Critically acclaimed novels 21st century
21st Century Book Lists
The 21st Century’s 12 greatest novels
When I began to read White Teeth as a judge for the Guardian First Book award my preponderant feeling was one of relief. Relief that, despite the loudest hype for a first novel in my lifetime, the book itself was very good. Relief that its author, despite ticking all the boxes of promotability, was a serious writer. Relief that, despite being touted as "the multicultural novel for our time", it also spread more widely, and was as much about religion and faith as about race. Relief, too, that as a novel it was far from perfect — which might have been unbearable — and accorded to someone's definition of the novel as "a long piece of prose with something wrong with it". Even at the level of surface fact, there are numerous errors, especially in the war section where tanks suddenly turn into jeeps and pistol bullets produce shrapnel.
Actually, constructing a canon of any kind is a little weird at the moment, when so much of how we measure cultural value is in flux. Its supposed permanence became the subject of more recent battles, back in the 20th century, between those who defended it as the foundation of Western civilization and those who attacked it as exclusive or even racist. But what if you could start a canon from scratch? We thought it might be fun to speculate very prematurely on what a canon of the 21st century might look like right now. We asked each of them to name several books that belong among the most important works of fiction, memoir, poetry, and essays since and tallied the results.
A quick note: the following 10 novels will not appear on this list. You might think these are great. I have done away with the English language requirement for this list, because my previous list was done to Modern Library standards to match up against their list. Only two of these are foreign language novels anyway. Actually, let me add to that last little paragraph, which was written in
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But cross into this millennium and things are suddenly murkier, Kindle-ier, less classed up with age. Then again, it's been an affirming thirteen years, enough time to breed a whole new body of post lit we're happy to call the new classicsand we're not afraid to name names.
When you think of the best novels of the 21st century , what are the first titles that come to mind? Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides? Those are some great novels, but they also all fit into a mold — heavy dramas tackling themes of family, love, conflict, and hate, written by critically-lauded white male authors. In other words, the same as nearly every other contender for title of the Great American Novel. Make no mistake, those are indeed some of the best novels of the 21st century.