The Greatest "Poverty, Fiction" Books Since 2000

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This list represents a comprehensive and trusted collection of the greatest books. Developed through a specialized algorithm, it brings together 264 'best of' book lists to form a definitive guide to the world's most acclaimed books. For those interested in how these books are chosen, additional details can be found on the rankings page.

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The category of "Poverty" in books refers to stories that explore the experiences of individuals or communities living in poverty. These books may examine the social, economic, and political factors that contribute to poverty, as well as the personal struggles and triumphs of those living in poverty. They may also shed light on the inequalities and injustices that exist within society and the impact they have on marginalized communities. Overall, books in this category aim to raise awareness and understanding of poverty and its effects on individuals and society as a whole.


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  1. 1. Salvage the Bones: A Novel by Jesmyn Ward

    Set in a poor rural community in Mississippi, this novel follows the story of a pregnant teenage girl named Esch and her three brothers as they navigate their lives in the days leading up to Hurricane Katrina. Their mother is dead and their father is a neglectful alcoholic, leaving the siblings to fend for themselves. The book explores themes of poverty, racism, and survival, showcasing the resilience and strength of the human spirit in the face of adversity.

  2. 2. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

    This novel explores the lives of two Afghan women, Mariam and Laila, who are brought together by war and fate. Mariam, an illegitimate child, suffers from the stigma surrounding her birth and the abuse she faces from her bitter mother. When she is married off to Rasheed, her life becomes a nightmare. Later, she becomes a co-wife to Laila, a beautiful and educated girl who also ends up as Rasheed's wife due to a series of tragic events. Despite their initial rivalry, the two women form a bond and become sources of support for each other in the face of their husband's brutalities and the war-torn world of Kabul.

  3. 3. What Is the What by Dave Eggers

    The novel is a fictionalized account of a real-life Sudanese refugee, Valentino Achak Deng, who was forced to flee from his village during the Second Sudanese Civil War. The story follows his harrowing journey as a child through Ethiopia and Kenya, his life in various refugee camps, and his eventual resettlement in the United States. The book explores themes of survival, identity, and the power of storytelling, while shedding light on the tragic history and ongoing humanitarian crisis in Sudan.

  4. 4. The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga

    "The White Tiger" is a darkly humorous novel set in modern-day India that explores the country's class struggle through the eyes of an ambitious and cunning protagonist. Born in a poor village, he moves to Delhi to work as a chauffeur for a rich family. He eventually breaks free from his life of servitude by committing an act of shocking violence, and uses his newfound freedom to become a successful entrepreneur in Bangalore. The story, told through a series of letters written to the Chinese Premier, is a scathing critique of India's social and economic disparities, and the corruption that permeates all levels of society.

  5. 5. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

    The book is a semi-autobiographical novel that follows a Native American teenager who leaves his school on the Spokane Indian Reservation to attend an all-white high school in a neighboring town. The protagonist grapples with his own identity, the perceptions and prejudices of his new classmates, and the harsh realities of life on the reservation. Throughout the story, he uses humor and his passion for drawing cartoons to navigate the challenges he encounters.

  6. 6. Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver

    "Demon Copperhead" is a short story by Barbara Kingsolver about a young woman named Codi who returns to her small hometown in Arizona to care for her father, who is dying of Alzheimer's disease. As she reconnects with her past and the people in her community, Codi discovers a dark secret about her family's history and must come to terms with the truth. The story explores themes of family, identity, and the impact of the past on the present.

  7. 7. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

    The novel follows the story of a teenage girl who witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend at the hands of a police officer. Living in a poor neighborhood but attending a predominantly white, wealthy private school, she must navigate the dichotomy of these two very different worlds while grappling with the trauma of her friend's death. As she becomes more involved in activism and advocacy, she must confront the reality of racism, police brutality, and societal injustice.

  8. 8. Man Gone Down by Michael Thomas

    "Man Gone Down" by Michael Thomas is a novel about a middle-aged African American man who is struggling to keep his life together. The unnamed protagonist is a father of three who is trying to provide for his family while dealing with financial difficulties, marital problems, and his own personal demons. The story takes place over the course of four days as the protagonist tries to come up with a plan to save his family and himself from their current situation. Along the way, he reflects on his past and tries to come to terms with the choices he has made in his life.

  9. 9. American Rust by Philipp Meyer

    This novel takes place in a small, economically depressed Pennsylvania town and follows two young men, Isaac and Billy, who are best friends. After a tragic incident involving a transient, the two friends are forced to flee. The novel explores themes of friendship, the American Dream, and the harsh realities of life in a declining Rust Belt town. The story is told from multiple perspectives, including the two friends, their family members, and the local sheriff.

  10. 10. Sold by Patricia McCormick

    The novel follows a young Nepalese girl who lives in a poor, rural village. When her stepfather sells her into slavery in a brothel in India, she must navigate the horrors of her new life. The narrative explores her struggle for survival, her attempts to escape, and the friendships she forms with other girls in the brothel. Ultimately, the novel is a harrowing exploration of human trafficking and sexual exploitation.

  11. 11. Chanda's Secrets by Allan Stratton

    Chanda's Secrets is a poignant story set in Sub-Saharan Africa, where the protagonist, a sixteen-year-old girl, grapples with the harsh reality of AIDS in her community. The novel explores the stigma and fear associated with the disease, as well as the courage and resilience of its characters. The protagonist's unwavering determination to keep her family together, despite societal pressures and personal tragedy, forms the crux of the narrative.

  12. 12. Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart

    "Shuggie Bain" is a heart-wrenching tale set in 1980s Glasgow, Scotland, centered on a young boy, Shuggie, who is struggling with his mother's deteriorating mental health and alcoholism. As he tries to navigate his own burgeoning sexuality in a harsh, unforgiving environment, he also strives to care for his mother, who is trapped in a cycle of addiction and abusive relationships. The book gives a stark portrayal of poverty, addiction, love, and the human spirit's resilience.

  13. 13. Preparation for the Next Life by Atticus Lish

    This novel tells the story of a U.S. Army veteran suffering from PTSD and a Chinese Muslim immigrant, both struggling to survive in the harsh realities of New York City. Their lives intersect and they form a relationship, trying to make sense of their past traumas, navigate the complexities of their present, and find hope for a better future. The book provides an intense, gritty portrayal of life on the fringes of society, highlighting issues of immigration, class, and the human cost of war.

  14. 14. Tyrell by Coe Booth

    The book follows the story of a fifteen-year-old boy living in a Bronx homeless shelter with his family after losing their apartment. Struggling with the pressures of poverty, an absent father, and a mother who is not providing the support he needs, the protagonist is determined to find a way out of their desperate situation. He sees DJing as his ticket to a better life, but as he becomes entangled in a web of challenging relationships and risky decisions, he must navigate the complexities of adolescence, loyalty, and survival on the unforgiving streets of New York City.

  15. 15. Invisible Child: Poverty, Survival And Hope In An American City by Andrea Elliott

    "Invisible Child" is a non-fiction book by journalist Andrea Elliott that tells the story of Dasani, a young girl living in poverty in New York City. The book follows Dasani and her family as they struggle to survive in a city that seems to have forgotten them. Despite the challenges they face, the family never loses hope, and their resilience and determination are a testament to the power of the human spirit. Through Dasani's story, Elliott sheds light on the systemic issues that perpetuate poverty in America and the urgent need for change.

  16. 16. Little Heathens: Hard Times And High Spirits On An Iowa Farm During The Great Depression. by Mildred Armstrong Kalish

    "Little Heathens" is a memoir of Mildred Armstrong Kalish's childhood on an Iowa farm during the Great Depression. Kalish recounts the daily struggles and joys of life on the farm, from making do with limited resources to finding creative ways to entertain themselves. Through her vivid descriptions and humorous anecdotes, Kalish paints a picture of a resilient and close-knit community that persevered through tough times with a spirit of determination and optimism.

  17. 17. The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead

    Set in the 1960s, this book follows the story of two African-American boys, Elwood and Turner, who are sent to a brutal reform school, the Nickel Academy, in Florida. The narrative explores their struggle to maintain their humanity in the face of physical and emotional abuse, systemic racism, and injustice. The book is a searing indictment of the horrific realities of racism and the long-lasting effects of trauma and dehumanization, based on the real story of a reform school in Florida that operated for 111 years and warped the lives of thousands of children.

  18. 18. Mars Room by Rachel Kushner

    The novel delves into the life of a young woman serving two consecutive life sentences plus six years at Stanville Women's Correctional Facility in California. Through her eyes, the narrative explores the harsh realities of the American prison system and the interwoven lives of inmates, shedding light on themes of poverty, violence, and the struggle for survival within a society that often overlooks the marginalized. The protagonist's past unfolds alongside her present incarceration, revealing the circumstances that led to her imprisonment and her attempts to maintain a connection with the outside world, particularly with her son. The story is a gritty and unflinching examination of the consequences of systemic injustice and the human capacity for resilience in the face of a life confined by bars.

  19. 19. Q & A by Vikas Swarup

    The book is a gripping tale of a young Indian waiter who becomes the biggest quiz show winner in history, only to be arrested for cheating. Through a series of flashbacks and heart-wrenching stories, we learn how his life experiences provided him with the answers to the show's questions. Each chapter reveals a different episode of his past, from his childhood in the slums to various encounters that taught him lessons about love, betrayal, and survival, painting a vivid portrait of the struggle and resilience of life in contemporary India.

  20. 20. Say You’re One of Them by Uwem Akpan

    "Say You're One of Them" is a collection of five stories, each set in a different African country, that provides a heart-wrenching look into the lives of children trying to survive in the face of unimaginable hardship. The stories deal with issues such as child trafficking, religious conflict, and poverty, presenting the harsh realities of life in Africa through the innocent eyes of children. The book is a powerful exploration of the resilience and hope of these children in the face of adversity.

  21. 21. Nightcrawling by Leila Mottley

    In this gritty and evocative novel, readers are introduced to a young Black woman living in Oakland who, struggling to keep her family afloat after being abandoned by her mother and incarcerated by her brother, turns to sex work to survive. Her life takes a dramatic turn when she becomes entangled with a corrupt police department, exposing systemic abuse and sparking a complex journey through the criminal justice system. The protagonist's resilience and the poetic exploration of her inner world offer a raw and powerful examination of race, poverty, and the resilience of the human spirit in the face of institutional betrayal and personal adversity.

  22. 22. The Girl With The Louding Voice by Abi Daré

    The novel follows the inspiring journey of a young Nigerian girl who yearns for an education and a better life beyond the confines of her small village and the oppressive customs that limit women's opportunities. Despite being trapped in a series of servitudes after being sold into marriage at a young age, she refuses to let her dreams be silenced. With indomitable spirit and determination, she navigates through a myriad of challenges, using her "louding voice"—her bold, resolute inner voice—to speak out for herself and others like her, in pursuit of her ambition to learn and to be heard in a world that often tries to quiet the voices of girls and women.

  23. 23. Even The Dogs by Jon McGregor

    The novel delves into the lives of a group of society's marginalized individuals, bound together by their struggles with addiction and poverty. Through a fragmented narrative that weaves together various perspectives, the story unfolds around the death of a homeless man during a cold winter in a derelict apartment. As the authorities investigate the circumstances of his death, the interconnected tales of his companions—each grappling with their own demons and histories of loss, neglect, and trauma—come to light, painting a stark and haunting portrait of life on the fringes of society. The book is a poignant exploration of the human condition and the thin lines between visibility and invisibility in the urban landscape.

  24. 24. Good People by David Lindsay-Abaire

    The play explores the struggles and complexities of class and social mobility through the lens of Margie Walsh, a sharp-tongued single mother from South Boston. After losing her job at a dollar store, Margie reaches out to an old flame, now a successful doctor, in hopes of finding employment. As their past and present collide, the narrative delves into themes of opportunity, resilience, and the challenging question of whether individuals can truly escape the circumstances of their birth. The interactions between characters reveal the intricate dynamics of old friendships, the judgments we make, and the role that luck plays in the American Dream.

  25. 25. Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue

    This novel explores the lives of two families in New York City during the 2008 financial crisis. One family is a wealthy couple who live a luxurious lifestyle due to their Wall Street connections, while the other family is a pair of Cameroonian immigrants who are trying to make ends meet. As the financial crisis hits, both families face challenges that test their relationships, their dreams, and their understanding of the American Dream.

Reading Statistics

Click the button below to see how many of these books you've read!


If you're interested in downloading this list as a CSV file for use in a spreadsheet application, you can easily do so by clicking the button below. Please note that to ensure a manageable file size and faster download, the CSV will include details for only the first 500 books.