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Top 10 Contemporary Lit Must Reads (first 10)


Twenty contemporary literature must-reads - If you've read all of these, you are well on your way to an honorary Contemporary Literature degree. The list is alphabetical, not preferential. This page is followed by another page of 10.

1. A House for Mr. Biswas, V.S. Naipaul

A House for Mr. Biswas
In his forty-six short years, Mr. Mohun Biswas has been fighting against destiny to achieve some semblance of independence, only to face a lifetime of calamity. A heartrending, dark comedy of manners, A House for Mr. Biswas masterfully evokes a man's quest for autonomy against an emblematic post-colonial canvas.
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2. A Prayer for Owen Meany, John Irving

A Prayer for Owen Meany
Owen Meany, the only child of a New Hampshire granite quarrier, believes he is God's instrument; he is.
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3. A Soldier of the Great War, Mark Helprin

An old man's magnificent tale of love and war-a recapitulation of a life and a reckoning with mortality told by one of America's most acclaimed novelists.
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4. A Wild Sheep Chase, Haruki Murakami

A marvelous hybrid of mythology and mystery, A Wild Sheep Chase is the extraordinary literary thriller that launched Haruki Murakami's international reputation.
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5. American Pastoral, Philip Roth

Roth's protagonist is Swede Levov, a legendary athlete at his Newark high school, who grows up in the booming postwar years to marry a former Miss New Jersey, inherit his father's glove factory, and move into a stone house in the idyllic hamlet of Old Rimrock. And then one day in 1968, Swede's beautiful American luck deserts him.
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6. Atonement, Ian McEwan

Ian McEwan's symphonic novel of love and war, childhood and class, guilt and forgiveness provides all the satisfaction of a brilliant narrative and the provocation we have come to expect from this master of English prose.
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7. Catch-22, Joseph Heller

Joseph Heller's take on the beurocracy and the insanity of war. Contemporary or Classic, I'm going to include it here - I guess mostly because it seems so timely. Yossarian is a bombadier trapped in the logical maze of the American military, an entity that Heller satirizes perfectly. If they didn't have you read this in high school, read it now.
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8. Ishmael, Daniel Quinn

Daniel Quinn's Ishmael opens with a deceptively ordinary personals ad: "Teacher seeks pupil. Must have an earnest desire to save the world." Seeking a direction for his life, a young man answers the ad and is startled to find that the teacher is a lowland gorilla named Ishmael, a creature uniquely placed to vision anew the human story.
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9. Jazz, Toni Morrison

Jazz is spellbinding for the haunting passion of its profound love story, and for the bittersweet lyricism and refined sensuality of its powerful and elegant style.
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10. Reservation Blues, Sherman Alexie

Winner of the American Book Award. A fresh, luxuriantly comic tale of power, tragedy, and redemption among today's generation of First Americans.
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