Greatest modern Books
First Sentence: ”It is after midnight on one of those Friday nights when the guests have all gone home and the host and hostess are left in their drunkenness to try and put things right again.”
As the only woman on the list, A. M. Homes deserves recognition for her amazing writing skills, her unique voice and her gloomy view of the world. Homes shines when writing about screwed-up, out-of-love or on the brink of out-of-love couples. Torching is no exception. The married couple, Paul and Elaine, first appeared in a short story in The Safety of Objects, and then took on a life of their own. Married in suburbia, with two young boys, we follow them in their search for happiness, or some form of contentment, which they never seem to find. Smoking crack in the dining room, having affairs, trying to burn down their own house…nothing seems to change their boredom and disappointment. They’re stuck. They’ve become strangers to each other, to themselves, to their children.
Homes makes this common enough theme of suburban ennui feel real with her shining prose, a secondary cast of interesting plots and characters, and lack of a fairy-tale ending.9
First Sentence: “Tyler gets me a job as a waiter, after that Tyler’s pushing a gun in my mouth and saying, the first step to eternal life is you have to die.”
Of course, Palahniuk had to be on this list. And while he may have written better novels than Fight Club (see Survivor), this is the one that brought him to the show and inspired a new, fed-up generation to push back. I won’t insult you by giving a summary of the plot, but I will say that nobody in the world writes better, sentence to sentence, than Palahniuk. His quick, intelligent prose keeps the attention of the worst ADHD-sufferers, and the themes in Fight Club of revolt, of going back to zero, of anti-consumerism are universal, accessible and desperately needed in the world we live in today.8
House of Leaves
First Sentence: ”While enthusiasts and detractors will continue to empty entire dictionaries attempting to describe or deride it, “authenticity” still remains the word most likely to stir a debate.”
Words to describe this novel: Dazzling, original, mind-bending, genius, heart-breaking, addicting, wonderful, jaw-dropping. The list goes on and on and on. No other novel has created its own world quite like Leaves. Danielewski made us question our own sanity. He led us through the 3-and-a-half-minute hallway and then left us there, shivering and alone, waiting for the monster, who we’ve only ever felt, but that we know (for certain for certain) is the most terrifying thing in the world.
The main plot follows a family who moves into a new house that they quickly find out is haunted. Sounds simple and cliché right? Imagine if you will a book that you have to take over to your mirror to read passages written backwards. Imagine twenty-two page rants about the origins of the word echo. Imagine endless footnotes dripping with blood and perfectly normal characters slowing getting drawn deeper and deeper into neurosis and insanity until they can’t find their way out, until you can’t tell the characters in the book from the people reading it. Imagine.
The house is alive. It breathes. Don’t go any further. Forget you ever read this. Go on with your life, and move down the list. Do NOT read this book. You’ve been warned.7
We Don’t Live Here Anymore
Dubus is considered by many the greatest short story writer of the 20th century, and there is fairness in this claim. This book consists of three novellas, woven together and taken from earlier Dubus publications. It is also a wonderful movie starring the enigmatic Laura Dern and Naomi Watts. It’s about two middle-aged couples who can’t seem to keep their pants on. Affairs are had, feelings crushed, epiphanies thwarted, friendships tested.