Whether you’re a bookworm or a beach reader, trust me, there’s a book out there to suit all tastes, from pageturning potboilers, nailbiting whodunnits and raunchy romances to highbrow award winning literature.
But a bookshop or a library can feel a bit like being a child in a sweet shop…overwhelmed by way way too much choice.
Read on for the TOP 10 21st century novels to help you find just the book to transport you to Hogwarts or Nigeria, back to the time of Henry VIII or forward to a barren post-apocalyptic future.
10 – Wolf Hall, Hilary Mantel
Booker Prize winning Wolf Hall, the first of 3 uputdownable sagas is a British epic of War and Peace dimensions. With fascinating detail, it takes us right back to Tudor times in all its ruthless, glittering glory. Thomas Cromwell is the star turn antihero here – we follow the twists and turns of his unstoppable rise from humble birth to one of Henry V111’s most influential courtiers.
What a brilliant portrait of an arch, no holes barred conspirator is painted by Mantel. Modern politics looks pale in comparison!
9 – The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins
If you thought a book couldn’t make you run for cover behind the sofa like a movie, think again.
The Hunger Games is a rollercoaster of sheer terror in a post apocalyptic future where literally
only the very fittest survive under the ruthless dictatorship in which the central character, Katniss Everdeen lives. Despite yourself, you cannot put this book down.
The odds against survival are the biggest you could ever, in your wildest nightmares imagine. Just when you’re convinced it’s all over bar the shouting, Katniss calls on her apparently endless superhuman strength, snake like cunning and supreme boldness to get herself out of a collision with a horrible death.
Warning – you’ll stay up all night reading this, then you’ll rush out to get the next installment and the boxset.
8 – The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini
If you’re looking for a cracking, good old fashioned story, The Kite Runner will be right up your street. An upstairs downstairs tale, it’s the story of 2 Afghani boys, Amir, the boss’ son and Hassan, the servant’s son. Throughout their lives, their paths are destined to cross, sometimes in traumatic but often in dramatic ways.
Top of the New York bestseller list, The Kite Runner sold a staggering 125 million copies and has been made into a film and stage version
7 – The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Stieg Larsson
Stieg Larsson’s own life and premature death are almost as fascinating as the uber bestselling, on the edge of your seat trilogy of his psychological thrillers. As a journalist whose mission was to expose Swedish neo Nazi, death threats were about as common in Larsson’s life as to do lists. But actually, it was his 60 cigarette a day, workaholic, junk food addicted lifestyle which finished him off at the age of 50, just weeks after he sent his manuscripts to the publisher.
In The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, we are introduced to one of the 21st century’s most famous fictional characters, computer hacker extraordinaire, Lisbeth Salander who assists Michael Blomkvist to uncover the real culprit of the corruption for which he has been sued. Salander is one of the first and most memorable of the Skandi drama females whose lives are dedicated to solving apparently unsolvable crimes.
6 – Half of a Yellow Sun, Chiminanda Ngozi Adiche
At the ripe age of 29, Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche published her second novel, Half of a Yellow Sun, a tour de force about the Biafran civil war which so devastatingly tore Nigeria apart in the 1960s. The shocking inhumanity of armed conflict is told through the eyes and experiences of the novel’s principal characters. The reader becomes utterly engrossed in the events, the resilience of the human spirit and the fate of those who are time and again at the cutting edge of the horror.
All the ingredients of an epic are there….love, jealousy, class, corruption, infidelity and terrible tragedy.
5 – Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, JK Rowling
Little kids and not so little kids, dressed up in wizard paraphernalia desperate for their next Harry Potter fix, queued up for hours in 2000 to get their hands on volume four of the phenomenal multi award winning boy wizard saga.
In Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Harry’s in his 4th year at Hogwarts and although he’s underage, he is mysteriously forced to compete in the perilous tournament between the 3 schools of magic. Can you cope with the excitement and suspense??
Author JK Rowling’s own life is itself a magical obscurity to household name story in the same league as rags to riches Cinderella and she has been credited with single-handedly getting millions of children all over the world to read.
4 – The Corrections, Jonathan Franzen
Right up there with Henry James and John Steinbeck, the lofty giants of US literature, the authors of THE contemporary American novel is Jonathan Franzen.
The Corrections is an absorbing 20th century family saga which tells the engaging but often uncomfortable story of an elderly, suburban, middle America couple and their three adult children who decide to spend one last Christmas together. What we get is a microscopic behind the curtains look at the ups and downs of the lives of all the characters…voyeuristic maybe but hey who doesn’t love being nosy once in a while?
3 – Middlesex, Jeffrey Eugenides
Author of the sensational Virgin Suicides, Jeffrey Eugenides doesn’t shy away from extraordinary topics or unconventional characters in his novels.
A decade or so ahead of his time, long before gender neutral and non binary gender roles were being regularly discussed in mainstream circles, Eugenides explored these themes. Middlesex is the story of Cal, a hermaphrodite who was ‘born twice, once as a baby girl…. and then as a teenage boy’. The book stretches back in time from Detroit to her grandparents’ village in Eastern Turkey with some gorgeous descriptions of life there.
It’s a thought provoking novel about identity and belonging to which, in some way, we can all relate.
2 – White Teeth, Zadie Smith
Set, like many of Zadie Smith’s novels in North West London, White Teeth has nothing whatsoever to do with what toothpaste you use but everything to do with British colonialism, immigration to the Mother country and the resulting multi coloured melting pot which is modern Britain. Laugh out loud comedy is interspersed with serious narrative as the novel takes the reader on a circuitous, unpredictable journey through the lives of its principal families.
Zadie Smith is a 21st century literary phenomenon, completing White Teeth whilst still a Cambridge undergraduate. On publication, it shot straight into the best seller lists and launched Smith’s writing career.
1 – The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar, Junot Díaz
Trust me you will never be bored by this novel – it runs faster and with more energy than an Olympic sprinter.
Like it or not, we get as immersed in the life of overweight New Jersey ghetto nerd, Oscar as if he were our own kid brother. More than anything Oscar longs to find true love but his family has been cursed for generations by an ancient spell, the fukú. Thanks to the fukú , more members of Oscar’s family than he cares to admit have found themselves behind bars, the victims of torture and freak accidents and naturally, the course of true love has never run smooth.
But Oscar, anything but deterred by this unhappy legacy has his sights firmly focussed on that first joyful kiss. You’ve got to read this to see if he manages it…or not!