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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.

Фото: Depositphotos

12. Jeffrey Eugenides “Middlesex” (2002) - Jeffrey Eugenides “Middlesex”

“I was born twice: first as a girl in Detroit on a surprisingly clear January 1960, then in August 1974 as a teenage boy in the emergency room of a hospital in Pitoskey, Michigan.”

Thus begins the novel of the American writer of Greek origin J. Eugenidis.

At the age of 14, Calliope Stephanides discovers that she has a rare genetic mutation, according to which she is a pseudohermaphrodite. Declaring that she has a “male brain”, the girl changes sex and becomes Call.

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" has managed to win both critical acclaim (in 2003 the novel won the Pulitzer Prize), and achieve commercial success. It has become a bestseller and has been 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.

Award-winning novel White Teeth, including The Guardian's Best First Novel, follows friends Archie Jones and Samal Iqbal, who met at the front during World War II.

White Teeth is a motley portrait of post-colonial, multicultural London, full of vivid scenes and characters.

Critics also noted the next two novels of the writer - NW (2012), which took 18th place in the BBC Culture poll, and On Beauty (2005).

10. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie “Half of a 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 of the yellow sun” is one of the motives for the flag of Biafra, a state that existed in Nigeria during the 1967-1970 civil war.

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,” notes critic Walton Muyumba. "It's also a serious political love story during a war."

Another novel by the writer - "American" / "American" / "Americanah" (2013) - also made 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 realizing what is happening, Briony decides that Robbie is a sex maniac and later testifies against him to 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.

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8. Ben Fountain “Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk” (2012) - Ben Fountain “Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk”

The author's debut novel, which won the National Book Critics Circle, 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 a Dallas Cowboys fan, "being honored for the worst day of your life."

7. Jennifer Egan “A Visit from the Goon Squad” (2010)

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 do not notice it, because you are engaged in thugs right in front of you,” the writer says. At the center of the novel's narrative is the former punk rocker and now music producer Benny Salazar, his thieving assistant Sasha and a circle of careerists, former stars and hangers-on.

Colette Bancroft, editor of The Tampa Bay Times, noted that the novel is "visionary, amazing, wise and simply amazing."

Фото: Depositphotos

6. Michael Chabon "The Amazing Adventures Kavalier & 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.

“Chaybon's highly emotional, touching and layered novel is a historical bridge between the XNUMXth and XNUMXst centuries in the way he portrays World War II and the birth of comics as a new and powerful form of mass myth-making,” said Booklist Editor-in-Chief Donna Seiman, who donated Chabon's work is first on the list.

The Incredible 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 insistence on magic and transcendence, ”she added.

5. Jonathan Franzen “The Corrections” (2001)

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 grown children get together for the last Christmas of the XNUMXth century. Alfred's Parkinson's disease is progressing, the United States is on the verge of economic collapse.

This is the story of a family from the Midwest, told with irony, love and the scale of a true epic, in which the fates of several generations of Americans intersect.

Jonathan Franzen's Amendments brilliantly predicted the upheaval in American society after 11/XNUMX.

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 write so subtly and soulfully 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, exploring big issues in the intimate space of family and society,” wrote Karen R. Long, former editor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

Gilead will continue to be read in 100 years, ”she added.

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3. Hilary Mantel "Wolf Hall" (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 won the Man Booker and National Book Critics Circle awards, was adapted for stage and filmed by the BBC as a miniseries.

“I have never felt so completely immersed in the consciousness of a hero, indeed, a hero who lived in such a distant era,” said Mare Ann Gwynn, literary editor for the Seattle Times.

The novel's sequel, Bring Bodies, also received critical voices.

2. Edward Paul Jones "The Known World" (2003) - Edward P. Jones "The Known World"

The novel is set in 1955 on the plantation of Henry Townsend, formerly a slave, and now a slave owner.

The Known World is a triumph of sympathy, the novel immerses the reader in a period of 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.

The Known World is the finest American novel to be published in the XNUMXst century - an interesting exploration of what people experienced during the American slavery, ”said critic Walton Muyumba, author of The Shadow and the Act.

1. Junot Diaz “The Brief Wondrous 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 hard for me to fall in love with a novel whose DNA is made up of science fiction, fantasy and testosterone,” said Elizabeth Taylor, literary editor for The Chicago Tribune.

“This is only the second book by a Latin American author to win a Pulitzer Prize in fiction,” notes critic and writer Rigoberto Gonzalez.

“Oscar Wao is proof of the strong bond that Hispanics have with the culture, language and history of their ancestors. The novel also raises the important question of who Americans are and what it means to be American, ”says critic and playwright Gregg Barrios.

“Diaz's story, full of Dominican history, comics, science fiction, magical realism and artistic quotes, is pure pleasure,” he added.

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