Discover the Ultimate Reading List: Top 100 Books of the 21st Century

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Table of Contents


Nickel and Dimed


The Flamethrowers


The Looming Tower


Tenth of December

As ⁢specified in a survey involving 503 literary professionals, by The New York Times Book Review, there’s a celebration of ‍literature in the last⁤ 25 years. It’s an ambitious project which marks an attempt to identify the most impactful books of the era. Participating in⁢ the survey, there’s a wide range ⁢of authors, journalists, and other avid readers.

For the duration of a week, the Book Review is unrolling 20 books each day.‍ The aim is introducing readers to outstanding ‍literary works to be discovered‍ or‍ re-experienced. Also, there’s the hope to be as captivated as they are⁤ by the vast range of talented‌ ideas, cultures,⁤ and stories presented. To receive updates and notifications, you can ⁢subscribe to‌ the Book ​Review newsletter.

Tree of Smoke: Denis Johnson authored ‌an intriguing novel ​in 2007, which tells the tale of a newly inducted C.I.A. operative going through a transformation and fateful encounters in Vietnam.

How to Be Both: ‍In Ali Smith’s 2014 novel, two narratives are interwoven—a fictionalized account of a modern British girl and one of a real 15th-century Italian painter. This ‌tale makes a passionate critique‍ of restricting society-enforced⁣ divides, blurring traditional borders.

Bel Canto: In 2001, Ann Patchett draws inspiration from a true event to craft an intense narrative surrounding the takeover of a private‌ household in South America, during a birthday celebration for a ​Japanese​ executive. It’s a tale layered with tension.

Men We Reaped: Sandwiched⁢ between 2 of her award-winning novels, Jesmyn Ward’s 2013 memoir is a heartfelt elegy for five young ⁢Black men whose tragic deaths exposed the hidden facets of racial injustices and cruel circumstances.

Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments: Saidiya Hartman adds a new⁢ perspective to historical records by delivering compelling narratives of African-American women⁣ marginalized during the ‌early 20th century.

Bring ⁢Up the Bodies: This novel,​ penned by Hilary Mantel in 2012, ⁤is ‌a rich tapestry of power plays and realignments during the era of Thomas Cromwell, making for an engaging portrayal of life in a powerful empire.

On Beauty: Zadie Smith crafted this multilayered novel in 2005, depicting the complexities of familial relationships, provocative ideas, and a range of ​plotlines.

Station Eleven: Emily St. John Mandel weaves a compelling narrative in this 2014⁤ novel, transporting readers to an era of a post-apocalyptic world, melancholically beautiful and deeply ‌unsettling.

The‌ Days ⁢of Abandonment: Elena‍ Ferrante portrayed a dramatic picture of a woman’s⁢ psychological downfall and attempts​ at recovery in the ⁤aftermath of separation, during the ‌2005 novel.

The Human​ Stain: Philip ​Roth’s ‌2000 novel serves as an indicting portrayal of social paradoxes ‌and influenced opinion during‍ the Clinton impeachment. Viscerally engaging and unsettling, it’s a powerful narrative.

The Sympathizer: In 2015,⁢ Viet⁣ Thanh Nguyen unveiled a multifaceted narrative ⁣fueled by intrigue and bite, drawing from genres like political thrillers, ‌metafiction, and dark comedy.

The​ Return: Fathers, Sons and the Land in Between: Hisham Matar presents a multilayered account, awarded a Pulitzer Prize, that offers an equally gripping narrative of personal bereavement and a larger geopolitical​ insight.

The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis: In a blend of brevity ⁤and ⁤sharp word choices, Lydia Davis’s incisive collection captivates ⁤readers with odd, yet​ powerful, accounts of everyday⁣ occurrences.

Detransition, Baby: Torrey Peters’s penetrating and darkly ⁣humorous⁢ debut novel, released in 2021, reimagines the very essence of love with striking depth and resonance.

100 Best ​Books of the 21st‌ Century

Frederick Douglass by David W. Blight 2018
Blight’s biography of Frederick Douglass is a refreshing eye-opener, providing a nuanced and honest portrayal of the man behind the legend. By meticulously excavating the details of Douglass’s life, Blight offers readers a deeper understanding of this iconic figure.

Pastoralia by George Saunders 2000
Saunders’s ⁤second collection of stories pushes the boundaries of storytelling‌ by exploring bizarre and absurd scenarios with a ‌poignant and human touch. Through his unique and wonderful use ​of language,‍ Saunders crafts narratives that are both unsettling and profoundly humane.

The Emperor ⁤of All Maladies: A Biography⁢ of Cancer by Siddhartha Mukherjee 2010
Mukherjee’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book provides an ambitious and empathetic exploration of ⁣the history of‌ cancer. ‍Seamlessly weaving together personal anecdotes and scientific insights, ⁣Mukherjee delivers a powerful and unforgettable ‌narrative.

When We Cease to Understand the World⁢ by Benjamín Labatut; ‍translated by Adrian Nathan West⁣ 2021
Labatut’s ⁢book⁣ offers a captivating and deeply researched look at the lives of scientists grappling with the complexities of quantum theory. Through vivid ⁣storytelling, Labatut exposes the reader to the extreme psychological and spiritual turmoil‌ that often accompanies the pursuit of scientific knowledge.

Hurricane Season by Fernanda ​Melchor; translated by Sophie Hughes 2020
Melchor’s tale of poverty, paranoia, and murder in a⁤ fictional Mexican village is a harrowing and intense exploration ‍of human​ nature.​ Her baroque storytelling ‌style evokes a sense of tension and urgency​ that leaves a lasting impact on the reader.

Pulphead by John​ Jeremiah Sullivan 2011
Sullivan’s collection of essays​ stands out for its generous​ curiosity ⁣and depth. Whether exploring the world of Christian rock ‍festivals or paying ⁢tribute to an early‍ American⁣ botanist, ⁣Sullivan’s writing exudes a grace and openness that is both refreshing‍ and timeless.

The Story of the Lost Child ⁣by ‍Elena Ferrante; translated ‍by ⁣Ann Goldstein 2015
Ferrante’s concluding​ novel in ‌her four-book saga offers an unflinching portrayal of ‌female friendship and the complexities that define it. Through X-ray prose, Ferrante delves into the​ intertwined psychologies of her characters, creating a powerful ⁣and compelling​ narrative.

A‌ Manual for Cleaning‍ Women by Lucia Berlin 2015
Berlin’s collection of short stories provides‌ a haunting and ⁣droll‍ look at the lives of hardworking, single women. Her uncanny ability ⁤to capture grace in everyday moments makes her writing both compelling and authentic.

Septology ⁤by Jon Fosse; translated by Damion Searls 2022
Fosse’s ‌epic novel defies traditional⁤ storytelling conventions with ‍a single stream-of-consciousness sentence. Despite its unconventional structure, Fosse’s narrative reflects a quiet ‍and comforting reflection on themes of ​God, art, and death.

An American Marriage by​ Tayari Jones 2018
Jones’s novel presents a ⁢poignant and realistic portrayal of the⁢ impact of⁣ racism on a young Black couple’s lives.‌ Through its exploration ⁣of wrongful ⁢conviction and imprisonment, the novel‍ sheds light on the painful realities of societal⁣ injustice.

Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by ​Gabrielle Zevin 2022
Zevin’s novel‍ is ‍a rich and emotionally compelling exploration ⁣of art,⁤ ambition, ⁢and‍ platonic love. Through a narrative that ‍spans the creative collaboration and alienation of ⁢two game-makers, Zevin offers a thought-provoking reflection on the enduring nature of human connections.

Exit West by Mohsin Hamid 2017
Hamid’s novel uses⁢ magical realism to​ tackle heavy themes‍ of ⁤war and displacement. By offering a unique and emotionally resonant take on the impact of global conflicts, Hamid’s narrative offers readers a fresh perspective on​ contemporary issues.

Olive ‍Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout⁣ 2008
Strout’s Pulitzer Prize-winning ‌novel-in-stories provides a touching and universal look at ​the life of a long-married Mainer. Through ​Olive, Strout captures the quiet​ empathy and ‌complex emotions that define the human experience.

The Passage ‍of Power by Robert Caro 2012
Caro’s political biography, part of his epic⁣ chronicle of Lyndon Johnson’s life, offers ⁣a literary and mythic portrayal of the former president. ​By‌ delving into Johnson’s ascension to the ‌highest ‌levels of power, ‍Caro creates a gripping‍ and unforgettable narrative.

Secondhand Time: The‍ Last of the Soviets by Svetlana Alexievich; translated by⁢ Bela Shayevich 2016
Alexievich’s book is a compelling and eye-opening exploration of the lives of ordinary Russians ⁢during the Soviet era and its ⁣aftermath. Through a series of interviews and personal stories,⁣ Alexievich offers readers a vivid and ​immersive look at the human experiences that shaped a nation.

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Nickel and Dimed

Barbara Kingsolver⁢ 2001

This book provides a⁢ unique and nuanced insight into the struggles of low-wage workers in the United States. ​Kingsolver’s investigative⁣ journalism​ that took her to live ​amongst minimum-wage‌ workers⁤ provides ‌a poignant and gripping depiction of ⁤the cycle of⁣ poverty and the challenges faced by the working-class population in America. The book covers issues such as the lack of access⁢ to​ affordable housing, healthcare, and adequate nutrition, presenting a sobering view of the⁣ reality of financial instability and ⁢its implications on individuals and families. With compelling storytelling ⁣and vivid⁣ imagery, Kingsolver’s work is an essential read for anyone seeking to understand the social and economic dynamics in the country.Barbara Ehrenreich 2001

Waitress, hotel⁣ maid, cleaning woman, retail clerk: Ehrenreich didn’t ‌just report on these low-wage jobs; she actually worked​ them, trying to construct a⁢ life ‍around merciless managers and wildly unpredictable schedules, while also getting paid a ⁤pittance for it. Through it all, Ehrenreich combined a profound sense of moral outrage with self-deprecating candor and bone-dry wit. ‌— Jennifer Szalai, nonfiction ‌book critic for The Times

Book cover for The Flamethrowers

The Flamethrowers

Rachel​ Kushner 2013

Motorcycle racing across the arid salt⁣ flats of Utah; art-star posturing in the downtown demimonde of 1970s New York; anarchist punk collectives and dappled villas in Italy: It’s all connected (if hardly contained) ‍in Kushner’s brash, ‍elastic chronicle of a would-be artist nicknamed Reno whose lust‌ for experience often outstrips both sense and sentiment. The book’s ambitions rise to meet her, a ‌churning bedazzlement ⁣of a novel whose unruly‍ engine thrums and roars.

Book cover for The Looming​ Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11

The Looming Tower

Lawrence Wright 2006

What happened in New York City one incongruously sunny morning ⁣in September⁢ was never, ​of course, the product of some ‍spontaneous plan. Wright’s meticulous history operates as a sort of ⁢panopticon on the events leading up to that fateful day, spanning more than five decades ⁣and a geopolitical guest list that includes everyone from ⁤the counterterrorism chief of the F.B.I. ​to the⁣ anonymous foot soldiers ​of Al Qaeda.

Book cover for Tenth of December

Tenth of December

George Saunders 2013

For all of their linguistic invention and anarchic⁤ glee, Saunders’s stories are held together by a strict understanding of the form and its requirements. Take ​plot: In “Tenth of December,” his fourth and best collection, readers will encounter an abduction, a rape, a chemically ⁢induced suicide, the suppressed rage of a milquetoast or two, ⁢a veteran’s post-­traumatic impulse to burn down his mother’s house — all of it buffeted by gusts of ‍such merriment and tender regard and daffy good cheer ‌that you realize only in retrospect how dark these morality tales really are.

Top 100 Best Books of the 21st Century

A Brief ‌History of Seven Killings
Marlon James 2014
This work‍ spans nearly 700 ‍pages, offering a semi-historical ⁢novel about the ‍assassination⁤ attempt ‌of an unnamed reggae‍ superstar resembling Bob⁢ Marley, and its intersection with C.I.A. conspiracy, international drug cartels, and the vibrant, violent Technicolor of post-independence Jamaica.

Small‍ Things Like These
Claire Keegan 2021
Keegan’s novel is a small, burnished gem, centered on the son of ‍an unwed mother who has grown ⁤up to become a ⁤respectable ⁣coal and timber​ merchant with a family of his own in 1985 Ireland. It ⁣delves into the ongoing sins of the Catholic Church⁣ and the everyday tragedies ‍wrought by repression, fear, and rank hypocrisy.

Upcoming Releases
Stay tuned⁤ for books 40-21,​ as the Book⁣ Review⁤ unveils ​20 more⁤ books on the Best Books of the 21st Century list ⁤every day‌ this week. Sign up for⁣ the Book Review’s⁢ newsletter to⁤ get notified when they’re up and hear ‍about book reviews, news, and features each week.

My Tally
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In collaboration ⁣with the Upshot, the Book Review⁢ sent a survey to hundreds of literary ⁢figures, asking them to pick their⁢ 10 best books of the 21st century. Respondents were given the option to answer a series of prompts where they chose their preferred book between two randomly selected titles, and this data was combined with ⁢vote tallies to create ‌the list of the top⁢ 100 books.


Author : New-York

Publish date : 2024-07-10 09:04:54

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