Back Tuesday 22 Oct 2013 4:32 pm

50 Great 21st Century Novels For 6th Formers

What do English teachers do best? Pore over the minutiae of the latest proposed changes to GCSE specifications? Commit to memory the most recent accountability system by which schools are measured? Or argue about what makes a good book? The answer is obvious so, to provide material for debate, Andrew McCallum presents EMC's 'List of 50 Great 21st Century Novels for 6th Formers'.
main image for blog post '50 Great 21st Century Novels For 6th Formers'

We’ve narrowed the list down to books written since 2000 for two reasons. First, we believe that young people deserve the opportunity to experience literature relevant to the world in which they live. Second, it anticipates changes to A Level English Literature specifications, which are likely to require students to study texts published since the turn of the Millennium rather than post-1990, as is currently the case.

We make no claims for the list being definitive. Each novel included, however, has been read by at least one member of the EMC team, so we are confident about the quality of the selections. And we are prepared to argue our case!

We also expect everyone who reads the list to have several favourites they feel should be included. Please let us know what they are and we will add them to the mix when making updates in the future.

We have shied away from ranking the list from 1-50 and, instead, have opted to set the novels out in chronological order. If you are interested in sharing the list with your students, please forward the blog, or access a copy on PDF here. You can read more about each book by clicking on its cover image.


  • The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, Michael Chabon


  • The Corrections, Jonathan Franzen
  • Atonement, Ian McEwan
  • The Siege, Helen Dunmore


  • If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things, Jon McGregor


  • We Need to Talk About Kevin, Lionel Shriver
  • The Namesake, Jhumpa Lahiri
  • Brick Lane, Monica Ali


  • Cloud Atlas, David Mitchell
  • The Dew Breaker, Edwidge Danticat
  • The Man in My Basement, Walter Mosely
  • Kafka on the Shore, Haruki Murakami
  • Small Island, Andrea Levy


  • Out Stealing Horses, Per Peterson
  • Never Let Me Go, Kazuo Ishiguro


  • The Road, Cormac McCarthy
  • Half of a Yellow Sun, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  • This Book Will Save Your Life, A.M. Homes
  • The Book Thief, Marcus Zusak
  • Suite Francaise, Irene Nemirovsky (date of publication in English)
  • Old Filth, Jane Gardam
  • Winter’s Bone, Daniel Woodrell
  • What is the What, Dave Eggers
  • The Inheritance of Loss, Kiran Desai


  • Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi (two volumes in full)
  • The Song Before it is Sung, Justin Cartwright
  • The Road Home, Rose Tremain
  • The Reluctant Fundamentalist, Mohsin Hamid
  • The Girls, Lori Lansens
  • The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Junot Diaz


  • The Rehearsal, Eleanor Catton
  • Olive Kitteridge, Elizabeth Strout
  • The White Tiger, Aravind Adiga
  • The Vagrants, Yiyun Li


  • Wolf Hall, Hilary Mantel
  • A Gate at the Stairs, Lorrie Moore
  • Let the Great World Spin, Colum McCann
  • Brooklyn, Colm Toibin


  • A Visit from the Goon Squad, Jennifer Egan


  • Ours are the Streets, Sunjeev Sahota
  • A Monster Calls, Patrick Ness
  • Snowdrops, A.D. Miller
  • The Tiger’s Wife, Tea Obrecht


  • NW, Zadie Smith
  • Leaving the Atocha Station, Ben Lerner
  • This is Life, Dan Rhodes
  • Canada, Richard Ford
  • The Sisters Brothers, Patrick deWitt
  • The Panopticon, Jenni Fagan


  • Life After Life, Kate Atkinson


I would add ' Secret history' by Donna Tart and " A little life" By Kate Axford on 21st Jul 2017
I would add 'The Silence of the Girls' Pat Barker By on 04th Jun 2020

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