Essential Modern Fiction

A poll in the New York Times named Toni Morrison’s novel Beloved as the greatest work of contemporary American fiction. Set after the Civil War, Beloved tells the story of a woman haunted by the choices she made as an escaped slave facing recapture.

The Guardian newspaper of London did a similar survey of the British, Irish and Commonwealth literary community in search of the best novel from 1980 to 2005. Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee took first place. Disgrace shares the story of a white woman who decides to bear the child resulting from an attack by blacks in post-apartheid South Africa.

A reading checklist, including these and other essential contemporary fiction novels, is available at the Lititz Public Library.

Behind the Scenes at the MuseumBehind the Scenes at the Museum by Kate Atkinson
A quirky girl relates the events of her life and those of her dysfunctional family beginning in 1959.

Being Dead by Jim Crace
How and why were two middle-aged zoologists murdered?

The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen
Looking forward to Christmas and a ten-day Nordic cruise, a woman’s plans are threatened by her husband’s Parkinson’s disease and long-buried family secrets.

Misery by Stephen King
After an almost fatal car crash, a novelist finds himself being nursed by a deranged fan that holds him captive.

The Poisonwood BibleThe Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
A fiery evangelist takes his wife and daughters to the Belgian Congo in 1959.

A Perfect Spy by John le Carré
An elegant British master-spy disappears from his posting and family in Vienna.

Small IslandSmall Island by Andrea Levy
Set in 1940, this story follows two Jamaicans and two Britons as they struggle to find peace in post-war England.

No Great Mischief by Alistair MacLeod
A cross-generational story traces the journey of the family patriarch and his twelve children from their native Scotland to an uncertain future in the New World.

Life of Pi by Yann Martel
A zookeeper and his family emigrate from India to North America aboard a Japanese cargo ship with their zoo animals bound for new homes.

Blood Meridian : Or the Evening Redness in the WestBlood Meridian, or, the Evening of Redness in the West by Cormac McCarthy
A dispossessed young man joins a violent gang of bloodthirsty mercenaries in mid-19th century Mexico.

Fugitive Pieces by Anne Michaels
A young polish Jew who witnessed the murder of his parents in the Holocaust is rescued by a Greek geologist and emmigrates to Canada.

A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry
During the mid-1970s in India, a chain of circumstances throws four varied individuals together in one small apartment.

After You'd GoneAfter You’d Gone by Maggie O’Farrell
An intergenerational tale of three women introduces the grandmother, the mother and the young woman who attempts suicide by stepping off a curb in front of an oncoming car.

A Far Cry from Kensington by Muriel Spark
A woman remembers back to 1954 when she was a young war widow living in furnished rooms in a boarding house in South Kensington, London.

Last Orders by Graham Swift
The death of one of their friends gives a group of World War II veterans an opportunity for reflection, remembrance and revelation.

Music & Silence by Rose Tremain
In 1629, King Christian IV of Denmark turns to music to ease his fears as he watches his royal consort flaunt her adulterous affairs and his country fall into ruins.

Originally published on March 21, 2014 in the Lititz Record Express.