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

    • Fox News’ Alan Colmes Dies at 66 After ‘Brief Illness’

      Fox News contributor and commentator Alan Colmes has died after a brief illness. He was 66.

      People
    • Call Her Hot Mama June! Honey Boo Boo and Pumpkin Talk About Their Mom’s Journey from 460 Lbs. to a Size 4

      Mama June Shannon may just need to change her name to Hot Mama June. After undergoing weight loss surgery, the matriarch of the Here Comes Honey Boo Boo family will reveal her new body on the reality TV screen in WE tv’s new docu-dramedy Mama June: From Not to Hot. But first, her daughters Alana (known better to fans as “Honey Boo Boo”) and Lauryn (AKA “Pumpkin”) stopped by Entertainment Tonight to explain how their mother went from 460 lbs. to a size 4. “She had gastric sleeve back in May of 2015, and then she slowly started losing weight, and the reason she got the gastric sleeve was because she hit a plateau — she couldn’t lose any weight,” Pumpkin explained of her mom’s surgery to make her stomach smaller.

      People
    • California's punishing rain creates rare spectacle

      First the rain, now the drain. California’s punishing rain this month has flooded neighborhoods and triggered evacuations. It has also pushed Lake Berryessa in Napa County way beyond capacity, pouring water into its bathtub-like drain. It’s the first time that’s happened in 11 years, reports CBS News correspondent Mireya Villarreal. “Back in October, we were essentially half-full,” said Roland Sanford, general manager of the Solano County Water Agency. “This is the first time that the lake has been so low, and filled-up and spilled in one year.” What looks calm at the top of the “Morning Glory Spillway” looks like a raging torrent at the bottom. The spillway is located 200 feet from the Monticello

      CBS News q
    • Prominent gamer died during live-streamed attempt to play ‘World of Tanks’ for 24 hours

      Twenty-two hours into a 24-hour-long marathon video game session, Twitch streamer Brian Vigneault, 35, got up to take a smoke break. He never returned to his computer. His fans, mainly fellow gamers who watched Vigneault play the online skirmisher “World of Tanks,” wondered if Vigneault had fallen asleep. Although it was around 4:30 p.m. on Sunday, falling asleep in the afternoon would not have been completely unexpected. Vigneault, under the online nickname Poshybrid, would play “World of Tanks” for extreme lengths of time to raise donations for charity. When a moderator messaged Vigneault a few hours after his abrupt disappearance, a Virginia Beach detective responded via Vigneault’s computer

      Washington Post q
    • Ask Amy: My ex-wife won’t talk, even when our kid was in crisis

      DEAR AMY: My former wife and I divorced after 26 years of marriage. She has refused to communicate with me. We have twins in their late 20s — a daughter and a son. Although neither is married, each wants to eventually get married, and so I anticipate weddings. Our son graduates law school this spring. He may feel awkward about having both his parents attend his graduation. Last year, he went through a terrible crisis — the death of one of his best friends. It was terribly hard on him, yet his mom never talked to me about how we might help him. Such occasions — a grief-stricken child, and a grown child’s life event — call for parents to come together. I want to talk with my former wife about the

      MercuryNews.com q
    • How Jesse Jackson Jr. collects $138,400 a year from the federal government

      Records from former U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.'s divorce case show how he has been able to collect hefty benefit checks from the federal government after serving time in prison for looting hundreds of thousands of dollars from his campaign fund. Most of that — about $100,000 — is workers' compensation and tax-free, according to Chicago attorney Barry Schatz, who is representing Jackson in his divorce proceeding. The rest of Jackson's benefits are Social Security Disability Insurance payments, some of which may be taxable, Schatz said. The payments flow to Jackson because he has bipolar disorder and depression — the issues that led to an extended leave from Congress in 2012 — and those conditions have been exacerbated by a "very difficult, contentious divorce" from former Chicago Ald.

      Chicago Tribune q
    • Off-Duty Cop Fires Shot During Scuffle With Boy, 13, Sparking Widespread Outrage

      News of an off-duty Southern California police officer who purportedly fired his gun during a dispute with a 13-year-old boy has sparked outrage after videos of the confrontation appeared on social media Wednesday. Protests erupted as demonstrators called for the arrest of the LAPD officer, whose apparent use of a gun during the heated argument over what authorities said was an ongoing issue of children walking across the lawn of his Anaheim home.

      Inside Edition
    • 2007 Oscar Flashback! Beyoncé, Ryan Gosling, Reese Witherspoon, and More (32 photos)

      The 79th Academy Awards took place on Feb. 25, 2007, at the Kodak (now the Dolby) Theatre in Hollywood, hosted by Ellen DeGeneres. Martin Scorsese took home his long-awaited Best Director statuette for The Departed — which led the night with four wins, including Best Picture. With this year’s ceremony only days away — Feb. 26  — we thought it would be fun to take a look back at the star-studded red carpet for the 2007 Oscars. Enjoy!

      Yahoo Movies
    • Conservative provocateur James O'Keefe says he plans to leak 'hundreds of hours of tape' in CNN exposé

      Conservative provocateur James O'Keefe said Tuesday that he plans to release "hundreds of hours...

      Business Insider
    • Fit Mom Tammy Hembrow Shares a Photo of Her Loose Belly Skin Post-Baby

      Australian fitness trainer and mom-of-two Tammy Hembrow bounced back to having a flat tummy just weeks after giving birth to her second child, but she recently shared a photo that shows that her stomach isn’t perfect — and she’s totally fine with that. On Saturday, Hembrow posted a mirror selfie on Instagram that shows her holding her baby while wearing a crop top and gray leggings.

      People
    • Mama June’s Weight Loss Surgeries Revealed -- How She Went From 460 Pounds to a Size 4

      How Mama June got down from 460 pounds to a reported size 4.

      Entertainment Tonight
    • Papa John's stock crashes and it may all be because of the NFL

      Better sales. Better stock price. Not Papa John's.

      The Street q
    • Teen charged with lying about being raped by college football players

      Two college football players who were suspended from their team last year and saw their scholarships revoked after rape accusations have been cleared by police after authorities say their accuser recanted her story. Nikki Yovino, 18, of South Setauket, NY, has been charged with second-degree falsely reporting an incident and tampering with or fabricating physical evidence in connection to an incident at a Sacred Heart University football party in October, the Connecticut Post reports. When pressed about inconsistencies in her original statement, Yovino admitted that she made up the rape allegations against the two football players in hopes of gaining sympathy from another man — a prospective boyfriend, according to an arrest warrant affidavit. Police said Yovino told them on Oct. 15 at a hospital where they responded for a sexual assault complaint that she attended a Sacred Heart football club party the night before at a house on Lakeside Drive in Bridgeport.

      New York Post q
    • ‘Dead’ teen wakes up on the way to his own funeral

      A 17-year-old — presumed dead by his parents and relatives — miraculously woke up on the way to his own funeral in an Indian village, according to a report. Kumar Marewad was bitten by a stray dog one month ago and after he came down with a high fever last week, he was rushed to a hospital in Dharwab, Karnataka, India, the Times of India reported. Kumar’s condition worsened, with an infection from the dog bite spreading throughout his body, and he was put on a ventilator. Doctors told his family that if he was taken off life support, he wouldn’t survive. The teen’s family made the decision to bring him home and once they presumed him dead, they quickly made arrangements for his funeral. “We had

      New York Post q
    • Did A Jeopardy Contest Really Flip Off Alex Trebek? Watch What Happened

      Not everybody gets a chance to shine on national television, so it's understandable that more extroverted people take advantage of the opportunity by doing something that stands out. Some say hello to their mom, some wish a loved one a Happy Birthday, and some point one specific finger out in a showy manner. That's what happened when Stanford student Viraj Mehta re-appeared during Jeopardy!'s traditional College Championship, where there was definitely some bird-flipping going on while Alex was going through the contestant stories segment. Watch and judge for yourself.

      CINEMABLEND q
    • Andrew Napolitano: The chickens have come home to roost

      Last week, The Wall Street Journal revealed that members of the intelligence community -- part of the deep state, the unseen government within the government that does not change with elections -- now have acquired so much data on everyone in America that they can selectively reveal it to reward their friends and harm their foes. Their principal foe today is the president of the United States. Liberty is rarely lost overnight. The wall of tyranny often begins with benign building blocks of safety -- each one lying on top of a predecessor -- eventually collectively constituting an impediment to the exercise of free choices by free people, often not even recognized until it is too late. Here is

      Fox News q
    • Utah Teens Allegedly Left 14-Year-Old for Dead After Shooting Her in the Head and Robbing Her

      Two Utah teens were charged Tuesday with the attempted murder of a 14-year-old girl who police said was shot in the back of the head, robbed and then left for dead last week. The 16-year-old boys, who were arrested over the weekend, are charged with one count each of first-degree felony attempted aggravated murder and aggravated robbery and four counts each of second-degree felony obstructing justice. The two teen suspects allegedly lured their victim to a dry canal bed in Smithfield, Utah, under the guise of selling her a knife, according to charging documents obtained by PEOPLE.

      People
    • Off-duty LAPD officer fires weapon during confrontation with teens in Anaheim

      An off-duty Los Angeles police officer fired his weapon outside his Anaheim home during an altercation with two juveniles.

      KABC – Los Angeles
    • Why 'Grey's Anatomy' remains compelling TV, and 'Scandal' isn't

      While others fall out of favor, the doctors are still in. In its 13th season, Grey’s Anatomy stands as ABC’s most-watched scripted series, which is a devastating comment on ABC's new-series development, but also an incredible testament to Grey’s ratings stability and artistic consistency. And this long-running doctor show is not just doing well compared to other ABC series: It has more viewers than every NBC drama except This is Us and every Fox scripted series besides Empire. And among those younger viewers prized by advertisers, Grey's ranks in the Top 10 of all scripted series, broadcast and cable. So how is that Grey's thrives while its once red-hot Thursday companion Scandal, also from executive

      USA Today q
    • A colorless Masters? Augusta's azalea angst

      The famed azaleas at Augusta National are as much a part of the Masters as green jackets and Amen Corner. But this year its color may be absent.

      CNN q