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

    • Defense Secretary Mattis' first message to the troops tells you everything you need to know about his leadership style

      Defense Secretary James Mattis put out his first all-hands message to everyone in the...

      Business Insider
    • Photo Shows $20M That Feds Found Hidden in Mattress

      A new image released by the U.S. Attorney’s Office on Monday shows $20 million in cash that authorities found stashed in a box spring in a Massachusetts apartment. The money is believed to be linked to a $1 billion pyramid scheme involving TelexFree, a Massachusetts-headquartered company that claimed to provide Internet phone services. Authorities allege that it was actually a pyramid scheme that operated between January 2012 and March 2014.

      Good Morning America
    • Dear Abby: Mother-in-law pops in without warning

      DEAR ABBY: My mother-in-law has begun doing the “pop-in.” My husband passive-aggressively hinted that he wished he had known she was coming over. Her response was, “I’m your mother; I don’t need to let you know when I’m coming over.” I regard this as total disrespect. She has done this plenty of times — including popping in when I was having a dinner with my parents and children, which made her mad because she and my father-in-law hadn’t been invited. She did the pop-in again last week. My husband, four children and I were about to sit down to a family dinner when she rang the doorbell. I didn’t have enough food for her and my father-in-law, which made us all uncomfortable. She made a sarcastic

      Chicago Sun-Times q
    • Monica Lewinsky Speaks Up for Barron Trump as SNL Writer Is Suspended for Mocking the President’s 10-Year-Old Son

      Saturday Night Live writer Katie Rich has been suspended after posting a negative tweet mocking Donald Trump‘s 10-year-old son, Barron. Although all past tweets have since been deleted, Rich issued an apology to her Twitter account on Monday. After learning about the cyberbullying that was aimed at Barron, Monica Lewinsky came to the defense of Donald’s youngest son.

      People
    • It rained so hard at Disneyland yesterday, the park looks like it’s completely abandoned

      Southern California is experiencing some very heavy rain right now, and it’s odd. Usually, the lower half of the Golden State is…

      Hello Giggles
    • Air rage incidents are on the rise. First-class sections aren’t helping.

      On New Year’s Day, a kerfuffle on an international flight led a San Francisco-bound United Airlines plane departing from Sydney to divert to Auckland, New Zealand. On what would have been a 13-hour flight, an agitated middle-seat passenger — who was recorded on video — exchanged terse words with a flight attendant and was subsequently arrested when the plane made an early landing. The encounter was the latest incident of air rage — something that flight attendants say is on the rise. “The conditions on board just lead to more potential for air rage,” says Sara Nelson, international president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA. Nelson ticks off the reasons: tight seating, fuller flights,

      Washington Post q
    • Putin May Brag About Russian Sex Workers, but He’s Killing Them

      When unconfirmed reports alleged that Donald J. Trump had once paid sex workers in Russia to urinate on a hotel bed that had been slept on by the Obamas, Russian President Vladimir Putin responded himself, half joking about an event he said he doubted ever took place, and claiming that, after all, Russian sex workers are “of course the best in the world.” Certainly the Russian women working in the sex trades whom I have met during my time coordinating the Global Network of Sex Work Projects, both in the United States where I live and at health meetings elsewhere, have been lovely, and I have no doubt that they are good at what they do. But I am also certain that they do not receive health services

      The Daily Beast q
    • Princess Caroline Turns 60: A Look At Her Glamorous Life Dotted With Tragedy (8 photos)

      As Princess Grace and Prince Rainier III's eldest child celebrates her 60th birthday, a look back at her amazing life

      People
    • Best Vanguard Funds for Your Retirement Nest Egg

      Vanguard is the biggest fund company in the land, with more than $3 trillion in assets. Thirty-four Vanguard funds appear on a list of the 105 most popular mutual funds in employer-sponsored retirement savings plans. No other fund company comes close.

      Kiplinger
    • Johnny Galecki Explains Why Leonard Wears Lensless Glasses In ‘Big Bang Theory’

      Johnny Galecki recently explained why Leonard’s glasses don’t have lenses in “Big Bang Theory” Season 10.

      International Business Times
    • Kim Zolciak Wants You to Know Her Daughter Brielle Has NOT Had Her Butt Done [Photos] | B. Scott

      Brielle Biermann’s backside is getting a lot of attention these days. Many are convinced that the 19-year-old has had more than just her lips augmented. Her mother, former ‘Real Housewives of Atlanta’ star Kim Zolciak-Biermann, wants you to know that Brielle’s butt is 100% natural. via TMZ: However, Kim tells TMZ the proof Brielle’s got natural cakes is in the rest of her body … there isn’t an ounce of fat to use for butt implants. Kim says Brielle’s big ass comes from the gym — she works out a ton. Not to mention … she’s 19. The better question is who cares? Her body, her choice — right?

      B. Scott | lovebscott.com q
    • Attempted Murderer ‘So Proud of Herself’ After Randomly Stabbing Nurse 21 Times

      Pearl Moen, who was 17 at the time of the seemingly random November 2015 attack in Austin, Texas, will serve 15 years behind bars, the Travis County District Attorney said in a news release. Prosecutors said Moen’s diary entries show she stabbed her 23-year-old victim, a nurse, because she wanted to see what it would feel like to kill someone. Moen has a history of drug use and psychological issues but no previous criminal record, the DA’s office said.

      People
    • ‘Morning Joe’ Blasts Trump’s First Day in White House: ‘It Could Not Have Gone Worse’

      MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” co-host Joe Scarborough said that Donald Trump’s first full day in the White House “could not have gone worse” and “it could not have been more disturbing.”

      The Wrap
    • A Plea to Trump Fans: This Man is Dangerous

      The president is not just lying to you and me—now he’s lying to himself.

      GQ
    • Giant underwater goddess found off Turkish coast in ancient shipwreck

      A giant goddess sculpture has been found on the sea floor off the south-western coast of Turkey. The 2,700-year-old artefact was found by archaeologists investigating the contents of a 43m deep shipwreck uncovered in November 2016. Researchers from Dokuz Eylül University sifted through an area of approximately 300 sq ft off the coast of Bozburun, in Turkey's Marmaris district, hoping to uncover Mediterranean relics.

      International Business Times UK q
    • Bill Gates could become the world's first trillionaire

      Here's what it would take for one of the richest men alive to cross the next great divide.

      CNBC
    • Christina and Tarek Have Their Biggest Fight Yet on ‘Flip or Flop’

      In the latest episode of "Flip or Flop," the tension between Christina and Tarek El Moussa reaches new heights. The post Christina and Tarek Have Their Biggest Fight Yet on ‘Flip or Flop’ appeared first on Real Estate News & Advice | realtor.com®.

      Realtor.com
    • Kylie Jenner Shows Off Flawless Figure in Latest Puma Ads

      Jenner's partnership with Puma is going full steam ahead with new publicity shots that were released on Monday.

      Entertainment Tonight
    • How to Survive a Plane Crash, According to a Former Flight Attendant

      Although it’s incredibly unlikely you’ll ever be involved in a plane crash—it happens only about once every 1.2 million flights—it never hurts to be prepared. A flight attendant shared her knowledge and gave the internet her tips for surviving a plane crash on Quora. Schwartz advised that before sitting down, passengers verify how many rows they are away from the nearest emergency exit.

      People