unflinchingly to the workhouses, the debtor's prisons, the factories
that used child labor, and the street corners and haystacks where the
homeless sleep. Oliver Twist is probably the most muddled of
these books; having created sympathy for his gangs of young characters
driven to thievery and prostitution, Dickens seemed troubled by the
morality of having a thief as a hero. Therefore, Oliver improbably
reforms by falling into prayer in the middle of a burglary, and the
novel eventually veers away from him altogether, as Dickens became more
fascinated by the fatal relationship between Sikes and Nancy. (However,
Dickens did give the Artful Dodger some eloquent parting words on the
brutality of the criminal justice system.) A Christmas Carol probably hammers home most directly the hazards of trying to live without a living wage, and the need for compassion.
What other classics do you think can speak anew to us today?