ten beautiful modern novels

Because I was an English major, I often get asked about my favorite novel, or my favorite period of literature, and I am always at a loss.   In fact, I'd say the main reason I never went to grad school for literature was that I couldn't figure out how to specialize.  I didn't want to narrow down my love.

Young Adult fiction might be my favorite. For escape I like to read YA fiction, mysteries, memoir, novels, and occasionally fantasy.  I love the classics, too.  Julius Caesar, Pride and Prejudice, The Great Gatsby, The Sound and the Fury, Notes from Underground, Things Fall Apart.  I love poetry: Rilke, John Donne, George Herbert, T.S. Eliot, Emily Dickinson, Billy Collins, Sara Teasdale, W.S. Merwin, Mary Oliver.

But to get to the point: if I had to choose, now, I'd probably choose the modern (20th century) American novel.  (I just wouldn't be able to decide if I wanted to do the 1920s, the 1950s, or the 1990s.)

Here are ten great American novels. For this list I went with very recent books, all from the 20th and 21st centuries:

 1. Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
2. My Name is Asher Lev by Chaim Potok
4. Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
5. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
6. The River Why by David James Duncan
7. Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout
9.Caleb’s Crossing by Geraldine Brooks

Someone who had seen my list of nonfiction books that shaped my faith asked me on twitter yesterday if I thought that fiction could shape faith, too. I answered, "Absolutely."

Most of the books listed here have shaped my faith, my worldview, and my imagination.  The best ones always do.