The Best Books Of The 21st Century (So Far)

The Best Books Of The 21st Century (So Far)

While the 21st Century is a scant 16 years old this year, it’s already thrown up a number of interesting, moving and undeniably unique works of literature (and also Twilight). This infographic shortlists the best of the best and will help you to choose which book to read next based on your personal preferences.

Image by iunewind (Shutterstock).

We’ve espoused the benefits of reading in previous infographics, including boosting your productivity, so here’s a helpful chart to help you decide which novel to sink your teeth into next. With everything from The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo to Harry Potter to Perseopolis, you’re sure to find something you’ll love.

[USC Rossier]

This story has been updated since its original publication.


  • Pretty vanilla list. Not saying it’s bad (though “Proof of Heaven: a Neurosurgeon’s journey into the afterlife” certainly is), it’s just pretty tame.

    Also, to nitpick, The Road certainly isn’t a dystopia.

    • Incidentally, The Road most definitely does qualify as dystopian. The idea of a dystopian setting is one where everything is inherently bad or unpleasant. Mostly this is attributed to nation states etc in stories such as Hunger Games but it can actually just be the general setting as well. The interesting part about The Road is that while people like to ascribe a setting of nuclear war onto The Road, there’s no clearly defined ‘end of the world’ cause, leading the reader to assume a lot of it.

      The landscape in The Road is most definitely of a dystopian nature and and the language employed to describe it to that end is utilised as such. McCarthy loves to play on words in the story, describing three things primarily, the looks of men, the motivations of men and actions of men. All three are horrendous in nature except for the boy in the story by and large. In this sense, there’s nothing good left, except him and his father is trying to protect him, in this dystopian world, from becoming part of it potentially.

      But I really, really would not recommend reading Eragon for my students, at all. Not one bit.

      • I take your point, and I don’t fundamentally disagree, but I’d classify it as post-apocalyptic given it is missing several of the hallmarks of what generally classifies fiction as dystopian- A lot of other dystopian fiction deals with societies in dysfunction and totalitarian themes, where as The Road is absent much of that.

        The hostility of the landscape is dystopian, but it’s about the only way I’d classify it as being similar.

        I’ve actually never looked at Nuclear War necessarily as the catalysing incident in The Road, but frankly looking for a cause of the apocalypse in The Road is kinda pointless.

        Of course, genre distinctions are arbitrary, but if someone said to me “I’ve been reading 1984 and The Hunger Games, recommend me something in the same sort of genre” I certainly wouldn’t pick The Road first.

        • And that’s the thing, its a dystopian postapocalyptic setting. Dystopia itself is just more or less a ‘setting’, not a governance or style of urban setting etc. In terms of The Road, it’s one of those ones where it falls into many categories, even a ‘journey fiction’ category above a lot of others. The dystopian elements in The Road are on a micro scale, rather than the macro scale of a lot of other books, even right down to the relationship of the father and son, wavering from kind and caring to outright authoritarian in some aspects. It’s a book that screams for over-analysis.

  • This list of books is kind of lacklustre, although I’ve only read a few listed.

    I wonder how many of these “best books of the 21th century” will still be on the list this time next century? I mean, looking back at the best books of the 20th century, if it was written in 1916, you’ll find books like Hound of the Baskervilles and Anne of Green Gables, and people are still making movies and tv shows about Sherlock Holmes and Anne today! Will they still be making movies about Harry Potter or Hunger Games or Da Vinci Code in 2116?

    • Given where they sourced their info from, it’s very much a list of “Popular and well rated” rather than critically “best.”

      That’s not to say that Popular=bad, but it’s a very safe (and pretty American) list.

      • They did split it into “popular” and “literary” fiction, at the top.
        Implying popular isn’t literary, and literary isn’t popular.

        With Amazon as the source, an American list is to be expected.

  • The notice at the bottom should be at the top so you know what you are in for. This is basically a list of best-sellers, not best books. They did manage to avoid including 50 Shades of Grey so I guess there was at least some kind of curation, but not much.

  • I think they mixed up the “Humor” and “Historical” categories in the Kids’ section. Anyone picking up The Book Thief and looking for humor is going to be sorely disappointed.

  • I’m sure this is obvious, but “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” and the “Book Thief” are supposed to be switched. I laughed a little trying to picture what the world will be like when “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” becomes historical fiction…

  • Snow Flower and the Secret Fan‘ is a wonderful book, but is definitely not a romance, it shouldn’t be on that category; ‘Never let me go‘ is another great book but has zero fantasy, it’s science fiction; and whoever considers ‘The book thief‘ as a humorous book has a very twisted sense of humor.

  • Hey, just saying you guys screwed up a bit in the children’s lit section. You mixed up the classifications of Diary of a Wimpy Kid and The Book Thief, I figure they are meant to be switched. Also, Percy Jackson is by no means thriller. It is definitely fantasy. I have no idea where that came from. Otherwise–cool list.

  • Not only is “Diary of Wimpy Kid” not history, but it’s also not Young Adults. I didn’t want to read these as a kid, let alone now as an actual Young Adult.

  • I wanted to recommend Under The Wolf, Under The Dog by Adam Rapp. Brilliant book about a young man who has a mental breakdown and is similar to The Catcher In The Rye. Genesis by Bernard Beckett is good for sci-fi nerds and people who like thinking about AI and ethics. I think both are aimed at YA audiences. I also liked the Uglies trilogy, I read all the books as a teen and explores genetic engineering, beauty standards, rebelling against a dystopian government, peer pressure, plastic surgery, etc.

  • Disappointed to see that “Three Cups of Tea” is still listed under current events. I thought it was widely known and proven that it was a scam? “Three Cups of Deceit” by krakauer should probably be listed in its place

  • This might have been made before it was published-because it’s quite recent-but Khaled Hossenni has a 3rd book: And The Mountains Echoed and it’s absolutely brilliant. Also would recommend anything by Michael Morpurgo for all ages; especially if you like travel, war and love.

  • This list is absolute rubbish. Any list that has “Eat, Pray, Love” on is fundamentally flawed.

    I would suggest looking at the Economist’s lists, published at the end of each year.

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