21st Century Fiction
March 2, 2009 1:32 PM   Subscribe

Who are the new exciting, young novelists of the 21st century? I suddenly find myself with a lot more time on my hands for reading.

A couple months ago you gave me a good list of biographies. Now I'm looking for new writing talent that has appeared since the turn of the century. I like historical fiction and action/adventure, but generally just like a good read. Thanks, as always, for your assistance.
posted by netbros to Writing & Language (24 answers total) 72 users marked this as a favorite
This isn't really up your alley, but there's an amazing new debut novel out by a guy named Matthew Quick entitled The Silver Linings Playbook that you may really dig. It's about a man in his early-30's who has a rather interesting approach to being separated from his wife. Very funny and moving take about a guy putting his life back together after a harsh break. Think Holden Caulfield meets One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest.
posted by Lipstick Thespian at 1:36 PM on March 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Michael Chabon. I think you'll like The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay as well as The Yiddish Policeman's Union, both published since the year 2000. They are an mix of action and mystery in an incredibly-detailed historical setting.
posted by muddgirl at 1:41 PM on March 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

In the realm of the very, very contemporary: Lydia Davis doesn't write novels; she writes difficult to classify fiction ranging from a few words to traditional short story length.

Varieties of Disturbance, her latest, is one of the most exciting story collections I've ever read, with "Kafka Cooks Dinner" as my potential favorite story.
posted by munyeca at 1:41 PM on March 2, 2009

Steve Almond is one of my favorite writers of nonfiction and fiction. I really liked Which Brings Me to You, cowritten with Julianna Baggott.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 1:43 PM on March 2, 2009

Right now I'm reading Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl, and really enjoying it. Michael Chabon is indeed wonderful, as is Jeffery Eugenides. The Secret History by Donna Tartt was excellent, although I couldn't really get into The Little Friend. The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenenger was fun from start to finish.
posted by odayoday at 1:46 PM on March 2, 2009

Best answer: You may like The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz. There are sections that tell the stories of the title character's antecedants in Trujillo's Dominican Republic that may fill your need for historical fiction. It's also funny and poignant as well.
posted by readery at 1:49 PM on March 2, 2009 [3 favorites]

White Teeth was published in 2000, when author Zadie Smith was 24, so it meets all of your criteria. Plus it's a really entertaining book to boot!
posted by The Gooch at 1:56 PM on March 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

Perennial MeFi favorite David Mitchell qualifies.
posted by gnomeloaf at 2:36 PM on March 2, 2009

I just discovered Roberto Bolaño's novel Savage Detectives, and I'm floored. Can't recommend it enough.
posted by cymru_j at 2:44 PM on March 2, 2009

seconding Lydia Davis. i read "Break It Down" last year and it's brilliant.

you might like Jonathan Safran Foer (Everything is Illuminated, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close). his wife, Nicole Krauss, is also a great writer (The History of Love).
posted by gursky at 2:50 PM on March 2, 2009

I can't tell you how much I loved Brookland by Emily Barton. It should scratch your historical fiction itch.

As for action/adventure, would you take a risk and try some fantasy? The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss is way too good for people to disregard it because of a genre label.

From the sci-fi genre you might try Old Man's War by John Scalzi. It's excellent reading and so entertaining.
posted by shesbookish at 3:12 PM on March 2, 2009

I second Jonathan Safran Foer. I think he's like 30 years old or something and Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close is probably one of the best books I read last year. Gifted guy.

I was less of a fan of History of Love, but I agree that Krauss is also a very good writer.
posted by crapples at 3:28 PM on March 2, 2009

Seconding David Mitchell's works. Ghostwritten was published in 1999, so it's not from this century (but ever so good). Cloud Atlas was also really good, and published in 2004.

number9dream was also good, but in my opinion not ask good as the other two.
posted by Houstonian at 5:08 PM on March 2, 2009

If short stories are okay, I'd highly recommend Donald Ray Pollock's recent debut Knockemstiff. They're stories centered around a small one-factory town in the Ohio Valley and its depraved, desperate, substance abusing citizens. Some of the most powerful stuff I've read in quite some time.
posted by Ufez Jones at 5:11 PM on March 2, 2009

Junot Diaz!

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

He's also written a great collection of short stories called Drown.
posted by rachaelfaith at 5:19 PM on March 2, 2009

Seconding Juno Diaz, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. Fascinating characters, powerful writing, funny, sad, ... great.

On Preview, thirding!
posted by Rain Man at 5:21 PM on March 2, 2009

A. Lee Martinez and Warren Hammond are both new and excellent. Martinez writes light, amusing fantasy & SF while Hammond writes possibly the best noir thrillers I've ever read.

Also check out Barry Eisler. He writes a fantastic series about a half japanese half american assassin. The realism in the way the main character lives his life is amazing.
posted by thekiltedwonder at 5:28 PM on March 2, 2009

How about Granta's Best of Young British Novelists and Best of Young American Novelists so you can sample and choose your favorites? Leaves out a lot of real estate but it'll get you started.
posted by Cuke at 7:19 PM on March 2, 2009

Yiyun Li's "The Vagrants," just published, is set in 1979 in China. Very dark. Very brilliant.

Another just-published book I read recently that I thought was terrific (and, at moments, blood-curdling) is Chris Cleave's novel "Little Bee," about a Nigerian refugee and a British widow.
posted by curiousindc at 8:17 PM on March 2, 2009

Mark Z. Danielewski's debut novel House of Leaves appeared in 2000 so he might qualify. Not sure if the book will be up your street - in terms of format it's often offputtingly weird - but it's a very absorbing, funny, frightening novel which I really enjoyed.

Since you like historican fiction I'd recommend Maria McCann's As Meat Loves Salt, published in 2001 I think. It's a gay love story set in 17th century England. It's a good read; made me cry!

I'm not sure if Vikram Chandra counts as young but he certainly is exciting, and his Red Earth and Pouring Rain (1995) and Sacred Games (2007) should, respectively, satisfy your historical fiction and action/adventure needs.

Carlos Ruiz Záfon's Shadow of the Wind (2001) also, I think, counts as both historical fiction and action/adventure, and is a great read.
posted by Ziggy500 at 4:48 AM on March 3, 2009

Cormac McCarthy!
He's not new, but some of his books are.

No Country for Old Men (2005)
The Road (2006)
posted by shadowfelldown at 7:23 AM on March 3, 2009

Nick Harkaway (son of author John le Carré) published his debut novel The Gone-Away World just last June, and its rambunctious plot and humorous, self-aware tone struck me as very 21st-century.
posted by Rhaomi at 5:05 PM on March 3, 2009

I think you'll like The End Of Mr. Y by Scarlett Thomas. I thought I was in for a weird but light modern / historical novel set in British academia - but then it dives right in the deep end. The first 'literary' novel I've read that satisfied the deep geek in me.
posted by iffley at 7:55 AM on March 4, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks for all the great suggestions. I made a couple purchases and renewed my library card.
posted by netbros at 4:55 PM on March 4, 2009

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