The other day I came across an article from the Telegraph in England naming the 50 best books with a cult following. But first, the authors tried to define a cult book:
What is a cult book? We tried and failed to arrive at a definition: books often found in the pockets of murderers; books that you take very seriously when you are 17; …. books our children just won’t get …
Some things crop up often: drugs, travel, philosophy, an implied two fingers to conventional wisdom, titanic self-absorption, a tendency to date fast and a paperback jacket everyone recognises with a faint wince. But these don’t begin to cover it.
Cult books include some of the most cringemaking collections of bilge ever collected between hard covers. But they also include many of the key texts of modern feminism; some of the best journalism and memoirs; some of the most entrancing and original novels in the canon.
Only two classic YA books made the list: Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger and To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. (Both have recently been featured by Novel Novice.) And it’s debatable whether or not these are even really cult classics since they’re both regularly taught in classrooms. One of my favorite novels ever, The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath (who was also featured on Novel Novice during April’s National Poetry Month series) also made the list.
I guess my definition of “cult classic” also means the book is not widely read, perhaps even underground. Maybe a hidden gem, off the beaten path (did I forget any clichés?)
This got me thinking, which YA books are (or destined to be) cult classics?
The easy answer is The Twilight Saga since it’s definitely helped shape an entire generation (and overlapped into others), but since I generally think of lesser-known books, that would take anything Stephenie Meyer writes out of the running. Same goes for the Harry Potter series.
Here are just a few titles and series I thought of:
- Going Bovine by Libba Bray: This is by far one of the most unusual, witty (and bizarre) books I’ve ever read. I can see it having a cult following in the same way Monty Python and Office Space do.
- The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare: Not everyone on the street knows who Jace is. Heck, most YA literature professors probably have no clue what a Shadowhunter is. But dang, those in the know would kill to touch his stele! (And true fans probably sport rune tattoos, too.)
- The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins: This series may be a bit too mainstream since it’s been near the top of the best sellers lists for, like, years. But like most cult classics, it’s characters definitely give the finger to the establishment.
What other YA titles belong on the list? And what are your criteria for a cult classic?
I think they may be a little too mainstream, but Holly Black’s novels (Tithe, Ironside, Valiant) stand out to me. Especially with the qualification of giving the finger to the establishment.
I also love Juliet Marillier’s Daughter of the Forest series. Whether those are a cult classic though is beyond my knowledge.
Tee-hee … you wrote “give the finger to the establishment” … 😉
I also think Philip Pullman’s HIS DARK MATERIALS trilogy would fall under this category. Despite the epic fail of a movie adaptation that was “The Golden Compass,” the books still never went totally mainstream like TWILIGHT and HARRY POTTER — but they have a huge following, nonetheless, that I think fits this “underground”/”cult” definition.
I finished book 1 of the Mortal Instruments series last night, and couldn’t even wait a whole day before picking up the second one in the book store. They’re addicting and such good reads! Oh, and Jace is kind of my hero. I love his character more than words (and that’s saying something).
Ooh, Cas, I’ll have to email you — “The Mortal Instruments” are going to be featured as our August Book of the Month series! 🙂
Oooh yes! I would love to be a part of anything ‘Mortal Instruments’ related! I think I’ve officially started putting together my dream cast, whether or not it ever becomes a movie series (But I seriously think it should.)