10 books from the 21st century every man should read

GQ
The Corrections : Jonathan Franzen (2001)

Here are 10 of GQ's hands-down, most emphatically favorite works of fiction from the new millennium, plus books from the past thirteen years the authors want you to read.









Anyone who's been handed a high school diploma can tick off the classic novels from the twentieth century: The Great Gatsby, A Farewell to Arms, The Grapes of Wrath. But cross into this millennium and things are suddenly murkier, Kindle-ier, less classed up with age. Then again, it's been an affirming thirteen years, enough time to breed a whole new body of post-2000 lit we're happy to call the new classics—and we're not afraid to name names. We spent months chiseling down a list of not just our favorite books from the 2000s but also the works of fiction that we most readily recommend to our fathers, brothers, and non-blood-related bros. Then we asked a bunch of those authors to pick an overlooked book—stories, poetry, memoir—from that same period of time.

Dig in quick: This is your chance to right some wrongs and hit the new musts you missed the first time around.


(See more: Menswear 2013 spring trends)


The Corrections : Jonathan Franzen (2001)

Because: Let's be real, he wrote two of the very best books (Freedom's the other) of the millennium—or, if you're guzzling haterade, at least the two best books on, among other things, family, anti-anxiety drugs, marriage, fate, songbirds, and Minnesota.

Author's pick: "Ms. Hempel Chronicles (2008), by Sarah Shun-lien Bynum, is a deftly constructed novel masquerading as a collection of linked stories; you don't even realize it's a love story until you read the last chapter. Its heroine, Ms. Hempel, is a young private-school teacher whose troubles include haziness about the distinction between student and teacher. Chapter by chapter, as you watch her interact with her pupils, you realize that she's as lost and confused as they are, and the result is an extraordinary sympathy for all concerned. Bynum seems incapable of writing a sentence that doesn't have something fresh or funny or true going on in it. She gets you laughing and then she whacks you in the heart.



The Human Stain
The Human Stain : Philip Roth (2000)

Because: He's written eight pretty great novels since the turn, but only one masterpiece. Beginning in the summer "that Bill Clinton's secret emerged," it's the best book on sex, scandal (Roth coined the famous phrase "ecstasy of sanctimony"), and political correctness in the Lewinsky Moment.

 











The Road
The Road : Cormac McCarthy (2006)

Because: While plugging this book is sorta like plugging a weekend getaway to Pittsburgh in February, it's irresponsible not to, for the sheer tactful feat of turning a post-apocalyptic skin-crawler into both a critical stick of dynamite (the Pulitzer Prize) and a commercial windfall (Oprah's Book Club).

McCarthy, who rarely lifts a fingernail to promote his work, is better than hermetic: Doesn't care about the fame or money but isn't such a nutbag that he frantically hides from it. He's operating in the new millennium as actively as the younger generation, this prime-time gunner, now 79, who so clearly has still got it. Notice, on the other hand, the absence of those other stalwarts of the 1960s—1990s: Updike, DeLillo, Morrison, Pynchon, Ford, et al.



White Teeth
White Teeth : Zadie Smith (2000)

Because: Smith's debut (published when she was just 24!)—about the friendship and family fates of two polar-opposite and yet instantly identifiable British men—is better than any recent book at answering the question: What was life like in London last century?











True History of the Kelly Gang
True History of the Kelly Gang : Peter Carey (2000)

Because: the voice in this fictional autobiography of Australia's most famous outlaw—Ned Kelly, bushranger—is so convincing that you'd swear it came from his own dirt-and-blood-soaked hands.

Author's pick: "Kent Haruf is one of the great poets of the modern novel. He has an extraordinary capacity for love. He will give you the smell of the dirt and grasses of the High Plains of Colorado. He will never fail to engage your heart, but because he is an honest man, he will have you grasp the nettles. If you have never entered his beautiful singing sentences, I envy you your first time. If you do already know that Plainsong and Eventide are masterpieces, get ready for Benediction, out this year. This is why writers write and readers read.



2666
2666 : Roberto Bolaño (2008)

Because: Big novels always arrive with an aura of ridiculousness, overpraised by critics, under-read by readers, slowly eroding an indent into the bottom shelf of your bookcase.

Worse is a posthumous publication (which usually requires someone to defy the author's last wishes) that's as rickety as improperly assembled Ikea furniture. This book was both: the English translation of 898 pages showing up five years after Roberto Bolaño's death from liver failure. But pick it up with two hands and you'll find a masterpiece just swarming with stories, of hapless critics and too many murdered women; earnest, haunted investigators who don't find the answers they need; and vanished geniuses who don't want to be found.

 

Tree of Smoke
Tree of Smoke : Denis Johnson (2007)

Because: The best book about Vietnam took thirty-odd years to brew—resulting in the finest first few pages (and subsequent 600) written on the subject.













Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned
Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned : Wells Tower (2009)

Because: This is the voice lots of writers are most excited about today, the one whose story collection they'll hand you, dog-eared, if you ask for an urgently ass-kicking must-read. Spend a few hours with these damaged, defiant, uncomfortably familiar men (yep, including Vikings) and watch as Tower unravels and stitches up their lives. There's no way you're giving this book back.

Author's pick: "Haven Kimmel's A Girl Named Zippy (2001) is a joyous, humane memoir of a midwestern childhood, wrought in sentences whose epigrammatic hilariousness makes you want to applaud at each period.



True History of the Kelly Gang
Fortress of Solitude : Jonathan Lethem (2003)

Because: A lot of people write about Brooklyn—but Lethem's epic take on gentrification and racial tension is the first and last word on the subject.

Author's pick: "The appearance in 2010 of What Is All This?—a 600-page career-spanning anthology of stories from Stephen Dixon—was a welcome reminder of the continued existence of a literary cornucopia still steadily blurting out nourishment and fascination, now for fifty years and counting. Dixon's surely a candidate for the most prolific short-story writer of all time. Every one of his hundreds of tales long and short hinges on the singular miracle of his voice—as sprung and uncanny as Donald Barthelme's, yet as rooted in the urban vernacular as Bernard Malamud's—and from there takes nothing besides that voice for granted, promising constant surprise. Read Dixon to be staggered by his humanity, fearlessness, comic despair, and formal genius. In my opinion he ought to get the Nobel Prize.



Pastoralia
Pastoralia : George Saunders (2000)

Because: The title story alone—the depressive ramblings of an employee in a vaguely dystopian caveman-themed amusement park (trust us)—was proof that we had found a new king of literary tragicomedy.

Author's pick: "Stuart Dybek, an American master, is the literary embodiment of essential Chicagoness: deep emotion expressed in language that is street-smart, lyrical, and full of heart. The stories in I Sailed with Magellan are technically amazing, but always to emotional purpose. The book is full of the romantic, exotic, ethnic, story-rich Chicago I remember from my childhood. His story 'Hot Ice,' from the amazing earlier collection The Coast of Chicago, was the first contemporary story that ever completely cleaned my clock.


More from GQ:

12 Best Restaurants of 2013

Ryan Gosling's 10 Best Looks

50 Must-Try Beers

Sorry you didn't like this comment. Please provide a reason below.

Are you sure?
Rating failed. Try again.
Request failed. Try again.
We will promote constructive and witty comments to the top, so everyone sees them!
Sorry, we can’t load comments right now. Try again.

    Recommended for You

    • 10 Kirkland Products You Should Buy at Costco

      In fact, high marks from readers on the quality of Costco's store brands helped the bulk retailer place sixth in Consumer Reports' supermarkets ratings, behind Market Basket, Fareway, Trader Joe's, Publix and, the No. 1 chain, Wegmans. Costco has turned on its head the notion that a store brand is a notch below a national brand by using its coast-to-coast strength to strong-arm suppliers to put quality as well as value into its Kirkland Signature offerings.

      Kiplinger
    • 'I literally wanted to die': Woman claims she was bitten by hundreds of bed bugs at Atlantis resort

      A Florida woman filed a lawsuit against the Atlantis Paradise Resort in the Bahamas alleging that she woke up covered with crawling bed bugs. The Miami Herald reported Thursday that Cindi Avila was staying in a room at the Royal Towers during a January 2016 vacation at the resort. At the last night of her stay she said she woke up to “hundreds of painful, swollen bites from her forehead to her thighs.” “It was like something out of a horror movie,” she told the Herald. “I pulled up the mattress and I was shocked at what I saw.” Avila said she took pictures and video of the bites and the dozens of tiny insects crawling on the bed skirt. The paper reported that tiny black excrement can also be

      Fox News q
    • Cuba Gooding Jr. Files For Divorce Following Wife's 2014 Separation Docs

      The 49-year-old actor married his high school sweetheart, Sara Kepfer, in 1994.

      Entertainment Tonight
    • Alleged NYC Bucket of Gold Thief Arrested In Ecuador

      Julio Nivelo took authorities on a months-long search that spanned two continents.

      Inside Edition
    • The 78 Most Delish Sandwiches (72 photos)

      You deserve more than a boring salad for lunch. On-the-go? Try these healthy and delicious work lunches . From Delish

      Delish
    • The Clinton Foundation Is Dead — But The Case Against Hillary Isn't

      While everyone's been gearing up for President Trump's inauguration, the Clinton Foundation made a major announcement this week that went by with almost no notice: For all intents and purposes, it's closing its doors. In a tax filing, the Clinton Global Initiative said it's firing 22 staffers and closing its offices, a result of the gusher of foreign money that kept the foundation afloat suddenly drying up after Hillary Clinton failed to win the presidency. It proves what we've said all along: The Clinton Foundation was little more than an influence-peddling scheme to enrich the Clintons, and had little if anything to do with "charity," either overseas or in the U.S. That sound you heard starting in November was checkbooks being snapped shut in offices around the world by people who had hoped their donations would buy access to the next president of the United States. There was a strong precedent for it in Hillary Clinton's tenure as secretary of state.

      Investor's Business Daily q
    • You Won't Have to Look at Shay Mitchell's Swimsuit Long to Notice This Detail

      Once the temperature dips below a certain degree, we get the urge to travel — preferably to a warm, sunny location, where we can rock a swimsuit instead of a puffed-up parka. Shay Mitchell is likely feeling the same, as the star 'grammed a throwback pic of herself in a Positino, Italy, shower, showing off white shades and a stylish green one-piece. The photo made us feel a tad emotional — oh, how we miss those beach-ready days! — but we still "oohed" and "ahhed" over Shay's sexy swimwear, which included fun cutout details on the back and side. Yet while the weather (especially on the East Coast) isn't exactly appropriate for this type of get-up, the color choice couldn't be more perfect. Considering

      PopSugar q
    • 'Morbidly obese' woman drops 126 pounds and becomes fitness model

      A woman from Aarhus, Denmark, who was once classified as “morbidly obese” after tipping the scales at 268 pounds, now works as a physical trainer and sportswear model after dropping more than half of the weight in a period of four years. Mathilde Broberg, 22, lost the excess pounds partially by cutting out junk food, exercising avidly and following the “teaspoon diet,” where she measured out her food and ate with a teaspoon to ensure that the portion sizes weren’t larger than the size of a flat-out hand.

      Yahoo Canada Style
    • Three players the Miami Dolphins should pursue during free agency

      Taking a look at three players that the Miami Dolphins should pursue during this offseason's free agency period. The post Three players the Miami Dolphins should pursue during free agency appeared first on Cover32.

      Cover32
    • These Sliders Are Made with Lean Meat You’ve Probably Never Bought Before (But Should)

      This football season, we’ve partnered with Taste of the NFL and their favorite tailgating experts to share great game-day recipes for an even greater cause.  Join these chefs in raising awareness and funds for hunger relief across the country by taking the Kick Hunger Challenge with your favorite football team and making a donation to their local food bank. Here, Ray Lampe, Dr. BBQ shares a recipe for his Bison Sliders with Cheddar, Bacon and Balsamic Onions. Everyone likes sliders on game day but I’m not going to serve the same old burgers with the same old toppings.

      People
    • Did Bella Thorne Just Break The Law By Sharing These Nude Photos?

      On Tuesday, Bella Thorne retweeted a collection of nude photos, posted by anonymous Twitter user @comproimse, that were allegedly of her ex, Gregg Sulkin. There were three pictures: one of half of Sulkin's face, one of a person's chest, and one of a person's penis. Provided the photos are of who the poster says they are, and since they weren't posted by Sulkin himself, it's likely they were posted without his consent. By retweeting the photos, Thorne distributed them to her 6.55 million followers. A lot of the specifics are up in the air, but this news raises an interesting question. Let's say, for a moment, these pictures are of Sulkin and they were posted without his consent. Did Thorne commit

      refinery29.com q
    • Cuba Gooding Jr. Files for Divorce From Wife Sara Kapfer After 22 Years of Marriage: Report

      Cuba Gooding Jr. has responded to his wife Sara Kapfer’s separation filing two years later — details

      Us Weekly
    • Suspect in officer's slaying spews expletives at judge

      ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Hours after a fugitive in the slaying of a police officer told a judge he was brutalized during his arrest, Orlando's police chief released a video of his surrender and described the suspect as "extremely violent, dangerous and very unpredictable."

      Associated Press
    • With Donald Trump as President, Here's What Will Happen to the U.S. Economy

      Donald Trump has had a lot of success in business, but how will he be for the economy as president? Here's how his economic policies will play out.

      The Street q
    • Victim Claimes He Asked Target Security for Help Before Brutal Parking Lot Attack

      Security at a Target in Texas is being called into question after a man suffered a fractured skull when he was attacked in the store`s parking lot.

      Tribune
    • Trump's Treasury pick just doubled down on a budget trick that would steal from an entire generation

      On Thursday, President-elect Donald Trump's pick for Treasury secretary took the hot seat in...

      Business Insider
    • ESPN drops commentator over Venus Williams 'gorilla' remark

      US broadcaster ESPN has dropped commentator Doug Adler after he compared Venus Williams to a "gorilla" at the Australian Open -- although he insisted the word he used was "guerrilla". ESPN said Adler should have been more careful during his coverage of the seven-time Grand Slam-winner's win over Stefanie Voegele. "During an Australian Open stream on ESPN3, Doug Adler should have been more careful in his word selection," an ESPN statement said.

      AFP
    • No lei! — Facebook's Zuckerberg sues hundreds of Hawaiians to force property sales to him

      Zuckerberg's suit would make his $100 million 700-acre beachfront Kauai property even more private.

      CNBC
    • Ronda Rousey's 'ego' one of the reasons for 48-second TKO, says Amanda Nunes

      Amanda Nunes believes Ronda Rousey's "ego" had a major part to play during her 48-second knockout when the duo faced off for the bantamweight title at UFC 207 in Las Vegas on 30 December. Ultimate Fighting Championship's (UFC) longest reigning bantamweight women's champion was making a comeback after over a year on the sidelines following her first career loss against Holly Holm, but her return lasted less than a minute as Nunes punched her out of contention. Rousey, a Judo bronze medal winner at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, is not known for her striking abilities, but still chose to stand toe-to-toe with the Brazilian, who is known for her striking abilities.

      International Business Times UK q
    • You won’t believe how much Amazon is charging for Google’s Pixel XL

      The Pixel phone series seems like a big success for Google, which still can’t seem to make enough of them to go around. Both the Pixel and Pixel XL are sold out in the Google Store, though Verizon has them — and the carrier has been selling plenty of them, according to recent estimates . Amazon has the Pixels in stock too, but the online retail giant is selling the phone at quite a markup. The 128GB Pixel XL, sold and shipped by Amazon, can cost you more than $1,500 ... and that doesn't even include sales tax. Apparently, that’s not a mistake — or if is an error from Amazon, it hasn’t been fixed yet. Other retailers are also selling the phone for quite a markup, with prices ranging from $1,387 to $1,799.99. But these are third-party retailers looking to make a quick buck. But it’s pretty strange to see Amazon’s official Pixel XL page listing a $1,500 price. The same Google Pixel XL version costs $869 plus tax if you can find it at Google or Verizon. If you still haven’t purchased a Google Pixel or Pixel XL, you’d be better off waiting at this point. The phone might be the hottest Android smartphone in town right now, but not for long. All the other major Android device makers out there are preparing to launch hot new smartphones this year, with Samsung and LG leading the pack. The Galaxy S8 and LG G6 are due in mid-April and early March, respectively, according to recent reports. By then, Pixel prices might drop and stock at Google will likely improve. Not to mention that Amazon might drop the price back to what Google is charging for the phone.

      BGR News