US critics name their 12 best novels of the 21st century to date

A group of American critics have named Junot Díaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, a take on the life of an overweight Dominican-American nerd, as the best novel of the 21st century to date.

Diaz

Junot Díaz

BBC Culture, the arts section of the international BBC site, polled several dozen US critics to find the greatest novels written so far this century, with 156 novels in all named by experts from papers including the New York Times, Time magazine, Newsday, Kirkus Reviews and Booklist.

Since book lists are all the rage at the moment, we thought we’d share the full dozen with you. How many have you read?


12. Middlesex
by Jeffrey Eugenides

The internationally bestselling 2003 Pulitzer Prize winner.9781408825693

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 1974?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 …

Grab a copy of Middlesex here


11. White Teeth
by Zadie Smith

white-teethOne of the most talked about fictional debuts of recent years, White Teeth is a funny, generous, big-hearted novel, adored by critics and readers alike. Dealing – among many other things – with friendship, love, war, three cultures and three families over three generations, one brown mouse, and the tricky way the past has of coming back and biting you on the ankle, it is a life-affirming, riotous must-read of a book.

Grab a copy of White Teeth here


10. Half of a Yellow Sun
by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

9780007506071Winner of the Orange Broadband Prize for Fiction 2007, this is a heartbreaking, exquisitely written literary masterpiece.

In 1960s Nigeria, Ugwu, a boy from a poor village, goes to work for Odenigbo, a radical university professor. Soon they are joined by Olanna, a young woman who has abandoned a life of privilege to live with her charismatic lover. Into their world comes Richard, an English writer, who has fallen for Olanna’s sharp-tongued sister Kainene.But when the shocking horror of civil war engulfs the nation, their loves and loyalties are severely tested, while their lives pull apart and collide once again in ways none of them could have imagined …

Grab a copy of Half a Yellow Sun here


9780099597636-1-edition.default.original-19. Atonement
by Ian McEwan

‘There were horrors enough, but it was the unexpected detail that threw him and afterwards would not let him go’

On the hottest day of the summer of 1934, thirteen-year-old Briony Tallis sees her sister Cecilia strip off her clothes and plunge into the fountain in the garden of their country house. Watching her is Robbie Turner, her childhood friend who, like Cecilia, has recently come down from Cambridge.

By the end of that day, the lives of all three will have been changed for ever. Robbie and Cecilia will have crossed a boundary they had not even imagined at its start, and will have become victims of the younger girl’s imagination. Briony will have witnessed mysteries, and committed a crime for which she will spend the rest of her life trying to atone …

Grab a copy of Atonement here


8. Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain
by Ben Fountain

9780857864529Era-defining satire – ‘This book will be the Catch 22 of the Iraq War’ Karl Marlantes.

Nineteen-year-old Billy Lynn is home from war. Back in Texas, he has become a national celebrity. A Fox News crew filmed Billy and the rest of Bravo squad defeating Iraqi insurgents in a ferocious firefight. Now Billy is a decorated soldier and Bravo’s three minutes of extreme bravery under fire are a YouTube sensation.

Seizing on this PR gift, The Bush administration has sent the surviving members of Bravo on a nationwide ‘Victory Tour’ to reassure the homeland …

Grab a copy of Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain


7. A Visit from the Good Squad
by Jennifer Egan

9781780330969Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, The Los Angeles Times Book Award, National Book Circle Critics Award for fiction in the US and Longlisted for the Orange Prize.

Jennifer Egan’s spelling binding novel circles the lives of Bennie Salazar, an aging former punk rocker and record executive and Sasha, the passionate, troubled young woman he employs. Although Bennie and Sasha never discover each other’s pasts, the reader does, in intimate detail, along with the secret lives of a host of other characters …

Grab a copy of A Visit from the Goon Squad here


6. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
by Michael Chabon

9781841154930 (1)Winner of the 2001 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay is a heart-wrenching story of escape, love and comic-book heroes set in Prague, New York and the Arctic.

One night in 1939, Josef Kavalier shuffles into his cousin Sam Clay’s cramped New York bedroom, his nerve-racking escape from Prague finally achieved. Little does he realise that this is the beginning of an extraordinary friendship …

Grab a copy of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay here


5. The Corrections
by Jonathan Franzen

The winner of the National Book Award, the New York Times No.1 Bestseller and the worldwide literary sensation, The Corrections has established itself as a truly great 9780007232444American novel.

The Lamberts – Enid and Alfred and their three grown-up children – are a troubled family living in a troubled age. Alfred is ill and as his condition worsens the whole family must face the failures, secrets and long-buried hurts that haunt them if they are to make the corrections that each desperately needs …

Grab a copy of The Corrections here


4. Gilead
by Marilynne Robinson

gileadWinner of Pulitzer Prize for Fiction 2005.

In 1956, toward the end of Reverend John Ames’ life, he begins a letter to his young son, a kind of last testament to his remarkable forebears.

‘It is a book of such meditative calm, such spiritual intensity that is seems miraculous that her silence was only for 23 years; such measure of wisdom is the fruit of a lifetime. Robinson’s prose, aligned with the sublime simplicity of the language of the bible, is nothing short of a benediction …

Grab a copy of Gilead here


3. Wolf Hall
by Hilary Mantell

Winner of the 2009 Man Booker Prize.wolf-hall

Go backstage during the most dramatic period in English history: the reign of Henry VIII.

England, the 1520s. Henry VIII is on the throne, but has no heir. Cardinal Wolsey is his chief advisor, charged with securing the divorce the pope refuses to grant. Into this atmosphere of distrust and need comes Thomas Cromwell, first as Wolsey’s clerk, and later his successor …

Grab a copy of Wolf Hall here


2. The Known World
by Edward P Jones

9780007195305Masterful, Pulitzer-prize winning literary epic about the painful and complex realities of slave life on a Southern plantation. Henry Townsend, a black farmer, boot maker, and former slave, becomes proprietor of his own plantation – as well as his own slaves. When he dies, his widow, Caldonia, succumbs to profound grief, and things begin to fall apart: slaves take to escaping under the cover of night, and families who had once found love beneath the weight of slavery begin to betray one another ….

Grab a copy of The Known World here


1. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
by Junot Diaz

Things have never been easy for Oscar. A ghetto nerd living with his Dominican family in New Jersey, he’s sweet but disastrously overweight. He dreams of becoming the next the-brief-wondrous-life-of-oscar-waoJ.R.R. Tolkien and he keeps falling hopelessly in love.

Poor Oscar may never get what he wants, thanks to the Fuku – the curse that has haunted his family for generations

With dazzling energy and insight Diaz immerses us in the tumultuous lives of Oscar; his runaway sister Lola; their beautiful mother Belicia; and in the family’s uproarious journey from the Dominican Republic to the US and back.

Grab a copy of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao here

Australian Romance Author Showcase with…Fiona McIntosh

fiona-mcintosh-3a1As part of Australian Romance Month, Romance Specialist Haylee Nash will be interviewing one Australian Romance author per day. Much like a beauty pageant, each author will be using their charm, wit and grace (and the power of social media) to take home the Booktopia Romance Bestseller crown. Booktopia invites bestselling Fantasy and Adventure Romance author Fiona McIntosh to the stage.

1. Describe the perfect date.
George Clooney, Paris, chocolate … need I say more? Continue reading

COMING SOON: Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan

Serena Frome, the beautiful daughter of an Anglican bishop, has a brief affair with an older man during her final year at Cambridge, and finds herself being groomed for the intelligence service.

The year is 1972. Britain, confronting economic disaster, is being torn apart by industrial unrest and terrorism and faces its fifth state of emergency. The Cold War has entered a moribund phase, but the fight goes on, especially in the cultural sphere.

Serena, a compulsive reader of novels, is sent on a secret mission codenamed Sweet Tooth, which brings her into the literary world of Tom Healey, a promising young writer.

First she loves his stories, then she begins to love the man. Can she maintain the fiction of her undercover life? And who is inventing whom?

To answer these questions, Serena must abandon the first rule of espionage – trust no one.

McEwan’s mastery dazzles us in this superbly deft and witty story of betrayal and intrigue, love, and the invented self.

Pre-order Sweet Tooth now from Booktopia,
Australia’s No.1 Online Book Shop

Available from 23rd August 2012

About the Author

Ian McEwan is a critically acclaimed author of short stories and novels for adults, as well as The Daydreamer, a children’s novel illustrated by Anthony Browne. His first published work, a collection of short stories, First Love, Last Rites, won the Somerset Maugham Award. His novels include The Child In Time, which won the 1987 Whitbread Novel of the Year Award, The Cement Garden, Enduring Love, Amsterdam, which won the 1998 Booker Prize, Atonement, Saturday and On Chesil Beach.

Visit Booktopia’s Ian McEwan author page

VINTAGE Books Celebrates its 21st Birthday with a Rainbow

VINTAGE Books have chosen a wonderful way to celebrate their 21st Birthday. They have produced a rainbow of colourful new editions of the best fiction in their impressive collection.

These are some of the best, most talked about and most lauded novels published in the last 21 years. It is an astonishing list. Novels by Jeanette Winterson, Margaret Atwood, Philip Roth, Ian McEwan, A. S. Byatt,  J.M. Coetzee to name but a few…

If you have ever wanted to be more familiar with contemporary literature then there is no better place to start. For just over two hundred dollars you could acquire a stunning library of the best of the best in modern literature. (Just think how cool your bookcase will look!)

How fun would that be to give the full collection to someone you love!?  You could surprise them with a gift that has the potential to change their lives for the better.

Of course, you can buy them individually, too.

Imagine spending the next 21 weeks reading one great book after another… and by the end of your reading you would be familiar with some of the best names in modern literature. I bet, once you’re done, you’ll want to read more of their books. You’ll never be lost for something to read again.

The Vintage 21st Birthday Rainbow:

Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson

Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh

Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

American Pastoral by Philip Roth

The Gathering by Anne Enright

Star of the Sea by Joseph O’Connor

Atonement by Ian McEwan

The Road Home by Rose Tremain

Money by Martin Amis

Arthur & George by Julian Barnes

A Week in December by Sebastian Faulks

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon

Captain Corelli’s Mandolin by Louis de Bernieres

Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie

Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky

Possession by A. S. Byatt

Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee

The Woman in Black by Susan Hill

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami

Click here to view the VINTAGE 21 on Booktopia,
Australia’s No.1 Online Book Shop

Madeleine Roux, author of Allison Hewitt Is Trapped, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Madeleine Roux

author of Allison Hewitt Is Trapped

Ten Terrifying Questions

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1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?

I grew up in a small suburb in Minnesota, population: “tiny and some cows.” It was a great place to be a kid, lots of room for running around and getting into trouble, and I had two older brothers to keep me in line. I went to elementary and high school there and then I relocated to Wisconsin for college. Beloit College, is what it’s called, and I still live in the area. It also has a population “tiny and some cows,” but at least we have the benefit of amazing local beer and cheese. Wisconsin does magic things with hops and dairy products. I earned a double-degree in Theatre Arts and Creative Writing. In my household we call it majoring in poverty.

2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?

When I was twelve I was convinced I was going to be an Continue reading

Jane Sullivan, author of Little People, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Jane Sullivan

author of Little People

Ten Terrifying Questions

———————————-

1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?

In London. I went to George Eliot primary school, North London Collegiate School and Oxford University, where I studied English literature and attempted to learn Anglo-Saxon irregular verbs. I did an inspirational report on George Eliot at primary school complete with my own drawings of the great novelist, so I knew she was a lady with a long nose, but I never actually read any of her books until the last 10 years or so.

2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?

At twelve: a novelist. At eighteen: a writer of some sort who could make a living, because by then I suspected most novelists were very poor. At thirty: a top journalist who travelled a lot and made lots of money.  It sounded dashing and glamorous and scary and I’d just come to Australia to work on The Age. I did get to make a living out of Continue reading

The essential Ian McEwan – from First Love, Last Rites to Solar

It has only been available for a little more than two weeks but Ian McEwan’s new novel Solar continues to garner great reviews. Eagle-eyed followers of Booktopia will know that I featured it as one of my two books of the month in the March edition of Booktopia Buzz, and certainly buyers have responded in droves.

Since then Fairfax’ uber-critic Andrew Riemer has described this often humorous modern morality tale about global warming and the antics of one rapidly aging middle class man as including “some of the finest writing I have encountered in very many years”. High praise indeed. Riemer is not a man to fall lightly, no matter how enticing the reputation of the Continue reading

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