Expanding vocabulary: 12 best novels of the XNUMXst century in English
If you already have a good command of English, then books are the best way to expand your vocabulary. Especially if these books are really interesting. Several dozens of literary critics and observers from The New York Times, Time, Newsday, Bookslut, The Millions and other publications have chosen the best, in their opinion, novels published since January 1, 2000 in English. Get acquainted with the TOP-12 of these books offers Air force.
12. Jeffrey Eugenides “Middle Sex” (2002) - Jeffrey Eugenides “Middlesex”
“I was born twice: first, as a girl, in Detroit, on a surprisingly clear January day in 1960, then, in August 1974, as a teenage guy at the front desk of a hospital in Pitoskey, Michigan.”
Thus begins the novel of the American writer of Greek origin J. Eugenidis.
At age 14, Kalliope Stefanides discovers that she has a rare genetic mutation by which she is pseudohermaphrodite. Having stated that she has a “male brain”, the girl changes her gender and becomes Callus.
A novel full of allusions to ancient Greek mythology, explores the theme of fate and free will. It is both the story of Calla's growing up and the story of the entrepreneurial take-off of his parents, Desdemona and Lefty (who have their own genetic secrets).
In the end, Calla's condition endows him with an almost divine ability to see the world simultaneously from female and male perspectives.
The "middle sex" managed to win critical acclaim (in 2003 the novel received the Pulitzer Prize) and achieve commercial success. He became a bestseller and translated into many languages.
11. Zadie Smith “White Teeth” (2000) - Zadie Smith “White Teeth”
Smith burst into the literary world at the age of 23, with his first novel showing the scope, originality and wit of a serious writer.
The White Teeth novel, which received numerous awards, including The Guardian Award for Best First Novel, tells the story of friends Archie Jones and Samal Iqbal, who met at the front during World War II.
White Teeth is a colorful portrait of postcolonial multicultural London, full of vibrant scenes and characters.
Critics noted the following two novels of the writer - NW (2012), which took 18th place in the BBC Culture survey, and On Beauty (2005).
10. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie “Half of the Yellow Sun” (2006) - Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie “Half of a Yellow Sun”
The fearless and vivid second novel of a young Nigerian writer tells about the events of the recent past of her country, which touched directly on her family.
“Half the yellow sun” is one of the motifs of the flag of Biafra, a state that existed on the territory of Nigeria during the civil war of 1967-1970.
The interethnic conflict of the Gaussian and Igbo peoples, from which the writer's grandfather suffered, influenced the fate of the main characters of the novel.
“Adichi’s novel is written with extraordinary skill, artistic and intellectual,” critic Walton Muyumba notes. “This is also a serious political love affair in times of war.”
Another novel of the writer - "Americana" / "American" / "Americanah" (2013) - also entered the list of BBC Culture.
9. Ian McEwan “Atonement” (2001) - Ian McEwan “Atonement”
The events of the novel of one of the most recognized British authors of our time begin in the summer of 1935. The 13-year-old Brioni, an imaginative girl who dreams of becoming a writer, witnesses the love scene of her sister Cecilia and her boyfriend, the son of a maid Robbie.
Not understanding what is happening, Briony decides that Robbie is a sex maniac and later testifies against him in the police.
A few years later, the Second World War begins, and Robbie from prison is taken into the army. Already an adult, Briony realizes that she has ruined the lives of Cecilia and Robbie. She works hard as a nurse in a hospital, trying to atone for her guilt.
McEwan has been following the fate of the characters for six decades. The search for Briony's atonement turns into a reflection on the power of art.
On the subject: 10 things you can get for free if you have a library card
8. Ben Fountain “Billy Lynn's Long Walk during the Break of a Football Match” (2012) - Ben Fountain “Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk”
The author’s debut novel, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award, is distinguished by “wisdom and wit,” notes critic Stephen Kelman.
Eight US Army recruits who have just returned from Iraq, where one of their comrades died and another is disabled, participate in a patriotic television show on Fox News.
Their two-week promotion ends with a salute during the break of a football match in Dallas. After that, they will return to war again.
The author puts the story in the mouth of 19-year-old Billy Lynn, in whose words passion, confusion and post-traumatic stress disorder sound.
“It's weird,” Billy tells the Dallas Cowboys fan, “when you are honored for the worst day of your life.”
7. Jennifer Egan “Visit of the Cutthroats Corral” (2010) - Jennifer Egan “A Visit from the Goon Squad”
Roman Jennifer Wgan, who received the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award, dedicated to thinking about time, fame and music in the spirit of Proust.
“Time is the most insidious thug, you don’t notice it, because you are engaged in thugs right in front of you,” the writer says. In the center of the story of the novel is a former punk rocker, and now music producer Benny Salazar, his thieving assistant Sasha and a circle of careerists, former stars and hangers-on.
Colet Bancroft, editor of The Tampa Bay Times, noted that the novel is "visionary, amazing, wise and simply amazing."
6. Michael Sheibon “The Amazing Adventures of Cavalier and Clay” (2000) - Michael Chabon “The Amazing Adventures Kavalier & Clay”
The novel, which received the Pulitzer Prize and was awarded many other awards, tells the story of Czech artist of Jewish origin Joe Cavalier and his American cousin writer Sammy Klee.
In 1939, Cavalier escapes from Nazi-occupied Prague to New York. Together with Clay, they become key figures in the comic book industry from its inception to the golden age.
“Shaybon’s extremely emotional, moving and multi-layered novel is a kind of historical bridge between the XNUMXth and XNUMXst centuries in how he portrays World War II and the birth of comics as a new and powerful form of mass myth creation,” said Donna Seiman, editor-in-chief of Booklist, who gave Shaybon’s work is number one on the list.
“The Amazing Adventures of Cavalier and Clay” is also a timeless exploration of our tragic commitment to hatred and war, our constant need for stories and our persistent pursuit of magic and transcendence, ”she added.
5. Jonathan Franzen "Amendments" (2001) - Jonathan Franzen "The Corrections"
The acute social family saga that brought Franzen world fame was one of the first novels to capture the spirit of the time of the first years of the new century.
Alfred and Enid Lamberti and their three adult children gather for the last Christmas of the XNUMXth century. Alfred's Parkinson's disease is progressing, the United States is on the verge of an economic collapse.
This is the story of a family from the Midwest, told with irony, love and the scale of a real epic in which the fates of several generations of Americans intersect.
The "amendments" by Jonathan Franzen brilliantly predicted the upheaval that will take place in American society after September 11th.
4. Marilyn Robinson “Gilead” (2004) - Marilynne Robinson - Gilead
This is a lyrical tale of a priest from the city of Iowa, John Ames, in which he shares with his young son the story of his life and the struggle against slavery.
“Gilead” is the first novel of the trilogy, the next two - “Home” and “Leela”.
“It is difficult to remember another living novelist who would have written so subtly and penetratingly about faith in God. This topic has become almost a taboo in modern literature, ”said critic Don Raffel.
“Robinson manages to combine innovative ideas with exquisite prose by exploring big issues in the intimate space of family and society,” wrote Karen R. Long, former Cleveland Plain Dealer editor.
“Gilead” will be read in 100 years, ”she added.
On the subject: Book Clubs and Libraries: What and How to Read in the USA
3. Hilary Mantel “Wolfhall” (2009) - Hilary Mantel “Wolf Hall”
Hilary Mantel's novel is a bold new look at events in Europe of the XNUMXth century, narrated from the point of view of Thomas Cromwell (and Henry VIII as an auxiliary character).
Wolfhall received the Man Booker and National Book Critics Circle awards, was adapted for the stage and filmed by the BBC as a miniseries.
“I never felt such a complete immersion in the consciousness of a hero, moreover, a hero who lived in such a distant era,” said Mare Ann Gwynn, Seattle Times literary editor.
Continuation of the novel, “Drive the Bodies”, also received the voices of critics.
2. Edward Paul Jones “The Known World” (2003) - Edward P. Jones “The Known World”
The novel takes place in 1955 on a Henry Townsend plantation, in the past - a slave, and now - a slave owner.
“Famous World” is a triumph of sympathy, the novel immerses the reader in difficult times, without giving simple conclusions.
Feeling near death, Townsend ponders the fate of his 50-acre plantations in Virginia and the slaves to whom he treated as his mentor taught.
“Famous World” is the best American novel published in the XNUMXst century, an interesting study of what people experienced during the time of American slavery, ”said critic Walton Muyumba, author of The Shadow and the Act.
1. Juno Diaz “The Short and Amazing Life of Oscar Wao” (2007) - Junot Diaz “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao”
The winner of the BBC Culture poll was a Dominican American debut novel about an eccentric Oscar, who lives in a ghetto in New Jersey and dreams of becoming an American Tolkien.
“It was not easy for me to fall in love with a novel whose DNA consists of science fiction, fantasy, and testosterone,” said Elizabeth Taylor, literary editor of The Chicago Tribune.
“This is just the second book of a Latin American author to receive the Pulitzer Prize in fiction,” notes critic and writer Rigoberto Gonzalez.
“Oscar Wao is proof of the strong connection that Latin Americans maintain with the culture, language and history of their ancestors. The novel also raises an important question of who Americans are and what it means to be American, ”said critic and playwright Gregg Barrios.
“Diaz’s story, full of Dominican history, comics, science fiction, magical realism and art quotes, is pure pleasure,” he added.
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