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

    • Mark Zuckerberg is suing hundreds of Hawaiians to protect his 700-acre Kauai estate

      Mark Zuckerberg paid close to $100 million for 700 acres of beachfront property on the island of...

      Business Insider
    • Andrew Napolitano: Attorney General Loretta Lynch and a parting shot at personal freedom

      On Jan. 3, outgoing Attorney General Loretta Lynch secretly signed an order directing the National Security Agency -- America’s 60,000-person-strong domestic spying apparatus -- to make available raw spying data to all other federal intelligence agencies, which then can pass it on to their counterparts in foreign countries and in the 50 states upon request. She did so, she claimed, for administrative convenience. Yet in doing this, she violated basic constitutional principles that were erected centuries ago to prevent just what she did. Here is the back story. In the aftermath of former President Richard Nixon’s abusive utilization of the FBI and CIA to spy on his domestic political opponents

      Fox News q
    • Floyd Mayweather Failed Miserably At Trying To Troll Conor McGregor For Being Broke

      Floyd Mayweather is at it again, attempting to antagonize Conor McGregor as they continue their very strange beef and teasing a potential fight between the biggest star in boxing and the biggest star in mixed martial arts. The latest installment in the Mayweather-McGregor saga comes courtesy of Floyd’s Twitter, as he attempted to troll McGregor by comparing the two’s net worths. The reason he did this is because Dana White recently offered both fighters $25 million plus a negotiated pay-per-view revenue split to fight.

      UPROXX
    • VIDEO: Driver Licenses From Nine States Won’t Be Valid IDs for Domestic Flights in 2018

      Beginning Jan. 22, 2018, travelers from nine states will no longer be able to travel with only their driver’s licenses.

      Travel & Leisure Video
    • Police search for whoever wanted Lauderdale Lakes man dead beyond a reasonable doubt

      Gary Wallock’s killer shot 10 to 12 bullets into his body Monday evening as he lay beside his car in a restaurant parking lot in Lauderhill. To help find the killer, Lauderhill police released surveillance video of the parking lot execution Wednesday afternoon. The video did not show the killer’s facial features, but viewers could see his build and gait. Police are also looking for a 2010 blue Nissan Altima sedan with dark-tinted windows that bears Florida license plate EZX F13. The shooting occurred around 5:30 p.m. Monday as Wallock, 34, left the Lobster and Seafood Warehouse with a friend. As they reached Wallock’s car, the friend headed for the front passenger door while he paused by the

      Miami Herald q
    • 'The Big Bang Theory' First Look: Raj's Girlfriends Return!

      From now until the end of the month, follow the hashtag #25Scoops25Days on Twitter and Instagram to keep up with the latest — and check EW.com/25scoops for all the news and surprises. The Big Bang Theory is soon going to put Raj in a tight spot when all of his exes return — and EW has an exclusive first look. In the Feb. 2 episode, Raj (Kunal Nayyar) holds a focus group of his ex-girlfriends to determine what has gone wrong in his previous relationships. Hence, Emily (Laura Spencer), Claire (Alessandra Torresani), Lucy (Kate Micucci), and Emily (Katie Leclerc) all return to weigh in.

      Entertainment Weekly q
    • The Rock Brings 15-Year-Old Daughter to the People’s Choice Awards – Then Jokingly Drops the F-Bomb During Acceptance Speech

      When Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson won the 2017 People’s Choice Award for favorite premium series actor on Wednesday, his mini-me was on hand to celebrate. Johnson, who was PEOPLE’s 2016 Sexiest Man Alive, shares Simone with ex Dany Garcia. Simone and Johnson also posed with girl group Fifth Harmony, who are performing for the first time as a foursome at the show.

      People
    • The internet roasts a photo of Donald Trump writing his inauguration speech

      When times get tough, at least you can still meme. President-elect Donald Trump is slated to deliver his inauguration address on Friday, so he teased his Twitter followers with a little behind-the-scenes photo of himself writing a speech at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida. SEE ALSO: Don's Johns: Port-a-potties get censored for Trump’s inauguration Writing my inaugural address at the Winter White House, Mar-a-Lago, three weeks ago. Looking forward to Friday. #Inauguration pic.twitter.com/S701FdTCQu — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 18, 2017 The staged photo and Trump's cold, dead gaze sent the internet straight into "meme mode alpha," where it was pointed out that Trump was actually holding Sharpie marker, which may or may not actually be closed. @realDonaldTrump that is a blank piece of paper and you're holding a closed sharpie pic.twitter.com/ekCcH8eTXe — Jules Suzdaltsev (@jules_su) January 18, 2017 @cajunmonkey439 @realDonaldTrump It is *obviously* a sharpie. pic.twitter.com/gdD2AUhBKX — Jules Suzdaltsev (@jules_su) January 18, 2017 .@realDonaldTrump pic.twitter.com/8CSroNshBR — XpeK (@peKofX) January 18, 2017 Surprised that you didn't just use this photo as your epic, bigly speech pic.twitter.com/SezwzToFg4 — Roland Scahill (@rolandscahill) January 18, 2017 good job @realDonaldTrump pic.twitter.com/Ioj869Tfy3 — uhhh (@_uhhhhhhh) January 18, 2017 pic.twitter.com/pAKcXAEAkD — Sam Grittner (@SamGrittner) January 18, 2017 @realDonaldTrump #NotMyPresident #TheResistance #conflict #Putin #Inauguration In house security cam Mar a Lago pic.twitter.com/diwnpjAS3F — Beo Bachter (@kaysintBB) January 18, 2017 Early draft of Donald Trump’s inauguration speech. #TrumpSpeech #MyFirstWordsAsPresident #MAGA pic.twitter.com/qgo1glv5cG — Tom ❄️ (@TommieWho) January 18, 2017 Exclusive sneak peek at Trump's inauguration speech! pic.twitter.com/6W6ex0Ks3z — Kara Calavera (@KaraCalavera) January 18, 2017 Trump's Inaugural address leaked... pic.twitter.com/J8soJQ4Ira — Jordan Uhl (@JordanUhl) January 18, 2017 Exclusive: #Trump's Inauguration speech leaked! #TrumpInaugural #trumpgrammar pic.twitter.com/XzrXXpnjxD — Gerry Stergiopoulos (@GerryGreek) January 18, 2017 According to CNN, Trump did write his inauguration speech himself. BONUS: NBD, just a massive alligator out for a stroll

      Mashable
    • I tried Whataburger, In-N-Out, and Shake Shack — and the winner is clear

      The INSIDER Summary: • There's always been competition between the east and west coasts when it comes to burgers.  • In-N-Out takes the title as the best burger, but Whataburger's honey chicken biscuits are a solid bet too. Ah, the great debate of burger joints. If you're on the Eastern side of the USA, you may be more of a Shake Shack fan. However, for those of you on the West Coast, you may be more partial to some In-N-Out or Whataburger. Unfortunately for me, I am smack dab in the middle with many other flyover states, and close to none of these amazing burger joints. However, I do travel a lot and have had the opportunity to try all three varieties, time and time again (I just love burgers,

      Business Insider q
    • Cancer Patient Who Did 'Juju on That Beat' During Chemo in Viral Video Dies

      Ana-Alecia Ayala, who made headlines in October for dancing up a storm during chemotherapy treatments, has died after a year-long battle against cancer.

      Inside Edition
    • 8 Michelle Obama Quotes That Will Get You Through 2017 (8 photos)

      Happy birthday, Michelle Obama ! FLOTUS turns 53 years old today--during her last week in the White House, no less--and we can't help but get a little teary thinking about the grand impact she's had these past eight years. From creating her female education initiative, Let Girls Learn , to championing healthy living that's about more than just what you eat, Michelle has been revolutionary in more ways than one. Heck, even her style has changed the game for countless First Ladies to come. VIDEO: Michelle Obama's Best Looks of All Time 5121546754001 But perhaps what we'll remember most about this FLOTUS was her commitment to equality, in race, gender, class, and everything in between. No one says it better than her husband, President Barack Obama . "Michelle, for the past 25 years, you've been not only my wife and mother of my children, but my best friend. You took on a role you didn't ask for and made it your own with grace and grit and style and good humor," he said in his farewell address. "You made the White House a place that belongs to everybody. And a new generation sets its sights higher because it has you as a role model. You've made me proud. You've made the country proud." As we attempt to fix our supposedly waterproof mascara, join us in taking a look back at eight of Michelle's most inspirational quotes. We will miss you, FLOTUS.

      InStyle
    • Chicago Cubs President Theo Epstein shares his 20% rule for getting ahead in your career

      The MLB star was once the youngest general manager in baseball history.

      CNBC
    • Teen Who Was Kidnapped as a Baby Knew About Abduction, Court Records Say

      The South Carolina woman accused of kidnapping a newborn baby from a hospital in Jacksonville, Florida, in 1998 allegedly admitted to the crime over a year ago, according to court documents obtained by ABC News. Gloria Williams, 51, allegedly abducted Alexis Manigo on July 10, 1998, just hours after she was born at a Jacksonville hospital and raised the girl as her own in South Carolina. Williams allegedly posed as a nurse and told the baby's mother that the newborn had a fever and she needed to take her away, according to Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams.

      Good Morning America 42 min ago
    • Olivia Munn Sports Sexy Gown for 'Ocean's Eight' Cameo in NYC as Aaron Rodgers' Family Feud Goes Public

      The 36-year-old actress is leaving very little to the imagination!

      Entertainment Tonight
    • Kristin Cavallari Defends Husband Jay Cutler After People Fat Shame Him on Instagram

      Kristin Cavallari knows her husband, NFL quarterback Jay Cutler, is “hot AF” — even if people try to fat shame him. After Cavallari, 30, shared a photo of the two of them on a surprise vacation in Mexico for her birthday, her followers started commenting that Cutler had gained weight. “Since Jay looked like a 300-lb. lesbian in my last post, I felt I should do him justice by posting him looking hot AF in this one,” she posted.

      People
    • Entertainment Tonight
    • Trump poised to take executive actions on first day in office

      Donald Trump is preparing to begin taking executive actions on his first day in the White House on Friday to roll back policies of outgoing President Barack Obama and implement parts of his plans to crack down on immigration and build a wall on the U.S.-Mexican border. Trump, a Republican who was elected on Nov. 8 and will be sworn in during a ceremony at the U.S. Capitol on Friday, is poised to wield one of the most powerful tools of his office, the presidential pen, for executive actions that can be implemented without the input of Congress. "He is committed to not just Day 1, but Day 2, Day 3 of enacting an agenda of real change, and I think that you're going to see that in the days and weeks to come," Trump spokesman Sean Spicer said on Thursday, telling reporters to expect activity on Friday, during the weekend and early next week.

      Reuters 57 min ago
    • Rare photos of Betty White you've likely never seen (25 photos)

      Happy birthday, Betty White! Our favourite Golden Girl turns 95 on Jan. 17 — and she’s certainly come a long way. White officially holds the record for the longest TV career for any female entertainer. In honour of her birthday, click through the gallery to see some rare, vintage photos captured earlier in her career. Let us know what you think by tweeting @ YahooStyleCA!

      Yahoo Canada Style