It might seem premature to start naming the "best books of the century," considering we're only 15 years in, but the great debate is off and running.
The BBC polled dozens of U.S. book critics to find the greatest novels published in the 21st century. They tapped writers at The New York Times, Booklist, Kirkus Reviews and more for their expertise. Critics named 156 novels, but only one can be the winner.
The best books of the 21st century (so far)
The book that landed at the top of the most critics' lists was Junot Diaz's "The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao," published in 2007. Diaz took home the Pulitzer Prize in fiction for the book; he was only the second Latino author to receive the award.
Critic Gregg Barrios noted that "Diaz's deft mash-up of Dominican history, comics, sci-fi, magic realism and footnotes totally rocks." Other critics clearly agreed. Author Rigoberto Gonzalez said Diaz's work "re-energized these questions: Who is American? What is the American experience?"
The 12 greatest novels of the 21st century, so far
1) "The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao" by Junot Diaz (2007)
2) "The Known World" by Edward P. Jones (2003)
3) "Wolf Hall" by Hilary Mantel (2009)
4) "Gilead" by Marilynne Robinson (2004)
5) "The Corrections" by Jonathan Franzen (2001)
6) "The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay" by Michael Chabon (2000)
7) "A Visit from the Goon Squad" by Jennifer Egan (2010)
8) "Billy Flynn's Long Halftime Walk" by Ben Fountain (2012)
9) "Atonement" by Ian McEwan (2001)
10) "Half of a Yellow Sun" by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (2006)
11) "White Teeth" by Zadie Smith (2000)
12) "Middlesex" by Jeffrey Eugenides (2002)
Book lovers hounded the BBC until they agreed to unveil the rest of the top 20. Rounding out the critics' picks were "Americanah" by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (giving Adichie a second nod on the list), "Austerlitz" by W.G. Sebald, "My Brilliant Friend" by Elena Ferrante, "The Line of Beauty" by Alan Hollinghurst, "The Road" by Cormac McCarthy, "NW" by Zadie Smith (another second nod), "2666" by Roberto Bolano and "The Great Fire" by Shirley Hazzard.
So: What say you? Are these the best books of the century so far?
For a comparison, let's consider Modern Library's list of the best novels of the 20th century. In 1998, a group including Gore Vidal, William Styron and other literary greats compiled what they considered to be the best the century had to offer.
The 10 greatest novels of the 20th century
1) "Ulysses" by James Joyce
2) "The Great Gatsby" by F. Scott Fitzgerald
3) "A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man" by James Joyce
4) "Lolita" by Vladimir Nabokov
5) "Brave New World" by Aldous Huxley
6) "The Sound and the Fury" by William Faulkner
7) "Catch-22" by Joseph Heller
8) "Darkness at Noon" by Arthur Koestler
9) "Sons and Lovers" by D.H. Lawrence
10) "The Grapes of Wrath" by John Steinbeck
What a change 17 years makes. While the Modern Library list may be packed with classics, it's severely lacking in diversity — in race, gender and genre.
The BBC's list, on the hand hand, already reflects the rapidly diversifying world of literature — here's to 85 more years of that!
Which books do you think will stand the test of time? Chime in with your choice for the book/s of the century.
What helps luck is a habit of watching for opportunities, of having a patient, but restless mind, of sacrificing one's ease or vanity, of uniting a love of detail to foresight, and of passing through hard times bravely and cheerfully.-- Charles Victor Cherbuliez (1829-1899) French Novelist