Best of the Millennium and Notable Articles

The Best Fiction of the Millennium (So Far): An Introduction

By posted at 6:48 am on September 21, 2009 77

Ah, 1999… We laughed along with Chandler and Phoebe, invested our surplus Benjamins with Lehman Brothers, danced a national macarena. Those days seem like the distant past now, and in many ways, the first decade of the 21st Century has been quite different from the giddy future we might have projected. In one way, though, the new millennium has delivered: we’ve gotten great fiction, often from unexpected quarters. When The New York Times named “The Best Work of American Fiction of the Last 25 Years” in 2006, none of the finalists was younger than 69, and the most recent publication date was 1997. But the ’00s have introduced us to new voices, spurred others to new levels of achievement, and ushered in the late masterworks that have capped distinguished careers.

It’s a bit early, of course, to pass definitive judgment on the literary legacy of the ’00s, or how it stacks up against that of the 1930s, or 1850s. Who knows what will be read 50 years from now? But, with the end of the decade just a few months away, it seemed to us at The Millions a good time to pause and take stock, to call your attention to books worthy of it, and perhaps to begin a conversation.

To that end, we’ve conducted a poll of our regular contributors and 48 of our favorite writers, editors, and critics (listed below), asking a single question: “What are the best books of fiction of the millennium, so far?” The results were robust, diverse, and surprising.

We’ve finished tabulating them, and this week, we’ll be counting down the Top 20 vote-getters, at a rate of five per day. Each book will be introduced by one of the panelists who voted for it. On Friday, we’ll reveal Number One, along with the results of a parallel reader poll conducted via our Facebook group. And next week, we’ll run follow-up posts including Honorable Mention and “Best of the Rest” lists.

This page, updated as we post the list, will become an index. You can use it to navigate the series, or can check back at our home page; we also invite you to consider subscribing to The Millions via RSS feed or Kindle.  We hope you’ll share your thoughts here or on the entries for the individual books throughout the week as our list is revealed.

The List
#20: Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
#19: American Genius, A Comedy by Lynne Tillman
#18: Stranger Things Happen by Kelly Link
#17: The Fortress of Solitude by Jonathan Lethem
#16: Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
#15: Varieties of Disturbance by Lydia Davis
#14: Atonement by Ian McEwan
#13: Mortals by Norman Rush
#12: Twilight of the Superheroes by Deborah Eisenberg
#11: The Brief, Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz
#10: Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
#9: Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage by Alice Munro
#8: Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson
#7: Austerlitz by W.G. Sebald
#6: The Road by Cormac McCarthy
#5: Pastoralia by George Saunders
#4: 2666 by Roberto Bolaño
#3: Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
#2: The Known World by Edward P. Jones
#1: The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen

The Panel

Each panelist could name up to five books available in English with an original-language publication date no earlier than Jan. 1, 2000. We then tabulated the votes of our panelists, along with those of our contributors. Books were ranked according to number of votes received. In the few cases where more than one book received the same number of votes, our contributors, believing firmly that ties are like “kissing your sister,” voted to break them.

Best of the Millennium, Pros Versus Readers

Share this article

More from the Millions

77 Responses to “The Best Fiction of the Millennium (So Far): An Introduction”

  1. The Known World by Edward P. Jones « Hungry Like the Woolf
    at 7:20 pm on November 14, 2009

    […] intriguing subject, but never picked it up. Something else was always more pressing. Then, over at The Millions, this book came in slotted as #2 on their list of “The Best Fiction of the Millenium (So […]

  2. Best Aussie fiction of the 21st Century (so far) « Antipodean Owl
    at 5:50 pm on November 16, 2009

    […] based on a similar one conducted not too long ago over at The Millions, where they listed the top 20 Best Fiction of the Millenium (I’ve managed four of the twenty). I was especially chuffed to see that Deborah […]

  3. Kelly
    at 9:35 am on December 9, 2009

    Some good choices, some bad. What else is new? The best are never known until years later.

  4. Great Years for Books « Hungry Like the Woolf
    at 6:24 pm on December 15, 2009

    […] to kick off a discussion, I submit the year 2001, using The Millions “Best Books of the Millenium (So Far)“. From that list, we have: The Corrections, Austerlitz, Atonement, Hateship, Friendship, […]

  5. Lists, Lists, Lists! And Other End-of-Decade Obsessions | Nostalgia
    at 11:13 am on December 17, 2009

    […] Pitchfork launched its music retrospective over the summer, while The Millions started considering the millennium’s best books as early as […]

  6. Top Books of 2009 lists « Dusty Hum
    at 9:22 pm on December 20, 2009

    […] The Millions best of the decade (#1 = The Corrections) plus a readers’ list (#1 = Oscar Wao) […]

  7. My Year in Books: Await Your Reply
    at 4:46 pm on December 21, 2009

    […] few months ago, I took part in The Millions Best of the Millennium series, which asked writers, critics and readers to submit their picks for five best works of […]

  8. The Corrections and the Big Novel « No Pun Intended
    at 7:05 am on December 27, 2009

    […] world works. This thematic notion of the world “correcting” itself seems particularly relevant at the end of the Aughts: financial disasters are the corrections of long-tolerated mistakes in the economy; bloody wars and […]

  9. Becky
    at 6:15 pm on December 28, 2009

    The best novel I’ve ever read, a fabulous book that anyone with a uterus ought to own is The Lost Daughter by Daralyse Lyons. It is the most fabulous work of literature I’ve ever read, rich with character, plot, and subtext…

  10. links for 2010-01-02 « Rumblegumption
    at 7:35 pm on January 2, 2010

    […] The Millions: The Best Fiction of the Millennium (So Far): An Introduction […]

  11. Simon Halliday
    at 7:10 am on January 3, 2010

    Wow. No J.M Coetzee. In fact, no African authors whatsoever. Well done! *facetious laughter*

  12. Zagloba
    at 2:38 am on January 4, 2010

    Anathem sorely missing.

  13. Millions' Best Fiction of the Millenium (so far) | BOOK CLUB CLASSICS!
    at 2:45 am on January 18, 2010

    […] is The Millions list of the best fiction of the millenium.  I’ve starred those titles I’ve read twice […]

  14. The New Sociology, or, in Praise of the Middle Zone « Lee Konstantinou
    at 2:42 pm on June 20, 2010

    […] or uproar arose — entirely predictably — after The Millions released its "Best Fiction of the Millennium" list last year.  To what degree should we accept such lists and prizes as a natural part of […]

  15. Books & Authors » Lit Links for 6/23: Summer Reading Extravaganza!
    at 3:00 pm on June 23, 2010

    […] on all the great books you haven’t had the chance to read, look to the Millions’ “Best Fiction of the Millennium (So Far).”  The list gives a quick rundown (voted on by readers) of the hottest titles of the past […]

  16. melissa
    at 10:53 am on November 10, 2010

    is this a ‘worst’ list? did i click the correct link? ‘corrections’ is #1 and ‘known world’ is #2?! are you JOKING?! this millennium list shows the sad state of modern fiction.

  17. jenandthepen
    at 12:13 am on February 4, 2011

    […] to Cloud Atlas, shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and #3 on the literary website, The Millions, “Best Fiction of the Millennium (So Far)” (although by reading the comments, it seems as though the choice is not without its […]

  18. alfred beilin
    at 5:41 pm on January 2, 2012

    afternoon everyone all the best to yous for 2012

  19. mlhoyer
    at 4:12 pm on January 20, 2012

    How is it possible that _Infinite Jest_ isn’t on this list?!! I know that this “Top 20” is now over two years old, but still, I’m shocked. DFW’s masterpiece bests most of the novels on this list, in my opinion (if not all of them — hey, I don’t pretend to objectivity!). I won’t name names, but while I agree that approximately 50% of those books (/authors) listed are well-deserving of praise, I am entirely flabbergasted that such a well-read and discerning panel of writers and readers neglected to honor _Infinite Jest_ (/DFW).

    p.s. Franzen’s _The Corrections_… at #1?!! I can almost guarantee that Franzen himself would agree with me (e.g. that _Infinite Jest_ is far more worthy of the blue-ribbon prize).

  20. Sourav Chakraborty
    at 10:56 pm on January 22, 2012

    Wow, that is an awesome compilation. I have read a few of them, and looking forward to enjoying others!

  21. Things Read Today – modern day game of thrones, best of the millenium, memory palaces, and navel-gazing bullshit « Anagrams
    at 2:25 am on April 4, 2012

    […] Proving once again that life is more unhinged than art is the New Yorker article about a Guatemalan murder:… […]

  22. Indian Fiction in America | James Russell Ament
    at 8:04 am on October 11, 2012

    […] The Millions: Fiction written in English by authors of Indian descent has been critically acclaimed and […]

  23. essay writing
    at 10:19 am on June 1, 2013

    If you desire to grow your experience just keep visiting this site and
    be updated with the newest gossip posted here.

  24. Literary News Round-Up | Samizdat Creative Services
    at 11:01 am on March 11, 2014

    […] single question: ‘What are the best books of fiction of the millennium, so far?’” This list reveals their final conclusion. #1? The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen. (Feel free to […]

  25. Booklist - bobbylehew
    at 10:02 pm on September 7, 2014

    […] book lists are polarizing. Read any ‘Top 100′ booklist (100 Best Novels, Books of the Century, Best Fiction of the Millennium) and you’ll likely respond as I do: ‘How dare they not include [insert title]?’ or ‘How […]

  26. Best Books of a New Century? : The Booklist Reader
    at 3:53 pm on November 5, 2014

    […] their list of the top twenty. The top five were Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections, Edward P. Jones’ The Known […]

  27. best fiction books of the decade | Top Best Selling Books Of All Time
    at 4:43 pm on December 19, 2014

    […] The millions : the best fiction of the millennium (so far […]

Post a Response

Comments with unrelated links will be deleted. If you'd like to reach our readers, consider buying an advertisement instead.

Anonymous and pseudonymous comments that do not add to the conversation will be deleted at our discretion.