20 Best Books Of The 21st Century Update 05/2022

Best Books Of The 21st Century

I Feel Bad About My Neck

by Nora Ephron (2006)

I Feel Bad About My Neck

Ephron is best known for writing screenplays like Silkwood, When Harry Met Sally, and Heartburn, but in her essays, she shows off her sense of humor with a twist that comes from the theater. If you don’t like her, you’ll never like her. Even when she talks about her apartment on New York’s Upper West Side, she always sounds like a good friend. This collection is a blast to read. It includes her witty observations about ageing, vanity, and Bill Clinton. The review is here.

Broken Glass

by Alain Mabanckou (2005), translated by Helen Stevenson (2009)

Trying to “break the French language” was the goal of Broken Glass, a dark comedy about an ex-teacher who doesn’t use many full stops or paragraph breaks. Untrustworthy narrator Mabanckou eats “bicycle chicken” and drinks red wine as he talks about the history of Congo-Brazzaville and all French literature, making it clear that he wants to write about them. The review is here.

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

by Stieg Larsson (2005), translated by Steven T Murray (2008)

When a radical journalist and a troubled young hacker work together to find out what happened to one of Sweden’s most powerful families, things don’t go well for either one of them, but they work together to find out what happened. Millions of people were enthralled by the high-level intrigue, which made “Scandi noir” famous and led to a lot of copycats. The review is here.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

by JK Rowling (2000)

People of all ages have been mesmerized by J. K. Rowling’s all-powerful magical fantasies. When book four comes out, it’s the start of the series. The Triwizard Tournament keeps things moving and makes the boy wizard look death in the eye for the first time. The review is here.

A Little Life

by Hanya Yanagihara (2015)

A Little Life

One of the most controversial books of the century so far is this operatic, harrowing American gay melodrama. It was an unlikely bestseller and one of the most controversial of the century so far. During one man’s life, he is abused and its effects can be seen. At the same time, love and friendship shine through in his life. All night long, some people read the book and wept. Others thought it was titillating and exploitative. But no one could deny its power. The review is here.

Chronicles: Volume One

by Bob Dylan (2004)

Dylan’s reluctance to talk about his personal life is a big part of his brand, so the gaps and omissions in this memoir aren’t a surprise. In the end, Dylan’s songs are both sharp and dreamy, but they all come back to Dylan’s early days as a Woody Guthrie want tobe in New York City. Fans are still waiting for the next book. The review is here.

The Tipping Point

by Malcolm Gladwell (2000)

There is a point when the New Yorker staff writer becomes a rock-star intellectual and starts a wave of weird studies about modern society. He looks at things like shoe sales and crime rates through the lens of epidemiology. Malcolm Gladwell has been writing books for two decades now. He’s often accused of oversimplification and cherry-picking, but his unique books have helped shape modern culture. The review is here.


by Nicola Barker (2007)

Britain’s most anarchic author is as prolific as she is fun. This freewheeling, visionary epic set around the Thames Gateway is her best work. Barker brings her usual linguistic invention and wild humor to a story about how history affects the present, as the spirit of a medieval jester haunts Ashford in the present day. The review is here.

The Siege

by Helen Dunmore (2001)

The Siege

During the Siege of Leningrad, the Levin family fights against starvation. The hand of history is hard to get away from. Anna digs tank traps and evades patrols as she tries to get wood. The review is here.


by M John Harrison (2002)

One of the most underappreciated prose writers shows off the literary power of science fiction at its best. For a breathtaking metaphysical journey in search of the mystery at the heart of reality, three story lines are braided together. They include far-future space opera, contemporary anxiety, and virtual-reality pastiche. The review is here.


by Jenny Erpenbeck (2008), translated by Susan Bernofsky (2010)

Her third novel is set in a big house by a lake near the east of Germany. The main character and setting are both the house and a lake in the east of the country. When a Jewish family flees the Third Reich, they sell their house. The house is then taken by the Russian army, reclaimed by exiles who came back from Siberia, and sold again. The review is here.

Bad Blood

by Lorna Sage (2000)

A memoir that won the Whitbread prize for best memoir is full of well-chosen words that make it one of the best stories about family problems ever written.

With her grandparents, Sage grew up. Her grandfather was a drunk, philandering vicar; his wife, who found his diaries, blackmailed him and moved to another part of the house. Sage’s grandparents didn’t get along. The author, who is 16 at the time, gets pregnant by accident, but the story has a happy ending. The review is here.

Noughts & Crosses

by Malorie Blackman (2001)

Noughts & Crosses

This novel for young adults is set in a world where black people, called the Crosses, have all the power and influence. White people, called noughts, are left out and isolated. The series by the former children’s laureate is a great way to teach young people about racism.


by Patricia Lockwood (2017)

As a young person, the author joined a group called God’s Gang, where they spoke in tongues and laughed a lot. This is not the only story about living in a religious household in the American midwest that is funny. The author used to be called the “poet laureate of Twitter.” Her language is brilliant, and she has a completely unique way of thinking about things. The review is here.

Adults in the Room

by Yanis Varoufakis (2017)

In this memoir, the leather-jacketed economist talks about the six months he spent as Greece’s finance minister in 2015, when the country was in an economic and political crisis. It has been called “one of the best political memoirs that have ever been written.” He comes up against the IMF, the European institutions, Wall Street, billionaires, and media owners and is told how the system works. As a result, his book is a good picture of how power works in the world today. The review is here.

The God Delusion

by Richard Dawkins (2006)

New Atheism was a big thing back then, and Dawkins’s book, The God Delusion, was one of the most talked about. It was a hard-hitting attack on religion, and it was full of Dawkins’s confidence that faith makes people crazy and that all arguments for God are bogus. That’s because the evolutionary biologist is passionate about his work, which makes up for his lack of philosophical sophistication. The book sold a lot of copies! The review is here.

The Cost of Living

by Deborah Levy (2018)

The Cost of Living

In the beginning, I thought chaos was bad, but now I think it might be good for us. Second part: Levy’s “living memoir” is a great companion piece to her novels that are both deep and fun. She leaves her husband in the second part of the book. Feminism, mythology, and the daily grind come together in a book that is both heartfelt and brilliant. The review is here.

Tell Me How It Ends

by Valeria Luiselli (2016), translated by Luiselli with Lizzie Davis (2017)

This happened in 2015, when a lot of people started getting really angry about immigrants coming to America. The Mexican novelist agreed to work as an interpreter in New York’s federal immigration court. As she tells the stories of the children she met, she places them in a larger context of the complicated relationship between the United States and Mexico. The review is here.


by Neil Gaiman (2002)

From the Sandman comics to his fantasy epic American Gods to Twitter, Gaiman is one of the most important people in the world of books, and he has a lot of fans. But this perfectly done children’s story, in which a brave young girl goes into a parallel world where her “Other Mother” is a spooky copy of her real-life mom, with buttons for eyes, might be his best work. It’s a modern myth that gets right to the heart of childhood fears and desires. The review is here.


by Jim Crace (2013)

Crace is interested in the moment when one era ends and another one starts. Here, the story of English history is told through the story of the commons being closed off. This is a pivotal point in English history. The story takes place in a village that doesn’t have a name. It shows what it’s like to see the world you know come to an end, in a severing of the connection between people and land that has a lot of meaning in this time of climate change and forced migration. The review is here.

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