A Premature Attempt at the 21st Century Canon by Vulture

A panel of critics tells us what belongs on a list of the 100 most important books of the 2000s … so far.

  1. 1. The Last Samurai by Helen DeWitt

    Sibylla, an American-at-Oxford turned loose on London, finds herself trapped as a single mother after a misguided one-night stand. High-minded principles of child-rearing work disastrously well. J....

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  2. 2. The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen

    The Corrections is a 2001 novel by American author Jonathan Franzen. It revolves around the troubles of an elderly Midwestern couple and their three adult children, tracing their lives from the mid...


  3. 2. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

    The novel describes the life of Kathy H., a young woman of 31, focusing at first on her childhood at an unusual boarding school and eventually her adult life. The story takes place in a dystopian B...


  4. 3. How Should a Person Be? by Sheila Heti

    The protagonist of Sheila Heti’s thorny novel is a young divorced woman, living in Toronto, who is a heap of contradictions. She has a Jungian analyst yet works at a beauty salon. She’s writing a p...


  5. 3. The Neapolitan Novels by Elena Ferrante

    The Neapolitan Novels is a 4-part series by the Italian novelist Elena Ferrante, translated by Ann Goldstein and published by Europa Editions (New York). It includes the following novels: My Brilli...


  6. 3. The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson

    An intrepid voyage out to the frontiers of the latest thinking about love, language, and family Maggie Nelson's The Argonauts is a genre-bending memoir, a work of "autotheory" offering fresh, fierc...

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  7. 4. 2666 by Roberto Bolano

    2666 (2004) is the last novel written by Chilean-born novelist Roberto Bolaño. Depicting the unsolved and ongoing serial murders of Ciudad Juárez (Santa Teresa in the novel), the Eastern Front in W...


  8. 4. Outline by Rachel Cusk

    A luminous, powerful novel that establishes Rachel Cusk as one of the finest writers in the English language A man and a woman are seated next to each other on a plane. They get to talking—about th...

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  9. 4. The Sellout by Paul Beatty

    The Sellout is a 2015 novel by Paul Beatty published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, and in the UK by Oneworld Publications in 2016. The novel takes place in and around Los Angeles, California, and c...


  10. 5. Atonement by Ian McEwan

    Atonement is a 2001 novel by British author Ian McEwan. It tells the story of protagonist Briony Tallis's crime and how it changes her life, as well as those of her sister Cecilia and her lover Rob...


  11. 5. The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion

    The Year of Magical Thinking, by Joan Didion, is an account of the year following the death of the author's husband John Gregory Dunne (1932–2003). Published by Knopf in October 2005, the book was ...


  12. 5. Leaving the Atocha Station by Ben Lerner

    Adam Gordon is a brilliant, if highly unreliable, young American poet on a prestigious fellowship in Madrid, struggling to establish his sense of self and his relationship to art. What is actual wh...

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  13. 5. The Flamethrowers: A Novel by Rachel Kushner

    Arriving in New York to pursue a creative career in the raucous 1970s art scene, Reno joins a group of dreamers and raconteurs before falling in love with the estranged son of an Italian motorcycle...

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  14. 6. Erasure by Percival Everett

    Percival Everett's Erasure is a blistering satire about race and writing Thelonious "Monk" Ellison's writing career has bottomed out: his latest manuscript has been rejected by seventeen publishers...

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  15. 6. Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

    Middlesex is a novel by Jeffrey Eugenides. It was published in 2002 and won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2003. The narrator and protagonist, Calliope Stephanides (later called "Cal"), an in...


  16. 6. Platform by Michel Houellebecq

    Michel is a civil-servant at the Ministry of Culture. When his father is murdered, Michel takes a leave of absence to go on a package tour to Thailand. Infuriated by the shallow hypocrisy and medio...

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  17. 6. Do Everything in the Dark by Gary Indiana

    Follows the experiences of downtown New Yorkers at crossroads in their lives, from a gay couple who find themselves growing distant, to an interracial couple lapsing into heroin addiction, to a for...

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  18. 6. The Known World by Edward P. Jones

    The Known World is a 2003 historical novel by Edward P. Jones. It was his first novel and second book. Set in antebellum Virginia, it examines issues regarding the ownership of black slaves by free...


  19. 6. The Plot Against America by Philip Roth

    The Plot Against America is a novel by Philip Roth published in 2004. It is an alternate history in which Franklin Delano Roosevelt is defeated in the presidential election of 1940 by Charles Lindb...


  20. 6. The Line of Beauty by Alan Hollinghurst

    The Line of Beauty is a 2004 Booker Prize-winning novel by Alan Hollinghurst. Set in the United Kingdom in the early to mid-1980s, the story surrounds the post-Oxford life of the young gay prota...


  21. 6. Veronica by Mary Gaitskill

    A finalist for the National Book Award and National Book Critics Circle Award, here is an evocative novel about female friendship in the glittering 1980s. Alison and Veronica meet amid the nocturna...

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  22. 6. The Road by Cormac McCarthy

    The Road is a 2006 novel by American writer Cormac McCarthy. It is a post-apocalyptic tale of a journey taken by a father and his young son over a period of several months, across a landscape blast...


  23. 6. Ooga-Booga by Frederick Seidel

    From the winner of the PEN/Voelker Award, poems of love, terror, rage, and desire. Here I am, not a practical man, But clear-eyed in my contact lenses, Following no doubt a slightly different line ...

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  24. 6. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz

    The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (2007) is a best-selling novel written by Dominican-American author Junot Díaz. Although a work of fiction, the novel is set in New Jersey where Díaz was raised...


  25. 6. Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

    Wolf Hall (2009) is a Man Booker Prize-winning novel by English author Hilary Mantel, published by Fourth Estate. Set in the 1520s, it is about Thomas Cromwell's rise to power in the Tudor court of...


  26. 6. The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender

    Discovering in childhood a supernatural ability to taste the emotions of others in their cooking, Rose Edelstein grows up to regard food as a curse when it reveals everyone's secret realities.

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  27. 6. The Possessed by Elif Batuman

    No one who read Elif Batuman's first article (in the journal n+1) will ever forget it. "Babel in California" told the true story of various human destinies intersecting at Stanford University durin...

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  28. 6. Mr. Fox by Helen Oyeyemi

    A brilliant and inventive story of love, lies, and inspiration. Fairy-tale romances end with a wedding, and the fairy tales don't get complicated. In this book, the celebrated writer Mr. Fox can't ...

    - Google

  29. 6. Lives Other Than My Own by Emmanuel Carrère

    From the acclaimed Emmanuel Carrère, an act of generous imagination that unflinchingly records devastating loss and, equally vividly, the wealth of human solace that follows in its wake In Sri Lank...

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  30. 6. Zone One by Colson Whitehead

    From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Underground Railroad A pandemic has devastated the planet, sorting humanity into two types: the uninfected and the infected, the living and the ...

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  31. 6. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

    Who are you? What have we done to each other? These are the questions Nick Dunne finds himself asking on the morning of his fifth wedding anniversary, when his wife Amy suddenly disappears. The pol...

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  32. 6. NW: A Novel by Zadie Smith

    New York Times Ten Best Books of 2012 “A boldly Joycean appropriation, fortunately not so difficult of entry as its great model… Like Zadie Smith’s much-acclaimed predecessor White Teeth (2000), NW...

    - Google

  33. 6. White Girls by Hilton Als

    Combining elements of memoir, criticism, fiction and non-fiction, the book's essays create a portrait of "white girls", a category in which Als includes everyone from Truman Capote to Flannery O’Co...


  34. 6. A Man in Love: My Struggle by Karl Ove Knausgaard

    'Intense and vital... Ceaselessly compelling... Superb' James Wood, New Yorker This is a book about leaving your wife and everything you know. It is about fresh starts, about love, about friendship...

    - Google

  35. 6. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

    Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction 2014 Aged thirteen, Theo Decker, son of a devoted mother and a reckless, largely absent father, survives an accident that otherwise tears his life apart. Al...

    - Google

  36. 6. Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill

    Dept. of Speculation is a portrait of a marriage. It is also a beguiling rumination on the mysteries of intimacy, trust, faith, knowledge, and the condition of universal shipwreck that unites us al...

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  37. 6. All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews

    Elf and Yoli are sisters. While on the surface Elfrieda's life is enviable (she's a world-renowned pianist, glamorous, wealthy, and happily married) and Yolandi's a mess (she's divorced and broke, ...

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  38. 6. Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine

    A provocative meditation on race, Claudia Rankine's long-awaited follow up to her groundbreaking book Don't Let Me Be Lonely: An American Lyric. Claudia Rankine's bold new book recounts mounting ra...

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  39. 6. Black and Blur by Fred Moten

    "Taken as a trilogy, consent not to be a single being is a monumental accomplishment: a brilliant theoretical intervention that might be best described as a powerful case for blackness as a categor...

    - Google

  40. 7. Boyhood: Scenes from provincial life by J M Coetzee

    In Boyhood, J. M. Coetzee revisits the South Africa of half a century ago, to write about his childhood and interior life. Boyhood's young narrator grew up in a small country town. With a father he...

    - Google

  41. 7. Harry Potter And The Philosopher's Stone by J. K. Rowling

    Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone is the first novel in the Harry Potter series written by J. K. Rowling and featuring Harry Potter, a young wizard. It describes how Harry discovers he is a ...


  42. 7. Winter's Bone by Daniel Woodrell


  43. 7. True History of the Kelly Gang by Peter Carey

    True History of the Kelly Gang is a historical novel by Australian writer Peter Carey. It was first published in Brisbane by the University of Queensland Press in 2000. It won the 2001 Man Booker P...


  44. 7. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon

    The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay is a 2000 novel by American author Michael Chabon that won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2001. The novel follows the lives of the title characters, a C...


  45. 7. The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman

    His Dark Materials is a trilogy of fantasy novels by Philip Pullman comprising Northern Lights (1995, published as The Golden Compass in North America), The Subtle Knife (1997) and The Amber Spygla...


  46. 7. The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse: A Novel by Louise Erdrich

    A New York Times Notable Book For more than a half century, Father Damien Modeste has served his beloved Native American tribe, the Ojibwe, on the remote reservation of Little No Horse. Now, nearin...

    - Google

  47. 7. The Beauty Of The Husband by Anne Carson

    Since Glass and God, which was her first full-length collection published in Britain and which was nominated for the 1998 Forward Prize, Anne Carson has published a book a year to extraordinary cri...

    - Google

  48. 7. Austerlitz by W. G. Sebald

    Austerlitz, the internationally acclaimed masterpiece by "one of the most gripping writers imaginable" (The New York Review of Books), is the story of a man?s search for the answer to his life?s ce...


  49. 7. Fingersmith by Sarah Waters

    Fingersmith is a 2002 Victorian-inspired crime fiction novel by Sarah Waters.


  50. 7. The Time of Our Singing by Richard Powers

    The Time of Our Singing (2003) is a novel by American writer Richard Powers. It tells the story of two brothers involved in music, dealing heavily with issues of prejudice. Their parents met at Mar...


  51. 7. The MaddAddam Trilogy by Margaret Atwood

    Across three stunning novels—Oryx and Crake, The Year of the Flood, and Maddaddam—the best-selling, Booker Prize-winning novelist projects us into a near future that is both all too familiar and be...

    - Google

  52. 7. Mortals by Norman Rush

    It is at once a political adventure, a social comedy, and a passionate triangle. It is set in the 1990s in Botswana—the African country Rush has indelibly made his own fictional territory. Mortals ...

    - Google

  53. 7. The Book of Salt by Monique Truong

    The Book of Salt is Vietnamese-American author Monique Truong's first novel; it presents a narrative through the eyes of Bình, a Vietnamese cook. His story centers in Paris in his life as the cook ...


  54. 7. Oblivion: Stories by David Foster Wallace

    In the stories that make up Oblivion, David Foster Wallace joins the rawest, most naked humanity with the infinite involutions of self-consciousness--a combination that is dazzlingly, uniquely his....

    - Google

  55. 7. Home Land by Sam Lipsyte

    Catamount Notes, the Eastern Valley High School alumni newsletter, is filled with tales of success from the school's graduates, until Lewis "Teabag" Miner, class of 1989, sends a hilarious confessi...

    - Google

  56. 7. Honored Guest by Joy Williams

    With her singular brand of gorgeous dark humor, Joy Williams explores the various ways–comic, tragic, and unnerving—we seek to accommodate diminishment and loss. A masseuse breaks her rich client's...

    - Google

  57. 7. Suite Française by Irène Némirovsky

    Suite française is the title of a planned sequence of five novels by Irène Némirovsky, a French writer of Ukrainian Jewish origin. In July 1942, having just completed the first two of the series, N...


  58. 7. The Sluts by Dennis Cooper

    Set largely on the pages of a website where gay male escorts are reviewed by their clients, and told through the postings, emails, and conversations of several dozen unreliable narrators, The Sluts...

    - Google

  59. 7. Magic for Beginners by Kelly Link

    An engaging and funny second collection by an original voice.

    - Google

  60. 7. Voices from Chernobyl by Svetlana Alexievich

    Voices from Chernobyl: The Oral History of a Nuclear Disaster is a 2005 book by Svetlana Alexievich. Alexievich was a journalist living in Minsk, the capital of Belarus, at the time of the Chernoby...


  61. 7. Eat the Document by Dana Spiotta

    Dana Spiotta, whom Michiko Kakutani called "wonderfully observant and wonderfully gifted...with an uncanny feel for the absurdities and sadness of contemporary life" (The New York Times), has writt...

    - Google

  62. 7. The Afterlife: A Memoir by Donald Antrim

    From "a fiercely intelligent writer" (The New York Times), a wry, poignant story of the difficult love between a mother and a son In the winter of 2000, shortly after his mother's death from cancer...

    - Google

  63. 7. Wizard of the Crow by Ngugi wa Thiong'o

    A landmark of postcolonial African literature, Wizard of the Crow is an ambitious, magisterial, comic novel from the acclaimed Kenyan novelist, playwright, poet, and critic. Set in the fictional Fr...

    - Google

  64. 7. American Genius: A Comedy by Lynne Tillman

    Lynne Tillman’s previous novels have won her both popular approval and critical praise from such literary heavyweights as Edmund White and Colm Tóibín. With American Genius, her first novel since 1...

    - Google

  65. 7. The Lazarus Project by Aleksandar Hemon

    The only novel from MacArthur Genius Award winner, Aleksandar Hemon -- the National Book Critics Circle Award winning The Lazarus Project. On March 2, 1908, nineteen-year-old Lazarus Averbuch, an E...

    - Google

  66. 7. Home by Marilynne Robinson

    Home is a novel written by the Pulitzer Prize-winning American author Marilynne Robinson. Published in 2008, it is Robinson's third novel, preceded by Housekeeping in 1980 and Gilead in 2004.


  67. 7. Fine Just the Way It Is by Annie Proulx

    A collection of nine western-themed tales features an array of pioneer country inhabitants from different backgrounds.

    - Google

  68. 7. Sleeping It Off in Rapid City by August Kleinzahler

    The first broad retrospective of August Kleinzahler's career, Sleeping It Off in Rapid City gathers poems from his major works along with a rich portion of new poems that visit different voice regi...

    - Google

  69. 7. The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga

    The White Tiger is the debut novel by Indian author Aravind Adiga. It was first published in 2008 and won the Man Booker Prize for the same year. The novel studies the contrast between India's rise...


  70. 7. Notes from No Man's Land: American Essays by Eula Biss

    Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for Criticism Winner of the Graywolf Press Nonfiction Prize A frank and fascinating exploration of race and racial identity Notes from No Man's Land...

    - Google

  71. 7. 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami

    1Q84 (いちきゅうはちよん Ichi-Kyū-Hachi-Yon) is a dystopian novel written by Japanese writer Haruki Murakami, first published in three volumes in Japan in 2009–10. It covers a fictionalized year of 1984 in ...


  72. 7. Spreadeagle by Kevin Killian

    Set in San Francisco, fiftyish gay novelist Daniel Isham presides over a complicated ménage financed not only by family money but by the huge success of his kitschy, feel-good “Rick and Dick” novel...


  73. 7. Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart

    Super Sad True Love Story is the third novel by American writer Gary Shteyngart. The novel takes place in a near-future dystopian New York where life is dominated by media and retail.


  74. 7. The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes

    Winner of the 2011 Man Booker Prize By an acclaimed writer at the height of his powers, The Sense of an Ending extends a streak of extraordinary books that began with the best-selling Arthur & Geor...

    - Google

  75. 7. Seven Years by Peter Stamm

    "Alexander is torn between two very different women. Sonia, his wife and business partner, is everything a man could want: intelligent, gorgeous, charming, and ambitious. But when the seven-year it...

    - Google

  76. 7. The Gentrification of the Mind by Sarah Schulman

    In this memoir of the AIDS years (1981-1996) in New York, CUNY Professor of English Sarah Schulman recalls how much of the queer culture, cheap rents, and virbrant downtown arts movement vanished a...

    - Google

  77. 7. Capital by John Lanchester

    Residents of Pepys Road in London receive odd, anonymous postcards demanding “We Want What You Have” during the financial meltdown of 2008 in this new novel from the best-selling author of The Debt...

    - Google

  78. 7. Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk: A Novel by Ben Fountain

    A ferocious firefight with Iraqi insurgents at "the battle of Al-Ansakar Canal"—three minutes and forty-three seconds of intense warfare caught on tape by an embedded Fox News crew—has transformed ...

    - Google

  79. 7. A Constellation of Vital Phenomena: A Novel by Anthony Marra

    In a small rural village in Chechnya, eight-year-old Havaa watches from the woods as Russian soldiers abduct her father in the middle of the night and then set fire to her home. When their lifelong...

    - Google

  80. 7. Taipei by Tao Lin

    A Slate Best Book of the Year From one of this generation's most talked about and enigmatic writers comes a deeply personal, powerful, and moving novel about family, relationships, accelerating dru...

    - Google

  81. 7. Men We Reaped by Jesmyn Ward

    Two-time National Book Award winner Jesmyn Ward (Salvage the Bones, Sing, Unburied, Sing) contends with the deaths of five young men dear to her, and the risk of being a black man in the rural Sout...

    - Google

  82. 7. Family Life by Akhil Sharma

    Finally joining their father in America, Ajay and Birju enjoy their new, extraordinary life until tragedy strikes, leaving one brother incapacitated and the other practically orphaned in this stran...

    - Google

  83. 7. A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James

    A Brief History of Seven Killings is the third novel by Jamaican author Marlon James. It was published by Riverhead Books. The novel spans several decades and explores the attempted assassination ...


  84. 7. How to be both by Ali Smith

    Passionate, compassionate, vitally inventive and scrupulously playful, Ali Smith’s novels are like nothing else. A true original, she is a one-of-a-kind literary sensation. Her novels consistently ...

    - Google

  85. 7. The Light of the World by Elizabeth Alexander

    A deeply resonant memoir for anyone who has loved and lost, from acclaimed poet and Pulitzer Prize finalist Elizabeth Alexander. In THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD, Elizabeth Alexander finds herself at an e...

    - Google

  86. 7. Preparation for the Next Life by Atticus Lish

    Zou Lei is an illegal immigrant who works at a Chinese restaurant in Queens in search of a better life in the 'Land of the Brave'. Brad Skinner has recently arrived in New York following a tour in ...

    - Google

  87. 7. The Broken Earth Trilogy by N. K. Jemisin

    This is the way the world ends. For the last time. A season of endings has begun. It starts with the great red rift across the heart of the world's sole continent, spewing ash that blots out the su...

    - Google

  88. 7. The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen

    A profound, startling, and beautifully crafted debut novel, The Sympathizer is the story of a man of two minds, someone whose political beliefs clash with his individual loyalties.

    - Google

  89. 7. The Needle's Eye by Fanny Howe

    Fanny Howe's The Needle's Eye: Passing through Youth is a sequence of essays, short tales, and lyrics that are intertwined by an inner visual logic. The book contains filmic images that subvert the...

    - Google

  90. 7. What Belongs to You by Garth Greenwell

    Garth Greenwell's What Belongs to You appeared in early 2016, and is a short first novel by a young writer; still, it was not easily surpassed by anything that appeared later in the year....It is n...

    - Google

  91. 7. Albert Murray: Collected Essays & Memoirs by Albert Murray

    In his 1970 classic The Omni-Americans, Albert Murray (1916–2013) took aim at protest writers and social scientists who accentuated the “pathology” of race in American life. Against narratives of m...

    - Google

  92. 7. Ghachar Ghochar by Vivek Shanbhag

    A young man's close-knit family is nearly destitute when his uncle founds a successful spice company, changing their fortunes overnight. As they move from a cramped, ant-infested shack to a larger ...

    - Google

  93. 7. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

    Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered wh...

    - Google

  94. 7. All Grown Up by Jami Attenberg

    Who is Andrea Bern? When her dippy therapist asks the question, Andrea knows the right things to say: she’s a designer, a friend, a daughter, a sister. But it’s what she leaves unsaid—she’s alone, ...

    - Google

  95. 7. The Best We Could Do: An Illustrated Memoir by Thi Bui

    An intimate and poignant graphic novel portraying one family’s journey from war-torn Vietnam, from debut author Thi Bui. This beautifully illustrated and emotional story is an evocative memoir abou...

    - Google

  96. 7. Tell Me How It Ends: An Essay in 40 Questions by Valeria Luiselli

    Part treatise, part memoir, part call to action, Tell Me How It Ends inspires not through a stiff stance of authority, but with the curiosity and humility Luiselli has long since established.

    - Google

  97. 7. Priestdaddy: A Memoir by Patricia Lockwood

    Affectionate and very funny . . . wonderfully grounded and authentic. This book proves Lockwood to be a formidably gifted writer who can do pretty much anything she pleases.” – The New York Times B...

    - Google

  98. 7. Asymmetry by Lisa Halliday

    In New York, Alice, a young editor, begins an affair with Ezra Blazer, a world-famous, much older writer. At Heathrow airport, Amar, an Iraqi-American economist en route to Kurdistan, finds himself...

    - Google

  99. 7. The Largesse of the Sea Maiden: Stories by Denis Johnson

    Twenty-five years after Jesus' Son, a haunting new collection of short stories on mortality and transcendence, from National Book Award winner and two-time Pulitzer Prize finalist Denis Johnson The...

    - Google

  100. 7. Red Clocks by Leni Zumas

    Five women. One question. What is a woman for? In this ferociously imaginative novel, abortion is once again illegal in America, in-vitro fertilization is banned, and the Personhood Amendment grant...

    - Google