21st Century Literature discussion

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Book Chat > BBC Culture critics' 12 greatest 21st century novels

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message 1: by Ben (new)

Ben Rowe (benwickens) | 89 comments http://www.theguardian.com/books/2015...

As reported in the Guardian - thought some members would find this interesting and quite a few of these books have been group reads.


message 2: by Violet (new)

Violet wells | 354 comments Thanks for posting this Ben. Good to see Shirley Hazzard and Elena Ferrante in the list. I've only read four of the top twelve so have lots of new books to read.


message 3: by Ben (new)

Ben Rowe (benwickens) | 89 comments I have only attempted 5 of the top 12 and attempted one of the others so I also am a bit behind as I have heard great things about some of these books.

Was a little disappointed at how high profile some of these books were and how secular the selections seemed to be.

Although it is not without some faults I would probably place House of Leaves on any list of this sort as it is a wonderful, innovative and effective book that deserves inclusion but the focus if very much on mainstream literature even if titles such as The Road are included.

Also whilst I really loved the Diaz it did strike me as a sort of fix-up novel written by a short story writer and whilst there were overlapping characters, locations and themes I saw it more as a (wonderful) short story collection rather than a fully formed novel.


message 4: by Violet (new)

Violet wells | 354 comments I've heard lots of good things about House of Leaves. I've read all the British books on the list and, as you say, these are all essentially mainstream novels with little in the way of innovation about them, though beautifully crafted for the most part. 2666 is probably the most ambitious of the books included that I've read.


message 5: by LindaJ^ (new)

LindaJ^ (lindajs) | 2306 comments I've read 9 of the first 12. While I liked the Diaz book, it certainly would not have been my number 1 pick. Of the ones on the Guardian's list, I would rand Chabon and Robinson and perhaps Mantel ahead od Diaz. And there are others, such as The Flamethrowers that would appear on my list!


message 6: by Terry (last edited Jan 26, 2015 01:44AM) (new)

Terry Pearce I've read seven of the twelve but wouldn't have put many of those in my top twelve. Wolf Hall, yes. Atonement, Middlesex and Half of a Yellow Sun, maybe.

But although I enjoyed Oscar Wao, Kavalier and Clay and White Teeth, I wouldn't put them up there.

2666 is an interesting choice for the 20. Some unbelievably good writing, and I know he died before he considered it completely finished, but it does feel... kinda unfinished in places.

Meanwhile, I think some others belong there:

Birds Without Wings (De Bernieres)
The Goldfinch (Tartt)
The Virgin Suicides (Eugenides)
The Yellow Birds (Powers)
The Lacuna (Kingsolver)
HHhH (Binet)
Bring Up The Bodies (Mantel)
The Infatuations (Marias)

But then I guess everyone always differs on these.


message 7: by Caroline (new)

Caroline (cedickie) | 384 comments Mod
I've read 6 of the top 12 and 2 of the runners up. I may be alone in this, but Oscar Wao was my favorite of all the books in the list. I also highly enjoyed Wolf Hall, Kavalier & Clay, Atonement, Middlesex, Americanah, and the Road, but there is something about Oscar Wao that stuck with me for a long time. It was definitely my book of the year way back when. I think I must be the only person in the world who didn't care for White Teeth.

Terry, I agree that there are some books that should have been on that list, especially Birds Without Wings and the Goldfinch.


message 8: by Carl (new)

Carl | 287 comments Interesting picks. I like half of the twelve. 2666 is far better than any of the rest in my mind. The Road is my least favorite McCarthy. It like many others is a nameplate pick. The Pale King, glaringly ommitted is my second favorite, also unfinished, but again, just in my mind, far superior to the other 19.


message 9: by Carl (new)

Carl | 287 comments I like Terry's picks for other misses. However, The Virgin Suicides was mid-90s.


message 10: by [deleted user] (new)

As usual, the underground is completely forgotten.


message 11: by Marc (new)

Marc (monkeelino) | 2590 comments Mod
Greg wrote: "As usual, the underground is completely forgotten."

What books would you include, Greg?


message 12: by [deleted user] (new)

Marc wrote: "Greg wrote: "As usual, the underground is completely forgotten."

What books would you include, Greg?"


My choices are of no importance, it is just the mainstream gets too much publicity.


message 13: by Marc (new)

Marc (monkeelino) | 2590 comments Mod
Well, that's why I asked. I'm interested in your choices--I can go to a 100 different URLs to see mostly the same list of 21st century books. I'll just browse your GR shelves...


message 14: by Sandra (last edited Nov 14, 2015 10:12AM) (new)

Sandra | 114 comments I don't agree with most of the choices in the top 12. Some of the top 12 I started and put aside as I just didn't like them. And some of the rest (that I read) were just okay like The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay and A Visit from the Goon Squad. The runner ups were better than any in the top 12. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao was flat out terrible IMHO.


message 15: by Peter (last edited Nov 15, 2015 10:15AM) (new)

Peter Aronson (peteraronson) | 516 comments Well, the general problem with such lists is that they are purely matters of opinion. And how could they be otherwise? There have been many attempts to come up with an "objective" theory of what makes good literature (most of which were actively risible), but literature is inherently subjective: what you are left with in these sorts of lists is someone or some group's opinions. And really, even literary awards are like this. So I tend to ignore this sort of thing, or at least take it with a grain of salt the size of the Taj Mahal.


message 16: by Portia (new)

Portia I agree with you, Peter. I read The Goldfinch in as close to one sitting as a book of that length can be read and passed it on, but I've read some scathing reviews of it.


message 17: by Casceil (new)

Casceil | 1692 comments Mod
I would have included The Goldfinch, and possibly Freedom,The Flamethrowers and The Orphan Master's Son. Oscar Wao was good, but not the best on the list by any reckoning.


message 18: by Lily (last edited Nov 15, 2015 06:20PM) (new)

Lily (joy1) | 2465 comments I am sorry no one has considered All the Light We Cannot See for this list. It may be a bit upbeat for the 21st Century obsession with the bleak, but it does touch on so many things that belong to WWII with a bit of the approach of a fable, even a fairy tale, or to be more modern about it, magical realism. We look at an invasion that might even not have been necessary if military intelligence had been better. We see a traumatized WWI veteran rise to the challenge of protection of a loved one and his nation. We watch young men pulled into the war machine, one seduced by intellectual interest and flight from the plight of paternity, another pushed into personal devastation by some strange pressures of perhaps familial needs, another able to retain a kind of comradely integrity while becoming a cipher in the Nazi war machine. We see a trusted teacher blinded by opportunity and flight from political pressure. We watch a populace make self-protective moves, perhaps each as blind as one of the chief protagonists of our story -- but one who survives to create the next generation. The raped endure the savagery of war. We have a sub-stories of attempts to preserve cultural artifacts and of greed that is personal, rather than that of war. We have the lost and never found again.

Not all is perhaps accurate to history, but as story telling goes, somehow I am reminded of the durability of stories like Joseph and the coat of many colors. Take a moment if time or interest and look at Genesis 37. Try to decipher, is there a "good brother" and which one is he? Who actually carried Joseph away to Egypt? If you think you know on your first read, read again.

http://bible.oremus.org/?passage=Gene...


message 19: by Portia (new)

Portia Lily, I really, really enjoyed All The Light as did my Spouse. But, what do we know ;-)


message 20: by Duane (new)

Duane (tduaneparkeryahoocom) | 2 comments This Guardian article is dated Jan. 2015, which means the list was created before that. All the Light We Cannot See was published in May 2014, so timing was probably the issue. Any list created now would most likely include it, although these lists are rather subjective.


message 21: by LindaJ^ (new)

LindaJ^ (lindajs) | 2306 comments Lily wrote: "I am sorry no one has considered All the Light We Cannot See for this list. It may be a bit upbeat for the 21st Century obsession with the bleak, but it does touch on so many things..."

I liked All the Light We Cannot See, but I don't think it comes close to being as good as The Flamethrowers, which also did not make the list.


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