The 21st Century's 12 greatest novels by BBC Culture

The 21st Century's 12 greatest novels by BBC Culture

Books in list (12)


Title: Middlesex

"I was born twice: first, as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day of January 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of l974. . . My birth certificate lists my name as Calliope Helen Stephanides. My most recent driver’s license...records my first name simply as Cal."

So begins the breathtaking story of Calliope Stephanides and three generations of the Greek-American Stephanides family who travel from a tiny village overlooking Mount Olympus in Asia Minor to Prohibition-era Detroit, witnessing its glory days as the Motor City, and the race riots of l967, before they move out to the tree-lined streets of suburban Grosse Pointe, Michigan. To understand why Calliope is not like other girls, she has to uncover a guilty family secret and the astonishing genetic history that turns Callie into Cal, one of the most audacious and wondrous narrators in contemporary fiction. Lyrical and thrilling, Middlesex is an exhilarating reinvention of the American epic. Middlesex is the winner of the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

Winner of the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.
Nominated for the 2002 National Book Critics Circle Award, Fiction.
2002 Lambda Literary Award Finalist, Transgender.

Author(s): Jeffrey Eugenides
ISBN 13: 9780312427733
Pages: 544
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Title: White Teeth: Reader's Companion

Zadie Smith’s dazzling debut caught critics grasping for comparisons and deciding on everyone from Charles Dickens to Salman Rushdie to John Irving and Martin Amis. But the truth is that Zadie Smith’s voice is remarkably, fluently, and altogether wonderfully her own.

At the center of this invigorating novel are two unlikely friends, Archie Jones and Samad Iqbal. Hapless veterans of World War II, Archie and Samad and their families become agents of England’s irrevocable transformation. A second marriage to Clara Bowden, a beautiful, albeit tooth-challenged, Jamaican half his age, quite literally gives Archie a second lease on life, and produces Irie, a knowing child whose personality doesn’t quite match her name (Jamaican for “no problem”). Samad’s late-in-life arranged marriage (he had to wait for his bride to be born), produces twin sons whose separate paths confound Iqbal’s every effort to direct them, and a renewed, if selective, submission to his Islamic faith. Set against London’s racial and cultural tapestry, venturing across the former empire and into the past as it barrels toward the future, White Teeth revels in the ecstatic hodgepodge of modern life, flirting with disaster, confounding expectations, and embracing the comedy of daily existence.

Finalist in Frankfurt eBook Award 2000, for Best Fiction work originally published in print and converted to eBook form

Author(s): Zadie Smith
ISBN 13: 9780375703867
Pages: 464
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Title: Half of a Yellow Sun

With effortless grace, celebrated author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie illuminates a seminal moment in modern African history: Biafra's impassioned struggle to establish an independent republic in southeastern Nigeria during the late 1960s. We experience this tumultuous decade alongside five unforgettable characters: Ugwu, a thirteen-year-old houseboy who works for Odenigbo, a university professor full of revolutionary zeal; Olanna, the professor’s beautiful young mistress who has abandoned her life in Lagos for a dusty town and her lover’s charm; and Richard, a shy young Englishman infatuated with Olanna’s willful twin sister Kainene. Half of a Yellow Sun is a tremendously evocative novel of the promise, hope, and disappointment of the Biafran war.

Author(s): Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
ISBN 13: 9781400095209
Pages: 560
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Title: Atonement

In 1935 England, thirteen-year-old Briony Tallis witnesses an event involving her sister Cecilia and her childhood friend Robbie Turner, and she becomes the victim of her own imagination, which leads her on a lifelong search for truth and ...
Author(s): Ian McEwan
ISBN 13: 9780385721790
Pages: 351
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Title: Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk

Author(s): Fountain, Ben
ISBN 13: 9780060885595
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Title: A Visit from the Goon Squad

NATIONAL BESTSELLER National Book Critics Circle Award Winner PEN/Faulkner Award Finalist A New York Times Book Review Best Book

One of the Best Books of the Year: Boston Globe, Chicago Tribune, The Daily Beast, The Miami Herald, The Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Newsday, NPR's On Point, O, the Oprah Magazine, People, Publishers Weekly, Salon, San Francisco Chronicle, Seattle Times, Slate, Time, The Washington Post, and Village Voice

Bennie is an aging former punk rocker and record executive. Sasha is the passionate, troubled young woman he employs. Here Jennifer Egan brilliantly reveals their pasts, along with the inner lives of a host of other characters whose paths intersect with theirs. With music pulsing on every page, A Visit from the Goon Squad is a startling, exhilarating novel of self-destruction and redemption.

Author(s): Jennifer Egan
ISBN 13: 9780307477477
Pages: 352
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Title: The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay (with bonus content)

WINNER OF THE PULITZER PRIZE
 
The beloved, award-winning The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, a Michael Chabon masterwork, is the American epic of two boy geniuses named Joe Kavalier and Sammy Clay.
 
A “towering, swash-buckling thrill of a book” (Newsweek), hailed as Chabon’s “magnum opus” (The New York Review of Books), The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay is a triumph of originality, imagination, and storytelling, an exuberant, irresistible novel that begins in New York City in 1939. A young escape artist and budding magician named Joe Kavalier arrives on the doorstep of his cousin, Sammy Clay. While the long shadow of Hitler falls across Europe, America is happily in thrall to the Golden Age of comic books, and in a distant corner of Brooklyn, Sammy is looking for a way to cash in on the craze. He finds the ideal partner in the aloof, artistically gifted Joe, and together they embark on an adventure that takes them deep into the heart of Manhattan, and the heart of old-fashioned American ambition. From the shared fears, dreams, and desires of two teenage boys, they spin comic book tales of the heroic, fascist-fighting Escapist and the beautiful, mysterious Luna Moth, otherworldly mistress of the night. Climbing from the streets of Brooklyn to the top of the Empire State Building, Joe and Sammy carve out lives, and careers, as vivid as cyan and magenta ink. Spanning continents and eras, this superb book by one of America’s finest writers remains one of the defining novels of our modern American age.
 
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
 
Finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award, National Book Critics Circle Award, and Los Angeles Times Book Prize
 
Winner of the Bay Area Book Reviewers Award and the New York Society Library Book Award
 
Named one of the 10 Best Books of the Decade by Entertainment Weekly

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

Author(s): Michael Chabon
ISBN 13: 9780812983586
Pages: 704
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Title: The Corrections

Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections has taken the literary scene by storm, from its hilarious portrayal of a dysfunctional American family to its insightful jabs at the rat race of contemporary American life. This Barnes & Noble Reader's Companion gives you the full story behind The Corrections:
  • What is Franzen's take on life in America today?
  • What are the "corrections" Franzen refers to in the title?
  • Why did Franzen balk at being picked for Oprah's Book Club?

Winner of the 2001 National Book Award

Author(s): Jonathan Franzen
ISBN 13: 9780312421274
Pages: 576
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Title: Gilead

As the Reverend John Ames approaches the hour of his own death, he writes a letter to his son chronicling three previous generations of his family, a story that stretches back to the Civil War and reveals uncomfortable secrets about the ...
Author(s): Marilynne Robinson
ISBN 13: 9780312424404
Pages: 247
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Title: Wolf Hall

WINNER OF THE 2009 MAN BOOKER PRIZE WINNER OF THE NATIONAL BOOK CRITICS CIRCLE AWARD FOR FICTION A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

England in the 1520s is a heartbeat from disaster. If the king dies without a male heir, the country could be destroyed by civil war. Henry VIII wants to annul his marriage of twenty years and marry Anne Boleyn. The pope and most of Europe opposes him. Into this impasse steps Thomas Cromwell: a wholly original man, a charmer and a bully, both idealist and opportunist, astute in reading people, and implacable in his ambition. But Henry is volatile: one day tender, one day murderous. Cromwell helps him break the opposition, but what will be the price of his triumph?

In inimitable style, Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall is "a darkly brilliant reimagining of life under Henry VIII. . . . Magnificent." (The Boston Globe).

2009 National Book Critics Circle Award Winner- Fiction!
2009 Man Booker Prize Winner!

Author(s): Hilary Mantel
ISBN 13: 9780312429980
Pages: 640
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Title: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

A first novel by the author of the collection, Drown. Reprint.
Author(s): Junot Díaz
ISBN 13: 9781594483295
Pages: 339
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