Fifteen Eighty Four

Academic perspectives from Cambridge University Press


A Reader’s Guide to Twenty-First-Century Fiction

How can we really connect with others? With the world? What are the ethics of our brave new technological world? And is technology enough to sustain us? In the modern age of terror, what are we afraid of? How do we represent our anxieties, questions, and experiences to the world and future generations?

The literature that has emerged in the twenty-first century has been eager to address these contemporary questions. Writers from Japan to Chile and Pakistan to the US have produced novels that are uniquely twenty-first century. In Twenty-First-Century Fiction: A Critical Introduction, Peter Boxall explores why this new class of literature is important and what it reveals about who we are in the new millennium.

If you’re looking for a book that captures the modern age, try one of the recommendations below. When you’re done, check out Twenty-First-Century Fiction: A Critical Introduction for a complete look at what makes these novels essential to the way we understand our lives today.

by Ian McEwan (2001)
In this historical portrait of love, betrayal, and guilt set against the backdrop of World War II, the English novelist Ian McEwan presents a meditation on the power of an author and whether fiction is bound by truth.

Elizabeth Costello
by J. M. Coetzee (2003)
South African author J. M. Coetzee was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature weeks after the release of Elizabeth Costello, which explores the reality of writers and their fame, the boundaries between human and animal, and limitations we experience because of them.

by Roberto Bolaño (2004)
In his final work, the late Chilean novelist Roberto Bolaño presents a scathing look at the way global freedom and desire drive violence and corruption through the unsolved serial murders in a Mexican border town.

Cloud Atlas
by David Mitchell (2004)
Part historical fiction, part thriller, part dystopian fantasy, this novel distorts temporality and reinvents the rules of storytelling to tell a story about human connectedness through time.

Never Let Me Go
by Kazuo Ishiguro (2005)
A debate about artificial life sets the stage for this coming-of-age narrative about children in a mysterious boarding school, raising questions in a modern conversation about humanity, self-ownership, and alienation.

The Reluctant Fundamentalist
by Mohsin Hamid (2007)
When a Pakistani immigrant’s acceptance of American culture is thrown off course by the September 11th attacks, the results underscore a complicated and widening gulf between Islam and the western world.

A Visit from the Goon Squad
by Jennifer Egan (2010)
Set in the shadow of 9/11 and to the soundtrack of rock and roll, fear and anxiety pervades this Pulitzer Prize-winning story that spans nations and generations to describe how time shapes the lives and contemporary narratives of a music executive, his assistant, and the scores of people who have come and gone through their lives.

Peter Boxall discusses all of these titles and more. To understand the modern classics and the contemporary way that today’s novelists understand the human condition, check out  Twenty-First-Century Fiction: A Critical Introduction.

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